Ragamala Vol. 6: Bhimpalasi

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Way back in 2013 I began this Ragamala series.  I wanted to collect a variety of tracks from diverse genres that were based upon or direct interpretations of particular ragas.  I have to confess that despite many years of listening to South Asian classical music my ear is still as wooden as when I began to seriously pay attention to khyaldhrupad and other forms of classical music.  I think I can identify Malkauns but that’s about it.

I feel terrible about this. Surely, I should be more competent and clever. But each time I try to read anything about the structure of ragas the better to tune my ear, my eyes glaze over and my mind closes up shop.  There is simply too much new vocabulary to learn and I’m not sure how much such knowledge would increase my listening pleasure.

Of more interest to me is the mood each raga attempts to induce in the listener. I like to see if it works on me, and I’m happy to report that Bhimpalasi does.

Bhimpalasi is an afternoon to early evening raga. A time of day that for most modern families is stressful. Kids back home from school. Commotion all over the place and pots and plates banging in the kitchen.

They say this raga speaks to the melancholy, sad aspects of the human soul. And in so doing, is effective for the release of stress and anxiety. Some recommend Bhimpalasi as part of the treatment for depression.

I began this weekend listening to Ali Akbar Khan‘s interpretation from his Bangla Desh album (1972).  I’ve since listened to it a couple more times and this afternoon let Saskia Rao’s doleful cello sink slowly beneath the skin.   And I am proud (and surprised) to report I feel absolutely peaceful, light and relaxed.

There are some very nice interpretations here.  Lata sings two film songs (one composed by SD Burman, the other by Madan Mohan) including one of my all-time favorites, Khilte Hain Gul Yahan. An enigmatic early fusion/jazz group from the UK give us Bhimpalazi (1969) and Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan contribute two straight-ahead versions on sitar and sarod, respectively. The Dutch cellist Saskia Rao shows how beautifully that instrument fits into the Indian soundscape and finally, Mehdi Hassan gives us a filmi ghazal from Azmat (1973).

PEACE. SUKOON. SHANTI.

Bhimpalasi

Track Listing:

01 Raga Bhimpalasi [Ali Akbar Khan]

02 Nainon Mein Badra Chaaya [Madan Mohan and Lata Mangeshkar]

03 Bhimpalazi (Looking Eastward to the Blues) [Indo-Jazz Ensemble]

04 Raga Bhimpalasi [Ravi Shankar]

05 Khilte Hain Gul Yahan [SD Burman and Lata Mangeshkar]

06 Bhimpalasi Alap Jod Jhala [Saskia Rao]

07 Zindagi Main To Sabhi Pyar Kiya Karte Hai [Mehdi Hassan]

++^^%

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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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

URaj

Qawwali Collection: Shan-e-Rasool

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An interesting collection of concise qawwali performances from an even more interesting group of singers.

Shan-e-Rasool-o-Aal-e-Rasool (roughly translated by me as The Glory and Grandeur of the Prophet) includes performances by some famous qawwals including Abdur Rab Chaush and Yusuf Azad Qawwal, a couple film playback singers [Mahendra Kapoor and Shamshad Begum] as well as a few (to me) new names such as the delightfully named Pyare Timmu Qawwal (Jaipuri) and Master Habib Nizami.

With the inclusion of filmi qawwali this record presents a sort of qawwali – lite which most connoisseurs would not rate very highly. The messages are simplistic and the language is of the sort someone unfamiliar with High Urdu or Persian can easily understand. Case in point: title of track 9 [Allah Bahut Bada Hai]!

The music, composed mostly by one Mami Bhachu, [any information on him would be much appreciated], is consistently lively and employs a range of traditional and more modern instruments including clarinet and guitar.

What I like about this sort of qawwali is that not only is it ‘simple’ and pretty straightforward but it has lots of stylistic similarities to some Christian gospel music. The lyrics tell stories of the heroes and villains of the Faith, as well as ordinary devout people grappling with the mystery of God’s ways. The philosophy and moral lessons are easy to discern.

And finally, what makes this recording special is the variety of voices. Ismail Azad Qawwal and Shafi Niazi and Yusuf Azad each bring a clear diction and suppleness to their singing that is perfect for story telling. And then of course, there is the grand Shamshad Begum, a very non-traditional qawwal, indeed.

Enjoy with blessings.

