A companion double CD to the very first selection in this series, Kabir in Malwa, featuring two Rajasthani singers, Mukhtiyar Ali and Mahesha Ram.
The CDs are produced by the Kabir Project which “consists of a series of ongoing journeys in quest of Kabir, the 15th century north Indian mystic poet as well as other Bhakti, Sufi and Baul poets in our contemporary worlds. These journeys inquire into the spiritual and socio-political resonances of mystic poetry through songs, images and conversations. We have been engaged for the last 17 years in curating and re-expressing the power of this poetry through documentary films, music CDs, books, urban festivals, rural yatras, workshops and courses in schools/colleges and a web archive called Ajab Shahar“.
I would highly recommend both websites which are full of articles, videos and books about Kabir as well as such things as ‘useful terms’ and concepts found in Kabir’s philosophical writings.
Mukhtiyar Ali (in orange kurta) has a wonderful keening tenor that is full of melody and emotion.
He “sings Sufi and Bhakti songs with an intensity that is both delicate and powerful. Tucked away in the corner of Thar Desert in Rajasthan, close to the India-Pakistan border, is Mukhtiyar Ali’s village Pugal. He was born into a family of Mirasis – semi-nomadic community of singers who have kept alive the sufiana kalaam (poetry of Sufis like Bulleh Shah, Sultan Bahu, Shah Hussain) along with the bhakti songs of Kabir, Meera and Sagram. Mukhtiyar Ali has imbibed this music and poetry from his father and other village elders.
Mukhtiyar grew up performing at local satsangs and jaagrans (all-night musical vigils) where the overtly religious music would slowly veer into the songs of the mystics – both from the Sufi and Bhakti traditions. These songs apart from creating a common space for engagement and celebration for the Hindu and Muslim members of the village would also lead to intense discussions on ideas of mysticism. These gatherings still continue to take place though some note the dwindling numbers of both the listeners and the Mirasi singers.
For many years he was part of the Urmul Trust-initiated platform for folk singers and performing artists of the region, called Gavaniyar, singing and working closely with NGOs and other social initiatives in the region.
To reinvigorate the tradition of singing Sufiyana kalaam and to find new modes of patronage for Mir singers, Mukhtiyar Ali undertook a community project with the support of India Foundation for the Arts in 2005. The project involved research and documentation on Mir singers and facilitation of public performances, mehfils and baithaks. He has also trained several young children of his village and neighbouring regions in the tradition of Mirasi singing.
Today Mukhtiyar Ali is renowned for his extraordinary public performances in national and international concerts and his recordings are both loved and appreciated for being unique new compositions of Sufi poetry. A highly versatile artist, he has collaborated with other contemporary musicians such as Vasundhara Das and Mathias Duplessy and has sung for popular Hindi film albums like Tashan and Finding Fanny.”
Mahesha Ram “is a folk singer who belongs to the community of Meghwals from Rajasthan – the traditional carriers of the poetry of many Bhakti poets including Kabir, who have kept it alive through a powerful oral tradition. Mahesha Ramji hails from the village of Chhatangadh in Thar Desert of Rajasthan close to Jaisalmer, near the India Pakistan border. He has imbibed the spirit of the oral traditions from a very young age, listening to and singing the songs of Kabir, Meera, Rohal Fakir, Gorakh and other Bhakti poets, and the legacy continues with his son who also sings with him now.
Mahesha Ramji sings while playing the five-stringed folk tambura, and is accompanied by musicians on the manjiras, sarangi (or the kamaicha) and dholak. While he travels widely in India and overseas for performances, he continues to participate in the oral traditions of sant vaani in village jaagrans (all night music vigils) and satsangs (musical and spiritual gatherings) in his region, and also at ceremonies of birth, death and marriage, where his troupe is traditionally called upon to sing. Mahesha Ram also teaches these songs to others at the village and has also conducted singing workshops in parts of Gujarat and Bangalore.”
Meditative and mesmeric – these are the qualities of Mahesha Ramji’s music. Unhurried and not in an eager rush to please the public, Mahesha Ramji slows you down, and compels you to step into his rhythm.
Track Listing Disc 1 (Mir Mukhtiyar Ali)
01 Heli Mhaari, Nirbhay Rije Re
02 Kue Re Kinaare Avadhu
03 Jaro Garav Kare So Givaara
04 Nit Khair Manga
05 Kari Bharamna Door
06 Karmaari Duniya Gyaan Bin Kaise Tiriye?
07 Chadariya Jheeni Re Jheeni
Track Listing Disc 2 (Mahesha Ram)
01 Ber Chalya Mere Bhai
02 Evi Evi Sen Bataai
03 Kyun Sove Re Banda
04 Savaliye Bin Kaun Bandhaave Dheer
05 Darshan Kar Banda Dehi Mein
06 Chaalat Chaalat Jug Bhaya