Bangla Beauty: Kona Bhadra



The Bengal Foundation in Dhaka is dedicated to preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of Bangladesh and Bengali people.  It has issued a rich catalogue of cassettes and CDs, hosts live music performances, art shows and other cultural events throughout the year.


Tonight we share a soothing collection of Bengali folk songs sung by one Kona Bhadra.   Alas I speak not Bengali so am unable to add any further information of details of who this singer is or about the music.

Still, the musical discs put out by Bengal Foundation are all of a high standard and this one is no exception.

Joi Bangla!

Dekhechi Rupshagore

Track Listing:

01 Emon Premer Nodite

02 Dekhechi Rupshagore

03 Kon Ba Deshe

04 O Go Shashuri Ma

05 Ami Tomar Premer

06 Ghume Roile

07 Par Koira Daore

08 Amar Kalo Pakhi

09 Kala Ar Na Bajan

10 Kon Deshe Jan Moishal

11 O Dheo Khele

12 Duiti Go Amar

13 Dhormo Ki Jater

14 Bideshi Bodhuar Mone



From the Archives: Roshan Ara Begum and Mai Bhaggi

imagesApologies for the repeated dips into the back catalogue so to speak with another feature from 2011.  Life is ultra busy at the moment and I’ve no time to post new material but will get around to it soon. In the meantime, enjoy some sublime classical singing from Roshan Ara Begum and hearty raw folk music from Pakistan’s Tharparkar desert.


Royal Gems: Malika Pukhraj and Tahira Syed



Malika Pukhraj and Tahira Syed were a mother-daughter singing team from Pakistan.  Together their careers, independently and together, bridge a generation of South Asian musical culture.


Malika Pukhraj

Malika Pukhraj

Malika Pukhraj, whose wonderfully evocative name means, Queen Topaz was born at a time when India’s rajas, nawabs and maharanas, the courtly elite of a poor country, reflected in the glory of the artists they patronised and promoted. Malika was admitted into the rich and esteemed circle of the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, with whom she developed a strong intimate (not to say physical) relationship.  Later she moved to Lahore, in the new nation of Pakistan where she was regarded as one of the very greatest artistes of her generation.


Tahira Syed

Tahira Syed

Tahira Syed, was taught music by her mother and has developed into a much loved singer of folk, light classical and some film songs.   This collection, with a new cover from the Harmonium pukka music karkhana, is  true treat. Both  sing songs they made famous as well as the iconic title, Abhi to main Jawan hoon (For I am Yet Young), for which Queen Topaz is most famous.


Here is a synopsis of her life from The Hindu newspaper in India.

MALIKA PUKHRAJ was the unrivalled queen of verse in the court of Maharaja Hari Singh of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. She sought employment as a court singer at the young age of nine and negotiated court life until its intrigues compelled her to leave her benefactor whom she respected dearly.

Once in Lahore, Malika Pukhraj continued to give private concerts and emerged as one of the top singers of the sub-continent. She adhered to strict norms of no alcohol at her `mehfils’ and was far ahead of her times in her professionalism. She maintained her independence and attended concerts on her own. It is believed that even the Maharaja of Patiala took dictation from her and changed his flamboyant style to accord her the pride of place in his `darbar.’

Malika Pukhraj died at Islamabad on February 4 this year at the age of 90, but her enticing `nazm’ recitations and `ghazal’ renditions in the conventional couplet form that have been recorded live on. She breathed warmth into her lyrics. She was persuasive and articulate in modulating each note and embellished her poetry with great energy. The harmonious existence of poetry and music was in keeping with the sub-continental tradition of Bhakti and Sufi poetry. She started to recite `Nohas’ and `Marsiyas’ at the age of five. Although she belonged to a puritanical family, as a rasika she straddled two different worlds, singing bhajans in the court of Raja Hari Singh, and was also appreciative of good music, poetry, food and dress. She had grown up with Voh kahte hain ranjish ki baatein bhula do (“they say forget the world of pain”). Her recitation transported her listeners to the romantic world of make-believe, the pain of unrequited love and the fragrance of perfumed gardens frequented by the bulbul. She was trained in music by Ustad Ali Baksh, the esteemed father of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, and Allah Baksh. She received training in the classical dance form which complemented Thumri, from Ustad Mamman Khan.

