In 1976 things were not so cheery in India.
Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule was at its apogee. Sycophancy and sloganeering were the order of the day. Political dissent was forbidden. And, the general unruliness of life as lived in India was frowned upon.
Of course, that has nothing to do with this record. Except in an indirect way. That no matter what politicians and dynasts do to try to cling to power, they all ultimately end up in the dustbin of history.
12 months later, in 1977, Indira was tossed out of office when she very injudiciously believed her own press releases and called a general election. So much for ‘More Work. Less Talk’ and mass sterilization campaigns!
What remains and will always remain is truth. As expressed in art. As expressed in music. As expressed in these eight massive ghazals which are brought to a soulful life by the inimitable Shri Mohammad Rafi.
Rafi sahib, like all the great play back singers of his generation, loved the opportunity to ‘stretch’ himself by getting away from film music. Films made him his millions but as an artist there is a limit to how many variations on a theme you can credibly sing.
I have a number of records of non-filmi music by Lata, Asha and Rafi which I consider to be among their finest. Without the contraints and pressures to deliver to a specific formula for a specific scene in a specific film by a specific music director, you can sense the freedom and joy in their voices.
On this record Rafi renders on Side 1 four ghazals by contemporary poets such as Sudarshan Faakir and Shamim Jaipuri. Faakir’s lyrics in particular are ones I’ve admired for many years. Ek Hi Baat Zamane ki Kitabon Mein Nahin, (The One Thing that Will Not be Found in the books of history) the last track on Side 1, seems especially appropriate to the spirit of 1976. All the things that will not be written in this books of history.
jo gam-e-dost me nasha hai sharabo me nahi
(The buzz from wine can not be compared to the intoxication of friends’ sorrow)
That line can be read as a boozer’s lament, but also as a comment on the profound tragedy of lost friendships, something that divisive period of Indian history delivered in spades.
Side 2 is a quartet of classic ghazals from some of the greatest Indian poets, including Ghalib, Mir and Dagh Dehlvi. All of them are wonderful. Taj Ahmed Khan the music arranger has done an outstanding job making sure to give Rafi’s voice just the instrumental and rhythmic support it needs to shine. My favorite is the opening track on Side 2
Haae Mehman Kahan Yeh Gham-e-Jaana Hoga which is full of blue notes and mournful glissandos.
The record is a treasure. I am grateful to Balkar Bains of Queensland for his gift.
01 Falsafe Ishq Mein Pesh Aaye Sawalon ki Tarah [Sudarshan Faakir]
02 Talkhi-e-Mae Mein Zara Talkhi-e-Dil Bhi Gholen [Krishen Adeeb]
03 Kitni Rahat Hai Dil Toot Jane ke Baad [Shamim Jaipuri]
04 Ek Hi Baat Zamane ki Kitabon Mein Nahin [Sudarshan Faakir]
05 Haae Mehman Kahan Yeh Gham-e-Jaana Hoga [Dagh Dehlvi]
06 Diya Yeh Dil Agar Usko Bashar Hai Kya Kahiye [Mirza Ghalib]
07 Dil ke Baat Kahi Nahin Jati [Mir Taqi Mir]
08 Na Shauq-e-vasl-ka Dawa [Ameer Minai]