Varnasi is an old city. Some say the second oldest in the world; Damascus in Syria usually taking the honours. It is a favourite spot of mine, one I visited at least once a year as a boy between the ages of 7-17 and one to which I return everytime I find myself in India.
One of the enduring pleasures of the place is rambling through the narrow urban canyons of stone, wood and concrete that make up the old city down by the river Ganga. These streets are called gali (lanes) and home to neighborhoods of craftsmen, confectioners, musicians, ashrams, religious people of all faiths, wrestlers, instrument and incense makers, barbers, sari sellers, kitemakers and guardians of burning ghats.
Any time of day you happen to find yourself in the galis you will hear the sort of music I share today. It will waft out of windows of music schools, from the courtyards of temples or from under open air recitals in wide spots in the alleys.
These songs you could classify as bhajan, the simple devotional songs usually associated with Hindus, though technically they are the sayings of the mystic poet and seer Kabir (15th Cent.) who was born and lived for many years in Varanasi. Kabir is one of those characters who is claimed and embraced and celebrated (in song, scripture and in legend) as equally Muslim, Hindu and Sikh. A truly universal messenger.
And this music does not require a knowledge of medieval Hindi or any faith. If you love music that calms or music that inspires or brings joy and peace you’ll connect to this music.
The songs of this gorgeous album are sung by another great son of Varanasi, Pandit Chhannulal Mishra. I must thank my dear friend Hanif Haji for gifting this album to me. It is a wonderful addition to my small but growing collection of Kabir dohe (couplets).
I have no doubt you’ll fall in love with this music.
01 Kaise Sajan Ghar Jaibay Ho Rama
02 Man Pachataiyhay Avsar Beetay
03 Bhajo Ray Bhiya Ram Govind Hari
04 Bhai Ray So Guru Satya Kahavay
05 Ray Ma n Murakh Janam Gavayo
06 Avadhu Bhajan Bhed Nayara