Malika Pukhraj left the greatest poetry alone so that her music would not flounder under its heavy weight. She worked upon this idea from Thumri where the poetry of the text is deliberately suggestive and the listener chooses from a multiplicity of meanings. In a similar fashion, great poets like Ghalib Mir and Momin owed nothing to music — the ghazal was itself a self-sufficient literary form, which needed no props from the world of music. The ghazal addressing the beloved was never meant to be sung or even recited in tarannum, lest it should take away from its word structure and disturb the flow of the line.

Her inimitable style brought forth a repertoire where poetry and music blended. Hafeez Jalandhari’s Abhi to main jawan hoon (“I am still youthful”) continues to ring with the youth and vitality of her voice. Besides singing Hafeez Jalandhari’s poems, her rendition included Lo phir basant aay and Quli Qutub’s Piya baaj piyale piya jaye na and Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Mere qatil mere dildar mere paas raho. In her music, she never lost sight of the meaning of poetry and in the flow and ebb of the voice she kept to the dynamics of the couplet. In her gayaki, to the sweetness of Purabi and Avadhi were added the rich nuances of Urdu poetry.

Her music created a yearning for things long ago and echoed the earthly sounds of the folk music as well as the sophistication of the princely courts. In recognition of her contribution to music, she received the Presidential Pride of Performance Award in 1980, and the Legend of Voice Award from the All India Radio.

She is remembered in the valley as an icon and Lahore is still nostalgic with the resonance of her gayaki. Continuing in her style is her daughter, Tahira Sayed.

jawan hoon

Track Listing:

01 Abhi To Main Jawan Hoon

02 Tere Ishq Ki Inteha

03 Wo Batein Teri

04 Yeh Alaam Shauq

05 Ab ke Jadeed Wafa

06 Jag Soz-e-Ishq

07 Har ek Jalwa

08 Lo Phir Basant

09 Kab Yaar Main Tera

10 Badban Khulne Se

11 Kab Tak Dil

12 Jo Guzari

13 Jhanjar Pabhdi na



Good evening Madam: South Asian Mixtape

IMG_9071 There is a man named Firoz Juma who has a truly amazing collection of South Asian music. Tonight’s post, is one he called Adaab Arz, Begum Sahiba (Greetings, Respected Madam!). I’ve changed the cover art but the selection of tracks is his alone. Mostly semi-classical and mostly from the 1940s and 1950s, the selection covers the icons of India and Pakistan including Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Noor Jehan, K.L. Saigal, Nazakhat and Salamat Ali Khan, Mai Bhagi, Jhutika Roy and on and on.


Hats off to Juma sahib, wherever he may reside!


Track Listing:

01 Aye Raushniyon Ka Sheher [Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

02 Raag Bhopali [Zohra Bai]

03 Shala Jawaniyan [Noor Jehan]

04 Aao Kanga Kar Gal [Bhagat Kunwar Ram]

05 Mein Kiya Janu Kiya [K.L. Saigal]

06 Khari Neem Khe Neeche [Mai Bhagi]

07 Ghonghat Pat Khol [Jhutika Roy]

08 Tu Kaunsi Badli May [Noor Jehan]

09 Ye Raaten [Pankaj Mullick]

11 Maru Bhaya (Marvi) [Ustad Manzoor Ali Khan]

12 Dhun On Iktara [Saeen Marna]

13 Rakhial Shah Rano [Fakir Ghulam Haider]

14 Awaz De Kahan [Noor Jehan and Surendar]

15 Yahan Badla Wafa Ka [Mohammad Rafi and Noor Jehan]

16 Sawan Ke Badlo [Ustad Nazakhat Ali Khan]

17 Saiyan Bina Ghar (Thumri) [Ustad Salamat Ali Khan]

18 Yaro Mujhe [Salim Raza]

19 Saaghar Royeh [Noor Jehan]

20 Pere Pawandi San [Sushila Mehtani]

21 Us Bewafa Ka Shehar [Naseem Begum]

22 Bhole Se Bhi [Suraiyya Multani]

23 Mujhe Tum [Mehdi Hassan]


Frozen in Time: ‘Jet’ Shri Krishna

indo fiji

The Harmonium Music Blog is entirely dedicated to promoting the music of South Asians; those who live between Afghanistan and Bangladesh and between the high Himalayas and the warm seas of the Indian Ocean.  The Blog is also very interested in the music made by musicians of South Asian origin who live outside the subcontinent.


