|Lahori manuscript depicting nobleman with musicians|
Tonight’s post highlights two sets of music from Pakistan and is inspired by two articles I’ve read in the last couple of days.
The first article is actually the most recent post on the blog that goes by the name Moments of Tranquility which is hosted by Fawad Zakhriya. In the post he poignantly expresses his sadness for a ‘vanished cultural landscape’, namely that of fine vocal music sung in cultivated Urdu. He looks back to a time when Pakistani cultural life was filled with singers, actors and artists who hailed from the Urdu-speaking heartland of India and who set the bar of performance on television and radio. It’s really a great post and I’d urge all with an interest in Pakistani culture to have a quick read.
Touched by Fawad’s post I dug out a record of Urdu songs sung by some of Pakistan’s most feted classical/semi-classical, ghazal and film singers for the Pakistan television program Sukhanwar (Poet). In this record you’ll hear Farida Khanum, Tahira Syed, Iqbal Bano, Mehdi Hassan and many more singing ghazals and folk tunes. My own favorite (as always) is Amanat Ali Khan who gets pride of place with two performances, one I’ve never heard before, Mausam Badla. While not exactly what Fawad is referring to this album nevertheless is a nice slice of that cultural landscape that seems to be in fast retreat.
01 Shaboon Mein Attar (Mehdi Hassan)
02 Do Nain Kanwal (Nahid Akhtar)
03 Bare Dosti Mein (Akhlaq Ahmed)
04 Tu Hai Ya Tera Saya (Tahira Syed)
05 Mausam Badla (Ustad Amanat Ali Khan)
06 Ae Mitwali Badli (Nahid Akhtar)
07 Ae Gizal-e-Shab (Nahid Niazi)
08 Bairi More Naina (Iqbal Bano)
09 Chand Hi Nikla (Farida Khanum)
10 Honton Pe Kabhi (Ustad Amanat Ali Khan)
The second article is by a Delhi filmmaker Yousef Saeed. He traced the state of classical Hindustani music in post Partition Pakistan and like Fawad’s post, one is left lamenting the near extinction of this great art form. While one can point the usual fingers at bureaucrats and military governments who never appreciated the fine arts one of the more interesting factors in the decline of the music was the loss of patronage. Most musicians were Muslim and when many of the big names left for Pakistan they left behind their (often royal) patrons. And many of the largest patrons in Lahore and other cities of Pakistan were Sikh or Hindu who left for India. The end result, a group of musicians cut adrift from not only their homes but their mode and culture of making music.
But read the article, published in the fine online magazine Himal, and watch some of the clips of his film interviews with Pakistani musicians on YouTube. Absolutely fascinating stuff.
So the second collection of music is Ustad Habib Ali Khan, binkar (bin player). The only snippet of info I can find on him is from the back of this CD. Ustad Habib Ali Khan (1898-1971) of the Delhi gharana was of the acknowledged greats among sarangi players of his time, a position he maintained until his death in 1971. A pupil of Ustad Ahmadi Khan, he served Radio Pakistan and the PIA Arts Academy both as an instrumentalist and a composer.
One assumes he played more than the sarangi for this collection of moving, sad music is played on the bin. The bin or been is also known as the rudra veena in India. The bin has always been the instrument of Indian classical music and was traditionally studied by all dhrupad students until the 19th century.
|Bin (Rudra Veena)|
It is one of the oldest instruments in Indian music. Technically a stick zither, it consists of a fingerboard with two large gourd resonators at either end. The bin usually has four main playing strings, and two or three "chikari" strings used as rhythmic drones.
I would love to know more about Ustad Habib Ali Khan. If anyone can pass on more information about him I’d love to hear. In the meantime, enjoy this very evocative and moving music from a time not too long ago when the landscape was a bit brighter.
01 Raga Hem
02 Raga Dhanasri
03 Raga Khem
04 Raga Multani
05 Maru Behag