Folk Music Sampler (serial number unknown)


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]



Love 6 Ways

God is Love. Love is God. Love is. Love is All. All you Need is Love. Love is the Answer. Love will Find a Way.

Love is always in season and love, ultimately, is the source and purpose of music.

Go ahead and listen to these songs, each of which look at this basic human emotion from slightly different angles.article-psnegdllyv-1460628450

full article from here

Sunday Sufiana Mix


Mussoorie Sunset

Sunday evenings are reflective occasions. A come down before the buildup begins once again. This feeling, which has both comforting and depressing aspects, goes way back for me. To a time when I was 9 or 10 and a schoolboy in the foothills of the Himalayas. The thick golden rays that filled the valleys and filtered through the trees were undoubtedly beautiful. But with them came a feeling of absolute loneliness. I realized in some unconscious way that I was entirely on my own.

Of all the types of music I enjoy, sufiana music (the music of the Sufis), is best suited to deal with the soul-ache that accompanies this time of the week. Probably because it is the music of the solitary person reaching out to the Invisible reality. As a boy I didn’t understand that what I was experiencing was a spiritual longing. The only problem was I had no way yet to find the Unseen and so I felt only the sadness.

Strictly speaking, this collection is not entirely sufi music. I’ve included spiritual songs from the Hindu and Sikh traditions as well but those are merely labels. Every track is a cry from the heart of man for God.

This a special collection. You will, of course, know a few of these artists but for the most part this is hard to find, rare music made by singers and musicians with mainly local reputations and followings. Most are traditional musicians or musicians who perform as part of their religious practice. Stand out tracks abound. In fact, every single one is a ‘cracker’. But my favorites are the opening qawwali (#1), Subuhanallah (#6) by Sindh’s Mohammad Ibrahim and the nirgun song from the Malwa region of central India (#7) sung by Sundar Lal Malwi.


Track Listing:

01 Qawwali Of Amir Khusrou [Bahauddin Qutbuddin Qawwal & Party]

02 Mein Bhi Jaanaan (Shah Hussain)[Mohammad Tufail Niazi]

03 Unki jataan pind khech jo [Ustad Manzoor Ali Khan]

04 Piya Ghar Aaya [Ustad Shujaat Hussain Khan]

05 Laali mori re (Sufi Sindhi) [Sikander & Sufi Sindhi Artists]

06 Subuhanallah [Mohammad Ibrahim]

07 Lere Naam Lere Naam [Sundar Lal Malwi]

08 Lehra (Sufi Dhadi) [Sharif Idu and Group]

09 Ali Mullah (Feat. Transglobal Underground And Natacha Atlas) [Musafir]

10 Asaan Ishq Namaz [Muhammad Jumman]

11 Allah Sain [Attaulah Khan Niazi ‘Issakhelvi’]

12 Justaju [Anandmurti Gurumaa]

14 Naam Bina Mati [Amreek Singh Zakhmi]

15 Sajjan De Hath [Abida Parveen]


The Wonder That Was: Mohammad Rafi (Links restored)

Mohammad Rafi

Mohammad Rafi

At University I read a lot of literature in Hindi (and later, Urdu) as part of my maunder through tertiary education. Having grown up in India and spoken a street version of the language since my boyhood days I had a confidence in my ability and understanding of the language that I quickly discovered was over inflated. Watching Hindi movies, reading the occasional comic book and even formal language classes in high school did little to prepare me for the writings of Prem Chand, Harivansh Rai Bachchan or Phanishwarnath Renu. In addition to discovering that there was so little of the language (idiom, grammar, vocabulary) that I knew, reading these great writers confirmed just how isolated my childhood as an American in India had really been. The experience was sobering.

One classroom experience sums up the situation. We were reading aloud a Hindi short story. Our lecturer was a friendly man named Paul, whose knowledge of Hindi came from a purely linguistic interest. His familiarity with the spoken vernacular was virtually nil. I was asked to read half a page of text and explain it back to the class in English. I did so. My accent was strong and true and there were few words I could not sound out, even if I struggled with their meaning. But suddenly I was unable to make sense of one phrase. The character, the story went, ‘walked away singing a rafi song’.   I had no idea what that meant. Was rafi an adverb? What did it connote? Was it a derivative of ‘raga’?   I confessed to Paul that I didn’t know what ‘rafi’ meant.

