Masala King: Sundar Popo

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Hey everyone, it has been a long between drinks as they say down here in Australia. Other projects (such as writing one book and editing another, ramping up a business) have taken over my waking hours. Sharing music has paid the price.

But a good friend who does a bit of work for the Red Cross in the Caribbean recently returned from the region with a couple of CDs, including this one which we share today. The very best of the King of Chutney music, Sundar Popo.

The CD is excellent with all the big hits and loads of fun. Drinking, pleasurizin’ and groovin’…the great three elements of West Indies Asian sound…chutney…are all here in abundance.

Here is a link to an article I wrote for Scroll.in a couple years ago about the man and his music!

Enjoy at full volume. And with a bottle of rum!

The Ultimate Sundar PoPo

Track Listing:

01 Nana & Nani

02 Don’t Fall In Love

03 Caroni

04 I Wish I Was A Virgin

05 Chaadar Beechawo

06 Hum Na Jai Bay

07 Pholourie

08 Bhouji Rahan Chalan

09 Cuss

10 Is De Spanner

11 Is De Spaner

12 Dotish Boy

13 Cold Water

14 Naina Band

15 Samdhi Bhara Ray

16 Suraji My Darling

17 Mother Love

Popo

Jogi Man: Ram Narata

 

Ram Narata Jogi

It would be hard to find more basic music than this.  A man with a voice of limited range and no smoothness playing a one-stringed homemade instrument accompanied by a friend or two on hand drums.

Ram Narata is (possibly, was) a jogi. A wandering spiritual seeker, probably mystical in his understanding but Hindu in his vocabulary, he was more than 90 when he made this recording.

The songs he sings cover the bases from tragic love stories (Sassi Pannu and Sohni Mahiwal) to earthy spirit melodies.

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Track Listing:

01 Changa

02 Tara Rani

03 Kaula

04 Ishq Nu Chhed Na Bethi

05 Puttar Ka Vardan

06 Duniya De Mele

07 Sassi Puno – Jogi

08 Sohni Mahiwal – Jogi

 

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Lucknow’s Great Son: Naushad Ali

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Naushad Ali

Naushad Ali of Lucknow was arguably the first giant of Hindi film music. Not as a singer, but as an inventive composer and arranger.

His sound is instantly recognizable for its deep connection to the folk music of north India and especially the Gangetic plain. Flutes, matkas (clay pots) and other folk instruments embellish his compositions like  glimmering light off a paddy field.

Responsible for the music of so many classics he is one of those of whom it can be honestly said, ‘his music was the soundtrack to an entire generation’. Indians who came of age in the first 2 decades after Independence will probably save the sweetest corner of their hearts for his music.

Naushad was a sharif Musalman. A man of great taste and dignity and culture he also brought a deep love and understanding of raga based melodies into his film scores.

Here is a collection of some of his greatest hits sung by voices as diverse as Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Suraiya and Shamshad Begum. Thank you to Mr Balkar Bains (once again!) for the gift of this wonderful LP.naushad-front

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Track Listing

01 Jawan Hai Mohabbat [Anmod Ghadi]

02 Bachpan ke Din [Deedar]

03 Murliwale Murli Baja [Dillagi]

04 Gaya Ja Geet Milan Ke [Mela]

05 Dil Toote Na [Andaz]

06 Panchhi Ban Mein [Babul]

07 Chhod Babul ka Ghar [Babul]

08 Aja Meri Barbad-e-Mohabbat [Anmol Ghadi]

09 Maan Mera Ehsan [Aan]

10 Sawan ke Badala [Rattan]

11 Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki [Dulari]

12 Jhoom Jhoom ke Nacho [Andaz]

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Bury Me with This Record: Jagjit and Chitra Singh

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Chitra and Jagjit Singh

This album is a desert island disc. A record I would take on my flight to Saturn or want buried with me when I pass on.   Every track is a thing of beauty and grace.

What follows is a remembrance from my old blog on the occasion of Jagjit’s death nearly 5 years ago.

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I discovered Jagjit Singh’s music when I returned home to Allahabad for a brief visit in the winter of 1983. This was the beginning of the cassette revolution in Indian music. A revolution that shook up the music industry lock, stock and barrel and broke the iron grip of a handful of record companies who seemed to think there were only two types of music: classical and Bombay filmi songs.

I was amazed to find small shops on every corner of Allahabad’s posh Civil Lines district selling hundreds of cassette tapes of a staggering array of musical styles: devotional music (qawwali, bhajans, kirtans) salacious pop music in local dialects and a few European/American pop bands. But by far the most popular form of music was something the shop keepers crudely called, ‘ghajal’ substituting the Sanskrit ‘j’ for the Arabic ‘z’.

