Monday, February 11, 2013

Nawab of Nautanki: Alam Lohar



Before the internet, before TV, before films and before radio the most popular form of entertainment for the people across northern India and Pakistan was a raucous form of folk theatre known as nautanki. Troupes, sometimes called akharas, and other times, mandalis, toured the countryside (and crowded urban neighborhoods) providing entertainment by singing, dancing, choreographed fighting and storytelling. Sort of like the travelling tent shows or a mini-carnival in the West, the mandalis would start their shows in the late evening and play non-stop for up to 8 hours and the sun was well above the horizon.

This form of theatre, while not completely extinct, is less and less of a crowd-puller in South Asia today.  TV, film, video games and the internet have all had a perilous impact on the livelihoods of musicians, actors and acrobats who relied on this colourful form of theatre for their living.

Tonight I share with you a great collection of Punjabi songs by the great nautanki performer Alam Lohar. (A biography of Lohar is available in an earlier post). Lohar remains one of north India’s and especially Punjab’s iconic folk cultural heroes.  With a high pitched voice he recited in music, the many love songs of Punjab and regaled audiences with his renditions of sufi poetry.  He kept beat and led his accompanists with the incessant rhythmic clicking of his chimta (ironsmith’s tongs) to which were attached small cymbals.  The simplest of rural instruments but one that Lohar played so effectively he and the instrument are nearly synonymous.
Picture of Alam Lohar and Bollywood flame Rekha at a nautanki show in Pakistan

Though almost all nautanki akharas were run by men women singers and performers were not entirely unheard of.  Indeed, in the 1960s Alam Lohar vied with the voice and talents of probably Punjab’s greatest female nautanki artist, Bali Jaggi. On tonight’s selection she can be heard on several tracks singing with Lohar.  The feel of the late night performance comes through on many of these songs which are wonderful folk tales and dramatic retellings of romances familiar to the audience.  One of the duets in particular Sehti Te Ranjha Di Mulaqaat (Sehti meets Ranjha), the good natured rivalry between Lohar and Jaggi is palpable and infectious.  It is a delight to listen to and if you’ve ever been to village mela or fair anywhere on the sub-continent you will be transported quickly back to the scene.

I hope you’ll enjoy this music. It is unique and fun and playful. 
           
            Track Listing:
            Allah Bismillah Teri Jugni
Ashiq Mar Mar Jaan
Baag Baharan Te Gulzaran
Beparwah Nu Dil Deke
Bol Mitti Deya Baweya
Dil Wala Dukhda
Eh Duniya
Ek Roz Niyaz
Ghund Utaar Deedar Wikhavin
Has Ke Nazara Dena Chhad De
Heer Te Ranjhe Di Mulaqaat
Mahiya
Main Gawan Jugni
Meet Mera
Meri Ghodi Kar Tyar
Mirza
Modha Maar Ke
Naal Mohabbat Masjid Ander
Pa Gayi Sanu Umran Da Rona
Qissa Hirni
Qissa Laila Da
Rehmat Da Darwaza
Saari Raat Tadapdeyan Lang Jaandi
Sehti Te Ranjhe Di Mulaqaat
Son Ja Naal Yakeen De (Mirza)
Tu Gabru Jatt Punjab Da
Tu Rehna Na Main Rehna
Ve Toteya
Wajan Mariyan Bulaya Kayi Vaar

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