Such beautiful specimens. Such disruptive little buggers. Here we go folks, Australia is heading toward lockdown and who knows when I’ll return to the office. Or the kids to their classrooms. Our holidays are cancelled. The local shop’s shelves are empty of the essentials (apparently even Oreos and Spicy Japanese Mayo are essential to human survial). And I’m getting ready for a long bout of cabin fever.
Perhaps you too will be feeling the pain of isolation. Loss of social life. Uncertainty about the health and wellbeing of your loved ones. Maybe you’re already there (in Europe, or China or South Korea) and are ready to punch someone in the face.
In such situations the only solution is not to stay calm and listen to Trump and Macron and Boris and Modi and Imran. They’re as nervous and uncertain as you. Except more. They have whole nations to hold up and hold together.
No, the solution, as is almost always the case, music.
And so dear friends, as you head off into the uncertain future of the next few months (and I pray you and I all come out of it in one piece at the other end) here is a swag of records to keep you compnay. A bit of Pakistani, India, Bangladeshi and diaspora sounds you can use to inspire you when you’re sitting all alone and blue and nervous. And Fed up.
Number 1: Magic Carpet (Magic Carpet)
Magic Carpet was a pioneering British psychedelic folk band of musicians that first appeared in the early 1970s.
The band members were Clem Alford, sitar; Alisha Sufit, voice and guitar; Jim Moyes, guitar; and Keshav Sathe, Indian tabla percussion. In 1972 the band released an eponymous album, Magic Carpet, on the Mushroom (UK) label that has since become a sought-after item in the international collectors’ vinyl market.
The Magic Carpet album has been described as ‘a jewelled crown in the treasure trove of psyche-tinged folk music’ Magic Carpet being one of the very first bands to truly combine Indian and western instrumentation. After a launch at the 100 Club, London, UK, the Magic Carpet band performed at Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth’s Wavendon, enjoyed airplay on Pete Drummond’s Sounds of the Seventies on BBC Radio, plus made several club and festival appearances. However, this novel collective split up shortly after the first album was released. It was only after a lapse of some fifteen years that recognition followed.
Widely and more positively reviewed, the original Magic Carpet album was reissued on CD and vinyl by the UK Magic Carpet Records label.
Seven of the vocal tracks written by Sufit employ modal tunings in the guitar accompaniment. These ‘open’ guitar tunings, first introduced and popularized by musicians such as Davey Graham and Joni Mitchell, are supremely compatible with the modal tuning of the sitar, allowing a true integration of sounds. Sufit’s vocals feature on nine of the twelve tracks, the remaining three being purely instrumental.
01 The Magic Carpet
02 The Phoenix
03 Black Cat
04 Alan’s Christmas Card
05 Harvest Song
06 Do You Hear The Worlds
07 Father Time
08 La La
09 Peace Song
10 Take Away Kesh
11 High Street
12 The Dream
13 Raga (Bonus)
Number 2: Live in Concert: The Famous Qawwal of Lucknow Afsar Hussein Khan (Afsar Hussein Khan)
Some fine Lucknavi qawwali from Afsar sahib. In a space that lies between commercial and art, the work of Afsar Hussein Khan is weightless but not light weight and spiritual but not over spiritual. Perfect when you feel the only solution to your boredom (asoodgi) and viral news is divine intervention.
01. Aaj Racho Hai Basant
02. Bekhud Kiye Dete Hain Andaz-e-Hijabana
03.Ye Hai Maikada Yahan Rind Hain
04. Sukoon-e-Dil Ke Liye Kuchh To Ehtaman Karoon
05.Asoodgi Se Ishq-e-Jawan Ko Bachaiye
Number 3: Mirza Ghalib: A Portrait of a Genius (Various Artists)
A really fine collection of poems by the one and only Mirza Ghalib of Delhi. Short snippets (way to short by my reckoning) read by the sonorous Gulzar followed by elegant renditions by Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammad Rafi, Begum Akhtar, Mahendra Kapoor, C.H. Atma and hubby and wife Jagjit and Chitra Singh (separately, not together). Thanks to long time reader of this blog Swarint for this collection!
