Tribes Lost and Found: Shye Ben Tzur, Johnny Greenwood and the Rajasthan Express

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Johnny Greenwood and Shye Ben Tzur

India and Israel have a long tangled history. In modern days there has been conflict with India taking a tough pro-Palestinian position. While it took a while for Independent India to reconize the state of Israel in 1950 official relations were cool if not suspicious until the early 1990s.

Today, in this age of xenophobic nationalism and strident anti-Muslim feeling, India and Israel are enjoying a ‘warm bilateral relations’ that sadly (IMHO) included lots of arms trading and general sharing of information on how to oppose the Muslim peoples in their countries and regions.

But go back several centuries and you’ll find that India has been a friendly land of exile and refuge for Jews fleeing upheavals in the Middle East since at least the 1st Century CE. A substantial Jewish community established itself in and around the coastal city of Cochin in the southern state of Kerala in the early years of the last millennium and until recently was a vital part of local society. Most Cochin Jews have emigrated or died off and today the Jewish population is estimated to be around 5000, most of whom live in Mumbai.

In the northeast a small group of people claim to be one of the lost tribes of Israel, the Bnei Menashe, and practice Judaism but no one gives their claim credibility. Still, Jewish Indian friendship is as ancient as the hills (there is some historical evidence that Jews and Hindus were trading with each other several centuries before Christ) and Jews have distinguished themselves in all sorts of industries and fields in modern India.

Shye Ben Tzur is an Israeli musician who fell in love with Indian music after seeing Zakir Hussain and Hariprasad Chaurasia in concert in Jerusalem. Over the past decade or more he’s issued a number of records of interpretative Indian music including the rather ambitious labor of love Junun, the subject of this post.

Teaming up with Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood and a group of traditional Rajasthani musicians dubbed The Rajasthan Express, Ben Tzur serves up a solid tasty thali of qawwali (sung in both Urdu and Hebrew!) and brass band stomps that will get your heart throbbing and (at times) toes tapping.

All in all this is a delightful double disc that fits very nicely into any collection of Indian folk music.

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Track Listing (Pt. 1)

1-01 Junun

1-02 Roked

1-03 Hu

1-04 Chala Vahi Des

1-05 Qalandar

1-06 Eloah

Part1

2-01 Julus

2-02 Allah Elohim

2-03 Ahuvi

2-04 Azov

2-05 Junun Brass

2-06 There are Birds in the Echo Chamber

2-07 Modeh

Part2

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Field Recordings: Sufi Songs from Sindh and Punjab

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I see its been quite a while since the last post. Indeed, my posts have become as infrequent as Halleys Comet over the past many months, not due to any slackening of interest or desire in music but rather through a necessary focus on a whole bag of other projects and issues. But in the past few weeks I’ve come into possession of some excellent South Asian music which I’m looking forward to sharing.

First off the rank is a small collection of field recordings from Sindh and Pakistani Punjab. Billed as ‘Sufi music’ this majmua’h is more accurately a sampler of folk music from those ancient fabled lands. The performers are all relatively unknown beyond the districts in which they live or wander and their performances are completely natural, raw and uninhibited. As the singer Fatah Daudpoto says in his introduction to Aa Mil Yaara (Track 4) ‘I’m a folk singer and folk music is direct. Not mechanical or digital.’ Which is similar to the adamant statement (and album title) of the old blues guitarist Mississippi Fred McDowell ‘I do not play no rock n roll’.

These recordings are made on site, live and several of the tracks include ambient sounds and whisperings from those in the crowd.  In many instances, especially tracks like #9 and #6, I am reminded of the soundtrack to the wonderful film Latcho Drom, about gypsies and their music. These songs have that same electric ‘chaos barely under control’ feeling.  My only complaint is that most of the tracks are too short which clearly is a decision made by the producers of the album and not the artists themselves who were barely allowed to pick up a head of steam.

Still, a wonderful little collection to add to your collection of South Asian/ Pakistani/ Punjabi/Sindhi folk music.

Ishq ke Maare_ Sufi Songs from Sindh and Punjab

Track Listing

1 Intro – Damadam Mast Qalandar [Ustad Aacher and Party]

2 Jo Tera Gham Na Ho [Kalyam Sharif Qawwali Troupe]

3 Aahe Arman Ajeebon [Meeh Wasaiyo]

4 Aa Mil Yaara [Fatah Daudpoto]

5 Sur Rano [Latif Sarkar]

6 Sehra [Basheer Haidari and Nazira Bano]

7 Aarfana Kalaam [Shazia Tarannum]

8 Mahi Yaar Di Gharoli Bhardi – Raag Jog [Babu]

9  Shah Jo Raag [Sain Juman Shah and Fakirs]

10 Ayman Kalyan Raag [Ghulam Arshad]

11 Kalaam of Bulle Shah [Unknown]

SUFI

Folk Music Sampler (serial number unknown)

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I love putting together these folk music collections.  I’ve lost count of how many I’ve done over the life of this and the previous blog but you can pretty much rest assured this won’t be the last one.

Upmahadesh is the Hindi word for ‘subcontinent’. Most of these songs come again from the northern half of the Indian upmahadesh though some of the singers such as Pt. Bhimsen Joshi originally hail from parts further afield.  Like the lovely photo above (not mine) Punjab features highly. As always!

And of course, not everything here is purely folk music.  Bhimsen Joshi’s and Manish Vyas’s contributions are classical. And Begum Akhtar could just as easily be included in the classical fold, so profoundly did she command the art of the ghazal. But all three fit quite nicely within the mood of this sampler. Most tracks are commercially (or were) available if you look hard enough but one track in particular is rare indeed.  It is Track #7 and I’d like to thank my friend Hanif Haji for sharing this with me.  It is a live recording made in Ginjee, Uganda presumably in the 1960s before Big Daddy Idi Amin expelled South Asians from the country.  I’ve taken the liberty of giving a title to the track based upon the lyrics but admit this is not the true name of the song.

