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 .

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

.....Of My Favorite Qawwali (So Far)

My "proper" introduction to Qawwali almost a year ago has, to put it mildly, changed my life. Going from the Sabri Brothers to Nusrat to the Qawwal Bacchon Ka Gharaana and Haji Mehboob Qawwal of Golra Sharif among many others; I've been exposed to some of the greatest music ever to come out of Pakistan. I can never, and I mean NEVER adequately express my gratitude to the friends of mine who introduced me "properly" to Qawwali.

Some artists, recordings, kalaams and compositions have naturally moved me more than others, and unless something truly earth-shaking comes my way, I've picked out my favorites and will probably stick with them for a long while.

In many ways, I've found Qawwali to be akin to jazz, mainly that it's a players', rather than a composer's art. The "songbook" is immense,with sources ranging from Arabic,Persian,Urdu,Brij bhaasha,Hindi, Punjabi and almost all sub-continental languages. The main difference between the performers is their unique melodic improvisation and the use of "girah" or "bandish" to expound the main theme of the piece they're singing. A person as lazy as me will never be able to explain all the sometimes minute variations that make each Qawwal unique, but I think if I let them speak for themselves, as it were, it'll be best.

 Right now, "Manam Mehve Jamaale Oo", a kalaam,of Hazrat Bu Ali Shah Qalandar, is probably my favorite kalaam in the Qawwali repertoire, and a lot of Qawwals have performed it in their own unique way. Below are three of my favorite versions by three of my favorite Qawwals. It'll be pretty clear how each Qawwal gives his own special "signature to the kalaam.

  First off is the version by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party, taken from the "Last Studio Recordings" release. It's ironic that while most of Nusrat's traditional Qawwali work (as opposed to his "commercial" releases) from the last decade of his life did not get the recording treatment it deserved, his very last recordings are a joy to listen to. The fidelity is brilliant, and Nusrat and his Hamnavaas are in a (sadly rare in his last days) brilliant groove. Nusrat changes the first verse from "Manam Mehve Jamale Oo" to "Manam Mehve Khayaale Oo", but otherwise it's a pretty faithful rendition. The behlaawas,sargams and taans, for which Nusrat was justly famous, are all here, making it a brilliant rendition.

Next is a version by Haji Mehboob Qawwal, the darbaari Qawwal of Golra Shareef. Haji sahab is probably in my top two favorite Qawwals. Nusrat once said about him," Girah main Haji sahab ke muqaable ka Qawwal is duniya main nahi hai."  Haji sahab did not record commercially, the precious little of his work that keeps trickling down to his admirers is from bootleg recordings made by the zaaireen at the Golra Shareef shrine who attended the daily morning Qawwali mehfils that are still regularly held there. His work can best be described as a "wa'az", a spiritual instruction imparted through the medium of Qawwali, and as you can hear, the girahs he inserts in the main kalaam act to expound and explain the subject at hand. In Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic and Persian; the variety of couplets that he recites throughout the qawwali serve to enlighten the listeners even if they can't understand the language of the main text.

  The recording on the playlist comes off as a revelation if you compare it with the original master recordings on cassette, the result of a painstaking and extremely ambitious conservation project started by some friends of mine who are admirers of Haji sahab's work. The task of cleaning up, digitizing, enhancing, cataloging and transcribing all of Haji Sahab's recorded work is an arduous task, but they've taken it up gladly and the results are astounding to say the least. To me, just the joy of being able to Haji Sahab playing the sitar in accompaniement to his Qawwalis is more than enough compensation for the hours and hours of work put in.
The final version of the kalaam is probably my favorite. Performed by Ustad Bahauddin Qawwal and Party in 1998, this concert recording perfectly embodies the elements that define the "Qawwal Bacchon Ka Gharaana"; the oldest and greatest pedigree of Qawwals. A beautiful arrangement, different from the previous two, adds a serenity and majesty to the kalaam that is absent from other versions. There are no girahs to speak of, no extra taans or behlaawas, and the sheer economy of the piece, along with Ustad Bahauddin's unique voice and his sons' vocal virtuosity brings out new meanings from the verses. The quality of the recording isn't exceptional, with the voices getting slightly screechy in the higher register, but still, it is brilliant.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

....Of One Final Meme

Found this here, one of my favorite film blogs.

Bold movies you have watched and liked.
Turn red movies you have watched and loved.
Italicize movies you saw and didn’t like.
Leave as is movies you haven’t seen.
Blue for movies you may or may not have seen but don’t care about one way or the other.
No other comments.

The Godfather (1972)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Casablanca (1942)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Star Wars (1977)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Rear Window (1954)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Goodfellas (1990)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
City of God (2002)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Psycho (1960)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Citizen Kane (1941)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
North by Northwest (1959)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Fight Club (1999)
Memento (2000)

Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
The Matrix (1999)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Se7en (1995)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
American Beauty (1999)

Vertigo (1958)
Amélie (2001)
The Departed (2006)
Paths of Glory (1957)
American History X (1998)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Chinatown (1974)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The Third Man (1949)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Alien (1979)
The Pianist (2002)
The Shining (1980)
Double Indemnity (1944)
L.A. Confidential (1997)

Leben der Anderen, Das [The Lives of Others] (2006)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Boot, Das (1981)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Forrest Gump (1994)

Metropolis (1927)
Aliens (1986)
Raging Bull (1980)
Rashomon (1950)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Rebecca (1940)
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Sin City (2005)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
All About Eve (1950)

Modern Times (1936)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
The Great Escape (1963)
Amadeus (1984)
On the Waterfront (1954)
Touch of Evil (1958)
The Elephant Man (1980)
The Prestige (2006)
Vita è bella, La [Life Is Beautiful] (1997)
Jaws (1975)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The Sting (1973)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The Apartment (1960)
City Lights (1931)
Braveheart (1995)

Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Batman Begins (2005)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Blade Runner (1982)
The Great Dictator (1940)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Notorious (1946)
Salaire de la peur, Le [The Wages of Fear](1953)
High Noon (1952)
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Fargo (1996)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Unforgiven (1992)
Back to the Future (1985)

Ran (1985)
Oldboy (2003)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Donnie Darko (2001)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The Green Mile (1999)

Annie Hall (1977)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Gladiator (2000)
The Sixth Sense (1999)

Diaboliques, Les [The Devils] (1955)
Ben-Hur (1959)
It Happened One Night (1934)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Life of Brian (1979)
Die Hard (1988)
The General (1927)
American Gangster (2007)
Platoon (1986)
V for Vendetta (2005)
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
The Graduate (1967)
The Princess Bride (1987)
Crash (2004/I)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Heat (1995)
Gandhi (1982)
Harvey (1950)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The African Queen (1951)
Stand by Me (1986)
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Conversation (1974)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Wo hu cang long [Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ] (2000)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Cabinet des Dr. Caligari., Das [The Cabinet of Dr Caligari] (1920)
The Thing (1982)
Groundhog Day (1993)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Sleuth (1972)
Patton (1970)
Toy Story (1995)
Glory (1989)
Out of the Past (1947)
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Ed Wood (1994)
Spartacus (1960)
The Terminator (1984)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Exorcist (1973)
Frankenstein (1931)
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
The Hustler (1961)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
The Lion King (1994)
Big Fish (2003)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Young Frankenstein (1974)

Magnolia (1999)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
In Cold Blood (1967)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Roman Holiday (1953)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Casino (1995)
Manhattan (1979)
Ying xiong [Hero] (2002)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Rope (1948)
Cinderella Man (2005)
The Searchers (1956)
Finding Neverland (2004)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
His Girl Friday (1940)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

So, there you have it. I would've commented and clarified, but as the rules say, no further comments.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

....Of An Eid Unlike Any Other

   I won't beat about the bush, yesterday was Eid and it was brilliant. Not in the bountiful-meaty-goodness wali brilliant, the sitting-16-hours-in-front-of-the-PC brilliant.