01 Zikr Us Parivash Ka (Mohammad Rafi)
02 Ye Na Thi Hamari Qismat (Begum Akhtar)
03 Muddat Hui Hui (Mohammad Rafi)
04 Ae Taaza Vaaridan-E-Bisat-E-Huwa-E-Dil (Mohammad Rafi)
05 Qad-O-Gaysoo (Mohammad Rafi)
06 Sab Kahan (Begum Akhtar)
07 Bus Ke Dushwar Hai (Mohammad Rafi)
08 Nukta Chin Hai (Mohammad Rafi)
09 Bazeecha-E-Atfaal Hai (Mohammad Rafi)
10 Hazaron Khwahishen Aesi Ke Har Par Dam Nikle (Lata Mangeshkar)
11 Na Hui Gar Mere Marne Se Tasalli Na Suhi (Mukesh)
12 Kabhi Neke Bhi Uske Jee Mein Gar Aaj Aye Hai Mujse (Asha Bhosle)
13 Hairan Hoon Dil Ko Roun Ke Peeton Jigar Ko Main (C.H. Atma)
14 Main Hoon Mushtaq-E-Jafa Mujh Pe Jafa Aur Sahi (Mahendra Kapoor)
15 Kab Se Hoon Kya Bataoon Jahan-E-Kharab Mein (Chitra Singh)
16 Phir Kuchh Is Dil Ko Beqarri Hai (Jagjit Singh)
Number 4: Bright Moments (Mehnaz)
Mehnaz. Carving a career \out in the shadow of an international icon is never an enviable task. But this chubby cheeked Karachi girl was not only up the task but in the reckoning of many of her peers, she succeeded so eminently and hers is a talent second only to the majestic Noor Jehan. Or indeed, her own mother
Mehnaz was the daughter of a superstar, Kajjan Begum a ghazal singer and early pioneer of film music who in her lifetime was beloved all across the Indian sub-continent. It was inevitable that she would follow in her mother’s footsteps and take up a career as a singer. But that she was able to make her own independent, revered and respected mark as an artist and overcome the comparisons and legacy of two of the greatest singers in Indo-Pak culture is something to pause and reflect upon.
In a time before Spotify, when artists like Mehnaz actually recorded albums, Mehnaz lent her name to a collection of her filmi hits entitled Bright Moments. In South Asian music this sort of record, one that was not tied to a specific film soundtrack, was called a ‘private’ record. Bright Moments seems to be a semi-private album. Made up of film songs but marketed to a non-filmi audience who simply wanted to listen to Mehnaz’s lovely voice. The title even suggests it was targetted at an English speaking middle class category of consumer.
Anyway, strip away the packaging, and what awaits you are several solid popular film songs by one of Pakistan’s most beloved voices.
01 Ik Gunah Aur Sahi
02 La De Re La De Re
03 Payalya Nighori Sataye
04 Pyar Karen Ge Pal Pal
05 Renan Jagaye
06 Sonay Do Raat Ke Ho Gaye Ponay Do
07 Wadah Hai Dil Tujh Ko Doon Gi
Number 5. Bangladesh – Chants de Lalon Shah (Farida Parveen)
Mrs. Farida Parveen, one of the top singers in Bangladesh, has given new life to traditional Bengali religious music, ‘Baul songs’. She has performed on numerous occasions on TV and in films, and has been very active on the international stage.
Mrs. Farida was born in Natore in the western part of present Bangladesh in 1954, and was brought up in Kushtia. She learned the Sargam (Indian musical scale) in her early childhood. At the age of 6, she became a pupil of a famous music master, the great Ustad Ibrahim, to learn classical music. When she became 13, she started to sing for Rajshahi radio station. In the Bengal region, mystic teachings about union between humanity and divinity have had a powerful influence on local daily life for centuries, and ‘Bauls’ ? mystic devotees who present these teachings in song as wandering minstrels – have played an important role. Among them, Fakir Lalon Shah was regarded as the most outstanding baul of the 18th and 19th centuries, and Rabindranath Tagore was strongly influenced by him. In Kushtia, where Lalon was mainly based, a festival dedicated to him has been held annually. Mrs. Farida’s encounter with Lalon’s songs there led her to collect and classify a great many songs of his at the same time she started her singing career.
When she was at Rajshahi University reading Bangla literature, she established the foundation of her career by becoming a nationally popular singer with patriotic songs and songs of the Liberation War as well as Lalon’s songs. She produced LP records, and sang for TV programs and films. In 1987, she received the Ekushey Padak (one of the highest civilian awards in Bangladesh), and in 1993, was given the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer. The high reputation that she has won has established her as one of the most prestigious singers in Bangladesh. She has performed in many different countries, including France, the U.S., and Japan (2002), to introduce Baul songs to the world.
With a solid foundation in Indian classical music, Mrs. Farida has rendered remarkable services to raise the artistic standing of traditional Bangladeshi religious music, Baul song, and to have this listed as one of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Her contribution to raising the status of Baul song and to its international promotion has been immense, and therefore, she is truly worthy of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Prize
01 Pare loye jao amay
02 Khanchar bhitor ochin pakhi
03 Teen pagole holo mela
04 Rup kather ei nauka khani
05 Barir kache arshi-nagar
06 Lalon koy jaatir kee roop
07 Ekta bod hawa
08 O shey bajay bansi
09 Milon hobe koto dine
10 Shomoy gele shadhon hobe na