Taking the ghizhek (a traditional violin) from a hanger on a wooden pillar and slowly dusting it off with an old piece of cloth, Ustad Rehmatullah Baig starts playing it with the kamuncha (violin bow). Baig is a 76-year-old musician from the Wakhi community and he is renowned in this region for the Wakhi language songs he performs on his ghizhek.

For decades, Baig has been living in the small town of Ghulken, in the Upper Hunza region of Gilgit-Baltistan, along with his family. Baig has been working tirelessly to impart the skills of playing the ghizhek to the younger generation of his community, with a few youngsters taking an interest in learning the ghizhek.

'A man in Shamshal village in Hunza used to play the ghizhek and my father bought it for me from him and brought it here. I started learning the instrument since then, when my age was just around 12-years-old. The rabab had been in our home since the time of my grandfather, and I used to play it in my spare time. I can also play the sitar and other instruments,' Baig tells me.

The Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan is not only known for its scenic natural beauty but also for its diversity in the realms of music and culture, which attracts thousands of tourists every year to the area to witness the local traditions. The two most prominent languages spoken in Hunza are Brushaski and Wakhi, with Brushaski being largely spoken in Lower Hunza while Wakhi is predominantly spoken in Upper Hunza. Gojal, Sust and Chapursan are connected to the Wakhan district of Afghanistan, due to which the same culture, music and language exists on both sides of the Pakistan and Afghanistan border.

One of the few remaining masters of the ghizhek in Pakistan, Ustad Rehmatullah Baig hopes to ensure the survival of this historic instrument by passing down his skills to those willing to learn

'For a long time, Ustad Rehmatullah Baig was the only ghizhek player in his community,' reveals Fazal Amin Beg, an anthropologist residing in Gulmit, Upper Hunza. 'When the Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association [WTCA] was formed in 1991, it focused on preserving and promoting various aspects of the region's culture. The traditional violin was, thus, one of the instruments which the WTCA tried to preserve, promote and transfer to the younger generations as part of the indigenous knowledge and craft of the area.'

Ustad Baig has thus participated in a series of events within the Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan region and in...

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