From one shop came two of the most mellifluous voices I’d ever heard. They drew me inside instantly. In response to my question about who the voices belonged to I was handed several cassettes. On the cover were photos of what looked like a boring middle class couple called Jagjit and Chitra Singh. I bought all four and commenced one of the deepest love affairs of my life.

Ghazals like Us Mor Se Shuru Karein Phir yeh Zindagi (Let’s Begin Life Again from That Turning), Uski Baatein Bahaar ki Baatein (His Words are the Words of Spring), Kaun Kahta Hain (Who Says So?) and especially, Woh Kaghaz ki Kashti (That Paper Boat) became the soundtrack of my inner world. I sang them to myself daily. The tapes were constantly in my Walkman and I used each ghazal to improve my Urdu vocabulary, which as a graduate student in South Asian studies was a high priority.

Without a doubt the greatest thing about Jagjit Singh was his voice. It exuded calm, assurance and safety.  Like a father’s words of comfort, it delivered a totally unexpected gift–peace.  This is a rare quality in a singer. Sure the arrangements and instrumentation were tasteful, never outlandish or exotic, and that added to the restful aura of their music. But above all it was Jagjit’s voice that cut through whatever stress, whatever anxiety I was feeling and gently grazed my heart.

Jagjit and Chitra were probably the most famous Indian singing act in the 1980s and 1990s. They travelled the globe and sold millions of cassettes and records. Their leading contribution to the democratisation of the Indian music scene cannot be overstated. And without them elevation of the ghazal to the status of India’s most popular musical genre (after Bollywood) would have not happened.

In the mid 1990’s Chitra stopped singing publicly after the accidental death of her son. How, we all wondered, could Jagjit carry on without her? We all loved their intimate, intuitive and absolutely in-sync way of singing. I always felt that their love lyrics were sung to each other. Jagjit just wouldn’t be the same without ethereal Chitra. But he carried on and continued to find new fans and enthral us old ones.  He sang for films and in the later years experimented with some very modern studio-derived doodlings. But whatever he did he did with taste and integrity. And that warm soothing voice.

As I write I’m listening to one of my favourite J&C ghazals Manzil Na De Charagh Na De /Hosla to De (Give me not the destination nor the lamp/ Just give me courage).

Giving courage. That was the vocal legacy of the great Jagjit Singh.

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Track Listing:

01 Ham To Yun

02 Kiya Hai Pyar Jise

03 Woh Dil Hi Kya

04 Sirf Shabnamhi

05 Uski Baten Bahar ki Baten

06 Mujhse Milne Ke

07 Chale Bhi Ao

08 Kaun Kahta Hai

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Mixed up Blue: Talat Mahmood

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An interesting album that immediately caught my eye. In a Blue Mood is a very western title. It would fit right in with the 1950s and early 60s trend of moody jazz album covers.

So right away, you see this album is marketed to a sophisticated cosmopolitan Indian audience. Perhaps the upper middle classes, the ones who had the disposable income for record players and LPs in a country and at a time when such things were the height of luxury. A class of people who rarely went to the cinema but who loved the music. A sort of people who probably had Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra records in their collections.

The color blue in Hindu color does not signify the same thing it does in English—sadness. Rather, blue is the colour of manliness and valour. Leadership. Recall the pictures of Krishna and Shiva, both often represented in blue and both icons of Hindu manliness.

But in keeping with the Western/jazz idea of blue, in this album each song is a sad one. Songs of broken hearts, tears, unrequited and rejected love. Talat Mahmood, the silky-voiced ghazal singer par excellence, renders each one with a vulnerability that you can almost touch. No one is able to voice the feelings of the dejected lover better than Talat. He conveys resignation but never bitterness; disappointment but never despair.

There are so many great tracks here but my favorite are Hain Sab Se Madhur Woh Geet (The Sweetest Song) and Sham-e-gham ki Qasm (The Sad Evening’s Promise).

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01 Yeh Hawa Yeh Raat [Sangdil]

02 Main Dil Hu Ek Armaan Bhare [Anhonee]

03 Hain Sab Se Madhur Woh Geet [Patita]

04 Ae Gham-e-Dil [Thokar]

05 Husun Walon Ko [Babul]

06 Sham-e-gham ki Qasm

07 Meri Yaad Mein [Madhosh]

08 Ansu Samajh Ke [Chhaya]

09 Dekh Li Teri Khudai [Kinare Kinare]

10 Raat ne Kya Kya [Ek Gaon ki Kahani]

11 Ham se Aaya Na Gaya [Dekh Kabira Roya]

12 Main Pagal Mera Manwa Pagal [Ashiana]

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