A man named Wali Muhammad [b. 1860] came to Multan from Iran in the late nineteenth century. At that time the ta‘ziyeh theater [Shī‘ī passion play] was flourish- ing under the patronage of the Qajar dynasty. Wali Muhammad brought his knowledge of literature, music, set design, costumes, and everything to Multan. He was a brilliant musician. We all called him Master. In those days we also had theater in Multan, our own version of ta‘ziyeh. All of that began to deteriorate after Master Sahab died, about thirty-five years ago; but we still perform the nauḥahs he composed.
“Wali Muhammad wrote a special nauḥah for each of the first eleven days of Muharram. You know, just like some neighborhoods launch their ‘alam processions on the fifth of Muharram in honor of Husain’s half-brother Ab- bas, and on the sixth they carry the ziyārat of Ali Asghar’s cradle, and on the seventh the mehndī? Like that Wali Muhammad created musical and theatrical pieces tied to the traditional themes of each day. His attention to art and narrative left a lasting impression on the culture of Muharram in this area. If you go back to Lodhipura at about 5 a.m., you’ll witness the lifting of the Abdullah Wala ta‘ziyah and hear some nauḥahs that are special to that time—some of them composed in Wali Muhammad’s era or even earlier.
Chapter 5 By Richard Wolf