Grace and Flow: Mehdi Hassan

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A little New Year’s gift for all the dear followers of Harmonium.

 

This album claims to capture Mehdi Hassan live in concert in New York. I find that to be a somewhat dubious statement as each track has a very ‘studio’ feel to it. Clean, sonically level and with none of the rough edges and spoken asides that accompany all live performances.

 

But I’m happy to be proven wrong.

 

Regardless of the veracity of the album’s title, the music is top quality. Mehdi’s tenor is suave and unforced. He delivers each ghazal with the panache of the supremely accomplished, hardly breaking a sweat. That doesn’t mean he is simply running through the material passion-baghair. Rather, he is at the top of his game. In the flow and full of grace.

 

And that seems to be a good attitude to possess as one year ends and another is soon to begin.

 

Happy New Year 2017. Thank you for dropping by from time to time!

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Track Listing:

01 Fitrat ka wo Paimana Bata Yaad Hahin Hai

02 Kabhi Kaha na Kisi Se Tere Fasane Ko Na Jane Kaise Khabbar ho Gayi Zamane Ko

03 Haath Men le ke Jam-e-mai Aaj Wo Muskara Diya

04 Gulon ki Baat Karo

05 Ajab Janoon-e-mussafat Mein Ghar se Nikla Tha

06 Yoon to Pahle Bhi Hui Us Se Kayi Baar Juda

07 Sehar Hoi Bhi to Ham ne Deeye Bhujai Nahin

MHv5NY

New and Old Ghazals: Mohammad Rafi

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In 1976 things were not so cheery in India.

Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule was at its apogee. Sycophancy and sloganeering were the order of the day. Political dissent was forbidden. And, the general unruliness of life as lived in India was frowned upon.

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Of course, that has nothing to do with this record. Except in an indirect way. That no matter what politicians and dynasts do to try to cling to power, they all ultimately end up in the dustbin of history.

12 months later, in 1977, Indira was tossed out of office when she very injudiciously believed her own press releases and called a general election. So much for ‘More Work. Less Talk’ and mass sterilization campaigns!

What remains and will always remain is truth. As expressed in art. As expressed in music. As expressed in these eight massive ghazals which are brought to a soulful life by the inimitable Shri Mohammad Rafi.

Rafi sahib, like all the great play back singers of his generation, loved the opportunity to ‘stretch’ himself by getting away from film music.   Films made him his millions but as an artist there is a limit to how many variations on a theme you can credibly sing.

I have a number of records of non-filmi music by Lata, Asha and Rafi which I consider to be among their finest. Without the contraints and pressures to deliver to a specific formula for a specific scene in a specific film by a specific music director, you can sense the freedom and joy in their voices.

On this record Rafi renders on Side 1 four ghazals by contemporary poets such as Sudarshan Faakir and Shamim Jaipuri.   Faakir’s lyrics in particular are ones I’ve admired for many years.   Ek Hi Baat Zamane ki Kitabon Mein Nahin, (The One Thing that Will Not be Found in the books of history) the last track on Side 1, seems especially appropriate to the spirit of 1976. All the things that will not be written in this books of history.

 jo gam-e-dost me nasha hai sharabo me nahi 

(The buzz from wine can not be compared to the intoxication of friends’ sorrow)

That line can be read as a boozer’s lament, but also as a comment on the profound tragedy of lost friendships, something that divisive period of Indian history delivered in spades.

Side 2 is a quartet of classic ghazals from some of the greatest Indian poets, including Ghalib, Mir and Dagh Dehlvi. All of them are wonderful. Taj Ahmed Khan the music arranger has done an outstanding job making sure to give Rafi’s voice just the instrumental and rhythmic support it needs to shine. My favorite is the opening track on Side 2

Haae Mehman Kahan Yeh Gham-e-Jaana Hoga which is full of blue notes and mournful glissandos.

The record is a treasure. I am grateful to Balkar Bains of Queensland for his gift.

 

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Track Listing:

01 Falsafe Ishq Mein Pesh Aaye Sawalon ki Tarah [Sudarshan Faakir]

02 Talkhi-e-Mae Mein Zara Talkhi-e-Dil Bhi Gholen [Krishen Adeeb]

03 Kitni Rahat Hai Dil Toot Jane ke Baad [Shamim Jaipuri]

04 Ek Hi Baat Zamane ki Kitabon Mein Nahin [Sudarshan Faakir]

05 Haae Mehman Kahan Yeh Gham-e-Jaana Hoga [Dagh Dehlvi]

06 Diya Yeh Dil Agar Usko Bashar Hai Kya Kahiye [Mirza Ghalib]

07 Dil ke Baat Kahi Nahin Jati [Mir Taqi Mir]

08 Na Shauq-e-vasl-ka Dawa [Ameer Minai]

RafiGhaz

From the Archives: Kheyal Mohammad

 

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Kheyal Mohammad

In recent weeks I’ve become virtual friends with the members of a group called Tabla for Two. Abigail (on harmonium, mainly) and Masood (on tabla) are a fantastic little duo based in the NE United States who are bringing Afghan, Pakistani and even Indian folk music to new audiences. And reworking those traditional songs and beats in new ways. I wrote an article on them for Scroll.in as part of my regular Sunday Sounds column which you can read here.

Today on Facebook Masood and Abigail posted a video of them doing a Kheyal Mohammad ghazal.  That got me thinking. It might be time for readers to revisit the sounds of the Khyber Pass (and Khyber Bazaar) from this Pashto hero of music that I posted here nearly 3 years ago.  I hope you enjoy it. The link has been refreshed so feel free to download this rare collection of Pashto songs.

 

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

From the archives: Talat Mehmood

Ghazals from the Films

Here is a great album with a spectacular cover of the silky voiced doyen of Bollywood playback singers, Lucknow’s one and only Talat Mehmoo. This was posted several years ago but it will be worth reposting yet again in the future!

 

Talat Mehmood was never as prolific as Kishore Kumar or as vocally versatile as Mohammad Rafi but no one could sing a ghazal like the Man with the Golden Voice.

It was through his song Badal Jaye Duniya (Even If the World Changes) that I first fell for his gentle, mellow voice. No mad howls of ‘Yahooooo!’ ever came from Talat and he never made a disco or jazzy number as his peers Rafi and Kishore Kumar regularly did.  Talat Mehmood’s music exuded the sharafat (nobility) of refined north Indian Muslim culture. He sang with elegance and grace and remained throughout his career content to explore the depths of the ghazal rather than try to cover every musical base. As such he was adored by millions and remembered fondly as the King of Ghazals. [full post and goods]