Dancing to a different rhythm


The amount of physical strength and stamina that beating a dhol in rhythm entails makes it an instrument largely preferred by men. Couple that with taboos associated with music in Pakistani society and you’ll have a combination that permanently restricts women from picking it up.  However, Lahore-based Hooria Asmat has shattered such notions with her invincible prowess of playing a dhol.

The 24-year-old Media Studies graduate can often be seen at mazaar’s and weddings, making the crowd twist and turn to her beats. “Dhol playing is a male-dominated profession, but it was my passion so I took it up as a career and became the first female of the country to do so,” she says.


Referring to Sufism as her inspiration, she adds, “Without the knowhow of Sufism and spiritualism, no one can become a dhol player. I am lucky that God blessed me with this talent and I am looking forward to a bright future.”

Asmat has performed at various fashion and musical events. Besides this, she ensures to visit Sufi Baba Shah Jamal’s shrine every Thursday, as her mentors Gunga Sain, Mithu Sain and renowned Papu Sain have been performing there for years. “No matter how busy I am, I make it a point visit the mazaar. Not only because my ustaads play there but also because it is the hub of dhol players and enthusiasts,” she shares.

Asmat has performed in almost all the shrines of Pakistan, including Lal Shahbaz Qalander’s. She believes that without the love and respect for Sufi, no one can reach the peak. “I love to perform Nobat at shrines and it is the most beautiful thing,” Asmat says.

Since dhol jugalbandis revolve around a fusion of beats that require a fellow drum player, Asmat has to spend double the energy to create the same impact,  if not the same sound. “It is my record that I performed for three hours at a stretch at the mazaar of Data Ganj Bakhsh.”

On whether or not she sees a future for female dhol players, she states, “In the beginning, my relatives and other people used to call me ‘dhol wali’ but now, I have become the pride of my family. I’m also glad that after seeing my talent, many girls from reputable universities have been contacting me in this regard.”

Living by example, Asmat believes that girls should pursue a career that they are passionate it about and break away from terms, such as “social pressure” and let go of inhibitions.

“We can always wish the government plays its part in promoting arts and culture, but the will to do so comes from the inside. Dhol is a seminal part of our cultural identity and any measure to promote this art form will be a great service to the country itself.”

Apart from that, Asmat says she has been getting offers from different countries, especially India, and has also been approached to be part of Indian dramas and films.

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