  Ever since I've become enamoured of Qawwali, my hunter-gatherer instincts have resurged with an intensity not seen since the heady days of trying to download EVERY Dylan song I could find. With Qawwali, I have been trying in vain to collect recordings of some of the "ancients"; the pre-partition qawwals who were instrumental in establishing the popularity of recorded devotional music in the sub-continent.

 A bunch of very good friends dose out (very stingily) recordings of Mehboob Qawwal one or two mehfils per month; more on that in another post, but mostly I am left to scour messageboards, forums,Youtube and storage sites in search of anythin I can find. The sad bit is that there is precious little authentic research apart from the important work done by Professor Regula Qureshi. Special mention must go to her book, Sufi Music Of India And Pakistan; Sound, Context And Meaning In Qawwali; which will probably be the ONLY book I take with me to PMA.

 I've been hopping from website to website for a long long time with occasional success, but yesterday I hit the jackpot. Just like Spotify and it's promise of almost unlimited music, I stumbled onto a collection of ginormous scope, linked in a network with several other similar treasure troves. What I've found cannot be discussed at great length, but the absolute joy and awe I felt at listening to one of the earliest recording ever made in the subcontinent,and especially the absolutely delightful last 10 seconds , an 11 year old Ustad Salamat Ali Khan singing in praise of the Maharaja of Champanagar after the latter had completed a successful military campaign; a recording which redefines the phrase "child prodigy", and countless countless others is hard to put into words.

  Three magnificent recordings of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's father and uncle, half a dozen each of recordings of three of the most important qawwals from the earliest days of sound in India, a few of which feature a young and immensely talented Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri in his early days....... I have goosebumps just writing about them. If only I had gotten here a few days earlier, I would've had time to properly sift through the massive horde. But the urgency brought on by having to leave for PMA in 5 days (sigh) has brought on an odd,frenzied state where I'm exhausting myself from the hours spent in front of the PC, trying to taste if not digest, as much as I can.

 |Lets hope my taste buds can bear the strain.



"I sat by a stream and asked it;
'Why is it that you swallow up everything;
From the largest rocks to the tiniest needles,
But this broken branch floats on you,
When everything else drowns.'

"The stream thought a while, and spoke
'Do you think I am so heartless, so as to drown
Something that I have nourished with my own lifeblood ?'|"

Iqbal (or as they call him in Iran, Sheikh Eghbale Lahori). "Israare Khudi"

Friday, November 20, 2009

...Of Slight Surreality

 The Race Course jogging track here in Pindi is right next to the Army Graveyard, and right next to them is a huge bare piece of ground where at least 50 different groups of kids are playing cricket from sunrise to sunset. I usually jog there for half an hour every evening in a futile effort to lose some flab. The jogging track has at least twenty odd speakers hung on trees, all piping out meant-to-be-soothing Muzak that I'm blissfully unaware of thanks to my iPod.

 I don't think I need to tell anyone that The Big Lebowski is one of the best films ever made, and whoever put out the entire audio track of the movie out as a series of mp3 clips is a friggin' genius. I usually listen to the film as I jog. Today as I was coming out of the jogging track, with the last few minutes of the film playing in my ears, one of my favorite bits of dialogue came on ;

“Well I guess that’s how the whole darned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands of time"

 At that I took off my earbuds and saw a scene that might have come straight out of Lebowski. The jogging track speakers were blaring Muzak at full volume as a funeral was going on in the Graveyard. Just then one of the many batsmen at the cricket ground hit the ball high into the air, falling right onto the earthly remains of the deceased, lying on a charpaai in front of the congregation. 

.....Well, I guess that’s how the whole darned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands of time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

.....Of Nothing in Particular

 I saw Khalida Riyasat on TV today.

 She was laughing, but her eyes weren't.

 I miss Khalida Riyasat.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

...Of A Week In Rehab

A week ago, when my finals were cut short mid-way and I was sent home because of the deteriorating security situation, I was none too pleased. This was in contrast to most of my classmates who thought that after a tough and slightly dispiriting start to the exams, a break was just what the doctor ordered.I however, didn't like a break in the tempo that I had grudgingly built up over the previous 20 days or so, plus I thought of a 10 day hiatus as only dragging the misery to beyond stretching point. On top of that, the elaborate plans I'd made for the post-exam holidays were in danger of getting mangled, most importantly the biannual pilgrimage to Lahore.

Therefore, I came home grumpy and planned to stay that way for the duration. There was, naturally no plan to study the first few days, and I was hard-pressed to come up with something to do over these ten days. I knew I could read two or three books over the next 5-6 days, but 20 days buried nose-deep in books had put me off the printed word for a while. Going out was out too, with every day bringing news of further bloodshed.

That's when I decided to go on a binge.

I have been downloading movies incessantly over the past six months or so, and with supply dwarfing demand, a huge backlog had built up. Plus I had several new ones on download too. The problem I have with movies is the same one Bill Bailey has with jokes, I lose commitment and tend to bail out on them. I have stacks upon stacks of DVDs, each chock-full of stuff I've downloaded but haven't had the time or the perseverence to sit through them. This was the perfect time however, to take the plunge. I substituted my 18-hour study sessions with 18-hour movie marathons, re-watching old favorites and discovering new ones. It is safe to say that I have absorbed more genius (and done more irreparable damage to my eyes) in the last 5 or 6 days than I've done ever before.

Now, as I head back to my hostels to get back to the nitty gritty, I can take stock of all the stuff I've watched and congratulate myself on so successfully flushing all the medical nonsense of the last 20 days clear out of my head, leaving me fresh and ready to finish the task ahead.

Here then, in a semi-organized form, is a list of everything I've watched in the last 6 days.If anyone wants a copy of any of these, I'd be very happy to oblige, after my exams are over, of course.


