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, 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.