There have been a lot of religious celebrations in India of late. A couple weeks ago was Janamasthami, the birthday of Lord Krishna and this weekend the Hindu world marked the birthday of the elephant headed wise One, Lord Ganesha.
So today Harmonium shares a Hindu-gospel album! Daler Mehndi is a Sikh singer (but born in Bihar, not Punjab) who rocketed to popularity in the early 1990s. With a full voice and an exuberant personality he was for some years the dominant pop star (outside of the filmi music world) in north India. Combining bhangra and western beats with sometimes masale-wale lyrics his tapes and CDs were popular with Punjabi and Hindi speakers from Islamabad to Kolkatta. In recent years he has recorded a number of ‘patriotic’ songs as well as notched up some huge super hits (Rang de Basanti) and dedicated a considerable amount of energy and money to environmental and social causes.
Here, in this traditional religiously-themed outing, Mehndi, sings of his devotion to Ram, the most accessible and widely used name for God in northern India. All four tracks are essentially the same in structure and pace. Though the album suggests the tracks represent various moods and times of worship, this is in fact one single track. It is repetitious, but on purpose. The desire is to induce a trance-like or meditative state of mind in the listener. To bring her/him into the presence of the Lord, focus the mind and soul on nothing but Ram.
This is not a record for Saturday nights or getting pumped for a big evening out. Rather, it is an aid to taking that inner journey.
01 Mere Ram (Moksha Dwar)
02 Mere Ram (Morning Prayer)
03 Mere Ram (Kabeer Prophesies)
04 Mere Ram (Evening Repose)
R A M
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.
02 Puran Bhagat
04 Biddhi Chand Ke Dohe
05 Tere Ni Karara
06 Aare Tanga Paare Tanga
07 Naam Sai Da Bol
08 Agaya Tu Phool Banke