1. House MD, Season 6, Episodes 1-5

2.Parks & Recreation, Season 2, Episodes 1-5


4.Coraline,Henry Selick

5.The Nightmare Before Christmas,Henry Selick

6.Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea,Hayao Miyazaki

7.Mien Liebster Friend-"My Best Friend",Werner Herzog

8.La Salaire De La Peur-"The Wages Of Fear",Henri-Georges Clouzot

9.The Battle Of Algiers,Gillo Pontecorvo

10.Do Bigha Zameen,Bimal Roy

11. The Apu Trilogy,Satyajit Ray

12. Awara,Raj Kapoor

13. The Usual Suspects,Bryan Singer

14.Glengarry Glen Ross,James Foley

15.Network, Sidney Lumet

16.Double Indemnity,Billy Wilder

17.High Noon,Fred Zinneman

18.Tenacious D in The Pick Of Destiny,Liam Lynch

19.A Fish Called Wanda,Charles Crichton and John Cleese

20.Ryan Giggs-True Red

21.Barton Fink,The Coen Brothers

22.Fargo,The Coen Brothers

23.O Brother! Where Art Thou,The Coen Brothers

24.Airplane, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker

25.Observe And Report,Jody Hill

26.Office Space,Mike Judge

27.The Apartment,Billy Wilder

28.My Man Godfrey,Gregory La Cava

29.The Third Man,Carol Reed

30.Rear Window,Alfred Hitchcock

31.King Kong(1933),Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Shoesdack

32.Frankenstein,James Whale

33.Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956),Don Siegel

34.Cool Hand Luke,Stuart Rosenberg

Cheers, and do spare a prayer for my exams !!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

....Of Splendid Isolation And Selfish Indulgences

 One of the (many) perks of having a blog with limited readership is that I can indulge myself without having to worry about alienating/impressing/provoking a sizable number of readers. I'm sure the 4 or 5 people who do occasionally glance at my blog won't mind if I post what are quite possibly my three favorite Youtube videos of all time. Actually it's two videos,with one split in the middle.

  First off, here's Ustad Salamat Ali Khan singing one of Baba Ghulam Farid's kaafis in Raag Sindhi Bhairvi. What makes this video priceless is first of all the performance, with Ustad sahab clearly enjoying every wonderful note and Shaukat Ali Khan giving some inspired accompaniment on the tabla. But the icing on the cake is the audience...Ashfaq Ahmed sahab, Shahnaz Begum, a very young Pervez Mehdi, Ghulam Ali, Rajab Ali, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and a clearly emotional Masood Rana....and the way they respond to every nuance, every embellishment of the performance. I've been watching this performance at least once a day,every day for the past two months, and I have no plans of quitting.

Next comes another classical performance, from the same TV show;Nikhaar, that used to air during the mid-seventies from PTV Karachi,hosted by Ashfaq sahab and with the choice of audience just as inspired as the performer. The performers are the incomparable Ustads Amanat Ali-Fateh Ali Khan singing "Kab Aao Ge Tum Aao Ge", accompanied once again by Shaukat Ali Khan on Tabla before an audience comprising Ashfaq Ahmed sahab, Asha Posley, Ghulam Ali,a very animated Shaukat Ali, Nasir Kazmi, Qateel Shifai and Mallika Pukhraj. The contrasting styles of the two brothers fuse perfectly to define the Patiala andaaz of gayeki. Another bit of essential daily viewing, this video is made more poignant by the fact that this was Ustad Amanat Ali Khan's last recorded performance before his very untimely death. One can only imagine what more magic these two brothers would've created together, given the chance....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

بہار ...

پھر لہو رنگ ہوئی ہے میرے گلشن کی بہار 
آگ برسی  ہے پھر اس باغ  کی  سیرابی کو 

برق اتری ہے ہر اک بام سے، ہرغنچے کا لب
پھر  سے  دہرانے  لگا   قصّہ  بیتابی  کو

لالہ  و  گل  کا  یہ رنگ ،  نوحہ  سرا  یہ  بلبل 
یہ  سماں  اہل  چمن  کے  لئے  نیا  تو  نہیں 

لیکن  اس درد  کا  یوں  حد سے گزرتے جانا 
 روز  اک  سروِ  قد   افروز  کا  گرتے  جانا

یہ تو ممکن ہے کہ اس درد سے  بے حس کردے
لیکن  اے اہلِ  چمن ،  بے حسی  دوا   تو   نہیں

اب کے  جس  طو ر سے  یہ  خونیں گھٹا اٹھی ہے 
یہ  تو  ممکن  ہے ذرا  دیر   سیاہی  ہو  گی

پر  نہ  گھبراؤ ، بہت جلد اسی   باغ  سے  ہی
لاکھوں  قندیلیں  لئے،  اہل  چمن   ابھریں  گے

بلبلیں پھر سے سنائیں گی وہی پیار کے گیت
دامنِ شب پہ ستاروں کے گہر بکھریں گے

اور ان سب کی ضیا، درد کے ماروں کے لئے 
ایک  بے  داغ  سویرے  کی   گواہی   ہو گی 


Sunday, September 27, 2009

P.S ... The Map To The Goldmine

I wasn't much of a believer in Manna descending from the sky these days, but as The Monkees sang, I'm a believer now. Around two months ago, I stumbled on a goldmine, and not just a tiny prospect up in the mountains where ages of prospecting would ultimately point fruitless. Oh no, what I found was the mother lode to end all mother lodes.

It's called Spotify, and while a complete description can be found here and here, the brief rundown is that it's a streaming music player that lets you play tracks from an immense library of artists and albums, and when I say immense, I mean GINORMOUS!!!

With legitimate deals with the record industry, Spotify lets you access the complete catalogues of almost any artist, from the Stones to Neil Young to Hank Williams to Fela Kuti to ..erm, well to almost anybody I can think of. This in itself is ultrabrilliant, but what clinches the deal for me is that spotify boasts almost the COMPLETE EMI PAKISTAN CATALOGUE !!!!

Starting from the early 50's, there are pristine, high quality recordings of artists as diverse as Maai Bhaagi,the Sabri Brothers, the Fringe Benefits, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Naseem Begum and so forth. In all, 170 of the 206 artists currently listed at EMI Pakistan are at Spotify. The number of old favorites I've heard and the hours and hours of brilliant new music I've discovered is, quite literally the best thing that happened to me since I discovered Dylan.

But as with all treasures, there's a catch. In this case, Spotify is currently only available in  Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain. Although they've promised to make it available over most of Europe and the States pretty soon, the complex licensing issues mean that we can't expect it in Pakistan any time soon.....which is a MAJOR bummer.


I happen to have a way, which it's taken me quite a lot of time and effort to find. It's involved a lot of false starts, frustration and some unexpected help from those guardian angels who lurk quietly in internet forums. It's a slightly convoluted way, and not entirely legal, but for someone who considers p2p an integral right of all those willing and perfectly law abiding folk who can't access their favorite stuff legally through no fault of their own, my conscience is clear.

So if anyone's willing to spend 15 minutes following the trail across a bunch of websites and downloads that ultimately leads to the treasure that is Spotify ,here we go ...

