I first heard Shaukat Ali’s voice while watching an Urdu movie from the 1970s. It was a pretty dreary affair about a spoiled Pakistani playboy living a semi-scandalous lifestyle in London. At one point fairly early on the film the playboy is hosting a party at his flat. Hippies and Sikhs are in attendance. The playboy’s best buddy from back in Pakistan has come to fetch him back. To get the party started this chubby friend sings a song about the experience of ‘going foreign’ (overseas).
The dance was slapstick but the song was a cracker. I wrote about it in another blog and you can hear it here. The singer’s voice (which I later found out belonged to Shaukat sahib) contradicted everything about the fat comedian. It was strong, masculine and real. Like a Punjabi Kishore Kumar the tone locked in between tenor and baritone and brooked no argument.
Shaukat Ali was born and raised in the small city of Malakwal about 200 kms southeast of Islamabad. He got a break singing for a Punjabi film in 1963 and as mentioned above contributed playback services to movies throughout his career. He even sang in the 2009 Indian hit film Love Aaj Kal.
But Shaukat Ali’s first and enduring love in the folk music of his native Punjab. He’s made his reputation as a classy singer of Punjab’s rich folk song repetoire and especially as an interpreter of such classics as Waris Shah’s Heer and the Sufi epic, Saif ul Malook.
In this wonderful double disc released by Pakistan’s national Folk Heritage institute, Lok Virsa, Shaukat Ali, is in impeccable form. He sings with gusto, feeling and nuance, mixing well known numbers as well as less familiar numbers (at least to me). Punjabi folk music is full of a quality I call dildaari (a stout, exhilarating sense of discovery, fun and reverence). Accompaniment is always lively: tablas sound like locomotives on a fast track and the harmonium dances and bounces around the vocals. Singing is full throated. On the softer numbers Shaukat may calm things down but there remains always a visceral, vital authenticity.
You can have fun but you never bullshit.
I love these discs and thank my dear Californian friend, Hanif, for sharing them with me. It’s the sort of music that has me surfing the web for ‘Teach Yourself Punjabi’ courses!
Track Listing (Disc 1)
1-02 Tur Gaya Mera Hani
1-03 Choti Ummreh Pyaar Kari Naa
1-04 Jalliya Dilla
1-05 Oh Kannu Pyar Te Karobaar
1-06 Lag Gai Nain
1-07 Assein Ite Te Dhol Sada
1-08 Ho Jagga Jamiya
1-09 Pindi Peya Vee Nai
1-10 Assein Ite Te Dhol Sada
1-11 Sass Kapathi Eh
Track Listing (Disc 2)
2-01 Ho Rabba Sohnaya Nu Kaid Kara De
2-02 Wah Rangeeya Nu Kaid Kara De
2-03 Loki Anwey Te Nahi…
2-04 Kyon Door Rehnde O
2-05 Aap Jedeh Wasday
2-06 Dendi Phira Mein
2-07 Sanu Patha Nahi Vichoda Kinu Kehende
2-08 Oh Mahi Meriya
2-09 Maa Janat Da Parchanwa (Kaanwan)
2-10 Saif-Ul-Malook Kalaam