Kabir Mela: Classical Approaches

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For this fourth volume of Sant Kabir’s music we move away from slick pop production to the classical and semi-classical world.   This collection is really quite impressive.  A double CD of over 2 hours of music performed by a diverse group of India’s (Abida Parveen is the sole Pakistani represented) top rung classical singers.

The CD opens with a bhajan (Bhajo re Man) sung by brothers Rajan and Sajan Mishra which from the very opening taal locks into a trance-inducing rhythm powered by their powerful voices and a supportive tabla. The brothers represent the Benaras gharana, Kabir’s purported city of birth so this track is especially meaningful.  This is followed by Ustad Rashid Khan, arguably India’s greatest living classical singer, singing Dukh mein Sumiran

Dukh Mein Simran Sab Kare, Sukh Mein Kare Na Koye
Jo Sukh Mein Simran Kare, Tau Dukh Kahe Ko Hoye

Translation

In anguish everyone prays to Him,
in joy does none
To One who prays in happiness,
how can sorrow come

And so the music flows. Incredibly high quality singing, wonderful arrangements and diverse styles.  The scholar, entrepreneur and artist Shubha Mudgal contributes two tracks as does Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar whose records should always be sought out.  He is one of my favourite bhajan masters.  Here he contributes a surprising (complete with piano, drums and guitar) interpretation of one of Kabir’s most beloved doheMano Laago Mero Yaar 

जो सुख पावो राम भजन में,
सो सुख नाही अमीरी में ॥

Translation

The ecstasy I get from chanting God’s name/is greater than the pleasure  I find in riches

Abida Parveen‘s stunning Sahib Mera Ek Hai (see earlier post) opens the second CD which in some way is the more interesting of the two if you are looking for a bit of change up in styles.  The CD ends up a very almost jaunty rendition of Jhini Jhini Chadariya by Rekha Bhardwaj.

Just dip into this collection at any point and you’ll be sucked in, blown away and elevated to another plane.  This is true devotional music. Mystical music that comes from the spirit but resonates with our very human, pumping and aching hearts.

A five star compilation.

 

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Track Listing:

Disc. 1

01 Bhajo re Man

02 Dukh Mein Sumiran

03 Na Kachu Ram Bina

04 Mero Haar Heraano

05 Beet Gaye Din

06 Mano Laago Mero Yaar

Disc. 2

01 Sahib Mera ek Hai

02 Amarpur le Chal ho Sajna

03 Saeen Bina Darad Kareje Hoye

04 Rehna Nahi

05 Bhajo re Bhaiya

06 Jhini Jhini Chadariya

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Kabir Mela: Abida Parveen

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This is a famous and popular album, combining as it does the poetry of Kabir, the voice of Abida Parveen and the compositional flare of Gulzar.  The very definition of “triple threat”.

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Abida Parveen needs no introduction. In a rough analysis she could be considered the female counterweight of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The Empress to his Emperor.  A huge figure with a massive ecstatic voice that towers/ed above all rivals and peers. Their dedication to singing the kalam of Sindh’s (Abida) and Punjab’s (Nusrat) many Sufi poet philosophers unequalled over the past 30 years. I have written in other places of what an impression she created on me the only time I saw her live (at a semi private function at Islamabad’s old Marriott Hotel) and won’t go over that again.  Though a friend contacted me the other day to wonder if I’d be interested in seeing her when she’s in Melbourne early next year!

 

Gulzar, one of India’s cinematic icon’s (his lyrics, including for Jai Ho, and music as well as scripts and direction are universally lauded) was born in Jhelum district in present-day Pakistan. One of the thousands of figures who made their careers and names in ‘Bollywood’ after the 1947 Partition of British India and who hailed originally from what is now Pakistan, Gulzar has been a champion of cross-border amity his entire life.

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Gulzar

He conceived of this album and of Abida singing the dohe of Kabir. He selected the verses and composed the music.  Kabir’s writings have a special place in the Sikh religion, into which Gulzar was born in the mid-1930s.  Many of  Kabir’s sayings have been incorporated into the spiritual music as well as the scriptural writings of the Sikhs. So this is material that Gulzar has been exposed to since his childhood.

His deep voice opens each of the four tracks with a few words of praise, delivered in the crisp diction and efficient concision of the writer for both the poet and the singer. And as such these pithy introductions add their own nasha (intoxication) to the album.

