Musabhai and his Hindustan

Music has no boundaries – it most eloquently delivers the message of love, peace and harmony.

And so, in 2004, when Jat Musa Ghulam played the flute, it had some music from across the borders. For, Musabhai was playing a ‘Jodia Pawa’ that had been sent from folk music lovers in Pakistan.


The Jodia Pawa has a significant role in the rich cultural heritage of Kachchh. Those exposed for the first time, to the sounds only of the Jodia Pawa; are likely to confuse it with a Bansuri – a flute. However, this Kachchhi wind instrument is very different from the traditionally recognized flute.The Jodia Pawa is a pair of two flutes or double flutes (generally between 20 to 22 inches) and played together. One is called the Nar – the male and the other is known as the Madi/Mali/Mada – the female. The Nar has eight equi-distant holes for maintaining a ‘drone’ or ‘Sur’. The Madi is used to weave a melody over its twelve holes, out of which only the upper-six are used functionally to manipulate music while the lower-six are mostly left open and free. The player has to inhale and store the necessary air in his mouth through his nostrils and blow continuously and simultaneously through the two mouth pieces. Wax is fixed on various holes systematically to produce melodious notes. Laborious to play and requiring much strength of the lungs the Jodia Pawa remains on a high pitch but does not jar the sensibilities.

The Jodia Pawa is not made in Kachchh and requires special skill to prepare it. Worked on a lathe the wood is treated with oil and copper wires wrapped strategically to prevent breakage.

These double flutes are also known as the Alghoza or Alguza and are an instrument still found in Rajasthan, Punjab and the Sindh Province of Pakistan. The artists of this instrument mostly play the songs of the Sufi Saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai of Sindh. Mostly played by shepherds in the deserts of Sindh and Baluchistan, the Jodia Pawa came to Kachchh when a few groups migrated to graze their cattle and settled in some parts of Kachchh. However, over a period of time, the Jodia Pawa of Kachchh has developed its own unique style.

Unfortunately, there are only a few Jodia Pawa players left in Kachchh and most are downtrodden people who have been totally ignored by the Government. These artistes have to work very hard for their livelihood. Some have even abandoned the original melodies and switched to Hindi movie songs.

The most refined player of this instrument in Kachchh is Jat Musa Ghulam.


Musabhai, an approved artist of All India Radio (Bhuj) was also selected to participate in the Festival of India in England and Germany. Typical of our system, today he is totally neglected and marginalised by the same people who so ostentatiously exhibited his talent.

I first met Musabhai in 1996. He was then a resident of Nana Luna village of Hajipir taluka. There was hardly anybody in the Banni area who did not know the ‘pawa player’ and I have spent hours listening to the pawa during the Urs at the Dargah of Hajipir.


This humble man had turned down all offers to stay back in Europe because Hindustan was his Vatan. He was not interested in money and fame. He played because it was his tradition and passion. It was his breathing.

A flash-flood in 1998 damaged the flutes and things became difficult for him. Even then, all he wanted from the government was to build a pucca road from the village to the main motorway; a primary school and health centre with regular staff; and, a new pawa.

I lost track of Musabhai just before the Kachchh earthquake and it was in 2002 that I spotted him on the outskirts of Nakhatrana – breaking stones – working as a daily wager. We hugged and wept and later went to his hut where his wife cooked us a meal of Rotla with chhas.

He had stopped playing the pawa.

Soon after, I managed to sponsor him to Kihim where a special musical evening had been arranged. The Director of Public Affairs at Aga Khan University in Karachi happened to be present and I made it a point to make her aware of Musabhai’s difficulties. On returning to Karachi, she took up the issue with music lovers there. It was not easy and finally took the combined efforts of the Minister for Culture in government of Sindh and the Director of Cultural Affairs to search and locate the instrument from a musician in Sindh. But getting it from Pakistan to India was another task altogether!

December 29, 2004 – I delivered the pawa from across the border to Musabhai. Nana Luna was dressed like a bride and hordes of people had arrived to witness the handing over of the pawa to Musabhai….and he played for hours. The village still did not have a pucca road, a primary school, health centre and clean drinking water.

Musabhai's Family

Musabhai's Family-First Ever Laptop

Nana Luna-Only Water Source

Things were getting to be complicated for me also and I was compelled to leave Gujarat. But I never forgot Musabhai.  I even sent email petitions to the former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam but received no reply. Why was I surprised? Do our leaders ever have an ear for such voices? We need to learn from our neighbours. Many of them worked to get the instrument even when they had not seen and heard the artist. When are we going to recognize talent that is not based on caste and religion?

By 2006 the ‘Permit Raj’ had been imposed in Kachchh and anybody travelling North, West and South-West beyond a 50 km radius of Bhuj required a travel permit from the Police. I don’t know why we freak-out and feel offended when the US of A goes through its security procedures. What could be more insulting than applying for a permit to travel within your own country? So much for Democracy and Constitutional Rights!

The ‘For one day’ permit allowed me to travel to Nana Luna only to find that Musabhai had been forced to relocate and nobody knew where. Not many families were left in the village and naturally a pucca road; a primary school and health centre were not required anymore!

It has taken me close to 3 years to track down Musabhai to a ram-shackled hamlet near Dayapar.

Ori Wand

The once proud man has not lost his dignity but is clearly dejected. We sit facing each other. My heart wails through my eyes as Musabhai plays the pawa for me.


He still thinks of a pucca road, school, health centre and his home and will not pass-on the skills  of playing the pawa to his children.

He refuses to teach the art of begging.

3 Responses to “Musabhai and his Hindustan”

  1. 1 narendra adepal
    June 16, 2010 at 6:48 am

    congratulation, i proud of you as KACHCHH

  2. 2 Qadiryar
    July 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    You did a great job to find Musabhai. He is have a great fun and this should be passed to others
    through academic way and it should not finished with Musabhai.

  3. August 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    miles to go before Govt acknowledges the value of artisans (musicians, craftsmen) and their contribution to nation building! I see the same ‘look’ in the eyes of so many artisans be it Patachitra masters (national awardee) or weavers of lesser known villages…one still wants to belief that someday somebody will have the understanding to value these…hopes against all hopes…

    Kudos to you for going that extra mile to bring back Musabhai and share the story with us. Thank you.

    Sanchari Mahapatra

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