Jogi Man: Ram Narata

 

Ram Narata Jogi

It would be hard to find more basic music than this.  A man with a voice of limited range and no smoothness playing a one-stringed homemade instrument accompanied by a friend or two on hand drums.

Ram Narata is (possibly, was) a jogi. A wandering spiritual seeker, probably mystical in his understanding but Hindu in his vocabulary, he was more than 90 when he made this recording.

The songs he sings cover the bases from tragic love stories (Sassi Pannu and Sohni Mahiwal) to earthy spirit melodies.

bandeya

bandeya-sleeve

bandeya-back

Track Listing:

01 Changa

02 Tara Rani

03 Kaula

04 Ishq Nu Chhed Na Bethi

05 Puttar Ka Vardan

06 Duniya De Mele

07 Sassi Puno – Jogi

08 Sohni Mahiwal – Jogi

 

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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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Words of Worship: Devotional Music of the Sikhs

Shabad Devotional Music of Sikhs_0003

Shabad is a term that comes from the Sanskrit, shabd, which means ‘word’. Shabad has become the name of a special genre of devotional music particularly of the Sikhs, and is often used translated into English as ‘hymn’.

 

In Sikhism the term shabad has two primary meanings. The first context of the term is to refer to a hymn or paragraph or sections of the Holy Text that appears in Guru Granth Sahib. The main holy scripture of the Sikhs is Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS.) Guru Granth Sahib Ji is organised by chapters of Ragas, with each chapter containing many shabads of that Raga. The first Shabad in Guru Granth Sahib is the Mool Mantar. The script used for the Shabad is Gurmukhi. The second use of the term Shabad within Sikhism is for the holy name of God, Waheguru. (Wikipedia)

Shabad Devotional Music of Sikhs_0002Shabad Devotional Music of Sikhs_0004 Shabad Devotional Music of Sikhs_0005

Tonight we share a wonderfully soothing set of Sikh shabad, performed (lead vocal) by Dr. Gurnam Singh. These hymns seem to be structured with the intention of preparing the singer and listener’s heart and spirit for meditation and spiritual reflection.  The effect is reassuring. If you’ve ever entered a gurdwara a Sikh temple of worship this is the sort of sound you will hear. Simple but moving.

Shabad Devotional Music of Sikhs Shabad Devotional Music of Sikhs_0001

Track Listing:

01 Sodat Ki Chowki

02 Aasa Raag- Partal

03 Aasa Raag – Kabir Vaani

04 Sri Raag

 

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Glory of the Jatts: Swarm Yamla Jatt

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The Jats (Jatts) are one of northern India’s (including Pakistan) great communities.  Settled in the rich agriculture lands of the Punjab and Haryana Jatts have and continue to embrace three religious traditions: Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam.  Obviously in Pakistan, most Jatts are Muslims but across the border some studies claim that as many of 65% of the Sikhs are Jatts.

 

And like every caste or social group in the world, there exist more than one version of the Jatts’ origins, grandeur and social prominence. The one I like the best is the story of how Lord Shiva (Mahadeva) enraged at the forced death of his beloved wife Sati, unloosed his dreadlocks in a rage banged his hair (jata) on to the earth.  From two of the dreadlocks sprang into being two mighty men who formed to two original tribes of Indian people, the Rajputs and the Jatts.

 

Other experts, tut-tut this fable.  Rather, while agreeing that the Jatts, are an ancient caste of north Indians from the Western regions, they trace the origins to the time of the great Hindu Epics, especially the Mahabharata, which includes a number of references to the fighting spirit of the Jatts.  Some claim more than 50 clans were already identified as Jatts in the Rg Veda, India’s most hoary spiritual ‘scriptural’ writing, dating back perhaps 1500 years Before the Common Era.

 

As with any ancient people the Jatts have a rich and deep culture, including a lively musical style.  Tonight we share the work of a (Indian) Punjabi Jatt folk singer named Swarn Yamla Jatt.  An emerging presence on the international folk festival scene, Jatt sings folk and traditional songs, held dear by his people, in a very uncluttered, unpretentious way.  Instruments are all acoustic and traditional and accompanying. His rural but strong voice is up front and center throughout.  Many of the songs on this collection are story songs. Others are religious and many are centuries old, passed down by itinerant Jatt musicians like Swarn Yamla through the generations.

Jatt

Back

Track Listing:

01 Gopichand

02 Puran Bhagat

03 Takhatariya

04 Biddhi Chand Ke Dohe

05 Tere Ni Karara

06 Aare Tanga Paare Tanga

07 Naam Sai Da Bol

08 Agaya Tu Phool Banke

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Loungin’: Folk Classical Music from Punjab

Thukral-Tagra

Thukral-Tagra

Is there such a thing as ‘classical folk’ music. Not classic, as in iconic, folk music, but classical music that is played by folk musicians?  And not music played by novices or students, but by highly accomplished professionals?

 

Today’s selection is such music.  A collection of some of the sweetest (but not saccharine) instrumentals played by Punjabi folk musicians on traditional folk instruments.  And played with a swagger or attitude that while respectful of the original material, is definitely more maidan than darbar.

 

Lounge in Punjab_0002Cheekily titled Lounge in Punjab, the album cashes is on the current craze for so called lounge or chill out music. The cover art, a drawing of a workingman’s lounge room, tells you where this music is coming from. A traditional wooden bed covered with a chadar (sheet), wooden chairs, a few framed pics of relatives on the mud walls guard an old black bakelite telephone and other trinkets that adorn mud steps leading up to a loft.

 

But don’t be fooled by the title. This is not Buddha Bar ala Punjab. It is moving, gorgeous north Indian classical music played in the lok (folk) style. The players are probably well known in their home districts and perhaps, a bit further afield. But they are not big names. They play sarangi, flute, harmonium and table with panache and feeling.  Although every track is a winner (REALLY) my personal favourite is Love, Love, Love a stunning harmonium solo piece by Shaukat Ali.

 

If you haven’t discovered already, De Kulture, the producers of this record need to be awarded not just the Padma Bhushan but the Nobel Prize for Music for what they are doing to revive and promote the great Indian folk culture. Go to their webite, buy their music and attend their music festival in Pushkar next February.

Lounge in Punjab

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Track Listing:

01 Shaan [Amandeep Singh]

02 Raag Bahar [Puran Singh Arshi]

03 Kalyan Raag [Amandeep Singh]

04 Apne Yaar Ke Paas [Kashi Nath]

05 Dilruba – Thief Of The Heart [Amandeep Singh]

06 Love, Love, Love. [Shaukat Ali]

07 Tumbi – A Folk Tune Of Punjab [Gurmeet]

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