Gilgit-Baltistan:Traditional Performance Threatened by Modern Entertainment forms

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Gilgit (ET): Once hugely appreciated, “shaap,” a traditional performance enacted by children under the open sky in chilly winter nights in Gilgit-Baltistan, is threatened by modern forms of entertainment.

Two boys wear masks to impersonate jaro and jari, or old man and woman. Performers put on five to 10 minute-acts. The hosts pay the performers after the show.

Usually 10 to 15 boys, mostly relatives or friends ranging in ages from 10 to 17, form a group to stage the play in the lawns of a house. The moment a host comes out to receive them, the act begins.

In one night, they cover a maximum of three houses due to the chilly weather. A drummer is also part of the group which goes door-to-door to perform.

Performers act on drumbeats and the hosts in most cases join the chorus. Sometimes, the hosts prefer not to let the performers act due to the freezing cold weather and just give them the money. The team in either case happily returns home with money.

Boys randomly select homes and announce their arrival with drums. “Since people are locked inside the house at night, we need the drummer to alert the inmates,” says Afaq Ahmed, an active group member.

Interestingly, the play is traditionally enacted in December, when temperature drops to at least 10 degrees below freezing point. Though shaa’p is performed in Kashrot, Nagral, Amphery and Napura, it is no more the regular feature it once used to be.

“You hardly hear of shaap these days,” said Karim Ali, a resident of Jutial. “It is falling prey to societal apathy.”

Apart from deteriorating law and order, modern communication devices and television have negatively impacted local customs.

“The tradition of shaap is fast disappearing as children prefer to watch TV or spend their time on the computer,” said Masroor Wali, a schoolteacher. He said shaap was a healthy activity that promoted love and harmony among families through their children. He regretted that the tradition is dying out.

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