Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Dreamy Boy: Shiv Kumar Batalvi

Shiv Kumar Batalvi

Shiv Kumar Batalvi is considered by Punjabi speakers in India as well as Pakistan as one of the finest poets of modern Punjabi literature. Tonight’s post is a wonderful selection of his poems set to music and sung by Jagjit Singh Zirvi (not to be confused with THE Jagjit Singh) and Neelam Sahni.

Shiv Kumar was born (1936) into a middle class family in that part of Punjab that is now in Pakistan.  His father was a village revenue agent and well educated.  Shiv Kumar  is remembered as a ‘dreamy’ boy who much preferred wandering through the village singing folk and devotional songs to attending classes.

At the age of 11 he and his family moved to Batala (hence his name) in Indian Punjab as the madness of Partition tore the countryside apart. The young boy continued in his dream world and turned his hand to composing his own verses as a teenager. In line with his father’s own dreams, Shiv attended several colleges in Batala and other towns but never lasted more than a few months or a year before dropping out.  By the time he gave up on formal education in the late 1950s, he had already developed a reputation as a powerful poet who was somehow able to bring a modern spirit to the rich folk traditions of Punjabi poetry. He was a fine singer but soon turned away from singing film and folk songs in preference to his own lyrics.

Under the mentorship and patronage of elder literary figures Batalvi took to poetry like a man obsessed. He published several volumes in quick succession and in 1965 became the country’s youngest recipient (he was 29) of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award, India’s highest literary honor. He was a star burning bright. 

Feted and ill fated.

He fell in love with a woman who was not to be his and never got over the heart break. Drink became a problem and his health deteriorated. But he was able to hold his audience like few others, as this description shows.


This mushaira was organized on a very large scale on the occasion of Guru Nanak’s 500th birthday. As soon as we appeared on the stage, a wave of excitement ran through the audience on seeing Shiv. They welcomed him with a loud round of applause. When he stood up to recite his poetry, a trance-like silence dominated the hall. He read his poem, Safar (A Travel). The vibrations of his enchanting and soft tunes touched the hearts of everyone present. Suddenly he raised the pitch of his voice. He was challenging Nanak. A poet was addressing another poet. He was saying to Guru Nanak: “See how far your nation has travelled after you. Today they have travelled from your name to the sword” . Shiv’s voice was resonating in the hall. He was standing tall and there was a prophet-like grandeur in his voice … when the poem ended … the girls started shouting for him to sing “Kee puchdey o haal faqeeran da (What is the point of asking us faqirs how are we doing?) … Shiv smiled and switching his mood he then sang the poem that he had sung hundreds of time and each time it had won the hearts of his audience … When Shiv left the microphone after reading three poems, no other poet could get the attention of the audience. The spell had broken and people had lost their interest.’ [Gargi 2000 ‘Haseen Chehre’].

Though he was loved by millions of Punjabis, ‘progressive’ and Leftist poets criticized his work strongly. At the same time he struggled financially and his spirits took a beating. In 1972 he made a celebrated tour of England, playing to appreciative Punjabi audiences all across the country. But when he returned to India he was not well and a few months later passed away at the age of just 36. 

His poems have been sung by many sub continental artists including Jagjit and Chitra Singh, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Rabbi Shergill.

Tonight’s album is a rare collection from 1979 beautifully performed by Jagjit Singh Zirvi and Neelam Sahni.  Every song is a keeper but my favorite is the stunning Ik Kuri Jidha Naam Muhabat Gum Hai (A Lost Girl Named Love).




            Track Listing:
01 Ik Kuri Jidha Naam Muhabat Gum Hai
02 Punnia de Chan Nu Koi Massia
03 Ki Puchhde O Haal Faqiran Da
04 Tu Vida Hoyon
05 Peeran Da Praga Bhun De
06 Nee Mai  Agg Turi Pardes
07 Raat Chanani Mai Turaan
Listen here.



11 comments:

deewani said...

