Friday, September 2, 2011

Music Pakistan: Reshma

The next few posts will be focused on the female voice. Several from South Asia, some from the jazz and blues world and a few from other points in between.

First up is, Reshma a gypsy woman from the deserts that mark the border between India and Pakistan. Born in the quite substantial town of Bikaner in the Indian state of Rajasthan her Banjara (gypsy) family moved back and forth across the Tharparkar sands trading camels and driving great herds of goats and sheep.   By the time she was ten and India was partitioned her family found themselves living mostly in what was now the new country of Pakistan.

Reshma is a complete natural.  Uneducated and barely literate she has been blessed with a contralto voice that belies the claim that South Asians love only the piercing nightingale sounds best exemplified by Lata Mangeshkar. Reshma’s raw folk and organic style have been immensely popular not just in Pakistan where she was for years a favorite TV performer, but in certain cognoscenti circles in India as well. Subhash Ghai’s, one of Bollywood’s big time director’s, decision to include a Reshma song (Lambi Judai) in his 1983 hit, Hero, was (and still is) hailed a stroke of genius.  So respected is she in the land of her birth that standing ovations upon her entrance into the auditorium are not unusual. 

Not bad for an unschooled, musically untrained gypsy girl!

In addition to her gracious singing, I love Reshma for her passionate rejection of the spirit of the Partition.  No doubt the nomadic roots that saw her people move across the great sandy seas of Punjab, Sindh and Rajasthan without any care for borders is to blame. When the two governments set up a bus service between Lahore and Amritsar for the first time in forty years in the late 90s Reshma made sure she and her family had seven seats reserved for them. "I was originally booked on a flight to India but cancelled my booking and bought a bus ticket instead," she said when she was interviewed when the bus arrived in India. "Cultural ties are going to play a major role in improving ties." Until ill health forced her into semi-retirement in Dubai, she travelled regularly to India to perform.
Reshma referred to her voice as being like a bulldozer but on this point she is so wrong.  Rather it is soft, lilting, deep.  A revelation.
Tonight’s collection is from the very fine Music Pakistan series and covers 18 Punjabi folk and devotional songs recorded originally for Radio Pakistan.

         Track Listing:
         01 Haye O Rabba
02 Ja Ve Vichhoria
03 We Mein Chori Chori
04 Na Dil Dende Bedardi Nu
05 Kitte Nain Na Jodeen
06 Akhian Nu Rehan De
07 Naeen Bhulna Ve Tenoon
08 Bhul Jaaniyan Kisey De Naal
09 Galiyan De Kakhan Wangon
10 Kahnoon Kita Pyar
11 Chup Karkey Jindrriye
12 Changi Naeeyun Kiti
13 Gal Ishq Di Mala
14 Taithoon Laa Key
15 Kithey Takre Tey Haal
16 Tak Patri Waleya
17 Gin Gin Taaray
18 Sannoon Toon Bhula
Listen here.