Remembering Mai Bhagi, a great folk singer

Obituary

Mai Bhagi sung folk songs in various languages including Siraiki, Marvari, Sindhi and other languages and earned fame across Pakistan and around the world. She enthralled the people, who even didn’t know Dhatki dialect. Her songs are still aired by the radio and TV channels.

By GR Junejo

Today, it’s 34th death anniversary of world famous folk singer of Thar – Mai Bhagi who passed away on 7th July 1986 in miserable condition after protracted illness and lying on bed for years due to paralysis at her small home in Naukot, the gateway of Thar Desert.

Born in 1920, as ‘Bhag Bhari’ (Lucky Person), the name given by parent, Mai Bhagi grew up in a village in the Thar Desert. Her father Wanhyun Fakir and mother Khadija Maganhar, were known folk singers of their region at that time.

Mai Bhagi was married to folk singer Hothi Fakir at the age of 16. She used to sing folk songs along with her parents since childhood at marriage ceremonies and local festivals. However it was the year 1968 when she drew attention of radio and TV producers while performing at annual festival of Marvi at village Bhalva.

Radio Pakistan Hyderabad’s producer Sheikh Ghulam Hussain, husband of Pakistan’s renowned singer Abida Parveen, offered her the opportunity to record a song at the Radio Pakistan studios. Her folk song ‘Kharee neem kay neechey’ (underneath a neem tree) became a super-hit among the Pakistani people and secured her stardom. Later, Abdul Karim Baloch introduced her to Pakistan Television.

Mai Bhagi sung folk songs in various languages including Siraiki, Marvari, Sindhi and other languages and earned fame across Pakistan and around the world. She enthralled the people, who even didn’t know Dhatki dialect. Her songs are still aired by the radio and TV channels. The All India Radio’s Sindhi service too plays her songs.

The government had sponsored her overseas tours. Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had granted her 60 acre land but she couldn’t manage it due to her poverty. She earned just fame but not the money, and even was paid a meagre amount as stipend, insufficient to meet the medical treatment and a two-time meal.

She continued her career in music until she fell ill and passed away in 1986.

Mai Bhagi also received several awards and recognition including ‘Pride of Performance Award’ by the President of Pakistan in 1981, ‘Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai Award’, Sachal Sarmast Award’, ‘Marvi Award’, Thar Koil Award’ and several others. Late drama-writer Abdul Qadir Junejo had also written a TV drama ‘Karwan’ (Urdu) on her life.

Mai Bhagi’s final resting place is the historic graveyard of Mir Razi Shah Ghot in Mahrano. Her son Kalu Fakir, daughter Mai Soni and grandson Barkat Fakir are also known folk singers.

Unfortunately, Sindh Culture Department never remembered Mai Bhagi, a great folk singer, after her death, being hailing from a poor and under-privilaged class.

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The writer is Mithi-Tharparkar-based journalist   

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