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 .

Thursday, February 28, 2008

....Of Mourning

How do you mourn for someone ?
Someone you met barely once or twice,
But wished that you knew all your life.

How do you mourn when your senses have been shot ?
And your eyes,unaccustomed to tears,
Suddenly gush forth in silent agony.

How can you cry,when you know you can't ?
When your resolve is all that stands between;
A shattered friend and his tears.

How can you grieve for Father ?
For his children,your brothers and sisters,
With their eyes empty,yet o'erflowing.

How can you reconcile your mind ?
When you know there won't be any closure,
When your heart will never accept it.

How can you comfort a brother ?
Whose burden is much worse than yours,
And yet you can't imagine anything worse than what you feel.

How can you keep the nightmares away ?
When all you see is your own flesh and blood,
Irrecognizable in the fog of your fevered mind.

How can you banish the Black Dog ?
As it snarls,as it slinks,sinks down in your heart,
And you know that it's going to be a long spring.


In Loving Memory.....Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Baig,may he find eternal paradise.
May Allah grant Imran and all his family the strength to get through this horrendous time.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

....Of Munich '58

I have a knack for doing things in reverse.





Take Dylan, for example.I was a Dylan fan way before I had heard him sing.Way before that in fact.I had stumbled upon an article about him,gotten hooked and began to dug deep. I read up everything I could get my hands on,which wasn't very much I must admit.But it gave me an idea of what I was in for before I was floored by Like A Rolling Stone. I'm pretty sure that if I'd heard that brilliant nasal drone unawares,my experience would have been quite different.





I am a football freak,as any friend of mine would tell you.I support Manchester United..(the understatement of the century),have done so for at least ten years now.The first United match I saw was eight years ago.(He's loony,you say...and I don't blame you).





The same lopsided logic applies here.It wasn't the football United played that attracted me.Niether did the fact that they were the most successful and entertaining side in the world while I was growing up in the nineties.Or the fact that by the time I started following them religiously,they had won,or were on the verge of winning just about every trophy you could name.





The reason I fell in love with United was...Munich.





At the end of the Second World War,United were a struggling club ; almost bankrupt,their stadium badly bombed,without a full time manager.That's when they hit a rich vein of luck by signing a Scotsman, a former Manchester City and Liverpool player as manager.His name was Matt Busby.He inherited a football team in a very sad state,but he set about remedying it.The key word was Youth.Lads in school,or just out of school with a knack for playing fast,attacking,entertaining football.





A team was quickly built,and the work began.They won the FA cup in 1948,defeating a strong Blackpool side.Four years later,they were League champions.As the first great post-war team was maturing,the plan kicked into overdrive and the first batch of youngsters got signed.This batch was already proving to be outstanding,having won the FA Youth Cup an astonishing five times.Roger Byrne,Jackie Blanchflower,Bill Foulkes,Mark Jones,David Pegg,Liam Whelan,Eddie Colman and Duncan Edwards joined the first team,a product of the United youth and scouting program.





Something magical happened,this team of young lads turned into the leanest football machine in England.They won the League in 1956.And again in 1957.And they didn't just win it,they won it with style,with pace and attacking vigor that had never before been seen.They were not just a team anymore.,They were Matt Busby's little bounders.They were The Busby Babes !!





If ever they're playing in your town,


You must get to that football ground,


Take a look and you will see,


Football taught by Matt Busby.


Manchester,


Manchester United,


A bunch of bouncing Busby babes,


They deserve to be knighted.





So goes a famous terrace song,"Manchester Calypso"





But winning in England was just the beginning.There was a new adventure just beginning...Europe. England had long considered itself the home of football,and somewhat scorned upon the rest of the football playing world.The notion that since they had invented the game,they were by default the best team,was shattered when the Hungarians-The Mighty Magyars-,thrashed them at Wembley,England's home ground.English football had retreated into a Europhobic shell by the time the Babes arrived,but European club football was just starting.





The English Football Association-The FA-,myopically prohibited any English club from playing in Europe.But Matt Busby defied them and entered Manchester United in the european Cup.The Babes' first European game was at home to Belgian club Anderlecht.There was apprehension as to how the kids from England would faare against European opposition.But all those fears were allayed as the Babes licked Anderlecht 10-0.The adventure was on.