1.Go here, and follow all the pretty simple instructions while you sign up, but here's the first pair of catches;
      Only fill the compulsory fields in the form.
      Follow ONLY the first 5 instructions on the page.

2. This will direct you to the download page where you can download the actual piece of Spotify software, which you install on your PC like usual.

3.Once Spotify's installed, it's practically ready to use, but there's another catch.
     What we've done is registered ourselves as French residents so we can access Spotify, however the software isn't as easily dupe-able as that. It has a built in code that detects the country the user accesses it from. Once it has detected that the user is infact from outside France, it rather goodnaturedly assumes that he has just popped out of France on a trip and will be back in a couple of days. However, this innocent assumption can only be kept up for two weeks. If two weeks after the first login, the user hasn't logged in once from a French IP, the software is blocked/

4. To overcome this is the slightly harder part of the trail, if only for the neophyte. Go here, and click where it says "Download Now For Windows" to download UltraVPN, while you create your account from the link given immediately below the download link. Setting up an account is pretty simple.

5.Once you've downloaded and installed UltraVPN, you'll get a desktop shortcut. Clicking on it will open the program in the bottom-right Taskbar. Right click the icon and click "Connect". This opens a window where you enter the username and password you selected in (4)

 6.It takes an average of about 50 seconds for UltraVPN to connect. What it does is to re-route all your internet data through a server in....you guessed it, France.

7. Once it has connected, you open Spotify, enter your username and password and login, thus bypassing the country detection. After you have logged on, just right-click the UltraVPN icon again and Disconnect.

8. All you have to do is to connect through UltraVPN just ONCE every two weeks, you can login normally otherwise.

9. Enjoy.

10. To a techie, all that I've related above is probably as simple as ABC, but for everyone else, I've tried to simplify it as much as I can so it doesn't take more than 15 minutes to set the whole thing up, and you can trust me on this.... it's a hundred thousand times worth the 15 minutes.

If there's any problem, query or difficulty, please write it in the Comments....although I'm afraid I won't be able to reply for the next month or so what with the exams, but if you're patient, I'll get down to it as soon as I get done.

Cheers !!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

P.S ... Tagging Meme 2.0

  With only ten days before the start of my final exams, things are starting to look very desperate indeed. I'll be heading back to the dorms in a day or two, when the real squeaky-bum time will begin, but I just have time to post another of the listy-taggy posts that I was tagged in over the past few days. This one comes from a friend off Facebook, so most of my contacts there would be tagged too. Here we go..

Okay, here are your instructions.

(1) Turn on your iPod or MP3 player(or the music library on your PC). Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
(2) Write down the first 25 songs that come up, by artist and song title
(3) NO editing/cheating, please!
(4) Choose an appropriate number of people to be tagged.
(5) It is generally considered to be in good taste to tag the person who tagged you.

1.Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen.
2.Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukaar, Mohammad Rafi
3.Mr. Henry, Tom Waits
4.If You Want Me, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
5.It's Not Easy, Walter Horton
6.If You're Mean To Me, Billie Holliday
7.Na Jaao Saiyyan, Geeta Dutt.
8.Lovey Dovey Lovey One, Earl Hooker and Junior Wells
9.A Lyin' Woman, Phillip Walker
10.Whiskey And A Good Time Blues, Big Bill Broonzy
11.Heartbeat, Buddy Holly
12.Lotta Love, Neil Young
13.Why Women Go Wrong, Lonnie Johnson
14.(You're So Square)Baby I Don't Care, Buddy Holly
15.What's The Matter With The Mill, Muddy Waters
16.Zindagi Ke Safar Main, Kishore Kumar
17.Nothing Was Delivered, Bob Dylan
18.Blind Child, Levon Helm
19.Mera Saya Saath Hoga, Lata Mangeshkar
20.Ride On, Louisiana Red
21.All By Myself, James Booker
22.Tangay Wala Khair Mangda, Masood Rana
23.Road To Peace, Tom Waits
24.Mujhe Tum Nazar Se Gira To Rahe Ho, Mehdi Hasan
25.Here We Go Again, Norah Jones/Ray Charles


Well well, that's quite interesting. The two or three things I can see in the list are,
1) 9 of these songs are blues songs, ...(Aizaaz FTW!!!)
2) Only one song each from the entire discographies of Springsteen, Dylan and Neil Young; while Tom Waits gets a pretty respectable 2.
3) Four classic Bollywood tunes,while only two from Pakistani cinema.... major collection overhaul needed.

All in all a slightly surprising selection, but if you cast a line for 25 out of..let me see, 8911 songs, you're bound to come up with a pretty eclectic mix. I'm gonna do some affirmative tagging on my blogroll and let's hope they find time to compile their lists and tag back...and while you're tagging, please do say a little prayer for my exams.

Cheers !!

Friday, September 11, 2009

P.S ... Dr. Strangebeatle, Or How Peter Sellers Outfabbed the Fab 4

There's a lot of hubbub over the recent re-invasion by the Beatles. With the new Rock Band:The Beatles game and the release of the remastered catalogue, the internet's awash with posts related to just about every aspect of the Beatles' lives.

As a lifelong fan (George's my favorite, in case anyone cares), and someone who idolizes Peter Sellers, I can' let this opportunity slip by. So,for your viewing pleasure, here are three of the Beatles' greatest tunes, "covered" by the inimitable Peter Sellers...

A Hard Day's Night

Can't Buy Me Love

She Loves You


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

P.S ... The First In A Series Of Pretentious Tagging Posts

With ONLY two days' rest before I start prepping for the finals, there's not enough time for me to cook up a "pwopah" post, so I'll be having fun with some of the interesting 'tag' memes that pop up on various blogs and social-networking sites.

Here's the first, off Minerva, who in turn got it off AJOBA, "N" (two VERY good blogs) and although I have one or two fundamental problems with it which I'll mention at the end, it's a pretty good exercise.

Off we go then !!


Apparently, the BBC believes that most people will have read only 6 of the books listed below. Here are the rules:
1) Look at the list and put an ‘X’ after those you have read.
2) Tally your total at the bottom.
3) Tag a few people you think would enjoy sharing similar information about their book interests.

I've tweaked the concept a bit by adding extra x's depending on how much I like the books....

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen – x (I was very young ,can’t be blamed)

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien – xx (The phrase “well-thumbed copy” is an understatement)

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte – x (The perfect mix of Gothic and sappy)

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling – xx (Potterhead to the core, I can still remember the 8-hour marathon reads when the new ones came out)

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee – xx (A book that’s funny, moving and makes you think of Gregory Peck, my idea of heaven!)

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell – x (Thoughtcrime doesn’t entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death!)

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens – x ( I prefer the original, starker ending to the revised, happier one)

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott – x (The 1933 movie version, with Katharine Hepburn as Jo March, like totally rules)

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller –("I’m not ashamed,’ Yossarian said. ‘I’m just afraid.")

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - + (Does 70% count?)

