Kabir Mela: Mukhtiyar Ali and Mahesha Ram

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A companion double CD to the very first selection in this series, Kabir in Malwa, featuring two Rajasthani singers, Mukhtiyar Ali and Mahesha Ram.

The CDs are produced by the Kabir Project which “consists of a series of ongoing journeys in quest of Kabir, the 15th century north Indian mystic poet as well as other Bhakti, Sufi and Baul poets in our contemporary worlds. These journeys inquire into the spiritual and socio-political resonances of mystic poetry through songs, images and conversations. We have been engaged for the last 17 years in curating and re-expressing the power of this poetry through documentary films, music CDs, books, urban festivals, rural yatras, workshops and courses in schools/colleges and a web archive called Ajab Shahar“.

I would highly recommend both websites which are full of articles, videos and books about Kabir as well as such things as ‘useful terms’ and concepts found in Kabir’s philosophical writings.

2788169589_d037ed890d_bMukhtiyar Ali (in orange kurta) has a wonderful keening tenor that is full of melody and emotion.

He “sings Sufi and Bhakti songs with an intensity that is both delicate and powerful. Tucked away in the corner of Thar Desert in Rajasthan, close to the India-Pakistan border, is Mukhtiyar Ali’s village Pugal. He was born into a family of Mirasis – semi-nomadic community of singers who have kept alive the sufiana kalaam (poetry of Sufis like Bulleh Shah, Sultan Bahu, Shah Hussain) along with the bhakti songs of Kabir, Meera and Sagram. Mukhtiyar Ali has imbibed this music and poetry from his father and other village elders.

Mukhtiyar grew up performing at local satsangs and jaagrans (all-night musical vigils) where the overtly religious music would slowly veer into the songs of the mystics – both from the Sufi and Bhakti traditions. These songs apart from creating a common space for engagement and celebration for the Hindu and Muslim members of the village would also lead to intense discussions on ideas of mysticism. These gatherings still continue to take place though some note the dwindling numbers of both the listeners and the Mirasi singers.

For many years he was part of the Urmul Trust-initiated platform for folk singers and performing artists of the region, called Gavaniyar, singing and working closely with NGOs and other social initiatives in the region.

To reinvigorate the tradition of singing Sufiyana kalaam and to find new modes of patronage for Mir singers, Mukhtiyar Ali undertook a community project with the support of India Foundation for the Arts in 2005. The project involved research and documentation on Mir singers and facilitation of public performances, mehfils and baithaks. He has also trained several young children of his village and neighbouring regions in the tradition of Mirasi singing.

Today Mukhtiyar Ali is renowned for his extraordinary public performances in national and international concerts and his recordings are both loved and appreciated for being unique new compositions of Sufi poetry. A highly versatile artist, he has collaborated with other contemporary musicians such as Vasundhara Das and Mathias Duplessy and has sung for popular Hindi film albums like Tashan and Finding Fanny.”

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Mahesha Ram “is a folk singer who belongs to the community of Meghwals from Rajasthan – the traditional carriers of the poetry of many Bhakti poets including Kabir, who have kept it alive through a powerful oral tradition. Mahesha Ramji hails from the village of Chhatangadh in Thar Desert of Rajasthan close to Jaisalmer, near the India Pakistan border. He has imbibed the spirit of the oral traditions from a very young age, listening to and singing the songs of Kabir, Meera, Rohal Fakir, Gorakh and other Bhakti poets, and the legacy continues with his son who also sings with him now.

Mahesha Ramji sings while playing the five-stringed folk tambura, and is accompanied by musicians on the manjirassarangi (or the kamaicha) and dholak. While he travels widely in India and overseas for performances, he continues to participate in the oral traditions of sant vaani in village jaagrans (all night music vigils) and satsangs (musical and spiritual gatherings) in his region, and also at ceremonies of birth, death and marriage, where his troupe is traditionally called upon to sing. Mahesha Ram also teaches these songs to others at the village and has also conducted singing workshops in parts of Gujarat and Bangalore.”

Meditative and mesmeric – these are the qualities of Mahesha Ramji’s music. Unhurried and not in an eager rush to please the public, Mahesha Ramji slows you down, and compels you to step into his rhythm.

 

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Track Listing Disc 1 (Mir Mukhtiyar Ali)

01 Heli Mhaari, Nirbhay Rije Re

02 Kue Re Kinaare Avadhu

03 Jaro Garav Kare So Givaara

04 Nit Khair Manga

05 Kari Bharamna Door

06 Karmaari Duniya Gyaan Bin Kaise Tiriye?

07 Chadariya Jheeni Re Jheeni

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Track Listing Disc 2 (Mahesha Ram)

01 Ber Chalya Mere Bhai

02 Evi Evi Sen Bataai

03 Kyun Sove Re Banda

04 Savaliye Bin Kaun Bandhaave Dheer

05 Darshan Kar Banda Dehi Mein

06 Chaalat Chaalat Jug Bhaya

Kabir Rajasthan

Kabir Mela: Rajasthani Folk

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Continuing with this series here is a collection compiled and recorded by the fantastic label De Kulture out of Jaipur.

Pure, unsanitised folk music from India’s western deserts.  Nothing more needs to be said. This is probably the closest you’ll get in terms of what singing Kabir’s poetry sounded like during his time.  Drum, tiny hand cymbals, drone and voice.  No guitars, no electronics, no overdubbing.  Straight. No chaser.

