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

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From the Archives: Ghulam Ali

Ghulam Ali

We go back in time to the early days of the Washerman’s Dog blog (before the advent of Harmonium) when we shared this all Punjabi folk album from the great Ghulam Ali.

The album was released in 1981 at a time when Ghulam Ali was not yet a massively popular artist in India. He was beloved by critics and a small audience of music ‘aficionados’ but was still not a name that rolled off the lips of the average music-listening public.  And the selection of songs included on this record reflect a rather ‘conservative’ and safe approach: songs based on traditional Punjabi folk-epics and one of its greatest mystical poets, Waris Shah. (for the full original post and other goodies)

The (very recent) Roots of Bhangra: Jagat Ram Lalka

Bhangra: Punjab's essential traditional dance

Bhangra: Punjab’s essential traditional dance

Ram Jagat Lalka whose work we feature this evening is a proud exponent of the musical tradition of the Bazigar people of northern India (mainly Punjab). By traditional we should not assume that this is a stagnant form of museum piece music that has been passed down from time immemorial. Rather, I use the term traditional in reference to the Bazigar people and the way in which they have adopted and adapted their culture to circumstances (many of them traumatic) while remaining broadly true to their original tribal roots.

Jagat Ram Lalka. The turban does not signify adherence to Sikhism but rather is a cultural expression of Bazigar identity.

Jagat Ram Lalka. The turban does not signify adherence to Sikhism but rather is a cultural expression of Bazigar identity.

The Bazigars are a group of originally nomadic, gypsy like people who congregated in the northern and central parts of Punjab in districts that were included in Pakistan in 1947. When that fateful line in the sand was drawn and loyalties were forced upon people, the Bazigars, who broadly identified as Hindu/Sikh even though their spiritual beliefs included elements of Islam as well, felt compelled to move eastward. Today they live mainly in and around Chandigarh and Patiala and have been forced to abandon their itinerant lifestyle in favor of a more settled existence.

Bazi is a Persian term for ‘play’. Gar is the Persian suffix that denotes a ‘do-er’. Bazigar is a common Hindi/Urdu/Punjabi word which loosely translates to acrobat or jester, clown or contortionist. And in that way carries a derogatory connotation.   The Bazigar people themselves, however call themselves Goaar and trace their lineage back to the late 18th century. They speak their own dialect as well as a ‘secret’ language (that hits the ‘suspicious’ button of outsiders) which they refer to as Parsi or Pashto, but which in fact is neither.

Historically the Goaars claim to be high born people but have lived and earned their living on the edges of ‘respectable’ society. Mainly as nomadic herders and seasonal agricultural workers they supplemented their income as dancers, musicians (especially dhol players and singers), magicians and acrobats. Like other communities across India and Pakistan that provide specialized ‘cultural’ services to others, the Bazigar/Gooar performed at weddings and celebrations and were sought out as master drummers.

Originating, most scholars believe, in the western deserts of Rajasthan, they moved freely and frequently across what are now the border districts of Pakistan and India but were compelled to settle down in ‘colonies’ when access to their ancestral homes around Sahiwal, Faisalabad, Gujrat and Sialkot (all in Pakistan) was blocked after the departure of the British. In Independent India they continued to pursue their varied livelihoods but eventually merged into the ‘mainstream’ as farmers, small shopkeepers and other professions.

India, like most de-colonized countries, made a concerted effort in the first decades after Independence, to create a public consciousness about what it meant to be Indian. And perhaps a bit surprisingly, part of that agenda stressed the diversity of India’s many regions. Each year in January in the capital, dance and music troupes from all across India swarmed to New Delhi to perform as part of the celebration of this new nation. From Punjab, the organizers and cultural barons recruited Bazigars as dancers and drummers to represent ‘traditional’ rural Punjabi society. Pleased for the gig Goaars eagerly agreed and put together snippets of various dances and musical styles they remembered from the former days back in the west.   Initially these were presented blandly as “Male dance from Punjab” or “Ladies Marriage Dance”, but by the late 60s were being referred to as bhangra. And of course, if there is a single Indian folk dance style that is known around the world it is bhangra. I am one of those who assumed that this colourful harvest dance was as ancient as the Siwalik mountains. But like so much about India, I have been surprised: this phenomenon now almost synonymous with Punjab and Sikhs is but 50 years old!

Jagat Ram Lalka

Jagat Ram Lalka

Jagat Ram Lalka was born in 1952 and has maintained his identify and secured his living as a performer. In this collection put out by the great label De Kulture (Jaipur) he provides a glimpse into several musical styles of his people: ghidda, sammi (originally a wedding dance exclusively for women) and dostango all accompanied with amazing rhythms from the dhol and tumbi.

For an in-depth article on the Goaar click the link. It is a fascinating insight into a small corner of Indian folk culture.

Zindabad!

Made In Punjab

Track Listing:

01 Jaimal Fatta – Ambala

02 Mirza Ki Vaar

03 Vir Jodh

04 Pir Muradia

05 Sassi

06 Dhol Sammi

07 Kahan Marke Rona Malki

08 Ranjhu

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More from the Archives: Links Restored

mWPIVofPGHbhNPV1dF9cvSwFrom January 2012: Bengali baul music and folk music from Bangladesh

From January 2012: Mystical Music from Malwa: Kabir and Meera

From January 2014: Sitar Music from Poonchwaley and Bannerjee