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier – xx (Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with Larry Olivier as Maxim, Joan Fontaine as the 2nd Mr. Winter and the spine-tinglingly good Judith Anderson as the housekeeper; the 1940 movie trumps the book)

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien – xx (Probably the most fruitful purchase of my life,The Hobbit,The Lord Of The Rings and the first two Potters – all for 600 rupees in 2001)

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk -

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger –x (Seems a lot less depressing at each subsequent re-read)

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger -

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot -

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell – (Does the movie count? I don’t think so)

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald – xx (The Jazz Age in it’s greatest interpretation, read with Louis Armstrong playing “Tiger Rag” in the background)

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens -

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy – x (Exhausting, but oh-so-very rewarding)

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams – xxx (Oh fruddled Gruntbuggly, thy micturitions are to me…; Genius!!!)

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky – x (Who hasn’t identified with Raskolnikov at least once in their life)

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck – xx (The mind-numbingly stark beauty of the book is brilliantly equalled by John Ford’s masterly film version)

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll – x (…and”Through The Looking Glass”, who needs LSD when you’ve got Alice)

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame – x (What an utterly brilliant children’s book, and what an utterly brilliant TV show)

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy –x (Gets more depressing with each subsequent re-read)

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens – x (Dickens’ de-facto autobiography)

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis -

34 Emma-Jane Austen -

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen -

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis -

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini -

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres -

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden -

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne – x (Doesn’t make up for the fact that Milne was, to put it lightly, a twit!)

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell – xx (The book I’ve got 20 copies of, to distribute among random strangers)

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown – x (I apologize. In the words of Stephen Fry,” Complete loose-stool-water.
Arse-gravy of the very worst kind.

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez – xxx (I read it when I was 15, way too young for it. Thankfully I’ve never completely recovered)

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving -

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins – x (A personal milestone, the first book I ever pinched from a library!)

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery -

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood -

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding -

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan -

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel – x (Brilliant, but everyone I’ve recommended it to seems to hate it)

52 Dune - Frank Herbert -

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons -

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen -

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth -

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon -

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens – x (I seem to have read a lot of Dickens, lucky me!!)

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley – x (One of my prize possessions, a First Edition from 1932)

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon – x (Heard it as a play on the BBC, read it 4 years later.)

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez – x (With characters named ‘Saint-Amour’ and ‘Escolastica’, I was hooked before I began)

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck -

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov – (Even if Kubrick,Peter Sellers and James Mason hadn’t done wonders with it, it would still have been brilliant)

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt -

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold -

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas – x (Revenge is sweet)

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac – xx (Liberating like nothing else I've ever read)

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy -

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding -

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie -

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville – x (The Great American Novel)

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens – x (Slightly anti-Semitic, but Fagan is teh man!!)

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker – x (I never drink . . . wine)

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett -

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson -

75 Ulysses - James Joyce – x (Joyce took the English novel and split its head open. Thank heavens for that)
76 The Inferno – Dante – x (I wonder which circle of Hell Machiavelli would’ve been in)

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome -

78 Germinal - Emile Zola -

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -

80 Possession - AS Byatt -

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens – x (What can I say…..)

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell -

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker -

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro – x (The dark side of the Wodehouse world, with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins straining to do their characters justice)

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert – x (anyone who wants to know what a perfect sentence reads like MUST read Bovary, and take notes)

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -

87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White -

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom -

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – xx (The Complete Illustrated Collection, awesomeness!!)

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton -

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad – x ("The horror! The horror!")

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery – xxx (The greatest book written for children. Period.)

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks -

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams – x (I can’t thank my folks enough for keeping me away from Enid Blyton and giving me Watership Down when I was 9)

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole – xx (“My valve has closed” – brilliantness!)

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute -

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas – x (Am I a perve, or are there serious homoerotic undertones in this book?)

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare – xx (I finally found out where half of all the English quotations come from)

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl – x (Screw political correctness, the Oompah-Loompahs RULE)

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo – xxxx (Talk about reading the right book at the right time. I owe a lot to Jean Valjean, Threnardier and the Bishop)
My score : 52/100
Not bad, but there's things fundamentally wrong with the list above. No Wodehouse, no Vonnegut, no Updike, no Bellow, no Poe, and worse of all...no Mark Twain. I mean, come on !! wher's Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer?
Anyhoo, anyone who reads this is automatically tagged, but since that only includes me and a bicycle repairman named Majid, I think some affirmative tagging action is necessary.
Movies Of The Week ; The Hangover,District 9, Eraserhead,Blue Velvet
Music Of The Week, Zubeeda Khanum

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

P.S ... A Post Exam Poem

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Some poems rhyme
This one doesn't.

Thirty-one days
Drinking cockroach-brew
Was Musi pleased?
No he wasn't.

Now that I've read it
A couple of times
Despite what I said before
This thing actually rhymes.

Cheers !!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

P.S ... Of Infernos

Dame Nellie Melba announced her retirement from singing opera in 1920, announcing she'd go on one final farewell tour. She completed that tour, then another one, then another one and then at least a dozen more "farewell" tours until finally giving her last performance in 1928.

When I wrote the rather hastily written farewell in my last post, I had an inkling that I might have to reconsider. I am in the process of reconsidering now and any and all of these, my "Melba farewell" posts will be in the form of postscripts till the either/or situation of me giving up for good/writing actively again arises.

In The Divine Comedy, Dante mentions the 9 circles of hell, or "Inferno" with the 9th reserved for the most malicious sins imaginable. What he fails to mention is the secret 10th and most viciously horrendous circle "l'interrogatorio" - the examinification.

The 21 days spent preparing for them, the 11 days that I've been busy in them and the 10 days that remain have convinced me that there is no greater torture; mental, physical and indeed gastronomical, that can compare to examinations. And the absolute cherry on the cake is that these aren't even the finals. The mind boggles at what new horrors they will bring.

Ramazan has added another variable to the already tangled up equation making it necessary to mould the gargantuan study schedule around sehr, iftaar and hypoglycaemia. Add to that the nightly ritual of drinking the burnt-cockroach-extract that passes off as coffee in the hostel cafeteria and forces you to shower at least twice lest the steam building up between one's ears turn the already gumbo'd grey matter to an evanescent vapor, and you've got a furture looking as grim as a Weight-Watchers Sunday Picnic.

As half my hostel knows by now, I've rediscovered Qawwali in the last 2 months. With a little help from my friends, and the ever helpful internet, I've managed to gather some 6 gigabytes of brilliant recordings from what have quickly become some of my favorite artists. I was already quite a fan of the Sabri Brothers since childhood, with 3 or 4 of their qawwalis ubiquitous on PTV. But the absolute wealth of stuff I found over the internet has completely blown me over.

