Afzal ‘Matches Wala’ sings for Indo-Pak peace
By: Yasir Ilyas
Holding a ‘match box’ (symbol of fire) in his hands, Afzal ‘Matches Wala’ sings for peace, peaceful co-existence and respect for sovereignty of each other between India and Pakistan.
Afzal ‘Matches Wala’ is a folk singer of Pakistan, who composes his songs on rhythm of ‘Match Box’. Interestingly he himself is lyricist, composer, musician and singer of his songs. After giving more than four decades to his ‘art’, Afzal is striving for acknowledgement of his work at governmental level.
Unique artist of his kind is living under abject poverty, earlier in Lahore’s streets and now in Islamabad. He has no shelter as he sleeps in roadside lawns, parks or where other homeless people sleep. Narrating his story to INFN, Afzal busted into tears saying neither any authorities relating to culture and art nor any art lovers acknowledged his decades long innovation in music.
“Though poverty and a feeling of being neglected by society and authorities did not support me even to attend marriage of my three daughters, I still believe that the legend Muhammad Rafi and I will remain to be graded on top among the best signers of South Asia,” Afzal said.
Afzal Matches Wala said he used to work at Power House, Mughalpura Railway Lahore but he left his job for the sake of singing. He gave his first performance at official level in Radio Pakistan Lahore in 1998.
Nowadays, Afzal has assigned himself a role of a peace ambassador and sings for peace between Pakistan and India. He sings as: “ab k baar Jo jang ho gi, atomy jang kehlaye gi.” (Any escalation in tension between India and Pakistan would result in atomic war). Afzal claims his work has been acknowledged by India, and he was invited to India in 2003, where former Indian Prime Minister I K Gujral honored him wit a book and rated him one of the finest artist.
Afzal Matches Wala composed a song in memory of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto and he wants to meet President Asif Ali Zardari in this regard to present this song before him. He challenges that his ‘latest creation’ will make all Pakistan weep in grief of late Benazir Bhutto. He terms his song, “Shaman waley sooraj dubya, chirrian rola paya” (When the sun sets in evening, sparrows cry in grief of Benazir Bhutto), a tribute to the slain leader.
He complained some pop singers copied some of his famous tunes without acknowledging him. “I have learned music from Ustad Feroz Nizami, Ustad Chote Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Saleem Iqbal in Alhamra Lahore.” Afzal said.
Talking about use of the ‘Match Box’, he said, “I am a poor man, can neither afford instrument nor hire musicians. So I relied upon my ‘Match Box’ for rhythm of my songs. ‘Match Box’ is my only and lonely source of income.” Afzal Matches Wala added. He wished that if authorities send him England, he could raise the spirit of National Cricket Team and could bring Pakistani and Indian communities, living in England, closer through his peace songs.
Afzal Matches Wala said he has gone from pillar to post in effort to get his art acknowledged, but culture ministry, arts council and other concerned authorities have done nothing in this regard. In return, he just received mere promises and pledges from them. He urges the government of a house where he could live with his family, whom he has sent years ago back home in pursuit of fame in his art.
He has also a dream to establish a college to commemorate his love for his wife whom he says ‘baby’. He is living on the hopes of fame. He says he would be given a chance to prove him once in his life. He dreams to be listened and lauded widely and he is believed that his long hard work will not go in vain. He has too much expectations from growing media in Pakistan. He hopes media will help him to achieve the levle he deserves.