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, 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.


  1. Rest assured Sir, I shall post you a copy of Alice so as to brighten up your select muddy ditch of choice!
    Ps: Apropos the new post, can I say i told you so? :)

  2. Hehe, of course you can. I should be the one burning discs for you. Infact, i'll get some ready in time for your return to Pakiland. There's some quite interesting stuff I've managed to collect...

  3. "Stephen Fry is the Cheshire Cat"
    O really? That'll be great!