“Really? You, of all people,” he said in disbelief. “You surely know Mohammad Rafi. The Hindi singer.”

I grinned but not pleasantly.

“The lines that follow are the lines of one of his most famous songs,” Paul went on. My embarrassment could not have been more acute.

The silver lining in this overcast tale is that I at last knew who Rafi was. Many more years would come and go though before I truly began to appreciate his genius. This time I found myself in Pakistan, as a student of Urdu. Throughout that glorious year of intellectual stimulation I spent many hours in buses and mini-buses (called ‘wagons’) travelling across the country discovering its rich history and culture. Inevitably, at some point in those long journeys the driver would play a cassette or two of Rafi songs: Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil, Mujhe Duinya Walon, and Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe and so on.

Around that time and because of those road trips, isolated remembered sounds from my youth began to coalesce into a unified story. Oh! So Rafi sang all those songs in Pakeezah, Love in Tokyo and Ham Kissi Se Kam Nahin. Oh! I know him!

Now that my feet (my ears, actually) were on firm ground, I turned myself to listening with intent to Ustad Mohammad Rafi.

In previous posts on this blog I have expressed my deep besottedness with Kishore Kumar. You may get the impression that I consider him to be the ultimate in Indian playback singing.

For a long time I did. But in all honesty it is a toss up between Kishore and Rafi. A friend says Kishore is the ‘midday sun’ and Rafi ‘the early morning’ of Hindi film song (with Mukesh being the ‘setting sun’). I can’t argue what that succinct summation and can only suggest that another way to evaluate these two maestros is to consider them as two sides of the same golden coin.

The man in the striped suit

The man in the striped suit

Rafi, of course, preceded Kishore by some years, even though by the early-1970s the younger had eclipsed the senior by most measures. A student of Bade Ghulam Ali Khansahib, Rafi’s journey from province to studio was much more direct and less traumatic than Kishore’s. Rafi exhibited none of the self doubt or eccentricity that distinguished, and seemed, by turns, to drive and torment Kishore. By all accounts he lived a life of a settled Muslim gentleman: loyal and protective of his family, personally pious and so unflamboyant, that were it not for his golden vocal chords, he would have escaped notice almost entirely.

In a city and industry that feasted on gossip and scandal Mohammad Rafi eschewed the naughty headline. Whatever negative publicity came his way was more in the category of professional spats (such as his being dropped by O.P. Nayyar for several years because of his moonlighting with Shankar-Jaikishan) than scandal. No sexual innuendo, public drunkenness or roughhousing for Rafi sahib. When he wasn’t at the studio recording, (which was not often, if we are to take his claim to have recorded between 25-26,000 songs, seriously] he limbered up his fingers for a game of caroms or could be found on the badminton court.

Of course, there was THE ROYALTY ISSUE, as it has been passed down through the years, but even that was a business dispute. And his role in the affair is perhaps the most interesting part of the story. It certainly is the best public demonstration of his essential sharif character. By the early 1960s playback singing, and indeed, almost the entirety of Indian popular song, was the unchallenged domain of Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. The latter approached Rafi for support in her decidedly bold and progressive demand for a greater share of royalties from their songs. Rafi declined, stating that his agreement was to sing a song and as long as he received the contracted amount his interest had been satisfied. It was the producers and directors who ran the risk of the film being a flop and losing their shirts (and dhotis), not the playback singer. If the film went on to reap millions for the investors, so be it. That was business.


