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]

 

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.

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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 Parrot of India: Amir Khusrau

parrot

Amir Khusrau is one of those historical figures credited with all manner of inventions, inspirations and the beginning of many movements and trends.  Most famously, he is identified in the South Asian popular imagination, as the spiritual father of Indian (in the non-geographic sense of the word) music.  His admirers and exponents claim that he invented the sitar and tabla.  That he created new forms of music including qawwali, tarana and even the classical khyal.

Like most hoary figures of the past, it is not entirely possible to say precisely exactly what Khusrau’s contribution to Indian music was. But historians are in general agreement that he was a heavily influential figure, and akin to what the modern age has termed a Renaissance Man.  Poetry, mystical reflection, music, art, social comment and history, as well as foreign languages were all fields of the great man’s accomplishment.  And the very fact that so many branches of subcontinental culture trace their origins to this medieval genius suggests that he was indeed, a Spirit to contend with.

Though born in a northern part of India now known as Uttar Pradesh, his father was a Turkic member of the upper classes of Central Asia who fled to India to escape the horrible, sweeping invasions of the Mongol hordes. Ab’ul Hasan Yamin al-Din Khusrow, who later became known as Amir Khusrau, was a boy of prodigious intellect and intellectual curiosity.  Fluent in several languages, including Persian and Arabic, he seemed to have been born with an innate understanding of poetry. Indeed, his Persian compositions are considered some of the greatest literary works in that language.  In modern Iran, Khusrau, is regarded as one of the most brilliant exponents of the Persian language, not very far below Hafiz and Sa’adi.

As a young man he met and became a disciple of the patron saint of Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Separated by only a few years they two men became very close associates and companions.  Of all his many disciples, the great Sufi, considered Khusrau to be his dearest and most loved.  Famously, he requested to for the two to share the same grave! While this, of course, did not happen, Amir Khusrau died several month after this Spiritual mentor and is buried next to him at a shrine that is one of Delhi’s most revered. One of many tales told of the men’s mutual affection and respect is included below:

Khusrau and Nizamuddin

Khusrau and Nizamuddin

 

Nizamuddin Auliya had thousands of disciples. Out of them, 22 were totally devoted disciples who considered him as God Incarnate.

Once, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya thought of putting them to a test. He roamed around with his disciples for the whole day in the market of Delhi. As night fell, he went to a brothel. The prostitute led him upstairs with great respect and courtesy. All the disciples were waiting downstairs in anticipation, ‘Guruji should be coming down soon…he should be coming soon.’

The prostitute was immensely pleased and wondered as to what stroke of fortune had brought this saintly person to her place. She said to Auliyaji, “I have been blessed by your presence here. In what way, may I render service to you?”

Auliya told her, “Instruct your maid to bring food on a platter along with water in a liquor bottle, in such a manner that my disciples get the impression that I have asked for food and liquor.”

The prostitute had but to obey the command. She instructed her maid accordingly.

After a little while, the maid carried the food and the liquor bottle upstairs as per the instructions. Some of the disciples contemplated, ‘We were under a mistaken impression…Guruji is not what we have been thinking all along. He has asked for liquor!’ Thinking thus, some of the disciples ran away 

As the night progressed, more and more of his disciples left one by one. Finally, it was dawn, and Auliya came downstairs.

He saw only Amir Khusro waiting for him. Feigning ignorance, he enquired, “Where have the others gone?”

Amir Khusro replied, “All have left.”

Auliya asked, “Why did you not leave? Didn’t you notice that I had asked for liquor, and spent the whole night with the prostitute.

Amir Khusro replied, “O Master! I might have left, but where could I have gone except towards your lotus feet?”

Benign Grace poured out of Nizamuddin Auliya’s heart, and he said, “Your wait is now over. You are accomplished.”

Such was the single pointed faith of Amir Khusro. Even to this day, the shrine of Amir Khusro beside that of Nizamuddin Auliya reminds us of a sincere disciple’s devotion to Guru, a disciple’s unshakable faith in Guru.

Click here for a lovely article on the relationship between these two mighty men of the middle ages by the poet, Aparna Chatterjee.

Today’s selection is a brilliant 3 CD collection of Amir Khusrau’s music and poetry produced by EMI.  All performances are by Pakistani artists, some internationally renown (Sabri Brothers, Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan), some less so (Bilqees Khanum, Ishrat Jehan, Ijaz Hussain Hazravi). All of the material is fantastic and I especially like the several tunes by Mehnaaz and the Bilqees Khanum/Ishrat Jehan combo.  This is indeed, a fine tribute to the man who called himself, the Parrot of India (Toot al Hindi).

Amir Khusroo Amir Khusroo_back

Track Listing (1)

01 Chhaap Tilak Sab Chheeni[Sabri Brothers]

02 Khabram Raseedah [Iqbal Bano]

03 Sakal Ban Phool Rahi Sarson [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

04 Beshagufta Gul [Ghulam Ali]

05 Man Kunto Maula [Sabri Brothers]

06 Achchhe Banne Mehndi Laawan De [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

07 Ek Sajan Mere Man Ko Bhaawe [Arifa Siddiqui]

08 Mara Dosh Goyi [Mehdi Hassan]

09 Har Shab Manam [Ijaz Hussain Hazravi]

10 Sajan Yeh Mat Jaaniyo [Nasima Shaheen and Nighat Seema]

11 Hare Hare Baans [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

♪♪♫

Track Listing (2)

01 Nami Danam [Sabri Brothers]

02 Jaan Ze Tan [Ghulam Ali]

03 Mohe Rakh Le Tu Aaj Ka Din [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

04 Mai To Piya Se Naina Laga Aayi Re [Arifa Siddiqui]

05 Man Banda [Mehdi Hassan]

06 Abr Mere Bar Doman [Iqbal Bano]

07 Ae Chehra [Ijaz Hussain Hazravi]

08 Ambwa Tale Dola Rakh De [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

09 Goondho Re Maalan Phoolon Ka Sehra [Mehnaaz]

10 Khabram Raseedah [Sabri Brothers]

♪♪♫

Track Listing (3)

01 Aaj Rang Hai [Sabri Brothers]

02 Chali Re Nayi Naar [Mehnaaz]

03 Amma Mere Baba Ko Bhejo [Bilqees Khanum and ishrat Jehan]

04 Kahe Ko [Sabri Brothers]

05 Aaj To Na Mai Aisi Banaungi [Nahid Akhtar]

06 Chhaap Tilak Sab Chheeni [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

07 Kahe Ko Byaahe Bides [Nasima Shaheen and Nighat Seema]

08 Zehaal-E-Miskin [Sabri Brothers]

09 Daiya Re Mohe Bhejo [Bilqees Khanum and ishrat Jehan]

10 Aaj Ye Kaun Sa Mehmaan Aaya [Hamid Ali Khan]

♪♪♫