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

A (Genuinely) Rare Treasure: Links to Music Pakistan box set

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In 2006 the semi-government private Pakistani company Shalimar Recording Company issued a boxset of 57 compact discs titled simply Music Pakistan.  Not marketed very well, if at all, it soon disappeared from view without making much of a ripple.   More the pity because this hefty chunk of digitised music is a massive contribution to the documentation and preservation of global musics.

Pakistan embodies a contradictory position as far as music goes.  It’s many regions, language groups and cultures are the source of some of the most profound and rich folk traditions on the planet.  And not just folk.  Pakistani classical musicians, though less well known than their Indian counterparts, are among the best in South Asia’s gharana-based music. And yet, the official music industry (which includes private companies, government and private broadcasters and government policy-makers) of Pakistan has demonstrated only the most cursory interest in preserving and promoting this unique heritage.

A commercial bias toward film music and passive aggressive stance towards classical music which was often dismissed as too much influenced by Hindu cultural antecedents was almost completely ignored. Folk music, always popular outside middle class living rooms, was left to its own devices, thriving or shrivelling depending on circumstances and shifting audiences.

Institutions like Lok Virsa Folk Heritage Institute in Islamabad tried heroically to bring to folk artists and their music to a national and international audience but always struggled to cope with  restrictive budgets, internal politics and a gargantuan task.  In the past decade or so private citizens have made fantastic contributions to reviving classical music by providing venues, events and recording opportunities for the elders as well as a small handful of up-and-comers. The work of Tehzeeb Foundation has been recognised for its quality not just among Pakistani music circles but on the international stage as well. And of course, the efforts of Sachal Studios and the TV hit show Coke Studio to resurrect the careers of Lahore film studio musicians and make folk music palatable to the Millennial Generation respectively are other high points in the revival of interest in Pakistan’s musical heritage.

But so much remains forgotten, undiscovered or simply ignored. The vaults of Pakistan TV and Radio,  recording companies EMI and Polydor not to mention private collections and archives controlled by various provincial governments  are surely bursting with hours and hours of wonderful music. Will it ever be released? My advice is, do not hold your breath.

Within this context then the Music Pakistan Boxset assumes huge significance.  Taken from the vaults of Radio Pakistan, the music on this vast collection covers classical, folk, spiritual (Sufiana), light classical and film music.  With some recordings stretching back to pre-Independence its focus is clearly on the 50s-80s.  Recent pop music, film music beyond Noor Jehan’s singing, qawwali and music from the smaller ethnic groups are sadly not even touched.   Documentation on individual artists is very minimal, the art work lack lustre and information about the tracks (in some instances) less than accurate and inconsistent.

But production values aside the history that is captured in these performances is simply and without exaggeration priceless.  In certain cases, the recordings are extremely rare.  For anyone with an interest at all in Punjabi, Pakistani, Sindhi, South Asian folk and classical music this collection is absolutely indispensable.  One particularly pleasing element of Music Pakistan is the large place given to female singers including: Zahida Parveen, Farida Khanum, Kajjan Begum, Mehnaz, Noor Jehan, Samar Iqbal, Iqbal Bano, Khurshid Begum, Mussarat Nazir and others.    Among the rare recordings are some early post-Independence performances by Ustad Bundoo Khan (sarangi) and Nazakhat and Salamat Ali Khan as young boys.

Sadly, some of the CDs (such as the Nazakhat/Salamat one referred to above) were poorly produced and unplayable! That frustrating inattention to quality and details that characterises bureaucracies with little interest in the work they are charged to carry out!

I was given a copy of the box set soon after it was released by a dear friend and over several years and several blogs have shared them with the wider world.  Throughout this process I have never once felt guilty about doing so, rather have viewed my efforts as altruistic: promoting and keeping alive a rich and diverse tradition of folk and classical music.  You might be able to find some of these CDs elsewhere on the internet but you’re unlikely to find so many in one place.  And while there are outlets that claim they will sell you the full boxset, I’ve not yet found place that actually will.  You will receive either an ‘Out of Stock’ message or be met with total silence.

Of the 57 original CDs I’ve managed to digitise 46.  I’ve made a 47th out of several stray tracks from original CDs that were poorly produced.  Sadly, that leaves 10 of the original, including ghazals by Barkat Ali Khan, light classical performances by Amanat Ali Kasuri and several others by artists I’ve lost track of.  [Confession: it took me a couple years before I understood exactly what I held in my hands and in that time I tossed out CDs that didn’t work! Fool that I am!]

I am trying, through my contacts to get hold of the outstanding 10 CDs and of course will share them if and when I do. But again: do not hold your breath.

Rather than lament on what is missing I invite you to drink deeply of what IS available.

Here are links to all 47 plus 1 CDs.

I have given each a serial number that does NOT correspond to the original.  That is for personal reasons of no particular consequence.  Simply my way of keeping track of this vast and amazing collection.

