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 .

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

...Of The Qawwalis That Carried Me Through

Each day for the last three months, when the sun was about to set and the heat had abated to non-lethal levels, I would take my laptop to the roof of my tiny hospital in the middle of the jungle, sit cross-legged on the floor of the terrace and listen to music in an attempt to preserve my sanity. This experiment wouldnt've been possible without smearing myself with gallons of Mospel and ignoring the attentions of bats, spiders, moths and on one occasion, a herd of goats who were exceptionally adept at climbing stairs. But failure wasn't an option. A day spent in isolation, electricity-less heat and unbearable humidity had to end in at least an hour of peaceful and contented enjoyment otherwise I'd go mad.

Qawwali constituted the bulk of what I listened to, and if I say that Qawwali recordings got me through these difficult three months, I wouldn't be wrong. I listened to literally hundreds of recordings, each of which was brilliant in it's own way, but I chose the following to share because they all fulfilled one simple criteria; they all struck a deep emotional chord. Dusk has many different moods, from sombre and foreboding to peaceful and reassuring; and a combination of the isolation, the environment and these recordings proved to be a bewitching brew. I must admit that on more than a few occasions while listening to one or the other of these recordings, I found myself with tears in my eyes, moved unlike I've ever been before. I share these recordings in the hope that some day, somewhere, when the sunset's just right and the milieu of the heart is just right, someone will play one of these and feel like I used to do sitting in the dark on that lonely rooftop.

The first recording I'd like to share is by Haji Mehboob Qawwal and the kalam and the adayegi perfectly encapsualted the state of my heart and mind in those days. A kalaam of Pir Mehr Ali Shah's (RA) son Hazrat Babuji (RA), this beautiful ghazal is sung in a meandering and wonderfully slow and mellow arrangement. In an exception to his performance style, Haji Sahab doesn't adorn this Kalam with 'girahs', preferring to let the words and the melody convey their meaning. My feelings of distance and separation from loved ones, along with the few pleasures of this sometimes 'splendid isolation' found perfect expression in this wonderful performance.


Majboor Hoon, Lachaar Hoon Aye Jaane Tamanna


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The one group that I listened to almost incessantly was "Fateh Ali Khan-Mubarak Ali Khan Qawwals and Party'. Nusrat's legendary father and uncle are without a doubt two of the very very greatest Qawwals of the last century and I've never heard anyone, not even Nusrat, who comes close to their exquisite, inventive, forceful and wonderfully fluid andaz. The talaffuz, adayegi, use of behlawas and pure technical brilliance these two brothers possessed willl remain unmatched. Of all the recordings I listened to, the one I returned to the most was the one I am sharing below. Recorded in India in the late fifties, with Fateh Ali Khan contributing most of the vocals, this short piece is filled with wonderful little treasures. From the Aye Lo's and the Aye Ji's to the beautiful phrasing to the vacillating taans, this is one brilliant recording.


Khud Daari-e-Ehsaas Ko Thukra Nahi Sakte 

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 Another favorite of mine is the magnificent "Bakhshi Salamat Qawwal" group, one of Fateh Ali and Mubarak Ali's most talented disciples. They were exceptional proponents of Iqbaliyat, creating some of the most stirring Qawwali interpretations of Iqbal's kalaam. The recording that I am sharing below was an instant favorite the moment I first heard it. The beauty of the kalam is coupled with the Qawwal party's unique style to form a brilliant combination. You can easily hear echoes of the Ustads' style in that of the Shagird. With the shehnai flitting around in the background, Bakhshi Khan's emphatic and almost aggressively forceful style delivering each verse like a hammer-blow to the heart and then exclaiming 'Zara Dekho Ji!' and 'Aaheva' in an almost defiant manner and Salamat Khan and Saddo Khan delivering their trademark vacillating taans, this is undoubtedly one of the best and most moving interpretations of Iqbal ever recorded. I used to put this Qawwali on repeat and literally stomp around on the roof to the beat of the handclaps till I was exhausted. It still remains one of my favorite Qawwali performances.