K Deep's rendition of Ik Kuri Jidha has always been my favorite. Look forward to hearing Zirvi's. Thanks so much for this album, I have never heard any of these renditions of Batalvi's work, can't wait to!

ajnabi said...

Hi Deewani,
who is K Deep? Would like to hear his version myself.

deewani said...

K Deep and his wife, Jagmohan Kaur were a couple of folk singers whose albums were very popular in the 70s. These links provide a wee bit of history about them: http://www.thesouthallstory.com/decades-of-music/ and http://www.ludhianadistrict.com/personality/kdeep_jagmohan_kaur.php. For some reason, info on the two is usually scarce on the web, especially if one searches for K Deep without his wife Jagmohan Kaur. Their daughter maintains Jagmohan Kaur's facebook page.

Here's a link for his version: http://www.sendspace.com/file/5u3mxf I never knew which album it was from until today as your post led me to search the web again. I heard this version when I was very young, a kind person on the web shared the track with me some years back, and I'm forwarding that kindness.

I found a vinyl listing for the original album and apparently Google Music India has partnered with Saregama and has the album available to stream in it's entirety. Album being "Shiv Batalvi De Geet" (translated: the songs of Shiv Batalvi) http://www.google.co.in/music/album?n=Shiv-Batalvi-De-Geet&id=20110504160956_32lbyqmlptjkj. Unfortunately this album is not sold at iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, etc like many other songs from the saregama catalog, one hopes it will be added one day as I struggle to understand how to buy tracks straight from saregama as the site always crashes. The eBay listing that gave me the name of the album: http://www.ebay.in/itm/SHIV-BATALVI-GEET-K-DEEP-S-MONINDER-1976-PUNJABI-/120660029252
The listing has scans of the records.

Once again thanks for your fantastic blog with your wide ranging taste. I was just speaking of Batalvi with a friend after he told me Jagjit Singh had passed away, his tribute album to Batalvi, Birha Da Sultan is one of my favorites too. And today I saw your post on Batalvi, how about that? :)

ajnabi said...

Deewani,
thanks so much...i'll check out those links and other leads. I agree SAREGAMA is a weird outfit perhaps only available in India...don't know.
Cheers.

deewani said...

I've found that I have most of the other tracks anyways spread over various Batalvi compilation discs put out by Saregama. And their copy of Ik Kudi seems to be warped anyways. Only one I don't have I think is Chire Walia. If you're curious about the rest of the numbers let me know.

ajnabi said...

Deewani,
The article on Bhangra is fascinating....amazing history. thanks.
the links don't work...alas I'm a Macman and they are for Bill Gates lot.
The album on Ebay looks very enticing!
would love the other numbers too.

deewani said...

Which links do not work? None of the links are "live" in the blogger comment field, I had to copy and paste into the browser... I'm PC girl (because I feel comfortable tinkering inside and because Macs are too much for me, lol, though I LOVE and have loved all my iPods :)

This site has some great info on the UK Bhangra evolution too: http://www.sohoroadtothepunjab.org/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/ Hoping they tour in my neck of the woods some day.

It's early AM for me, I shall email the rest of the tracks in the evening.

ajnabi said...

Deewani, thanks for those tracks. Really like them. J Kaur's voice is wonderful!

deewani said...

Yeah I love her everyday earthy Punjabi woman voice. :) YVW!

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I found your blog while searching for cover art via google. So I was excited to find such diverse collection that you are sharing but
sadly your files are in aiff and 11KHz
which is just butchering the music obviously no one else has complained so you don't have to worry. but it such a shame. a youtube encoding is better than what you are doing.
If you don't know please encode in 44KHz using AAC encoder at 128KHz or higher. quality will be like cd and files will be a lot smaller as aiff and wav are raw audio format not like mp3 and aac. There are other non lossy formats as well like Apple Lossless Encoder or FLAC.

Thank you.

Dr.Bukhari said...

Aaah mediafire link for this unique album is invalid.. kindly do refresh it whenever you have time bro. Thanx is just a little word for ur huge efforts but still Thanx :-)