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Track Listing:

01 Sine Mein Rahne Do Hoton peh na Lao

02 Zindagi ka Sahara Madine Mein Hai

03 Qaflia Haj ko Chala

04 Ya Mohammad Kisi Haal Mein Bhi

05 Khuda Ne Tumko Rasoolon Mein Aftab Kiya

06 Dar-e-Huzoor pe Hazir Ghulam Ho Jata

07 Hasnain ki Takhti ka Vaqya

08 Mohabbat Husain Ki

09 Allah Bahut Bada Hai

10 Mohammad ke Dularon Par

SHAN O AAL

Lucknow’s Great Son: Naushad Ali

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Naushad Ali

Naushad Ali of Lucknow was arguably the first giant of Hindi film music. Not as a singer, but as an inventive composer and arranger.

His sound is instantly recognizable for its deep connection to the folk music of north India and especially the Gangetic plain. Flutes, matkas (clay pots) and other folk instruments embellish his compositions like  glimmering light off a paddy field.

Responsible for the music of so many classics he is one of those of whom it can be honestly said, ‘his music was the soundtrack to an entire generation’. Indians who came of age in the first 2 decades after Independence will probably save the sweetest corner of their hearts for his music.

Naushad was a sharif Musalman. A man of great taste and dignity and culture he also brought a deep love and understanding of raga based melodies into his film scores.

Here is a collection of some of his greatest hits sung by voices as diverse as Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Suraiya and Shamshad Begum. Thank you to Mr Balkar Bains (once again!) for the gift of this wonderful LP.naushad-front

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Track Listing

01 Jawan Hai Mohabbat [Anmod Ghadi]

02 Bachpan ke Din [Deedar]

03 Murliwale Murli Baja [Dillagi]

04 Gaya Ja Geet Milan Ke [Mela]

05 Dil Toote Na [Andaz]

06 Panchhi Ban Mein [Babul]

07 Chhod Babul ka Ghar [Babul]

08 Aja Meri Barbad-e-Mohabbat [Anmol Ghadi]

09 Maan Mera Ehsan [Aan]

10 Sawan ke Badala [Rattan]

11 Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki [Dulari]

12 Jhoom Jhoom ke Nacho [Andaz]

Naushad

West of Bollywood: Film Songs of Pakistan

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Everyone knows Noor Jehan, arguably the finest female popular voice to emerge from the subcontinent in the last century. But many of the singers on this excellent collection remain unknown beyond the borders of Pakistan. This is sad because the likes of Salim Raza, S.B. John and Naseem Begum, each with distinctive sounds deserve much wider appreciation.

 

The film industry of Pakistan, centered around Lahore and Karachi, but also Dhaka until 1971, has rightly or wrongly been ignored by the outside world. Even within Pakistan there are few these days that express as deep an affection for the films, actors and singers of Lollywood as they do for India’s glimmering gallery.

 

You won’t be able to tell if the movies that these songs were part of were any good until you watch them. I’ve seen a couple and they are not bad. The real lo-fi standards of film making were still a decade and a half or more in the future when these films were released. But listen to these songs and tell me if you think they are any less beautiful than what was coming out of Bombay at the same time.

 

Zindabad!

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Track Listing:

01 Jalte Hain Armaan [Anarkali] (Noor Jehan)

02 Too Jo Nahin Hai [Savera] (SB John)

03 Aaye Mausam Rangile [Saat Lakh] (Zubeida Khanum)

04 Shah-e-Madina [Noor-e-Islam] (Salim Raza)

05 Too Lakh Chale Ri [Gumnaam] (Iqbal Bano)

06 Nighahen Mila Kar [Mehboob] (Noor Jehan)

07 Chandni Raaten [Dopatta] (Noor Jehan)

08 Tum Zindagi Ko [Dopatta] (Noor Jehan)

09 Yaaro Mujhe Muaaf [Saat Lakh] (Salim Raza)

10 Raj Dularay [Naukar] (Kausar Parveen)

11 Mudat Hui Hai Yaar [Ghalib] (Noor Jehan)

12 Ae Mard-e-Mujahid [Changez Khan] (Inayat Bhatti)

13 Ham Bhool Gaye Har [Saheli] (Naseem Begum)

14 Ulfat ki Nai Manzil Ko [Qatil] (Iqbal Bano)

Lollywood