This reveals so much of Rafi’s outlook on life. It was the attitude of a man who valued the straightforward approach. Fairness was determined by sticking to the deal. There is a fundamental humility in Rafi’s response as well. “I’m just a singer; nothing great.” His deference to the big shots with the deep pockets betrays a very traditional, almost village acceptance of social order and place. His stance on the royalty issue, in my opinion, simply adds vibrancy to the burnish of his reputation. A man comfortable at once, with his roots and his present. And a man of principle. Listen to the lyrics of one of the song’s in this collection, Polam Pol, a satirical stab at the cheating that goes on in everyday life and you’ll see where Rafi comes from. “Gane mein nahi pukka gana” (not singing a song properly) is condemned along with mixing water with the milk and lawyers telling lies.

Having said that, let’s not take anything away from Lata’s brave fight. It foreshadowed similar moves by American musicians, especially black ones, who stood up against the record and publishing companies to get a better deal from their art. In the Royalty Issue there was no right or wrong side; just two deeply held and very worthy takes on what makes the world spin on its axis.

Mohammad Rafi’s  singing was distinguished by a sense of adventure that belies his at-home-ordinariness. Though he rose to maturity as an artist in the 50s when Hindi film music was based largely in the classical (and later) folk traditions, when the scene changed and composers like Shankar-Jaikishan and Laxmikant-Pyarelal embraced jazz, rock and Latin sound structures into their music Rafi stepped up without missing a beat. Listen to numbers like the aforementioned Polam Pol (1957) and Jan Pehchaan Ho (1965) to be impressed by a voice that is absolutely at ease with the demands of an entirely new way of singing. Rafi’s willingness to embrace the modern racy feel of music that began creeping into Hindi films as early as the late 50s laid the foundation from which Kishore took off in the 70s. Indeed, can we argue that because composers knew they had an artist as sure and masterful as Rafi they themselves pushed their compositions with the assurance that there was someone who could do them justice?

Certainly its hard to imagine Hemant Kumar or Manna Dey stretching themselves sufficiently to get the wild new rock n roll scenes pitch and picture perfect. If Kishore was indeed the bright sun of the 70s, we must thank Rafi for blazing the path that he scampered down so playfully.

Be it ghazal, qawwali, bhajan, lok geet, drunken swoon or lover’s croon Rafi’s ability to sing each not just competently but convincingly and with genuine pleasure is further evidence of this man’s artistic and humanistic greatness. There really was no one quite like him.

For your listening pleasure I’ve put together a double mixtape of some of my favorite Rafi cuts. Classics, underappreciated ones and even a few rarities.

Ok, I’ll shut up now and let you drown in the Wonder That Was Mohammad Rafi.

genius of rafi 1

Track Listing (pt. 1)

01 Maan Mera Ehsaan

02 Aaj ki Raat

03 Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe

04 Aaz-e-Dil Chedh De

05 Husn Chala Kuchh Aisi Chaal

06 Nain Mila Kar Chain

07 Yeh Mera Prem Patra

08 Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charche

09 Chhahoonga Mein Tujhe

10 Pollam Pol (Laxmi)

11 Khilona Jan Khar

12 Mere Dost Kissa

13 Aaja Re Aa

14 Ye Duniya

15 Toote Huye

16 Mujhe Duniya Walo Sharabi Na Samjho

17 Chalo Dildar Chalo

18 Pukarta Chala Hoon Main

19 Qad-o-Gaysoo

20 Tun Aheen Sahib


genius of rafi v 2

Track Listing (pt. 2)

21 Jan Pahechan Ho

22 Dil Deke Dekho

23 Teri Galyon Mein

24 Chura Liya Hai Tum Ne

25 O Duniya Ke Rakhwale

26 Bus ke Dushwar Hai

27 Aap Naraz, Khuda, Khair Kare

28 Gulabi Ankhen

29 Aaye Na Balam

30 Pathar Ke Sanam

31 Baharon Phool Barsaao

32 Chaudhvin Ka Chand

33 Tumsa Nahin Dekha

33 Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil

34 Love in Tokyo

36 Kya Hua Tera Wada

37 Jo Wada Kiya Ho Nibhana Padega

38 Ek Dil Ke Tukde Hazar Huye

39 Chal Chal Mere Bhai

40 Chhalake Jaam


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]