Another name that I was familiar with but hadn't had the chance to hear was Munshi Raziuddin Khan - a pre-eminent qawwal from the greatest gharana of them all, the "Qawwal Bacchhon Ka Gharana" from Delhi. When I finally got hold of some of his recordings, they were all that I had expected and much more. The Sabris and Munshi sahib currently share top billing as my favorite Qawwals.

Then there's Nusrat, about whom no words can suffice, so I won't waste any. I'm trying to upload one recording each from these three artists, and if there's no hitch, I hope readers (if any) can get to hear something that's been sustaining me over the last two months.

First, the Sabri Brothers singing Iqbal...

And then there's Nusrat singing Bulleh Shah...

There's nothing that perks me up more than something to look forward to, and thankfully there's plenty of those on the horizon. First of all, there's the mother of all things-to-look-forward-to, a new Dylan album. This time the old coot's gone and confounded everyone by announcing an album of Christmas standards in the vein of Elvis, Bing Crosby and The Beatles. A very un-21st-century-rocker move, but then Bobby's always been a tad old fashioned.

The second, albeit distant glimmer on the horizon is the upcoming Tim Burton production of Alice In Wonderland. I don't think I have to say any more than this.

1. It releases on my birthday next year.
2. Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter.
3.Stephen Fry is the Cheshire Cat......talk about perfect casting.

Even though when the movie is released, I'll be celebrating my birthday wearing 20 kgs of kit, doing one-armed push ups in a muddy ditch somewhere in PMA, the very thought that I'll have Alice to come home to will be a more than welcome birthday gift.

Finally, a word about the Wodehouse charity appeal that I posted 8 months ago. A ton of thanks to all the marvelous friends and relatives who've been generous beyond belief, you know who you are. With your ultra-Pickwickian benevolence, you've managed to a) Bring me to within 10 books of completing my Wodehouse collection, and b) make me your slave for life. I'll try and start finding ways to repay all those who've sent books, or directed me to bookstores or encouraged me, just as soon as my exams are done....

Finally, Munshi Raziuddin and Sons ...

Songs Of The Past Two Months, "Uss Bewafaa Ka Shehr Hai",Naseem Begum, "Can't Buy me Love",Peter Sellers
Movies Of The Past Two Months, "Aguirre:The Wrath Of God","Fitzcarraldo","Encounters At The End Of The World",Werner Herzog.
Books Of The Past Two Months, Don't ask.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

...Of The End Of The Line

Unless hell freezes over or popular demand prevails, which even in this age of wonders, is a very remote possibility, I might've posted my last.

                 Here's to the last 2 odd years and all the joy I've gotten out of my blog (very me-centered. I know) and to any joy it might've brought to anyone else . A million thanks to all who've read and commented, and I hope to keep on reading new things from all of you for a long time to come.

                            And here's to the future, whatever that might bring.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

...Of Me And Bobby D

Dylan's 68 today. I first heard him in '04, when he was 63," just a kid with a crazy dream" as Leonard Cohen says.
Time doesn't permit a 'proper post', but here's a random list/rundown of sorts of ten things about me and Bobby D. I've intentionally left out mentioning anything as a favorite for obvious reasons.

First Listen : Late 2004, I think sometime after I had joined med school.

First Song : 'Like A Rolling Stone" from the Manchester Free Trade Hall '66 concert. (Some initiation !!)

First Dylan Record I bought : " Love And Theft"

First Dylan record I downloaded : "Bringing It All Back Home"

Greatest Gift I Ever Got : The complete Dylan discography, Don't Look Back, Bob Dylan : No Direction Home, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid and the entire 1st season of Theme Time Radio Hour.

Current Harddrive Space Dylan Occupies : 19.36 gigs and counting.

Average Daily Trips To Expectingrain.com : 10

Number Of Dylan Books On My Shelf : 5

Theme Time Radio Hour : The entire 1st and 3rd season, and pretty soon, the whole 2nd season as well.

Last thoughts On Bobby's 68th : Happy Birthday Bob, keep on keepin' on !!

Friday, May 1, 2009

...Of Iqbal Bano

I think I was seven or eight years old, my folks were living in Jhelum when my mother fell ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. Hospital admissions weren't a very rare thing in my household back then, so I wasn't unduly worried. What worried me however were the frequent trips back and forth across the Jhelum river, because the hospital was on the other side of it, and the (legendary) bridge was a single lane affair where traffic from one end had to stop for hours on end to let the traffic (or trains) from the other end pass. I hated making daytime trips across it in the hot, dusty and noisy summer afternoons.

The trips late at night however were a completely different thing. At around 9 or 9.30, dad, me and my kid brother would set out from home with dinner and other stuff for mum and just before we hit the now quite empty bridge, dad would turn on the car stereo. As the car rolled over the then wide expanse of murky water which was now glittering with the reflection of the many roadlights, we would listen to Iqbal Bano singing Faiz.

I was a 2nd or 3rd grader at that time and of course most of what was being sung was going over my head, or at least most of the literal meanings. But I used to sit there in the back seat, leaning forwards till my head was almost on the gearbox, my ears perked up as I tried to absorb as much of this wondrous music and remember the words and melody so that I could practice it at home. I can safely say that that one week of nighttime river crossings made me fall in love with music.

The one thing I noticed about Iqbal Bano's voice even back then was the remarkable 'bite' it possessed, the ability to navigate daringly different compostitions, and the ability to do justice to Faiz sahab's nazms (which only Nayyara Noor and sometimes Tina Sani can match). I busted my guts trying to learn "Na Ganvaao Navak-e-Neem Kash" till I finally managed to do so, and the ability to finally sing it at a school function in 4th grade in front of unsuspecting kids is one of my happiest memories.

The debt I owe to Iqbal Bano is immense. Awakening in me a love of ghazal, nazm, Faiz, Nasir Kazmi and Qasmi sahab is something that she can claim the credit for. My dad loved her voice, so I got to hear a lot of her ghazals, nazms and the few but breathtankingly brilliant film songs all my childhood, and I can't thank my stars enough for that.

Faiz Sahab had a charming habit of 'gifting' his ghazals and nazms to the singers who had sung what would later come to be recognized as the definitive performances of his work; Mehdi Hasan with "Gulon Main Rang Bharay", Noorjehan with "Mujh Se Pehli Si Mohabbat", Nayyara Noor with "Hum Ke Thehre Ajnabi"....and Iqbal Bano with "Dasht-e-Tanhaai", arguably his greatest nazm. The near perfection of her performance of "Dasht-e-Tanhaai" is right up there with the greatest achievements of North Indian music. Add to that her spontaneous and thunderingly electric performance of "Hum Dekhaingay" at Lahore in the '80s makes her arguably Faiz's greatest interpreter.

I have seen a lot of my childhood heroes pass away one after the other in the last five or six years. Zameer Jaafri sahab, Qasmi sahab, Ashfaq sahab, Inayat Hussain Bhatti, Mallika Pukhraj, and now Iqbal Bano. The reaper has to make his round and deprive us those we love, but the inevitability of death doesn't lessen the grief that accompanies it. I have been feeling terribly low for the past week, trying to shore up my meager collection of her works and trying to find time to write a few words in her memory.

