Bushra Mehsud

For centuries, the rhythmic beat of tribal drums, locally known as “dhol,” and the vibrant dance of “Attan” have been an integral part of tribal traditions. Even in the face of terrorism, tribal communities stood resolute, ensuring that these cherished cultural expressions remained unscathed. Drums and Attan hold a special place in the hearts of tribal people, symbolizing their cultural identity and heritage.

Crafted from wood and leather, these drums are more than just musical instruments; they are the soul of tribal traditions. Batair Khan, a skilled drummer from South Waziristan, emphasizes the vital role of drums in tribal happiness. These drums are indispensable during significant events like national celebrations, Eid festivals, and weddings. Beyond special occasions, they serve as a unifying force, bringing people together.

The resonating beats of drums signal various occasions, from military processions to spreading important news and celebrating weddings. In the eyes of Waziristan’s people, the drum holds the status of a revered elder. Its rhythmic sound embodies passion, honor, and a sense of community. Whenever the drum’s voice echoes through the region, people instinctively gather, whether for a jirga meeting or to address pressing issues.

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For the people of Waziristan, happiness is inseparable from the sound of drums. These instruments symbolize unity and cohesion within the community. Removing drums from Waziristan’s cultural fabric would leave it bereft of vitality. Dhol holds significance not only for the youth but also for the elders who revel in its beats.

Khunza Gul Mehsud, a resident of South Waziristan, underscores the close relationship between Attan dance and drum music. In Pashtun culture, joyous occasions demand the lively rhythms of drum music and the traditional Attan dance. Attan, an ancient tribal dance, has roots tracing back to Greek dance.

Historically, this dance, originally known as “Athena” in Greece, traveled to Afghanistan and Pashtun regions, where it flourished as Attan. Despite its disappearance in Greece, Afghanistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa proudly continue this dance tradition. Attan is Afghanistan’s national dance, and Pashto dictionaries recognize it as the Pashtun national dance.

Waziristan’s Attan dance is renowned for its captivating beauty, embraced not only by tribal communities but also by people from across Pakistan. It is performed with immense enthusiasm during various festive occasions in Waziristan and has also found a place in the erstwhile tribal districts of Kurram and Orakzai.

Attan is performed in a group, forming a circle—a captivating sight in itself. The dance begins slowly, gradually intensifying with the accelerating beat of the drums, matched by swift hand and foot movements. Attan is not limited to Pakistan and Afghanistan; it enjoys popularity among Pashtuns worldwide, representing their rich cultural heritage and traditions.