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 24, 2007

.....Of Pain

Every one has their own waking up rituals.Some just jump off the bed,fresh as a daisy.Others lie there,waiting in vain for a miracle to turn back the clock just one more hour so they can snooze some more.With me,it's just a quick stretch and I'm off.Never again am I stretching after today !!!
Woke up today with no premonition of the coming agony.Was just stretching a bit when out of the blue,something went Pop in my right ear!!.Suddenly a whacking great flash of pain shot up from my toes upto my neck,and stayed there.I couldn't move my neck one bit and all I could do was shout out HOLY CRAAAAAPP !!!!.And a fat lot of help that did.I had sprained one of my neck muscles really bad,and it was hurting like the dickens.After a lot of swearing,wheezing and hefting,I managed to sit up straight,one arm supporting my neck,with the elbow jutting forward like a rocket launcher or something.I called up a friend,woke him from sleep and asked (yelled at) him to come and take me to the hospital.
Now I've been acquainted with pain from my earliest days.After having been shot twice while out boar hunting,bitten by a snake,putting my finger in a meat grinder out of curiosity and having it's tip chopped off (i was seven,for pete's sake),you'd think I would take this minor misfortune in my stride.But each kind of pain is different.Sometimes it's that slight sweet pain you get when you've got a light fever,a little flu and lot's of ovaltine to keep you company.Sometimes it's that horrid,mysterious pain that comes out of nowhere and forces you to stand utterly still and hope you've not busted you're guts or something.Sometimes it's that silly niggling pain that just won't let you play football.This was of a new kind.The kind where you are completely paralyzed and each slight movement is rewarded by an electric shock putting you back in your place...
Well,holding my head at an ungodly angle I headed out to the hospital,wincing at each speed breaker along the way.The doctor at the trauma centre took one look at me and decided that I was bluffing,so he decided to confirm.A simple F%^%&^%#@^%!*$^*%& !!!!!!!!!!!! radically changed his views,and taught him never to touch my neck again.With a vengeful look in his filthy,leering eyes,he handed me a prescription,all the while muttering "That'll teach you". An injection,aah well,I was expecting it.So I uncovered my arm and braced for the needle.But no,I wasn't getting off that easy."Lie down",said the sadistic doctor,and I reluctantly lay down with a horid premonition as he applied his needle to you know where.
So,as I write this,i find myself in the singularly unenviable position of simultaneously having a pain in the neck,and a pain in the a**e !!!

Song of the Week ;Diamonds And Rust by Joan Baez
Movie Of The Week;Gigi (perfectly horrid)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

...Containing a sonnet of sorts

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day
Thou art more lovely and more temperate....

So begins Shakespeare's Sonnet 18,one of the loveliest pices of poetry,at least in the English language.I usually read it with great pleasure,lost in the melliflous,meandering mass of words.But recently,I discovered the fact that a single piece of poetry can strike you differently in different moods.

A few days ago,while in a particularly foul mood,i read the above sonnet,picked up pen and paper,and composed one of my own.Technically,it could be called a sonnet,but only technically...

An empty breeze,a scentless limpid breeze
A mere nothingness,a limitless vaccuum.
From whence arrived,a' sailing 'cross the seas
The caravans of your sublime perfume.

Where once you walked,the wretched raven crows
Time scurries by,where once it stood so still.
Throughout my heart, a silent tempest blows
A sudden void,no sign of life ,no thrill.

But no regrets,I find no sense of shame
No weary sigh,no frown can mar my smile.
When through my heart,it flutters by; your name
Does bring some pain,but only for a while.

A life of loss,a weary state of mind
No other friend could give a gift so kind.

Pretty horrid,innit??
Just another endeavour towards spreading soul searing poetry(read mind numbing bilge) on the internet.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

...As I Lay Dying

The silent,sibilant stillness speaks
in whispers,as the furious moon gives chase
To countless wayward,weary
wandering stars.
Across the barren sky.

What I have here's a motley bunch
Of outcasts,outlaws.Unpossessed
They've gathered round to bide their time with me
Once more,just like those old,familiar times

These friends of mine,this pain,this sky,this weariness
This fear and longing,desperation.
Still sit with me awhile,as simply out of courtesy
I keep on entertaining them as I've done all my years.

So I lay still,afraid to stir
For fear that my unknowing,unwelcome steps
Might cause them all to flee away
And leave me once again,alone with just myself.

An age I've lived,an age of hope,of love,of compromises
A weary path I've trod throughout
My travels in this life.

And now,as with all journeys,long
Or short,mine too is near it's end.
But still I can't let go so quick,leave all these faded relics
My pain,My fears,My guilt,My doubts to make do by themselves.

They all beg me to linger long
To keep them company just like I used to long ago
But peace awaits,and slumber calls
And this new journey beckons.