Whenever I plan a trip to Lahore, the one thing my dad always tells me to do is to visit Mehdi Hasan's house and pay my respects, but because of one thing or another (mostly my laziness and Khan Sahab's illness) I haven't been able to do so. Now with Iqbal Bano gone, only Mehdi Hasan and Fareeda Khanum remain of the golden generation of ghazal singers, and the next time (if there is a next time) I visit Lahore, I'm going to gather up courage and go visit the greatest singer this country has ever produced.

In the end, I'm reminded of the sweet irony that Iqbal Bano passed away on April 21st, 71 years to the day Allama Iqbal passed away. May her soul find eternal peace....

Sabhi kuch hai tera diya huwa
  Sabhi raahatein, sabhi kulfatain.....

Sunday, April 19, 2009

... Of The Beatles In India

I think it wouldn't be stretching a point to say that Indian film music has always been heavily 'inspired' by foreign influences over the years, from right next door to as far off as Korea. Most songs pale in comparison with the originals, for reasons too numerous to go into now. But there are some that approach, or even surpass the brilliance of the originals, although these are rarer than hen's teeth.

We know The Beatles landed in India somewhere 'round 1967-68, stayed a while with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, got in among the Transcendental Meditationists, got disillusioned (Sexie Sadie says it all) and left. But what most don't know is that India had had it's own version of the Fab Four at least four years before the Beatles ever stepped foot there.

Shammi Kapoor was Bollywood's answer to Elvis, even matching the King's percipitious weight gain with an alarming rapidity. He could dance the hell out of any song, and with Rafi's voice almost tailor-made for him (it's a testament to Rafi's greatness that his voice seemed tailor-made for every actor), Shammi defined the swinging '60s for the sub-continent. Films like Dil Deke Dekho, Junglee, Professor and Tumsa Nahi Dekha had solidified his position as India's biggest (no pun intended) star when Beatlemania swept the world.

Bollywood wasn't immune to the worldwide craze, and when the lads from Liverpool recorded this in 1963....

....Bollywood had to respond. And what a way to respond. Barely a year later, in 1964 Jaanwar was released. It starred Shammi Kapoor and Rajshree, it had Rafi and Asha as playback singers with the incomparable music directors Shankar-Jaikishen providing the score. And, it had this ....

A final word of trivia, Shammi Kapoor had played a singing drummer in Baar Baar Dekho and Teesri Manzil, and if we stretch our imagination a little bit, Shammi (here in white) might give us an idea of what the Beatles might have been if they hadn't let go of drummer Pete Best, the "fifth" Beatle....

But then again, maybe not.

Song Of The Week,"I Feel A Change Coming On", Bob Dylan
Movie Of The Week,"Blade Runner, The Final Cut"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

....Of A Good Excuse To Sing The Blues

You can't be expected to receive a billion dollars worth of blues records and not be inspired to write a blues song. But there's preconditions to writing the blues. The first thing I'm gonna need is a proper bluesman name, even Bobby Dylan had to call himself "Blind Boy Grunt" when he was in the hollerin' mood. Although my eyes have finally started to give in to the strain, calling myself "Blind Musab" will be a bit premature. Considering the medical degree I oughtta get when my five years in the pen end and the massive paunch that I seem to be destined to carry, I think " Big Doctor Moose" will do fine..... unless I can think of a better one.

So, here goes. In the tradition of Elmore James, Otis Rush and Blind Willie McTell, my first blues song.

"Springtime Blues" by Big Doctor Moose. All rights reserved and so forth...

"The springtime sun was shinin', I was sleepin' in my bed;
Lawd, the springtime sun was shinin' , but I was snoozin' in my bed,
Sunlight streamin' on my pillow, shinin' on my weary head.

When the blues they come to wake me, I was dreamin' of my gal;
When them blues come to wake me, I was dreamin' of my gal,
Walkin' with my pretty baby, by the banks of the ol' canal.

There's a million things goin' on, millions more about to start;
I said there's a million things' a waitin', millions more that I could start,
But these springtime blues have got me, and they're tearin' me apart.

All my friends they ask about me, wonderin' why I don't show up;
All them friends they ask about me, wonderin' when'll I show up,
While I'm runnin' from my blues Lawd, hopin' they never catch up.

I'm gonna lay my weary head on some lonely railroad track;
Friends I'm gonna lay my weary head down on some lonely railroad track,
And if them springtime blues come steamin' up, I'm gonna pull my damn head back !"

Now if only I can get someone to record it.........

Saturday, March 28, 2009

...Of Prez And Lady Day

  I've heard lots of people play tenor Sax, but nobody's played it better than Lester "Prez" Young.

  I've heard tons of jazz singers, but nobody's sung with more feeling than Billie Holiday.

  I've seen hundreds of videos on Youtube, but I doubt if any one of them's more hauntingly brilliant than this one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

