Mirasi minstrels. Moradabad. 1870
Another wonderful dip into the Archvies of the original Washerman’s Dog blog and the Music Pakistan series.
In September 1986 I arrived in Lahore, Pakistan for a year of intensive Urdu language study. As an eager recently graduated university student I made a point of meeting as many people who could introduce to me to that mythical beast the ‘real’ Pakistan. How the connection was made I don’t recall but I do remember that I spent several days hanging out at the home of one Raza Kazim a left-leaning lawyer who had recently been released from jail. He had written a book of his experiences which included solitary confinement and torture. He gifted me a copy which I used over the year as a text for my slowly improving Urdu. (Original post and links)
He was taken with an inordinate feeling of nostalgia these days. Nostalgia was not an emotion he particularly tried to nurture; nor was he fond of the sappy unreliable memories it always delivered. But probably because he was tired of being alone, living far from his family and because he had recently returned from a short visit to India he did not resist the feeling. Though he was not nostalgic he did inhabit a certain psychological world where the brightest and most attractive things seemed to have been conceived and created in an era before digitization and virtual reality had become the norm. The album cover before him showed a young Indian woman with makeup that suggested 1970 smiling up at a group of rather stiff sitars. It reminded him of the ads in the newspapers that were delivered to the home very morning by a skinny man on a rickety cycle. Ads for soap and locks and trips to Kashmir. They were always full of ladies who looked exactly like the one the album cover. The title made him smile: Great International Hits. Indeed. As he listened the familiarity of a secure childhood, intermissions in darkened cinemas and background music at swank restaurants in Calcutta and Madras made him feel good. He relaxed. The sitars sounded as if they were not really made for this sort of outing. But they complied and when surrounded by strings, drums and accordions he felt as if they did find their voice. Sort of. The tunes, Stranger in the Night, These Boots Are Made for Walking, Sugar Town and Do Re Mi, were not exactly rock n’ roll, but then they were the sounds of that era: 1966-72 when India and the West seemed to tentatively put forth their hands toward each other. The embrace was sincere but not necessarily entirely comfortable. Hesitation abounded and he could sense that with each track. The sitarists plowed ahead, as quickly as possible, probably convinced that Westerners loved fast moving music. There was no time to explore the space between the notes or dawdle luxuriantly with such nonsense as ‘alaap’. He had no doubt the record was cut live. One track after another. The experiment of a creative Bengali man, V. Balasara, who had made a name for himself playing all sorts of instruments with strange, modern sounding names like Univox and Melodica in the film studios of Bombay. Did this sell? Did it have an audience other than proprietors of movie houses and up and coming restaurants? He looked at the back of the record and saw it was pressed and issued in Sydney. I guess it must have had some fans.
The man put the album down and turned up the sound. Lara’s Theme, which at one time could have stood in for India’s national anthem was playing. When it wound to a close, he started the whole thing again. Damn, this was fun music. Track Listing: 01 These Boots are Made for Walking 02 Puppet on a String 03 My Favourite Things 04 I Want to Hold Your Hand 05 Sugar Town 06 Edelweiss 07 Do-Re-Mi 08 If I Had a Hammer 09 Strangers in the Night 10 Tequila 11 Lemon Tree 12 Lara’s Theme B S
A third instalment from the archives. This is from March 2011 and features two of Pakistan’s great classical musicians.
Funny how we become entangled in much larger webs.
In September 1986 I arrived in Lahore, Pakistan for a year of intensive Urdu language study. As an eager recently graduated university student I made a point of meeting as many people who could introduce to me to that mythical beast the ‘real’ Pakistan. How the connection was made I don’t recall but I do remember that I spent several days hanging out at the home of one Raza Kazim a left-leaning lawyer who had recently been released from jail. He had written a book of his experiences which included solitary confinement and torture. He gifted me a copy which I used over the year as a text for my slowly improving Urdu. (go to original post with links)
Nikhil Banerjee was the yin to Ravi Shankar’s yang. Both were students of Allaudin Khan, and Banerjee continued his studies under the guidance of Khan’s son, Ali Akbar Khan. While Shankar prefers the razzle-dazzle and vigor of the gat, Banerjee is at home in the slow unfolding of the meditative alap. This album’s first raga, Chandrakaush, while limited to merely 20 minutes, allows full appreciation of its unusual pentatonic scale and late night mood. Banerjee‘s improvisations are beautiful and lyrical. He performs this work solo, but in the second raga, Khamaj, he is joined by Mahapurush Misra, a brilliant tablist who helped make Ali Akbar Khan’s Connoisseur/Signature Recordings so memorable. The selected rhythm cycle for the first gat is rupak tal, seven beats, and then closes with 16-beat teental. This often played raga of the early evening is lighter, more romantic in mood than the deep spiritual feeling of the first piece. Together, they provide an album of greatness. Now, consider this: these ragas were recorded live-to-air on the radio in the USA in 1967. Historic in many ways. (Dr. Debra Jan Bibel )
01. Raga Chandrakaush
02. Raga Khamaj