It beckons me to leave them all
My hopes,my loves,my steady friends
To let the relics fade away,along with all the rest
As I set off to sail the skies,
Become a drifter once more.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

...Of Sombre Springs and Silent Movies

Springs upon us.Already the sun's taking liberties and the Narcissus is disappearing,lost in it's own beauty.A recent trip to Islamabad(documented in the last post) told me full well that winter's packing up,leaving stray yellowing leaves in its wake.In a few days,my beloved cold,foggy,sleet blown mornings will be a thing of the past,replaced by the summer sun,rising in all it's furious majesty,in Faiz's words,reawakening the wounds of the night like a dagger.
Every year,spring's the start of my own kind of spring fever.Now the image I gleaned of spring fever was from the Wodehouse novel of the same name.Namely,when the heart,weary of drudgery and routine,longs for some adventure,some romance,anything to get it out of the rut of daily existance.That's how most of the young,or young at heart,feel when the buds start a'blossomin'.But not yours truly...
Now,I know my tastes are slightly stranger than the average Joe,but in spring I go completely haywire.A strange brooding melancholy engulfs me.The desire to lie low and stay there's foremost thought on my mind.Spring turns my thoughts to Dostoevsky,Johnny Cash and Rafi singing "Tukde Hain Mere Dil Ke".I'm a confirmed introvert most of the time,but spring sees me outdo myself in introversion.Wonder why???

Last night I returned from a shopping trip from a dvd shop that'd been raided a month earlier for copyright infringement.As it was the only shop in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad region that catered to my taste in films,the closure had hit me hard.But as soon as I saw it's bright neon flashing again,I made a beeline for it.After spending a whole lotta cash,I took my stash back to my hostel,where it was inspected by one of my dorm mates,who immediately declared me unfit for human consumption.The reason...my stash was full of silent movies.
Now why do I find these relics of a technologically deficient past so enticing?Why do those grainy three reelers hold me spellbound for hours upon end?Can I find a reason??
Yes I can,several in fact..But I won't be sharing 'em now.Some other time,when I'm fresh from seeing Nosferatu or Metropolis or Intolerance, you lot will be lucky enough to hear my views.

Song Of The Week: Ye Ab Aap Sochiye(Rafi and Asha)
Movie Of The Week: Bringing Up Baby
Discovery Of The Week: The Spellbinding Hiking Track In F7 Islamabad

Monday, March 12, 2007

...Of Yesterday

I woke up in a pretty foul mood.What with a cosmic mix-up of fate and circumstance,I wasn't allowed to go home on the weekend.The prospect of a whole sunday of idleness had turned my thoughts ugly and I was just lying down again,with the hope of drowning my grouch in sleep,when my phone rang.It was a friend of mine,telling me that a coupla guys were heading out to Islamabad to shoot a movie and I could tag along if I wanted to.Talk about Manna from heaven...

Took me 5 minutes to change,and while i was busy sprucing up,suddenly,I sensed a subtle change..It started with the faint patter of spring rain,then came the heady scent of rain-kist earth,and to top it off,the radio started playing Paper Moon by Ella Fitzgerald !! There was some hope in this world after all..

We set off on a trip that I count among some of the best I have ever undertaken.If I ever get to heaven(a pretty thin chance,if ever there was one),here's how I'd like it to be;

Driving along Kashmir Highway,with the spruce leaves turning bright red.Cold splashy rain drumming on the car roof,and the radio playing "Mere Dil Ke Taar" by Mehdi Hassan,followed by "Neend Mujhe na Aaye",by Hemant and Lata.I hope someone up there's noting down my order...
We alighted on the foot of the Margallas.While waiting for the rest of the filmmaking crew,we hiked up one of the hills.Again a glimpse of paradise,yellow leaves falling and flailing in the wind,the steady rain poking through my clothes and Naseem Begum singing "Dil chaahta Hai Mera,Kho Jayen HumYahaan"...
When the rest of the lot arrived,we set up shop.Me and the friend of mine got drafted in as extras,henchmen of a mafia don,complete with the necessary shades and firearms.All we had to do was follow the Don,grimace a bit and tote our guns,but yours truly hasn't won the Worst Acting Oscar three years in a row for nothing.
I was gleefully smiling all the way,winking at the camera. Then ther was a scene of me being gunned down by a sniper.Since I was wearing a borrowed jacket for that one,I rolled around pretty liberally till said jacket was dripping wet.Unfortunately,my jeans had also gotten moist in some pretty strategic locations(if you know what I mean).Once again the jacket came in handy.I can tell you from experience,there ain't no better absorbent tha a Vicuna jacket if you want to wipe your.....erm,you get the picture.
Then,saying goodbye to the filming crew,I headed off to do some shopping.Now the type of shopping I do merits my friends' name for me: "Maghaz".I set off to a record store and got my hands on some cds I had been looking for for ages.Since it was getting pretty late,and the rain wasn't letting up,and we hadn't eaten anything since last night,my friend's exhortions to speed it up were getting more and more vorciforous.But you can't drag a kid out of a candy store that easily,can you..
Having ditched 'em,enjoying the rain,my eyes caught sight of a "rare dvds" rack in a shop,and i zeroed in.Imagine my surprise when there,stacked before my eyes,was a bunch of DVDs I had been searching for since Time Immemorial !!! Boy,did I gobble 'em up!
Half an hour later,having spent 1700 of my hard earned cash,toting my shopping bags,I headed back.But sweet Mother Nature wasn't done spreading sweetness and light.On the way back,there was the same rain,the same brilliant foliage,and the radio outdid itself by playing Lata's "Mausam Hai Aashqaana".
As I lay down to sleep,with the steady rain knocking on my window,a happy dilemma presented itself.Should I fall aslumber with Nat King Cole palying Honeysuckle Rose.Or should Duke Ellington lull me to sleep with Mood Indigo.Or Should I let Joan Baez pray for me to stay Forever Young.In the end,I gave in to temptation and fell asleep with Ustad Barkat Ali Khan singing "Dono Jahaan Teri Mohabbat Main Haar Ke"
But that was Yesterday.....