…Of Exams

There’s a scene in the Simpsons Movie where the guys inside the giant dome are having an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when suddenly the discover that they’ve run out of coffee. Pandemonium ensues.
I used to laugh at that, till the same thing happened to me.
Exams are my favorite-most thing in the world, as my friends can testify, hence the month-long worry sessions, the compulsive eating that sends my waistline flying, and the caffeine trips that play havoc with my biological clock. And each year, as the stakes get higher, the worry-weight-coffee cycle begins earlier and grows more intense.
This past month were my first exams of my Final year, the beginning of the end as it were, and the enormity of the occasion had me taking uncharacteristically desperate measures. My new phone, which had me losing at least 12 man-hours (I love the term “man-hours”, reminds me of Charlie Chaplin punching clocks in Modern Times) each day, was exchanged on a whim with a much more basic model in the hope of conserving time and concentration. The feeling of being completely cut off from the rest of the world that this swap entailed was partly compensated by the addictive Snakes game that made the many trips to the loo immensely more entertaining.
I had began prepping earnestly (that’s another world I quite like) three weeks before the start of the exams, and bearing the odd football match that distracted me, I was amazed at my bone headed insistence to actually study. The build-up was fine, I even had the odd weekend to come home and watch a bunch of movies, plus the obligatory ‘Wake-up-early-morning,-bunk-classes-and-watch-the-Oscars’ ritual 5 days before the exams started, which warrants its own post I think.The pace of preparation was slow and assured, at least till 2 days before the exams, when all hell broke loose.
Ever since 3rd Year, I’ve been relying on two addictive legal stimulants to help me get my ganglions jangling-pots of coffee and the occasional Red Bull-, and I wasn’t expecting this year to be any different. Three nights before the exam, me and my study group (worth at least one more post) set out to the cafeteria for our symbolic First Coffee Dose Of The Year. This usually is the sign that things have come to a head and “Squeaky Bum time” has begun. What we found at the cafeteria was too horrible to even contemplate. The place was closed….
Apparently, the cafe owner’s mother-in-law had passed away, and he was out celebrating, or at least that’s what we thought. As the thought of three coffee-less days before an exam hit us, the horror everyone felt was obvious. I could well imagine the amount of work I could get done with an unstimulated brain and thought for a moment to give up the pretense of study, get my phone back and not give a damn. But that was only a fleeting thought, because doing that would have required a sort of perverse courage that I knew I didn’t have.
God made the Universe, heaven and hell and everything in between, and then he made Mothers. Thank heavens for that. Knowing that I was broke and couldn’t go out to buy anything because of the shortage of time, my mum came to the rescue. One phone call and half an hour later, I had a package from home…. A box of instant coffee packets and the world’s biggest stash of Zeera biscuits. I wondered what the strange significance of Zeera was, but they’re my favorite flavor now.
Armed with the ammunition we needed, we managed to get down to studying, when suddenly at around midnight, we heard blood curdling shrieks coming from the corridor. I wasn’t unduly alarmed, knowing from experience that an anguished scream or two every night were routine from any one of the dorm rooms around mine, a time-honored exam tradition. But when they continued, became more protracted and louder, I had to investigate.
It was the hostel cat.
I have a special enmity with the hostel cat, who shall henceforth be called Aunt Agatha (Wodehouse-reference-with-a-desperate-hope-that-someone-would-notice No. 2413) A few days ago, coming back from a four day holiday, I had found the heap of my (usually) freshly washed laundry slightly, how shall I say ,soiled. Apparently mistaking it for the sand-pit, Aunt Agatha had relieved herself liberally on a stash of me shirts, leaving me with a distinctive odor that repeated subsequent washings had done little to dissipate, and had made me the centre of attention in the feline circles.
So, watching the cat scream and writhe in apparent agony made me say a silent, contented prayer for whichever angel-in-human-form had kicked it in the ribs or stepped on it’s tail or given it whatever retribution it deserved. Happy, I returned to my room, and the cat went away after an hour of vocal calisthenics. But it returned the next night, and the night after that, and the night after that ….
Pleadings, an odd thrown shoe, an Exorcism…., nothing seemed to appease it. Finally, after the first exam and four nights of successive feline wailing, we gave in and left the cat alone to pursue it’s Galli-Gurci impressions in peace. It became our nightly alarm clock, reminding us that it was 11 pm and the night only had 4 more hours of study-time left. It was only after the last exam that we found out what the zoologists in our hostel had deduced ages ago, the poor animal was in heat…
The exams ended Monday, and the overwhelming sense of relief was enhanced by the misprint-laden exam paper that now hangs in my room as a hilarious testament to the power a word-processor holds in the wrong hands. Now was the time for the de-mob, the detox, the de-brief and the de-examinifitication.
I’m glad to report, the 6:30 show of Watchmen at the local multiplex did that admirably…
The fact that the exams almost ruined my birthday, which was only rescued by the birthday present to end all birthday presents, the fact that the personal habits of my study mates made me doubt the statement that Man is at the top of the evolutionary chain, the fact that a flu, a backache and a crocked body-clock that the exams left me with shall take ages to recover, the fact that the prospect of a new Dylan album coming out in a month’s time has perked me up to no end…. shall have to wait for another day, laziness permitting.

Book Of The Week,”The Reader”
Movie Of The Week,”Watchmen”
Album of the Week,The Watchmen Soundtrack

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

…Of Father Abe And Nightmare Photos

This is my current desktop wallpaperlincoln
It's a photo of Abraham Lincoln's 2nd Inauguration, and shows him delivering his greatest speech. The "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right" speech is one of man's greatest moments of oratory; the photo is the only one of Lincoln speaking; and it was taken barely weeks before he was assassinated. But it's also one of the spookiest photographs ever taken. For not only does it show Father Abe, standing behind the solitary white table, spectacles on his nose and the text of the speech in his hand, it also shows his would-be-assassin.
John Wilkes Booth can be seen standing near the top of the Observation deck above the President. I doubt if anyone who hasn't seen a photograph of him will recognize him, but a straight line drawn from the central pillar-thingy on the Observation deck grille finds him. I didn't take much time finding him though. You never forget a face you've seen in a nightmare ....
Here's a final photo to close down this ramble....


Sunday, January 25, 2009

…Of A Secret Memory

   It was eight or nine years ago, on a trip to my Jagoka, my maternal village. I was past the age when Jagoka used to be a Mecca for all the kids in my family, but was still in love with the place. My Nana bawa and Nani ammaan were of course the two people I loved the most, the daily rituals were still there – the mandatory tablet of sweet Simco that we got from Nana to chew on, the early morning visits to the “Khooh”, the afternoon ‘70’s Indian movie in Nana’s room, the strange concoctions of Masala and milk that we had for lunch with leftover rotis – and all the kids were home for the holidays.
  Life followed a brilliant pattern there. Waking up early in the morning as the whole house was being swept, breakfast in the smoky, cavernous kitchen with Nani ammaan sitting at the stove and shouting her way to the start of the day, the post breakfast lull, the semi-proper lunch of questionable culinary origins , the uncomfortably warm afternoons in the summer and the mini powernaps in the winter, supper exactly at sunset with a choice of sweet warm milk or plain cold milk at the end.
   It was on one such visit that me and Nana bawa were resting in his room and the talk got around to Gramophone players. When I say talk, I mean another one of the various Q&A sessions that we used to have. From falling stars to caterpillars to ghosts to snakes to boar-hunting to farming, these talks were the perfect answer to the terrible curiosity I had back in the day. And as me and Nana bawa were lying in his room, staring at the ceiling and talking about Saigal, Bioscopes and other such stuff, suddenly Nana stopped as if suddenly remembering something.
   We were quiet for a while, one of those wonderful silences we used to have, and then suddenly, he started singing.
  I had never heard him sing before, and almost jolted up as his wavy baritone voice grew louder. It was an old song, a lullaby. One that I’d never heard before, and one that he was obviously recalling with some difficulty. I have never listened to anything with more attention, my ears straining to pick up every word, every attempt at recalling the tune and every breath that he took midway between the verses. Lying supine, fearful of turning my head towards him lest I break the magical moment, goosebumpy all over, I just lay there. Still.
  He finished, there was another silence, and then he told me where he’d heard the song. Apparently, in the ‘50s, he had gone to Lyallpur to see a film, the name of which he couldn’t recall. The only thing he remembered was that it was an Indian film, and Lata had sung this lullaby in it. He had heard it only once, and now had sung it to me as much as he could remember 50 years later.
  Our talk ended, our trip ended, and four years ago, Nana passed away, taking his one song with him and leaving me with my most personal memory. I had kept the few snatched words and the ragged melody of the song in my mind all this time, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Intensively searching every archive I could get to, I just could not find the song. I had gotten slightly worried now, worried that my secret memory could fade if I did not find that song.
  And then, suddenly, I found it. My secret memory is not secret any more….