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Track Listing:

01 Bhakti daan Mohe Dijiye

02 Gaful Bhulo

03 Hansa Re Hans Hans

04 Is Bangle Ka

05 Mera Bhed Kisi Nai Paya

06 Mil Gayo Man Khario Nagina

07 Nij Ghar Alakh Jagaya

08 Sadguru Arji Sunlo

KAHEKABIRA

 

Unheard Rajasthani Music

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Rajasthan offers a melange of cultures, music and people. The album ‘Unheard Rajasthan’ is an effort to bring to the fore the sub-nation’s forgotten corners. The only common element that combines these corners is a heart that beats only to the rhythms of regional authentic songs.

Various cultural groups of Rajasthan in their own but multi-talented way create an atmosphere that smells of the sand of the desert.  The cultural groups such as Nayak, Meghwal, Manganiar, Langa, Meerasi, Brahmin, Khati, Jat, Harijan etc., are some of the communities whose distinctive music styles are rarely heard or exposed to the outside world. ‘Unheard Rajasthan’ is an attempt to capture the beauty of these cultures dipped in rural sensibility and bring the rare music genres such as Jangad, Chang Nritya, Pad, Bhajans etc. back into the cultural positioning of the country.

Traditionally, patronage has guided the music of this region that incorporates the sounds of folk instruments like Deru, Sarangi, Kamaycha, Tandoora, Chang, Bansuri, Chimta, Rawanhatta, Harmonium, Dholak, Khartal, Ghungroo and Manjeera amongst others.

This album is an effort to enrapture its listeners with melodies, rhythms capturing various human moods like devotional, festive, occupational and philosophical.

(Liner Notes)

Unheard Rajasthan

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Unheard Rajasthan back

Track Listing:

01 Dhomaldi

02Moomal

03 Nabh Kamal Vich

04 Bilyu Dhaam

05 Rasto De Shyam

06 Bagan Ka Bhawara

07 Helo Mharo Sambhlo

08 Jeera

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Desert Pure: Unheard Rajasthan

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A very appropriately title album is the focus for this post: Unheard Rajasthan. Pure folk music from the dusty and gritty bye lanes of India’s desert western State of Rajasthan.

 

This is rarely heard music. Most of it is sung a capella except for the rhythm section, you have to travel a bit off the beaten tourist trails to find this music performed in its intended setting.

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Track Listing:

  1. Bagan Ka Bhawara This pad or folktale is sung by the Meena tribe that narrates the act of the Bhanwra or the honeybee that sucks pollens from flowers and how this act causes better half to flare up in ire. The authentic instruments used in this track are Chhota Dhol and Chimta.
  2. Bilyu Dhaam This devotional song is performed by Meerasi community in praise of Gogaji, inviting the devotees to assemble at the fair that is held at the Bilyu Dham, a village in Northern Rajasthan. The folk instruments used as an accompaniment are Deru, Ghunghroo, Harmonium, Dholak and Manjeera.
  3. Dhomaldi Tracing it’s root to ‘Jangad’, a form of singing style, it is a welcome song sung by the Manganiar community on the occasion of the arrival of the procession of King and Queen. The instruments used as an accompaniment are Kamaycha, Dholak and Khartal.
  4. Helo Mharo Sambhlo A devotee prays to ‘Gogaji’ a local deity in Rajasthan pleading Him to listen to his vows and take care of him. The Bhajan is rendered by the Manganiar Meghwal community to the accompaniment of the Manjeera, Tandoora and Dholak.
  5. Jeera The spice that best describes the particular taste and flavor of Rajasthani food is Jeera that is actually a cumin seed. With an accompaniment of ‘Rawanhatta’ a woodwind instrument, the Bhopa and Bhopi get together in this folk song to describe the advantages and disadvantages of this distinct spice.
  6. Moomal A court or palace song, performed by the Manganiar professional singers and played on the Sarangi, Khartal and Dholak expresses the beauty of a pretty woman.
  7. Nabh Kamal Vich A Bhajan sung by the Meerasi group, signifies that true happiness can only be achieved when a man understand his inner being. The traditional instruments like Tandoora, Khanjeera and Dholak has been used to convey this message more strongly.
  8. Rasto De Shyam Chang Nritya’, a dance form that integrates the sounds of Chang, Bansuri, Ghunghroo, and Manjeera. This song is shared as a common culture by the Khati, Meghwal, Harijan, Rajput, Jat and Brahmin communities and is sung during the festival of Holi in Rajasthan. The song captures Radha and lord Krishna’s love story and the antics involved when she requests him to move from her path and let her go to fetch water

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Exhilaration: Musafir

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Long time fans of this blog (as well as the old version of Washerman’s Dog) will recall that in November 2012 I had the privilege of facilitating the performance of Bachu Khan at a major international music expo here in Melbourne.  During the course of the several days that we hung out together I discovered that Bachu had spent some time in the iconic Rajasthani music group, Musafir.

 

Musafir, was in the late 90s and early part of the new millennium, a globe-trotting collective of gypsy musicians from western India led by Barkat and Hameed Khan, both of whom were Bachu’s elder relatives.  By travelling the world and performing with other international artists, he developed not only a love of travel but a sophisticated understanding of how the traditional music of Rajasthan could be blended with other styles.

 

Sadly, as happens all too often, ‘management’ issues led to the demise of Musafir and their exciting, exhilarating brand of Indian folk music.  But thankfully, as happens not often enough, Bachu Khan’s international career has been revived and we are hoping to welcome him back to Australia later this year.

 

In the meantime, we share Musafir’s second album from 2002 titled Barsaat. It is a killer, full of the powerful voices of Bachu and his relatives as well as enticing appearances by Natacha Atlas and a clarinet!

 

Zindabad!

Barsaat

Track Listing:

01 Yad

02 Balamji

03 Khet

04 Pyar Ki Boond

05 Banna

06 Ali Mullah (Feat. Transglobal Underground And Natacha Atlas)

07 Karvan

08 Barish

09 Loneliness

10 Balu

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