Like the first album of Kabir’s music I shared, this one opens with his famous doha

Mann laago mero yaar fakiri mein
Mann laago mero yaar gareebi mein

Oh friend, my mind has
taken to living free!

This lyric speaks the joy of poverty, and the beauty of simplicity. [Here’s a nice explication of this bhajan if you’re interested.]

My personal favourite, however, is track 3:

Saahib mera ek hai, duja kaha na jaaye,
Duja Saahib jo kahun, saahib khada rachaaye.

My Lord is One, without a second,
If I see multiplicity, it is also my Lord’s play.

Maali aavat dekh ke, kaliyaan kare pukar,
Phool phool chun liye, kaal hamari baar.
Seeing the Master Gardener, the buds whisper to each other:
Fully blossomed ones are plucked away, our appointed day is near.
Chhah gayi chinta miti, manva beparvah
Jinko kachu na chaiye, woh hi Shahenshah.
If cravings are dissolved, worries go, mind becomes free,
He who wants nothing is surely the king of all kings.
Het preet sun jo mile, ta ko miliye dhaaye
Antar raakhe jo mile, taase mile balaaye.
You hasten to meet the ones who meet You with love,
Those who meet You with a pure heart, have indeed found a Friend unmatched.
Kabira te nar andh hai, guru ko kehte aur,
Har roothe Guru chhod hain, Guru roothe nahi chhod.
Kabir says, blinds are they who realize not the value of a true Master.
One may seek the shelter of God after displeasing God,
But there is no refuge after one is refused at the door of a Master.
Karta tha to kyun raha, ab kahe pachhtaye,
Bove pe babool ka, aam kahan se hoye.
Heedless I committed innumerable wrongs, now I suffer,
Nurturing the thistles of a barren tree, can one expect mango?
Sab Dharti kaagad karun, lekhan sab ban raaye,
Saat samand ki muss karun, Guru gun likha na jaye.
If the entire earth is a writing tablet, all the forest be its pen,
all waters of seven seas be its ink – even then the Lord’s praises remain unfinished.
Ab guru dil mein dekheya, gaavan ko kachhu naahin,
Kabira jab tum gaavate, tab jana Guru nahi.
Once the Lord is recognized within the heart, there is nothing left to be told,
Kabir, whenever you tried to utter the mysteries, the knowledge of your Master vanishes.
Main laaga uss ek se, ek bhaya sab maahin,
Sab mera main saban ka, tihan doosara naahin.
I am attached with that One, the One who is with all,
When everyone is mine, and I am everyone’s, there ends all duality.
Ja marne se jag dare, mere man anand,
Kab mar hun kab paahun, puran parmanand.
The world trembles at the thought of death, but its a matter of joy for me,
When shall I die, when shall I find the perfect joy (of the vision of the Beloved)?
Sab ban to chandan nahi, shoore ke dal nahi,
sab samundra moti nahi yun Sadhu jag mahi.
Neither all forests are of sandalwoods, nor all teams are full of valiant warriors,
nor all seas are filled with pearls; likewise the real gnostics of God are truly rare.
Jab hum jag mein pag dharyo, sab hanse hum roye,
Kabira ab aisi kar chalo, paache hansi na hoye.
When you came to this mortal world, everyone around you were happy to see you
and you were the only one weeping.
Kabir, now be in this world such that none laugh at your behind
but you yourself depart the world laughing, leaving all weeping, mourning.
Agun kiye to bahu kiye, karat na mani haar,
Bhaven banda bhakshe, bhaaven gardan maar.
Tirelessly so many misdeeds have been committed,
Now that I’ve realized O Lord, do as You please.
Sadhu bhukha bhaav ka, dhan ka bhookha naahin,
Dhan ka bhookha jo phire, so to Saadhu nahi.
Having no appetite for material wealth, true saints are hungry only for love,
Those who thirst after material wealth are not saintly at all.
Saahib sun sab hott hai, bande te kachhu naahin,
Rai te parbat kare, parbat rai mahi.
Listen friend! This world has nothing for you, vanity of vanities.
Seriously narrow is the passage to salvation, smaller even than the mustard seed.
Jyun til mahi tel hai, jyun chakmak mein aag,
Tera Sain tujh mein base, jaag sake to jaag.
Oil is found Inside the sesame seed, inside flinstone is fire, like that
Your Lord is within, now awaken to That truth if you dare!
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Track Listing:
 01. Man Laago Yaar Fakiri Mein
02. Souun to Sapne Milun
03. Sahib Mera Ek Hai
04. Bhala Hua Meri Matki Phut Gayi

Snake Charmer’s Orchestra: Iqbal Jogi and Party

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A rather interesting album made originally in the 1950s during the ethno-music craze that brought non-Western/exotic music into suburban homes in the West.

