I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Saturday, March 25, 2017

...On the 'March' of Time

1. Earlier this month, I turned thirty. The big Three-O. A couple of weeks prior to that, this blog turned ten. I figured I'd maximize efficiency and kill two birds with one stone so here goes.

2. I started the blog at the fag end of my teens, so for better or worse, it has served as a sort of chronicle for the third decade of my life.

3. As decades go, this one has been a mixed bag. There have been a number of truly dark days, the sudden, shattering horror of which I shall not forget till my dying breath.

4. But there have also been moments of such absolute, sunlit perfection that the passage of years has not dimmed their glow one bit. Most of these days have gone undocumented because of my perverse habit of keeping my sorrows public and the joys private.

5. I started this decade in Med School in Rawalpindi. The med-school years - the first one-third of the decade - fulfilled their basic function of turning me into a doctor and then some. The lifelong (hopefully) friendships and camaraderie far overshadowed the occasional bouts bureaucratic and administrative ugliness. In addition, the Med-school years provided me with one of the BIG MOMENTS of my life - my introduction to Qawwali.

6. I did my medical internship (House-job) in Lahore. I can safely say that very few people would have been able to squeezed as much activity into one year as I did. Despite living there for only one year, Lahore remains my favorite city in Pakistan.

7. Post-Lahore were my by now world famous "Three years in the Jungle" where I cavorted with snakes, dodged lightning strikes, lived in a hole in the ground like a Hobbit and suffered through a telecommunications detox so severe that the sight of a phone was almost alien to me by the time I had left. I can only summarize the three years by saying that they were not un-enjoyable times.

8. After three years of a congealed existence, the next two years were spent being shaken, rattled and rolled all over the country; from the deserts of Southern Punjab to the frozen far north to the unwelcoming western borders.

9. As if to complete the circle, the end of the second decade of my life sees me back where I started it, Rawalpindi. In another strange coincidence, I am once again engaged in an education of the medical persuasion; a specialty residency this time, and I'm once again surrounded by (almost) the entire bunch of friends and associates from my Med-school days.

10. In an effort to revisit (and repair) the memories of the last ten years of the blog, I've tried to resurrect all the dead links and remove all the horrible coding errors. Everything works (for now) and everything's pretty much the way I wanted it to be. In a happy coincidence, that also applies to me as I enter my thirties.

Cheers !!

Monday, February 27, 2017

...Of Announcements, Astute Observations and the Aftaab-e-Sitar

I attribute the long hibernation of this blog to a number of factors. My legendary laziness is obviously at the top of the list, but it is compounded by a number of other contributing factors. There is the steady series of transcriptions and translations for the Dream Journey project , a project that has evolved into a continuously enriching part of my life. Then there's the fact that i'm a year and a half into a rather grueling four year post-graduate residency program in a medical specialty, and try as I might to procrastinate, I have to actually apply myself every so often in order to do justice to my chosen profession. A rather recent reason is the fact that I got married at the end of last year, something that - counter to Douglas Adams' views about the creation of the universe - has widely been regarded as a 'Good Move.'

I've frequently thought of resuming my sporadic blog posts but until now, havent really gotten around to it. This time however, I have come up with what Baldrick from Blackadder would call a cunning plan. Finding myself with a few days to spare before hunkering down to study for an important exam, I  have actually written down a series of posts and put them on ice to be published at pre-scheduled intervals over the coming weeks. It's a small step towards this blog returning to some semblance of life, but at least its a start. This post serves as the announcement for a resumption of festivities - or hostilities, depending on your point of view. 

As a welcome gift at the blog's Grand Re-Re-Re-Re-Opening, I'd like to offer an exquisite hour and a half of music. But first, a few words of introduction. Number one. The fact that I know next to nothing about Classical music didn't detract me one bit from my enjoyment of this piece, something that encourages me into thinking that same shall be the case with the readers, Two, one of the reasons I consider my recent betrothal a 'Good Move' is that the missus has proven herself to be surprisingly tolerant and appreciative of my eclectic (the understatement of the century) tastes in entertainment. Not only that, she is also an extremely astute viewing/listening companion. This was borne on me when I was first listening to the piece I'm sharing below. She listened to it for a while and remarked, "This gentleman is playing beautifully and knows it." That one sentences eclipses any further paragraphs I may have written in praise of this piece. So I'll eschew further descriptions altogether and share this beautiful, magical performance by a beautiful, magical musician.

Ustad Vilayat Khan - Raag Hameer - Live at the Royal Festival Hall, 1993

Friday, November 11, 2016

...Of Field Commander Cohen

Years ago, I deferred the supervision of all matters of the heart to a five member committee. A group of five wise men; an esteemed and exalted group who held each other and were held by "my" kind of people in very high esteem. Each new adventure, disappointment, opportunity, setback or absurdity was seen through the prism of their collective judgement.