A final note. Track number 4 by Allan Faqir is  the mysteriously named, Side A. That refers to the side of the cassette tape it was originally recorded on. As this spine-tingling track is in Seraiki/Sindhi I can’t make up a title!  Just listen to it and give it whatever glorious name comes to you!

I hope you get as much pleasure from these songs as I do.

 

UpmahadeshTrack Listing:

01 Changi Naeeyun Kiti [Reshma]

02 Tumko Dekha To [Jagjit Singh]

03 Khush Hoon Ki Mera Husn-E-Talab Kaam To Aaya [Begum Akhtar]

04 Side A [Allan Faqir]

05 Aesi Chal Main [Nisar Bazmi]

06 Karuna [Manish Vyas]

07 Bombay da naujawan [Ramta w Surinder and Prakash Kaur]

08 Mane na bhaye dasa bisa [Pt. Sanjeev Abhyanka]

09 Kal Chaudvi ki Raat Thi [Jagjit Singh]

10 Hik Hay Hik Hay (Baba Ghulam Farid) [Hamid Ali Bela]

11 Qissa Hirni [Alam Lohar]

12 Raga Gaur Sarang [Pt.Bhimsen Joshi]

13 Uth Bayth Re [Nargis Balolia]

14 Chhalla [Kashi Nath]

15 Traditional Pashtoun Song [Sultan MohammadChanne and Shah Wali]

16 Jajo Jajo Re [Dayaram Sarolia]

17 Goriya Mein Jana Pardes [Resham and Parvez Mehdi]

18 Bai Ja Tracter Te [Arif Lohar]

 

UpMaHaDeSh

Majmuah-e-Musiqi: Folk Music Mixtape

Cover Art Majmuah

Well it is time again for another mix tape. I apologize to all those who don’t like these and prefer to have complete albums by one particular artist. My own thinking at the moment is there is just so much excellent music that I want you all to hear and enjoy as much as I do, that if I waited for the time to post the complete album of each of these artists I’d be nigh unto my 100th year.

This mixer is a folky flavored affair with instrumental and singing from the far reaches of the Hindu Kush to the lush Ganges delta of Bangladesh. If you want information on any of the artists or styles let me know and I’ll do my best to satisfy your curiosity.

Allah khair!

Track Listing (pt 1)

01 Jab Pukara Hai Tujhay [Mehdi Hassan]

02 Yad [Musafir]

03 Heer Te Ranjhe Di Mulaqaat [Alam Lohar]

04 Zolrawar Bagh [Haakam Khan]

05 Munjho Saah Singharan [Mai Bhaggi]

06 [Ghazal] Kiski Avaz Hai Ye Kaun Hai [Jafar Hussain Khan Badayuni Qawwal]

07 Choon Nay Ba Nawa Amad [Nashenas]

08 Jagga Jameya Thay Milan Vadhaiyan [Master Dilbahar]

09 Laili and Madjnun, (Ballad from Kunduz) [Sadullah Kunduzi]

10 Govinda Bhajan [J.Mevandy]

11 Kya Haal Suranwan [Suraiya Multanikar]

12 Bhapang [Sama Khan, Natih Ram and Group]

V1

Track Listing (pt 2):

13 Ab Dekh Ke Ji Ghabrata [Attaullah Khan Niazi]

14 Hum Jo Tareek Rahon Mein [Zia Mohiyddin]

15 Untitle Pashto Song [ Rahim Mehyar]

16 Mahi Fouji [Mundri Lal]

17 Kis Cheez Ki Kami Hai Maula Teri Gali Mein [Sodha Faqir Laghari]

18 Dard dil [Jaipur Kawa Brass Band]

19 Chor poreche babur bagane [Purna Chandra Das Baul]

20 Mustang [Sur Sadha]

21 Agaya Tu Phool Banke Swarn Yamla Jatt]

22 Jugni [Swarn Noora]

V2

Pink Kalashnikov: Musical Delights from the Hindu Kush

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I met a burly mountain of a man at the beginning of this year in a disaster zone. He was from Afghanistan, trained in the Soviet Union, now doing humanitarian work. He brought his can-do approach to building houses that had been swept away by typhoons. He worked well with people; when he found out I had been to his country he immediately gave me his friendship.

Part of the deal was a USB stick full of jumbled mp3s, most with only the briefest bits of information attached. Many were only numbered, ‘16’ or Track 7, with no artist noted. Others revealed the type of music ‘rubabi’ or ‘ghazal’ but still few artist names.

Throughout the year I have dipped regularly into this rich pool of uncertainty only to be amazed. The variety of music from Afghanistan revealed in those few Gigabytes is vast: reworked Bollywood hits, ghazals, folk noodlings, covers of Elvis and some stunning classical gayaki.

It is a few of these treasures that I share tonight. After 14 months in Kuala Lumpur, and after missing out on Christmas and New Year at home last year, I am heading back to the land down under for the holidays. I will not be back on line on Harmonium for some weeks (probably) which is not a bad thing. It gives you time to thoroughly make friends with these wonderful musicians, singers, players and artists, from beyond and amidst the high mountains called the Hindu Kush.

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Track Listing:

01 Raga

02 Rabab 064

03 Jazzy Bollywood song

04 Gul-e-badaam

05 80

06 Mast Jawani

07 Namidanam

08 Elahi man namay danam

09 Da Zemonz Zeba

10 Ai deil

11 Track 1

12 Baz im shab hawasi roi

13 Sheerena Yaara (Rabab)

14 30

15 Track 6

16 Hosain jaan

PK