The instrument featured here is called by several different names across South Asia: murli, been or punji.  The Murli or Punji is a wind instrument which consists of two parts; the upper part is made of a dried and hollowed gourd which acts as the main sound chamber. The lower part is constructed from two reed pipes which are joined together into a double barrel form and positioned below the sound chamber. On most of these instruments the reed section has eight holes, which are used to play tones for music. However, in some parts of Sindh there is an additional hole in the lower back end of the right pipe. This instrument is known as a Murli in Sindh, and a Punji in other parts of Pakistan. It is most commonly recognized for its popular use by snake charmers throughout South Asia . 

Iqbal Jogi is a name known only to others than his family and friends as the key been player on this record. A Sindhi, in all likelihood,

The Jogi (also spelled Yogi; meaning “sage” or “saint”) are a Hindu sect (nath sampraday), found in North India and Sindh, with smaller numbers in the southern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Jogi is a colloquial term for the “yogi”, which refers to the people who practiced yoga as part of their daily rituals. Over the time, this led to the formation of a community, and subsequently was formed into a caste. (Wikipedia)

Jogis are mendicants, who perambulate from holy site to holy site, and who often stop by your door, with begging bowl, simple musical instruments and colourful turbans or skull caps.  Though the name derives from yogi, a Sanskrit term, in the middle ages, especially in Sindh and Punjab, the jogis were associated with a math (spiritual refuge) in northern Punjab called Tilla Jogian (jogis hill). Adherents to the sect while nominally ‘Hindu’ came from all faiths and segments of society and were called Gorakpanthi after Gorakhnath the sect’s founder.

Iqbal Jogi is of this group of spiritual musicians.

When you think about this recording it has Monty Python-esque possibilities.  A bunch of bearded , turbaned men dancing about blowing into snake-charmers gourds!  But don’t allow your mind to go there. As this more recent release of the album is subtitled, there is a lot of passion in this group.  They blow intensely and seriously, bringing new life to some Sindh’s oldest and most beloved folk songs and melodies.

So settle back and prepare yourself for some very special sounds…a snake charmers orchestra!

The Passion of Pakistan

Track Listing:

01 Lorau (A Folk Tune Popular in the Desert Region of Sind.)

02 Momil Rano (A Folk Romance)

03 Kohiari (From the Sind Region of Pakistan.)

04 Lal Mori Pat (Traditional Folk Song)

05 Bhairveen (Raag of the Morning.)

06 Sorath (Folk Tune in Sindhi Ragni.)

07 Pahari (Tune of Sindhi Folk Song & Dance.)

08 Pahari (Folk Tune in Raga.)

Iqbal Jogi

Updated Files: Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

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A few days ago I posted Volume 53 of the Music Pakistan series which features the singing of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali KhanAs mentioned many times already about the Music Pakistan series, a number of tracks on about 7 of the discs are completely unlistenable—damaged beyond repair during the (somewhat shoddy) production process.

Well as so happens from time to time, a reader of the blog reached out with the following message:

When I listened to this great release on the Music Pakistan series by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, I found the Bhopali track very familiar. On investigation it seems I can help you, as all the music you posted from this CD was previously available and I have pristine digital versions of all the tracks…

Talk about tantalising! Of all the corrupted CDs in the box set this volume was the one I regretted the most. And here was someone claiming to have not just listenable and identical versions but pristine copies!

Well, I replied to the mysterious gentleman who shall go only by the initials ‘ljf‘.  And over the course of a couple of emails he laid out his amazing detective work which he’s agreed for me to share.

According to ‘ljf’: Most of the recordings seem to have been digitised from LP’s or 78 RPM’s as there are plenty of pops and crackles, but they are still quite listenable. Almost all the recordings of Bade Ghulam Ali that I have are of poorish technical quality, except for the few LP tracks that he recorded.

