Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Music Pakistan: Mohammad Jumman and Alla'n Faqir

Baluchi musicians

Close your eyes. Imagine you are in the desert. It’s been a long hot day. You’ve travelled for hours and as the shadows grow longer and the sun sinks slowly toward the horizon you call into a small shrine.  It is the dargah (tomb) of a local pir, revered by the people of this region, for his miracles, wise decisions and kindness. 

Around the courtyard of the shrine, small groups of people huddle and talk quietly to each other. Some are heavily turbaned and majestically moustachioed. Old Enfield rifles lie next to a Kalashnikov or two beside them. These are shepherds who’ve come in from the desert to the little settlement of Soro. You can hear the bells on their sheep tinkling gently in the distance.  On the other side of the domed structure are groups of women in black and blue burqas. Children run amongst them laughing and crying. The women themselves, sit silently watching another woman tie a small red thread to the marble lattice work of an exterior window. She is praying to the pir to bless her son, who has had a fever for a week, and make him stronger. Hundreds of other similar threads from hundreds of other women hang on the lattice work.

You find a date palm to lean against and close your eyes. As the sun settles low you become aware of the slight chink chink of a chimta.   After a few minutes the sweet sound of a harmonium is added. This plays for some time and then you hear a man singing:
Yar dhadhi ishq aatish lai hai/ Ve yar sano lag gai beikhtiari
(His love has set me afire/ I am out of control with love)
Seeney de vich na samai hai/ Yar dadhi ishq  atish lai hai
(My heart is unable to take it all/ His love has set me afire)
It is a kafi of Baba Ghulam Farid, the great mystic of the desert and the singer is Jumman Mohammad.   He continues to sing and there is no more sun. Just a deep blue orange dusk. Candles flicker from inside the dargah.  Jumman is joined after sometime by another voice, that of a travelling faqir known as Alla’n.  His voice is rough, like the rocks you’re sitting on but you are entraced. He too sings of ishq and his Yaar. Tears come from his eyes and the eyes of the many who have come to hear him. The men sing together for hours and until all you can hear in the darkness is the gentle tinkling of the bells around the sheeps necks. They are being herded back out into the desert. Morning will dawn soon.

**

Jumman Mohammad was born in the deserts of Baluchistan in 1935. His father was a singer took and the boy’s earliest instructor. Later he studied with several ‘ustads’  including Nazir Hussain and Bade Waheed Ali Khan. The young man took to singing the kalam of the Shah Latif Bhitai, Baba Ghulam Farid and Shah Hussein. He accompanied himself on the tanpura and learned other string instruments.  He sang in Baluch but also Seraiki, Sindhi and Punjabi too. The languages of the desert.  By chance while visiting the big smoke he was recorded by Radio Karachi.  His voice became a national sensation and soon people were referring to Jumman as ‘ustad’. He continued to sing all his life and the President of the country awarded him with several prizes. But Jumman never forgot Baluchistan and his roots and is revered as one of the greatest of all musicians to come from this ancient rugged land.

Alla’n Faqir was born in 1932 in the ancient village of Aamari in Jamshoro District, Sindh. His mother died soon after his birth. He spent his childhood in Manjhand, a town between Sehwan and Hyderabad. He belongs to the Mangrasi tribe who are believed to bring happiness and who are welcomed on festive occasions for their gift of melody.
According to the traditions of this caste, Alla’n Faqir's father used to beat the drum and sing traditional songs at weddings and Faqir's brothers still do the same job. Faqir is an Arabic word, meaning Sufi or a mystic. Thus in the real sense of the word, a faqir is a person, who leads an independent life marked by piety, abstinence from material needs, and contentment in the available resources. It must not be confused with the rather loose usage of the same word implying a beggar in Urdu and Sindhi.
When he was only a teenager, Alla’n Faqir developed a habit of singing melancholy songs, which his father did not like. Deprived of a mother's love, he went off in search of someone who could replace that love. He arrived at the tomb of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Bhit Shah and started living there. Faqir's memory was sharp even though he could not read and write. Hearing the traditional Latifi Raag sung every night touched his heart. Encouraged by Faqir Zawar Qurban Ali Lanjwani and Moolchand Maharaj, he began singing Bhitai's poetry at the shrine and ultimately spent twenty years there until meeting Mumtaz Mirza, who introduced him to Radio Pakistan and Pakistan TV in Hyderabad and helped him to learn the correct pronunciation of Bhitai's poetry. He became a performing legend. 

In these recordings of Jumman and Alla’n you will hear raw mystical music sung without pretence or artifice. Simple and from the heart. The sort of music you would have heard that night at the pir’s dargah in the desert.


            Track Listing:
(Jumman Mohammad)
            01 Yaar Dhadhi Ishq
02 Raa Nal To Ban Raat
03 Palak Naa Rahi Dil Mein
04 Shah Ranjha Albeila
05 See Garha Aanween Sanwal
06 Ishq Haneiri Kitei
07 Asaan Ishq Namaz
(Alla’n Faqir)
08 Ishq Asaan
09 Taaran Pounda
10 Charar Ghommun
11 Nangah Neend Na Kon
12 Aa Hoon Maran La
13 Mehr Mehr

Listen here.

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