The interest in the Dog’s very first post, Zabardast: A Sample of Pakistani Music has been consistently high. And so to reward all those who have visited and checked out the post and, more importantly, the wonderful music from that part of the world I offer in this post a second instalment. This volume is called Kya Baat!: A Sampler of Pakistani Music Volume 2.
Yeh Dil, Yeh Pagal Dil is one of the greatest ghazals of all time, bar none. Ghulam Ali, the artist, is one of Pakistan’s absolute icons, holding a position akin to that of B.B. King in the United States, in that both are virtually synonyms for their genre. This ghazal speaks of lost love in terms that are simultaneously intimate and grand: is dasht mein ek shahr tha/woh kya hua/ awaargi/yeh dil yeh pagal dil mera (in this desert there was once a city/what became of it?/desolation/ this heart, this mad heart of mine). Such a powerful musical moment it forms the basis of my second novel.
Raga Aasa by Saeen Marna. The ektara is one of the world’s simplest stringed instruments. A single lonely string attached to a stick pulled across a hollowed coconut or gourd.. Associated with wandering mendicants of all stripes from Khorasan to the Ganges Delta it is played by a single finger plucking upon it. Saeen Marna (d. 1961) was an untrained folk singer who made this little instrument sing so soulfully it is hard to believe such sublime heights are possible. This recording is from an old tape of an even older tape but for those who are prepared to listen, this piece will not disappoint.
Ghoom Charakda by Abida Parveen Pakistan’s great female Sufi soul shouter should be played at high volume and in a place where there is room to twirl like a dervish. The song, sung in Punjabi, is an ancient Sufi tune associated with the 16th saint Shah Hussain, credited with inventing the kafi a form of mystical poetry indigenous to Pakistan. There are hundreds of versions of Ghoom Charakda but Abida’s rendition is my favourite, especially the tabla playing which sounds like a freight train tearing through the desert.
Dil mein Meethe Meethe Dard is a beautiful ghazal by Ustad Amanat Ali Khan. A master exponent of the Patiala gharana (school) his classical training is evident in his phrasing and note control. And yet this love song, which likely was part of film soundtrack, is moving and gentle.
Mirza Sahiban is a rock n’roll remake of a traditional Sufi song by Arif Lohar, one of Pakistan’s most interesting contemporary musicians. Laced with a machine-gun like drum track that starts strong and builds in intensity throughout the piece this is an amazing track. At various points the song veers almost towards ‘metal’ or ‘industrial’ music but never loses it core folk roots. Absolutely powerful and fun.
Black Night, a recent DJ-designed qawwali by Badar Ali Khan, like the song that precedes it a great combination of tradition meeting modernity. Less intense than Mirza Sahiban but completely enjoyable.
Lutf Woh Ishq Mein is a pleasant film song by one of Pakistan’s most popular playback singers. Mehnaz has a voice that is less nasal in tone (and hence a bit more alluring to Western tastes) than the ultimate Queen of Melody, Noor Jehan, who dominated Pakistani film/popular music for decades. Mehnaz voluntarily ended her career relatively quickly and now is settled in the United States.
Tu Jane Ne my latest favourite pop song by Atif Aslam. Strong voice, elegant arrangements and composition and addicting melody. What more do you want?
Raga Bahar. Ustad Sadiq Ali Khan Mando a shenai (clarinet) player of the Qawwal Bacchay gharana is a recent discovery for me about whom I can find very little information. While I keep looking, I think you will really enjoy this gorgeous raga which at times has a jazz-like fluidity.
Tamam Umr Tera by Ustad Salamat Ali Khan who hails from one of the oldest Hindustani musical families. His ancestors were singers in the court of the grand Moghul Akbar. An exponent of the Sham Churasi gharana (school) Salamat Ali Khan was widely popular throughout India and Pakistan in his lifetime for his mellow voice. His sons, Shafqat and Sharafat, continue the family tradition today.
Hai Yeh Unki Aaj Mujh Par. Attaulah Khan Niazi ‘Issakhelvi’ from the western district of the state of Punjab was in the 1980s the preferred singer of most taxi and truck drivers in Pakistan. His vocal style is marked by an almost desperate passion which it was said was the consequence of a failed love affair. His concerts were blusterous affairs in which the audience was known to shoot off weapons in excitement. Attaulahji would have to plead with his fans to get control of their emotions. This track is a more recent, less raw rendition than those early ones but is still good solid popular song.
Umaran Lagian Paba Par/Meri Dastan-e-Hasrat. The son of Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Asad Amanat Ali Khan, ends this volume with two majestic pieces taken from a ‘live’ concert tape I picked up in Islamabad in the late 1980s. The first is a mystical song in the Sufi tradition (again with some stunning tabla accompaniment); the second a gorgeous love song.
I hope you enjoy.