  1. Ustad Umeed Ali Khan [Raga Kafi Kannada and Raga Emen]
  2. Mohammad Tufail Niazi [Punjabi Folk Songs]
  3. Salamat Ali [Urdu Ghazals]
  4. Ustad Mohammad Sharif Poonchwaley [Classical Sitar] Vol. 1
  5. Sadiq Ali Khan Mando and Master Sohni Khan [Classical Clarinet]
  6. Roshan Ara Begum [Raga Mian ki Malhar, Raga Neki Kannara and Raga Maru Sarang]
  7. Mai Bhaggi [Thar Folk Songs]
  8. Ustad Amanat Ali Khan [Urdu Ghazals]
  9. Ustad Nathoo Khan [Classical Sarangi]
  10. Hamid Ali Bela [Punjabi Sufi Kalam]
  11. Alam Lohar [Punjabi Folk Songs]
  12. Ustad Nazakhat Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan [Raga Abhogi Kanhra and Raga Kamod]
  13. Ustad Bundoo Khan [Classical Sarangi]
  14. Musarrat Nazir [Punjabi Folk and Pop]
  15. Noor Jehan [Film Hits Vol. 1] and [Vol. 2]
  16. Saeen Ditta Qadri [Classical Flute/Bansuri]
  17. Ijaz Hussain Hazarvi [Punjabi Ghazals]
  18. Farida Khanum [Urdu Ghazals Vol. 1]
  19. Farida Khanum [Urdu Ghazals Vol. 2]
  20. Mukhtar Begum [Ghazals, Dadra and Thumri]
  21. Saeen Marna and Munir Sarhady [Iktara and Sarinda]
  22. Mohammad Jumman and Allan Faqir [Punjabi Folk]
  23. Reshma [Thar Folk Songs]
  24. Ustad Munawar Ali Khan [Classical Vocal]
  25. Iqbal Bano [Thumris]
  26. Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan [Raga Bageshri, Raga Multani, Raga Gujri Todi and Raga Pooria]
  27. Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan [Raga Des, Raga Barbari, Raga Megh, Raga Malkauns and Raga Kedara]
  28. Iqbal Bano [Urdu Ghazals Vol.1]
  29. Iqbal Bano [Urdu Ghazals Vol.2]
  30. Abida Parveen [Sufi Kalam]
  31. Pathane Khan [Punjabi Sufi Kalam]
  32. Ustad Mohammad Sharif Khan Poonchwaley [Classical Sitar Vol. 2]
  33. Faiz Mohammad Baloch [Balochi Folk Songs]
  34. Mehnaz and Kajjan Begum [Folk Songs]
  35. Suriaya Multanikar [Punjabi Folk Songs]
  36. Kheyal Mohammad [Pashto Folk Songs]
  37. Ustad Misri Khan Jamali [Alghoza Folk]
  38. Hamid Ali Khan [Urdu Ghazals]
  39. Ghulam Ali [Urdu Ghazals Vol. 1]
  40. Ghulam Ali [Urdu Ghazals Vol.2]
  41. Mehnaz Begum [Urdu Ghazals]
  42. Mehdi Hassan [Urdu Ghazals Vol. 1]
  43. Mehdi Hassan [Urdu Ghazals Vol.2]
  44. Ustad Habib Ali Khan [Classical Been]
  45. Various Artists [Folk Sampler]
  46. Zahida Parveen [Sufi Kalam]
  47. Miscellany [Ustad Amanat Ali Khan Kasuri; Roshan Ara Begum; Bashir Ali Mahi]
  48. Ustad Barkat Ali Khan [Urdu Ghazals]
  49. Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan [Classical Tabla]
  50. Various Artists [Classical & Light Classical Vocal]
  51. Bashir Ali Mahi [Light Classical Vocal/ thumri]
  52. Various Artists [Rare Classical Recordings]
  53. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan [Classical Vocal]
  54. Ustad Nazakhat Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan [Classical Vocal]
  55. Roshanara Begum [Classical Vocal]
  56. Various Artists [Classical Vocal]

 

NOTE: AS AND WHEN THE 10 MISSING DISCS ARE DISCOVERED THEY WILL BE ADDED TO THIS LIST. IF ANYONE IS ABLE TO TRACE ANY OF THEM PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

From the Archives: Abida Parveen

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First of all: thank to all of you who responded so encouragingly to my previous post in which I mooted the idea that perhaps the time had come to close down this particular creative outlet.  Your words and vibes were really encouraging and well received. Thanks so much.  I still don’t have as much time as I’d like to attend to the blog/s but as it so happens today I do!

One of the people who contacted me asked about Abida Parveen. He had heard Bjork talking about Abida’s music in glowing terms and wanted to know and hear a bit more. That got me thinking that the best way to introduce David to the music of Abida was to reup this very old post from about 4 years ago.

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It goes without saying that if you’re reading a blog and have even the slightest of interest in the music of Sufi Asia, Abida Parveen needs no introduction. Like her male alter ego, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, she has left a giant size imprint on the musical landscape of Pakistan and South Asia generally.

Born in the Sindhi lands of the Bhuttos, she studied with her father who operated a music school in Larkana. She travelled with him to the many urs celebrations through Sindh and Punjab where she was mesmerised by the Sufi poetry she heard sung by famous and anonymous itinerant musicians. She later spent time under the tutelage of the grand ustad Salamat Ali Khan before crashing onto the musical scene with her full voiced, enrapturing and highly animated singing. (for the goodies and entire post)

Happy New Year: Abida Parveen

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In my Islamabad days I frequented a friend’s adda where we drank whiskey, ate kababs, discussed literature and love and generally indulged our male needs.

Among those needs was music and one day many years after I had moved away from Pakistan, and was visiting the gang on a short visit to the Land of the Pure, I was handed a bunch of cds. This is one of them. Abida Parveen, it said on the cover, but with no details. The recording was not the best, and there were no song titles attached.

I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year then to remember old dear friends with some stellar singing from the one and only Ms Parveen.

For those who are better trained than your humble servant please feel free to tell me the titles of the songs, and whether they are ‘rare’ as I have so impudently suggested.

In the meantime, Happy New Year to all dear readers and listeners of Harmonium! May we all enjoy much good music in the next 12 months and break down ever more walls!

Unreleased and Rare Recordings

Track Listing:

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