Funny how we become entangled in much larger webs.
In September 1986 I arrived in Lahore, Pakistan for a year of intensive Urdu language study. As an eager recently graduated university student I made a point of meeting as many people who could introduce to me to that mythical beast the ‘real’ Pakistan. How the connection was made I don’t recall but I do remember that I spent several days hanging out at the home of one Raza Kazim a left-leaning lawyer who had recently been released from jail. He had written a book of his experiences which included solitary confinement and torture. He gifted me a copy which I used over the year as a text for my slowly improving Urdu.
The year passed and I fell deeply in love with the great city of Lahore. I still have that thin memoir on my bookshelves somewhere but I’d not thought of Raza Kazim for many years. As I did a bit of research for today’s post, I came across a reference to a Pakistani musician by the name of Noor Zehra Kazim. She was one of the headliners at a concert in Delhi and the blurb about the concert read as follows:
Noor Zehra, born in Lahore, has been learning Sitar and Veena from various ustads including Shareef Khan Poonchwale. She performs on Sagar-Veena, a unique instrument developed by her lawyer-musicologist father Raza Kazim, who has been working on this instrument for over 36 years, and aims to re-create a mode of emotional communication through this instrument. Sagar-Veena has been performed at various occasions in Pakistan, Japan and other countries. This is the first time it would be performed in India.
The blurb included the following link which opened to a treasure trove of information on Raza Kazim some of which I had forgotten and most of which I never knew. A true Pakistani patriot and polymath, he is still active as a photographer, musicologist, philosopher and political thinker.
|Ustad S.K. Poonchwale|
Today’s post presents a second serving of the Music Pakistan collection and is connected to Raza Kazim through his daughter Noor Zehra who learned classical music at the feet of Pakistan’s greatest sitarist Ustad Sharif Khan Poonchwale. Poonch is a district town in Pakistani (Azad) Kashmir and the great sitarist father was in fact a court musician to the Maharaja of Kashmir prior to Independence. Ustad Sharif was already acclaimed as a sitar player before Independence but rose to his greatest fame and adulation in the 1950s and 1960s. He is regarded as one of the greatest Pakistani musicians and was equally loved and appreciated by critics and fans outside his country as within. He is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilayat Khan. Sharif Khan sahib was awarded the Pride of Performance Award in 1968 and passed away in 1980.
3. Gujri Todi
Ustad Sadiq Ali Khan Mando was a clarinet player who like so many musicians in the pre-Partition days made his living (or the better part of it) in the film industry. As the Lahore-based industry declined in the 50s his services were sponsored by Radio Pakistan, one of the few channels that kept classical music alive in Pakistan. I’ve not been able to locate a photo of Ustadji. In a way it doesn’t matter because this collection of ragas and classical tunes (accompanied by the great tabla player Shaukat Hussain) is one of the most mellifluous and serene recordings of Hindustani classical music I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. It’s as eloquent as Mozart’s clarinet concerto and as soulful as Coltrane. In actuality, I do wish I had a picture of this great artist. Any hints, leads or more details of his life from any reader would be most welcome.
1. Raga Rageshri
2. Raga Bahar
3. Raga Malkauns
5. Jangla Bhairvin
7. Sindhi Bhairvin
This is music to listen to again and again.