A few years ago, on the usual commercial digital  websites like Amazon etc, you could get a download “album” called “Hindustani Classicals Indian Classical Vocal Music” by Bade Ghulam as well as other similar albums by several other artists from around the same era like Gangubai Hangal amongst others (attached is cover from this digital download). They were from a company called NAV Records in 2015. These downloads were in MP3 format and now all seem to have disappeared from the commercial download websites. Mostly these recordings came from Akashvani Sangeet or Doordarshan CD’s released by AIR. This is also true for this digital download of Bade Ghulam from NAV records, which had 19 tracks. The first 9 tracks came from 3 Akashvani Sangeet CD’s (C-ARCH)H 36-38 , but I could never figure out where the other 10 tracks came from. Now I know, because these are exactly the same 10 tracks as on your Music Pakistan CD !

As to the source of these 10 tracks, none are new material, all were previously released on LP, EP or 78 RPM. Tracks 1 & 3, Bhopali & Kamode came from an LP LKDR 1 released in 1970 by EMI-Pakistan called simply “Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan”. This LP has been posted on Tawfiq’s blog a while ago and the covers stated that the music came from Radio Pakistan broadcasts (this LP has also been released by EMI-Pakistan as a digital download, with the same mastering as the original LP). The other tracks came mainly from Gramophone Company of India 78 RPM’s recorded in 1948 which were later re-released on LP’s. Incidentally track 4 labelled as a Piloo thumri is I believe in Manj Khamaj. Likewise track 5 labelled as Raag Kajri is actually a kajri in Raag Bhairavi.

Probably the most interesting track is the Bhopali from the EMI-Pakistan LP. Actually the version on your Music Pakistan CD is slightly different to that released  on the LP. There’s absolutely no doubt it is from the same live performance, but your version is around 1:30 minutes longer than on the EMI-Pakistan LP version (and also on the corresponding digital download). It took me a while to realise that this is a different edit to the version released on the LP. The sound is clearer, though there is more background noise and a section around 1:30 minutes long (starting around 4:00 minutes) has been cut out for the version issued on the LP. Quite exactly what has been going on here is not exactly clear, as it seems likely that some editing has been carried out in India and some in Pakistan. The longer version has some coughing on behalf of Bade Ghulam, and possibly this has been cut out and is the reason for the shortened version making its appearance on the LP.

Attached is a pdf file with a track by track listing of the original  sources for the Shalimar RBC CD. I stress that though the source recording is the same, it seems that these have been all reedited for the Shalimar release. This may have entailed going back to the original 78 RPM’s /EP and re-transcribing them in digital format. I don’t know if
they had access to the original Radio Pakistan recording (presumably done on acetate discs?) but it seems likely as it is around 1:30 longer than on the EMI-Pakistan LP.

Track by track source material for CD Music Pakistan

So here you go folks! Pristine Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

LINK

 

The Big Man: Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

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Continuing with the Music Pakistan CD Box Set, today we share the playable part of Vol. 53.  If you’ve followed this blog and are aware of the Music Pakistan Box Set you’ll know that about 7 of the original CDs were very poorly reproduced.  To the point of being unlistenable. Some tracks were so corrupted by clicks and cracks and other distortion, they rendered the music completely unlistenable.  Other tracks simply don’t play.

And sadly, this is the case for this volume. Of the 10 tracks only 4 are not completely damaged. Luckily, they include a complete rendition of Raga Bhopali and a few other morsels.  Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan himself needs no introduction to lovers of Hindustani gayaki.  Claimed by both India and Pakistan as a native son (and both are true!) Bade Ghulam Ali Khansahib is truly the Big Man of classical Hindustani vocal singing of the first half of the 20th century.

I’ve included a complete set list below but remember, only the first four tracks are presentable.  I’ve also had to improvise a cover for the CD as the original is missing as well.

With those (hopefully acceptable caveats) I present to you volume 53 of Music Pakistan Box Set.

KHUB!

Music Pakistan Nr.53 Classical Vocal

Track Listing:

53-01 Raag Bhopali – Tit Bitat Ghan

53-02 Raag Peelo – Saiyaan Bolo

53-03 Raag Kamode – Chadde Mora Aanchal

53-04 Raag Peelo Thumri – Kankar Maar Jagaiye

53-05 Raag Kajri – Nainan Morey Taras Gayay

53-06 Raag Kedara – Naveli Naar

53-07 Raag Gujri Todi – Bhor Bhai Tori

53-08 Raag Paraj – Latkhat Chalat

53-09 Raag Malkauns – Mandir Dekh

53-10 Raag Jaijaivanti – Un Ki

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