In the Fiji Islands of the South Pacific  there is a large population of subcontinentals who must almost certainly qualify for the title of ‘Farthest Flung’ Indians in the world.  Whenever I visit Fiji, as I did recently, my interest is pricked to find out more about how the community came about, lives and thinks.


The first bunch of Indians arrived in Fiji in 1879 on a ship sailing from the French Reunion Islands where the Indians had served for some time as indentured laborers.  English cane planters had approached the government of India since the early 1870s for permission to import coolies but had been informed this would not be possible unless and until Fiji became a British colony.  As soon as this imperial event took place, Indians from all up and down the eastern coast of India began being recruited as girmityas (indentured workers). Calcutta, Madras and even Karachi and Bombay became embarkation ports for Indians of many castes and faiths, headed for a new life across the ‘black waters’.


Life in Fiji was not happy. It was hell, in fact.  Conditions were extremely tough and wages just above subsistence. Suicide rates were high. When the indenture period was complete, the British gave the Indians the right to return home on the condition they paid their own passage.  Most were unable to put the fare together and so never returned. Others took the opportunity to set up small businesses or work their own plots. Some married with indigenous islanders. Between 1879 and 1916 over 60,000 Indians were transported to the islands and today they number nearly 400,000 or nearly 40% of Fiji’s population.


Much of the Fijian economy is controlled or managed by Indians, including recent immigrants from Gujarat and Punjab, while the indigenous population jealously guards its control of the political system.  Since 1987 when the first of two major military coups ousted what were perceived to be a ‘pro-Indian’ governments, many Indo-Fijians have emigrated to North America, New Zealand and Australia.


Though the Indian community comes from many parts of India, few have retained fluency in their original tongues. While most Indians speak English the community’s unifying language is Fiji-Hindi.  Most Indo-Fijians have never been to the land of their father’s and if my conversations with taxi drivers and colleagues are anything to go by, most are only vaguely interested. Some have suggested they are possessed by a deep unconscious anger against their homeland for having in some way abandoned them.  Other scholars have pointed out that as the generations pile up, a diaspora’s links to the ancestral lands grow weaker.  They may inhabit a cultural space that has strong and numerous attributes of their original ‘home’—language, food, social relations—but they remain firmly rooted in their ‘new world’.


Indo-Fijian culture in certain respects seems to me, an infrequent and distant observer, to be frozen in time.  Fiji-Hindi and the way in which it is spoken, strikes me as a rather simplified version of the language you hear in India. I hear the same accents and rhythms of Bhojpuri speakers from Eastern UP or Garhwali speakers from the northern hills of India as they try to speak shudh (pure) Hindi. And considering that a significant percentage of Indo-Fijians originated in non-Hindi speaking parts of India this is not surprising.


And the music we share tonight, some lokgeet (folk songs), has a rawness that seems to be completely unaware of the development of modern ways of singing and playing.  It is not at all difficult to imagine these songs, sung with great gusto by one ‘Jet’ Shri Krishna, being sung exactly the same way in the mid-19th century.  That the name of the album is subtitled, ‘Modern Modern Samadhi’ seems to indicate a deliberate sense of ironic humour on Shri Krishna’s part.  Check out the position of his hand and the slight smile on his face.


Unlike the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean that has given the world the completely unique chutney music, Indo-Fijians seem to relish taking comfort in the security of the familiarity of the traditions of their grandfathers.  They used to say that the Anglo-Indians of India were more English then the English themselves.  And in this lively homespun music from the little Fiji islands, you can hear a gritty folk sensibility that is rarely heard even in India.



Jet Shri Krishna Jet Shri Krishna_0001

Track Listing:

01 Sumiro Devi Maiya Aap Ka

02 Mitti Khodan Chale Shakiya

03 Hardi Lagi Hai Aaj

04 Lawa bhuja Bahiniya Re

05 Raja Dasrat Lekar Barat

06 Raja Janak ki Pyari

07 Jalso Bada Nek Lage

08 Maiya ke Godiya

09 Modern Modern Samdhi

10 Samidhi Tor Bahini

11 Samidhi Aave Kahe (feat. Rakesh Chand Bobby)