They reached the semi-final in their first attempt,ultimately losing to eventual winners Real Madrid in an entertaining encounter.But the stage was set,the torch had been lit and the Babes were ready for another try,confident that this time they could go all the way.1958 began on a positive note.Slow and steady,the Babes were advancing on three fronts.They were onthe way to reclaiming their third League title,were still in the FA cup,and had just won the first leg of the European Cup quarter final against Red Star Belgrade (Crevna Zvevda).





Full of anticipation,the team set out to Yugoslavia for the return leg of the match.On 6th February,1958,after a very intriguing game,they drew 3-3,thus ensuring a place in the semi final against AC Milan of Italy.The second Semi-Final in the second attempt.This time,there was a genuine hope that this team,whose average age was just 22,would go all the way.They flew back to England on a twin-propeller Elizabethan aircraft.With a blizzard raging,they had to stop at Munich to refuel.A quick refuel later,they were ready to take off.A first attempt failed,so did a second one.





There were thoughts about abandoning the trip for the day and heading back on the next,but the captain decided against it.The runway was covered with ice and slush,the wings were iced over.and there was heavy snowing when the plane set off for the third time.The plane set off,and just before the wheels left the tarmac,the plane skidded,slipped and crashed into a barrier.One of it's wings hit the side of a house and the plane caught fire.As survivors dragged themselves out of the burning wreckage,the greatest tragedy in english football had unfolded.

At 3.04 PM on 6th February 1958,23 people died,including eight of the Busby Babes-Geoff Bent,Roger Byrne,Eddie Colman,Mark Jones,David Pegg,Tommy Taylor and Billy Whelan.In addition,three club officials,Walter Crickmer,Tom Curry and Bert Whalley also perished,along with the plane staff and some journalists.The greatest football team in England was no more.





Duncan Edwards,Big Brilliant Dunc followed fifteen days later,after valiantly struggling for life,even saying that he was ready for the next match,two days before he passed away.Matt Busby,the manager,badly injured,struggled on.His injuries were so severe that he was twice given his Last Rites.



Back in England,the country was in shock.The whole of England,irrespective of club loyalties,was in mourning for the bunch of young lads who had set football ablaze with their own brand of football.The loss to Manchester United,and to British football was immense.Most of the Babes were playing for their national teams,and were a symbol of hope for the international tournaments to come.The crash not only deprived United of their greatest team,but also cost England the world cups of 1958 and 1962,which would have had entirely different outcomes if the likes of the great Duncan Edwards had played.

The story wasn't over yet,in a scene unimaginable today,United had to play their next competitive match just 13 days later.An immobile Matt Busby told assistant manager Jimmy Murphy,"Keep the flag flying,Jimmy".In barely two weeks,Murphy managed to string together a team that included survivors still recovering from the trauma,reserve team players and hastily bought replacements.This team astonishingly reached the final of the FA cup,before losing to Bolton 2-1 in an emotional final as Matt Busby,in crutches,watched from the sidelines.


Busby was the one who suffered the most.He head seen these kids grow up,and he considered himself responsible for the disaster by ignoring the FA's orders and playing in Europe.These feelings stayed with him for many years,while he rebuilt Manchester United from the ground up,just as he had done after the war.This resurgence was finally complete when,10 years after the crash,United beat Benfica from Portugal 4-1 at Wembley to finally lift the European Cup which they had set out for way back in 1957.Matt Busby was knighted that year for his services to football.This was the ultimate fruit of Busby's labours,it also served as his great catharsis....


That was the story that turned me into a United fan,and as I watched United win against Munich that night in 1999 in the greatest European final ever,my journey was complete.It would have been Sir Matt's 90'th birthday if he was alive,but it served as the greatest birthday gift nonetheless.

I am still a United fan;I miss classses to watch them play,skip marriages and functions,scream my head off when we score a goal(just ask my neighbours),and sulk for days when we lose.But Munich is still special.And every year,when the 6th of February comes nearer,I go through my collection of articles,videos and photos,and -call me asentimental sod if you will-get almost teary eyed.This year was the 50th anniversary of the crash.The club commemorated it splendidly,the fans did their part brilliantly,while I sit here typing my own silent remembrance.


Here's to the Babes.....The Flowers Of Manchester !!


Books Of The Month...Among The Thugs.Bill Buford.The Compulsive Spike Milligan.
Movies Of The Month...I'm Not There,Atonement,Sweeney Todd,There Will Be Blood.
Songs Of The Month....Bob Dylan And Wynton Marsalis,Jazz In New York City (Bootleg)