Mataa-e-Be Bahaa Hai Dard-o-Soz-e-Arzoo Mandi 

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 Abdul Hamid,Ghulam Kibriya Vehranwale Qawwals aren't a name that would be familiar to many, being one of the many Qawwali groups that regularly performed in and around Faisalabad in the '80s and early '90s. Their style was very similar to another Faisalabad group, their relatives, Maulvi Ahmed Hassan Akhtar Hassan Qawwal And Party. They performed in what we can call the 'thaitth' Punjabi style, with forceful taali and liberal girahs from the Punjabi Sufi canon. What they lacked in knowledge of the intricacies of Classical music, they more than made up for with their almost rustic simplicity and earthy delivery. The following recording features one of the best 'Dohas' I've ever heard, a simple yet appealing melody and wonderful and emotive girahs taken from Hashim Shah's version of Sassi Punnu. Occasional use of the Potohari 'tappa' style brings out the pathos of the text and make it an unadorned yet beautiful performance.

Layi Jindri Main Tere Naa Ve Yaar 


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Manzoor Niazi Qawwal And Party has been blessed with two of the most wonderful voices in recent Qawwali history. Manzoor Niazi sahab's unmistakeable soft, mellow and emotive voice is perfectly complemented by his son Abdullah Manzoor Niazi's strong, rich, flexible and extremely melodious one. One of the three pillars of the Qawwal Bacchon ka Gharana, and the only surviving member of the legendary trio of Manzoor Niazi, Bahauddin Khan, Raziuddin Ahmed Qawwals, Niazi sahab's party is one of the top two or three Qawwal parties of Pakistan. The ravages of age have taken their toll on his voice but this recording from 1984 perfectly captures the voices of both father and son at their best. The familiar Khusrau kalam is performed very melodiously, with emphasis on melodic improvisation and both father and son show their melodic abilities, especially on 'Naina Mila Ke'. The spoken word and sung girah-bandi in the latter half of the recording is some of the best and most apt I've heard. I wouldn't be wrong in saying that of all the dozens of versions of this kalaam, this is my favorite.

Chaap Tilak Sab Cheen Li 


 
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 I'd like to end this post with another Haji Mehboob Qawwal recording. The mehfil from which this recording is taken is one of my most favorite mehfils, and this recording is the gem of the session. The sound quality is utterly pristine, Haji sahab's sitar and Haji Mushtaq's harmonium are accompanied by a brilliant violin (something that I've heard only in this mehfil). One of the characteristics of Haji sahab was that he was usually accompanied by only one or two hamnavaas, who didn't contribute to the vocals and only took part in the taali, hence the performance was carried totally by the two brothers themselves. Here too, there's only two voices, yet the fullness and richness of the performance is unmatched. Haji sahab's trademark and extremely apt girahs adorn the kalaam at regular intervals, and this kalaam also contains one of my very favorite ones, which Haji sahab emphasizes with a rare 'Shear mulahiza ho'. As a friend had said to me, 'Musab bhai, yeh kalaam jhoom jhoom ke sunne wala hai.' And I can attest that I've done a lot of jhooming to it on my lonely rooftop.

Dil Burd Ze Man Chashme Siyaahe Ba Nigaahe 
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My instinctive reaction on listening to/reading/watching something that I instantly love is to instantly share it with others who I know would appreciate it as much as I did. This irresistible urge to share was completely and utterly stifled these last three months, and now when I'm finally re-connected with the rest of the world, I felt I shouldn't waste any time in sharing these beautiful pieces of music in the hope that they may provide the same solace, enjoyment and comfort to someone else that they provided to me these past three month. Happy listening !!

5 comments:

  1. Thanks so much Musab. Congratulations for surviving your jungle sojourn.
    am enjoying the music v much.
    Do you know anything about Yusuf Azad Qawwal?

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  2. This post is another very special treat. Thank you. Dil khush kar diya aap ne mian. Jeetey raho. Bohat duaen.

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  3. Musab Sb, what a pleasure to stumble upon this site! Can't thank you enough for sharing these gems. So glad that we still have people who own such rare recordings and are generous enough to share. Thank you once again!

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  4. Brilliant stuff, we have a good lp collection in our house too but unfortunately haven't got round to digitalising them yet. One record that has broken sadly was manzoor ahmed khan niazi's 'KHAWJA PIYA'. EMI PRODUCTIONS. I've tried to search for it physically and on tge net bit just cant find it. Then I stuambled across your blog and I'm wondering whether you might have it in your collection.

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    1. Thanks a lot. I'm afraid I don't have the recording you mentioned but I can ask around for it. You should seriously think about digitizing your music because records have a habit of deteriorating and as you mentioned, breaking. It would be a shame to let them go to waste.

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