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 .

Sunday, April 20, 2008

...Of Men,Old And Old

(This is the second in a series of posts written in a single sitting to make up for lost time.)

-"In my heliotrope pyjamas with the old gold stripe..."

Read that line.Read it again and then tell me if it isn't the finest line you've ever read.Evelyn Waugh compared it to the best passages of Hamlet,Hilaire Belloc called it's writer "The best living writer in the English language".Plum wrote it.P.G. Wodehouse.

I sat down to write tonight after two horrid weeks of examinations.There had been divers things that needed writnhg,but, a) I didn't have time during the exams and b) they were tiny snippets of fleeting thoughts and afternoon-slumber-dreams that didn't warrant a full post.But the one thing they had in common was that they all were,how shall I put it....gentlemen advanced in years.

Old men.

This is a bit complicated.Most of the people I'm going to write about must have been young at some point in their lives (?),but my memory of them developed as old men.Take Plum,for example.Born in 1881,he must have been young till,shall we say 1921 (stretching it to breaking point),and I've got photographs to prove it.But the Plum I remember is ninety one years old.Living peacefully in Remsenberg,NY;working on his ninety-sixth novel.Aah well,that must be what Pavlov meant about conditioning.

What follows is a series of snippets about various men who have been profoundly close to my heart,and still are.Men I've grown up seeing,or discovered after they had passed away.Let me start with the youngest one first.

-Dildar Pervez Bhatti.I hope somebody still remembers him.I had a dream about him five days ago,during what might be termed as a power-nap.Strange,but not very out-of-the-ordinary,considering the fact that he was one of my childhood heroes.I was born a bit too late for his "Takra" days on PTV,(aah what stage shows they had on PTV in those days,sigh),but I was old enough to watch "Panjnad",and what a show that was.

Fronted by Bhatti,always in a blue Shalwar Kameez-dark waistcoat combo or something similar,looking half like a stock mad professor from a Hammer film,with his half bald-half Jewfro hair,this show was the tops.Considering it was considered part of the regional broadcast timeslot,the quality of the program and the guests that were on it were unbelievable.My favorite memory,also the funniest is of the time Munnoo Bhai was on the show.

I'm pretty sure it won't sound half as funny in English,but the exchange went something like this.

Dildar,"Tell me,what does your wife call you at home? Munnoo ??"
M.B,"Nope.She calls me.....dildaar !"

I don't have much to remember Bhatti by.There's a fourteen years old "Women's Own" magazine lying about my village home with Bhatti on the cover.

And then there's my crazy dreams...

......This series will continue intermittently,laziness permitting......

Saturday, April 19, 2008

....Of Splendour In The Grass

(This is the first in a series of blogs written in a single sitting,making up for lost time)

It's purely by chance that truely astounding things get discovered.I can name countless examples.Wodehouse,Dylan,that wonderful Tikka shop near the hostels,Spike Milligan;almost everything dropped right out of the blue.Well,technically Khattak Tikka House doesn't count,because I was darned hungry.But two weeks ago,something similar happened.Sordid,but beautiful.

Every time I have exams,the impish desire to quit studying and do something a bit more howshallisay,worthwhile,gets the best of me.It's always led me to trouble.Case in point,finishing the complete Sherlock Holmes a day before my Matriculation Physics paper,thus dishing any chance I may have had of getting respectable grades.It was exam time again,and I was playing hookey like nobody's business.

It was Saturday night,exams in four days,and I was odling around online.There wasn't anything special to do,so I wound up at a forum.It was a place where I'd go for rare old Bollywood songs,and the folks there had always obliged.I was just sluicing among the topics when I chanced upon "Mubarak Begum Needs Help".

"It's just another chain message,hoping for some poor sod to click and get his PC infected",I thought.Usually I don't go poking around such messages but I thought,what the heck.As it turned out,it wasn't a chain mail,but something completely different.

It was a piece about an old Indian playback singer,Mubarak Begum,who had fallen on hard times.It seems she had sung a handful of songs back in the fifties and early sixties but hadn't been exceedingly popular.These days,she was living in utter squalor in Mumbai.Her son was a taxicab driver,and his meagre earnings,along with the little bit that some old fan sent along once in a while,were all that she and her forty year old Alzhiemer's ridden daughter were living on.

Now I think I wrote a blog post on how I feel about faded celebrities,or faded artists shall we say.So I read the piece with the usual cynical pity.Having read on,I learned that the folks on the forum( now that's a good name for a band,Folks On The Forum.Or a radio show...) were trying to get some money collected for her.

At the end of the page,there was brief mention of her two or three better known songs.It turned out I had one of them,but it was incorrectly credited to Lata.Having nothing better to do,I googled one of her songs,put it on download and went off for my midnight snack (which is usually more of a midnight banquet).It being Abbottabad and the connection being Dial-Up,I had finished my sizeable meal by the time the song got downloaded.

It was almost 3 AM,the witching hour,when I wrapped the blanket tighter around me and played the song.It started with a scratchy,haunting flute piece with background violins.On came the voice,and off went my senses.Goosebumps all over my body,I didn't have time to hitch up my sagging jaw as waves upon waves of that sublime voice hit me.It was almost electric,the tingling I felt.And suddenly,the reality of it hit me.This voice,this honest-to-goshdarn voice was the one that was down among the wine and spirits.Normally emotions need a face to associate with,with me it varies.I had seen her picture in the piece bout her,but apart from the aforementioned pangs of helpless pity,nothing else came forth.

But now I had a voice to go with that face,those termite ridden walls and that invalid daughter of hers.My normally lazy mind started whirring,a quick mental calculation of the contents of my bank account and I was decided.A modest wire transfer and my conscience could rest,while my ears attuned themselves to "Kabhi Tanhaiyon Main Yun Hamari Yaad Aayegi"...

Song Of The Week,"Raag Bhimpalas",Ustad Bare Ghulam Ali Khan.
Books of The Week,"Robbins' Pathology",J.E Park's "Community And Public Health",Renu Jogi's "Basic Ophthalmology".Dhingra's "Ear,Nose And Throat".