There was the Boss; chronicler of the high drama of my everyday life, bard of microcosmic epics and raconteur of the ageless, timeless and altogether abstract Youth. A constant entreater towards optimism, reminding me of the nobility and beauty of daily life, the Boss taught me to set my sights on a dream and to let it permeate every living moment.

There was ol' Shakey; singing of Old Men, of Needles and the Damage done, of Harvest Moons and murderous conquistadors. With a steely, cranky conscience, distilled through the distorted, fuzzed out guitar and the reedy, insistent voice, Shakey instructed me to Walk On, to pursue harebrained schemes and lofty, un-achievable ideals, all the while maintaining a half bemused, half contemptuous smirk on my face.

Then there was Mr. Waits; organ grinder, carnival barker, a cross between Dr. Caligari and Baron Munchhausen. Twister of reality, reveler in the absurd, gleeful in his inebriation and trickery yet the ideal guide for an exploration of the fun-house mirror world of the heart. He taught me to reconcile with chaos, to find meaning within insanity, to look for the hidden wells of tenderness and kindness within crusty, decrepit and profaned exteriors.

Next came Bob. Zimmy. Elston Gunn. Jack Frost. Lucky Wilbury. Blind Boy Grunt. Him of the many names and the many personalities. Voice-giver to undiscovered, unexplored and unmentionable thoughts, exemplar of aging forwards, backwards, sideways and every-other-way, populating my life with innumerable friends, countless stories and unsolvable paradoxes, opener of a thousand doorways and companion at all ports and in all weathers.

Finally, there was the Field Commander. The Traitor, the Partisan. With his wry smile, his sad eyes and his unbelievable, almost smarmy charm, he taught me calmness, forbearance and the ability to find humor, even hilarity in the ravages of the heart. He framed my defeats in military, almost heroic terms and taught me that even retreat has its secret pleasures. He told me that the carnal and the profane were just as holy and as cathartic as the spiritual and the exalted.

These five men have ruled my heart, occasionally as an authoritative military junta, other times as a benevolent five man monarchy. And even though there has been something of a revolving presidency to this Board of Governors, I have always known who has had the final right of approval, the one to whom the others have always deferred because of his wisdom, his grace and his insight.

And now that wise, sweet, wicked, funny, morose man is no more. May he rest in peace. His place will forever remain in the committee, and his shall always be the final say. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Rest in Peace Edhi sa'ab ...

Arguably Pakistan's greatest citizen has passed away. May he rest in eternal paradise.

While everybody is taking to social media to mourn the loss of Edhi saab, there are more productive ways to express your grief.
1. Pray for him. Offer fateha, organize ghaibaana namaaz-e-janaaza or pray according to your own religious convictions.
2. Donate. Go to www.edhi.org and donate(You'll have to be patient, the website is crashing because of heavy traffic). It takes five minutes. Alternatively, drop off your contributions at one of the literally hundreds of thousands of Edhi donation boxes nationwide,
3. Think seriously about becoming an organ donor. Go to Transplantation Society of Pakistan's website http://tx-society-pk.org/ and look it up.
4. Try to emulate his example in your daily lives, every little act of kindness helps.
It would be a shame if the death of Pakistan's greatest citizen does not compel us to anything more than social media comisserations only

Friday, November 20, 2015

...Of Further Stops Along The Journey

It's coming on to a full year since my fateful journey of musical discovery, and like the Farsi verse, 'the intoxication still lingers in mine eyes'. Over the last year, the partners in crime have begun piecing together the journey into a coherent whole that will be ready for presentation soon. Till then, we've also been regularly releasing some of our favorite selections in audio and video on our Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud pages. There's also talk *hush hush* of a reprise of last year's journey this December. As a result, my levels of excitement have been on a wonderfully high plateau all year. There's also been the added benefit that I've been honing my rather shoddy translating skills with each video. Till there's new and more exciting news to share, here's a selection of some of my favorite recordings from our journey.

1. Al Ishqu Deeni Ma Dum'tu Haiyya - Taj Muhammad, Shad Muhammad Nasir Niazi Qawwal

2. Khayal In Raag Shahana - Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan

3. Surkh Aankhon Main Kajal Ke Doray - Ustad Ameer Ali Khan Qawwal

4. Maa Ra Ba Ghamza Kusht - Ustad Fareed Ayaz, Abu Muhammad Qawwal And Brothers

5. Khabaram Raseedah Imshab - Subhan Ahmed Nizami Qawwal And Brothers