My shopping list,if anyone's interested;
Cds by Joan Baez,Nat King Cole,Duke Ellington and A Faiz collection
Dvds,Bringing Up Baby,Two Marx Brothers flicks,Arsenic And Old Lace and the original Ladykillers...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

....Of Teeth And Such

I've got an old picture of mine,taken when I was an unsuspecting two year old(a pretty dirty trick,if you ask me).And I wince when i see it.No,no it aint one of those with the poor unsuspecting subject caught with his pants down(or in my case,with his pants off),though i've got plenty of those.It aint the one where i look like something outta a David Lynch horror movie,again my album's full of 'em too.It's just a simple portrait,me in my red overalls,digging in our lawn in Abbottabad,flashing my teeth like someone on the toot of a lifetime.The problem is that the teeth i'm flashing are,......wait for it,PURPLE !!!

Now how did that happen?Perhaps a freak radiation accident that turned me into "Maroon Molars Man" instead of Spiderman?A heady sip of Parker Ink?or a bite into an unsuspecting beetle(had many of those too)?Not really.It's a long story...

When I was born,my parents heard strange growling and shreiking sounds when I breathed.Worried(so would I be if i'da given birth to a tea kettle),they took me to a doctor who,in a moment of divine inspiration,diagnosed me with Asthma! Then started my parents' desperate hunt for a cure.Doctors,Peers,Hakeems, even Vets were tried,but to no avail.

And here's where my purple teeth come in.You see,when I was brought to the hospital,one of the more intelligent doctors found an excellent way to dispose off all the expired antibiotics that'd been piling up.Namely,to pump me full of 'em!!I was fed,injected and infused with gallons of the stuff,and in three months,the hospital stock was clear and my teeth were a rather lovely aquamarine.

Ultimately,the verdict delivered was that it'd wear off with age.As i'd grow older,the breathing would change in pattern from a rather sozzled Wildebeast to a wee little purring feline and ultimately become normal.Talk about the hoax of the century!!I'm gonna be twenty on Monday,and as i write,I've got my inhaler by my side and my breathing's as quiet as two hippopotamuses fighting it out on a sheet of tin in an earthquake...

It's not just the sounds.I could live with my own personal jazz band in my chest.It's the breathing itself that's turning my hairs white.Only an asthmatic(or a resident of Karachi) can understand the feeling when you inhale hard enough to bust your guts and no air comes in.And the exhaling's a whole different story....

Thursday, March 1, 2007

....Concerning Pity

In my last post I put forth a strange proposition.If anyone's got a sharp memory,they'll recall that I was propoundin' my views about pity and I said that my pity goes to the faded star...

In explanation i'll recall to mind Coleridge's Kubla Khan:
'For he ,who on honey dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise...'
That's how i characterize celebrities and anyone who's ever been in the Public Eye.Once you've tasted that moonshine,the taste lingers.public idolation's a heady drug,and the high stops the moment people move on to the next Big Thing !! And where does this leave Mr. yesterday? ....hung in the limbo of part fantasy,part realization that things sure ain't what they used to be,and part plain shock!!We all know that artists,or artistes if you prefer,are sensitive folk and this hits hard,real hard.

Remember Alexander and the Fountain Of Life,remember the weary,aged destitute wrecks who had tasted it in their folly,doomed to live for eons.Remember Sunset Boulevard,that eerie,horrific reminder of the ill-effects of celebrity and the lengths an appreciation starved mind can go to,to preserve any vestige of the Glory Days.Remember Mae West,with her face held up by copper wire,surrounded by paid gay hombres just to show the world that men still drooled over her.

Don't have to go far,the Land Of The Pure's self-sufficient in crumbling artifacts of celebrity,the people that time forgot! Remember Pathaaney Khan,Roohi Bano,Mujeeb Alam,Allan Faqeer anyone ??

That brings me back to my original rant,the Oscars.I was searching for the new object of my pity,the person who'd have his one chance at immortality and see it slip through his fingers,just to join that long list of "Guest Appearances By:" actors.Surprisingly,my eye set on Peter O' Toole.Now I know he ain't a Noboby,but the old lion didn't win even after his eighth nomination.With films like Lawrence Of Arabia,Lord Jim etc. behind his back,he's almost gauranteed legend status(something that's fallen into overuse these days).But I could see the longing,the hope and the ultimate dissapointment in his devilishly Irish(but faded and grey) eyes...

Song Of The Week : Talking Dust Bowl Blues,Woody Guthrie

Film Of The Week : It Happened One Night