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International Music Resources by Country: Pakistan

International Music Resources offers an array of online and physical resources both freely available and/or offered by the George F. DeVine Music Library. The information included in these guides may serve as a starting point for the study and research of

Nanga Parbat Mountain (Diamer), Pakistan panoramic photo

Citation (1)

Map of Pakistan

Map of Pakistan

Citation (2)


Pakistani Music

Asif Bhatti and Ensemble: Traditional Music from Pakistan album art

Salma Agha In Pakistan album art

Ameer Khusro album art

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music-Pakistan

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Cover Art

Facts in Brief

Flag of Pakistan


Capital: Islamabad

Languages: Punjabi, Pushto, Sindhi, Saraiki, Urdu

Population: 225,199,929

Area: 796,095 sq km

Climate: The climate is dry and generally hot, with an annual average temperature of 27°C (80°F), except in the mountainous areas, which have very cold winters. Temperatures in Karachi are generally between 13°C (55°F) and 34°C (93°F), with negligible rainfall.

Religion: Islam

Citation (3)

Music in Pakistan

Music and Society

In rural Pakistan there are broadly related kinds of music and ways of music-making. The association between social context and musical category may be specific, as in life-cycle songs that are strictly situational and likely to be performed only on relevant occasions; or more generic, as in the case of festival or entertainment music, such as traditional live songs, epics and group dances.

Birth, circumcision, marriage and death are marked by special family gatherings. In the home these are celebrated ceremonially by the women of the family who, together with female professionals, sing a repertory of traditional songs specific to each occasion. Often these songs accompany ceremonial activities. These are usually followed by informal singing, including a variety of appropriate traditional songs, epics and sometimes modern popular songs. Life-cycle songs express sentiments appropriate to the occasion and in a wider sense serve to reaffirm family solidarity and relationships. By far the greatest number and variety of life-cycle songs are associated with marriage, the central life-event in Pakistan. Professional musicians sing and play at most life-cycle celebrations; their performance, even when unsolicited, is considered auspicious and is always well rewarded. Two types of instrumental music are specifically associated with such occasions: solo drumming, which announces the event (in particular, the birth of a son), and the wedding band of wind instruments and percussion, which heralds the wedding procession. 

Musical Structure

In Pakistani music there is a considerable range of performing practice and ensemble structure. Pakistani music is generally monophonic with various types of accompaniment. Its primary dimension is the melodic line, which may be performed solo, by a group or responsorially. Unaccompanied melody exists in epics or reflective life-cycle songs, but most melody is performed with rhythmic accompaniment, whether a simple pulse maintained by hand-clapping or on idiophones, a complex metric pattern played on drums or both together. n Pakistani vocal music the textual structure is the basis for a variety of musical forms. Most songs consist of verses of two to four lines with varying rhyme patterns; accordingly, the musical structure is strophic. Great melodic diversity exists between as well as within the major regions and extends to both tonal inventory and pitch sequence. Pakistani traditional music is modal and includes a tonal centre on the basis of which a great variety of scales can be identified, ranging from three notes to over an octave. Pakistani traditional music ranges from rhythmically free and highly melismatic songs to those in which the regular pulse of the melody is reinforced by drum and drone accompaniment. Most Pakistani traditional music has some form of rhythmic accompaniment.

Citation (4)

Performer Highlight: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan


Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, (born October 13, 1948, Lyallpur [now Faisalabad], Pakistan—died August 16, 1997, London, England), Pakistani singer who is considered one of the greatest performers of qawwali, a Sufi Muslim devotional music characterized by simple melodies, forceful rhythms, and energetic improvisations that encourage a state of euphoria in the listener. He did not begin to devote himself to the qawwali tradition until he sang at his father’s funeral in 1964. Two years later he gave his first public performance as a qawwal, singing with his uncles, with whom he continued to perform until 1971, when Ustad Mubarik died. Nusrat believed in the universality of the musical message and strove throughout his career to make his music transcend religious and cultural boundaries.

Citation: Encyclopædia Britannica. (n.d.). Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Britannica Academic. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from

Listen to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Online

Find Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at the Music Library:

  • A voice from heaven Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the most beautiful voice in the world (ML420.K397 V653 2001)
  • Megastar, by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (M1808 .K38 1990)
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan en concert a Paris, Ocora Records (M1824.P3 K5)


(1): "ApproachingNangaParbat" by "Waqas.usman"

(2): Country Map (Pakistan), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 04 September 2018 from

(3): Location, Climate, Language, Religion, Flag, Capital (Pakistan), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 01 March 2022 from

(4): Qureshi, R.  Pakistan, Islamic Republic of. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 3 Mar. 2022, from