Melli Attan Songs
Attan is a form of dance that originated in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Pakistan and north Balochistan. Attan began as a folk dance conducted by Afghans in the time of war or during wedding or other celebrations (engagement, new year and informal gatherings). It is now considered the national dance of Afghanistan.
The performance of the attan dance in the open air has long been customary in the Afghan culture. Performed in a large circle to the accompaniment of drums and pipes, the dance begins slowly but grows in momentum for two or three hours without a break except for changes in tempo or changes in song. Its duration differs – anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes.
Attan is a traditional Afghan dance. It is said to be one of the oldest forms of Afghan Pagan dance. Some identify Attan as a religious ceremony of early Zoroastrians placing it 2000 BCE, while others have placed even older going back to King Yama’s celebration of Nowroz and warriors dancing and circling around the fire. This was later modified into an Islamic dance to allow the dancers to get “closer to God.” This virtual Attan practised by many Afghan poets and mystics had even reached to corners of Turkey, known in Europe as the Rumi Dance. It is usually performed with a Dhol, which is a double-headed barrel drum. The dance can be anywhere from 5 minute to 30 minutes long. There are many different regional variations of Attan, the most famous being Kabuli, Paktiyaya, Mazari, Shenwari , Kandahari, Sistani, Herati, Pashayi, and Nuristani. During King Yama’s time, Attan was performed before going to a war because it used to give the army the confidence that they could win the battle.
Performers often wear traditional, sequinned Afghan dress. The men wear the traditional outfits, such as the pakool (thick wool hat), and waskata (thick wool vest).
For the men, they tend to also wear suits and ties because it’s a way to look formal because of tradition. For women, they tend to wear thin wool dresses and scarves with tiny mirrors on it.
Styles and types
The Attan is performed differently in many of the different Pashtun tribes. Some styles of Attan portray themes of war while others portray celebration, especially for events such as marriage, engagements, family gatherings and also as a prelude to the arrival of spring.
All different kinds of Attan are danced with the beats of the drums. However they all differ in style. The beater of the drum known as “Dum”, which instantaneously change the rhythm, is circled by the performers. Below is a list of common attan styles.
Kochai – Pashtun nomadic style done in both Afghanistan and Pakistan
Logarai – From the Afghan province of Logar
Paktiawal / Khostai – Notable Attan style originating from the provinces of Paktia and Khost, Afghanistan
Shenwari – From the Afghan province of Nangarhar
Wardag/Wardak – Da Wardag Attan, another famous style of Attan
Warziro – Attan from the Waziristan region of Pakistan, famous for its use of guns
Khattak – Attan performed by the Khattak tribe in Pakistan
Quetta Style – The Attan performed in the Balochistan province of Pakistan.
Kumbhar – A slight variant of the Quetta style Attan is the “kumbhar”. Performed by tribes in Hazara, Potohar and Haripur in Pakistan. The word “kumbhar” is the Hindko word for Attan.
Kabuli/Peshawari Attan is a modified Attan with modern music.