Friday, October 16, 2015

Mir: Dekh To Dil Ke Jaan Se Uthta Hai

Mir Muhammad Taqi Mir (Urdu: مِیر تقی مِیرؔ‎, 1723-1810), whose takhallus is, simply, Mir - was the leading Urdu poet of the 18th century, a pioneer who gave shape to the Urdu language. One of the principal poets of the Delhi School of the Urdu ghazal, Mir migrated to the court of Awadh in 1782 and lived there till his death. Mir-ji is one of the foremost names in Urdu poetry, oft remembered as Khudā-e sukhan (God of words.)

Here, the Shahenshah of Ghazals renders Mir:

Dekh to dil ke jaan se uthta hai
yeh dhuan sa kahaan se uthta hai

Look, if it comes from my heart, or life?
Say, from where does this smoke rise?

Gor kis dil-jale ki hai yeh falak
shola eik subh-o-yahan se uthta hai

Tomb for some cinder-heart must be the sky
A burning thing every morn thence, too, does rise.

Yun uthhe aah us gali se hum
jaisey koi jahaan se uthta hai

Thus I got up, alas, to leave behind that lane
Like to part this world some soul might rise.

Baithne kon de hai phir usko
jo tere aastaan se uthta hai

Who can make him again a proper place to sit
He who from a seat at thy house did last rise?

Ishq ek Mir bhaari patthar hai
kab ye tujh na-tawaan se uthta hai

Love, O Mir, is such a heavy stone
When could a fool like you even make it rise?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Faiz: Aaj Bazaar Mein

Faiz was being transferred between jails in a tonga (a horse carriage, the common man's transport of the time), and it so happened that the tonga passed a market-square where he'd been fêted not too long ago. Nayyara Noor sings the nazm that he penned upon reaching his cell at the end of the ride. It ought to be an anthem of women in the Islamic world. For that matter, why only women? And why only the Islamic world?

आज बाज़ार में पा-ब-जौलाँ चलो

Let's walk the market-square enshackled today

चश्म-ए-नम जान-ए-शोरीदा काफ़ी नहीं
तोहमत-ए-इश्क-ए-पोशीदा काफ़ी नहीं

Tears and heartbreak never enough
Blamed tending hidden love never enough

दस्त-अफ्शां चलो, मस्त-ओ-रक़्सां चलो
खाक-बर-सर चलो, खूं-ब-दामां चलो
राह तकता है सब शहर-ए-जानां चलो

Go innocence in hand, go dancing in trance
Go dust on head,  go blood on garb
All watch that road - Go, to the town of Beloved

हाकिम-ए-शहर भी, मजम-ए-आम भी
तीर-ए-इल्ज़ाम भी, संग-ए-दुश्नाम भी
सुबह-ए-नाशाद भी, रोज़-ए-नाकाम भी

Lord of town too, Crowd of commoner too
Arrow of accusation too, Stone of infamy too
Morning of grief too, Day of failure too

इनका दमसाज़ अपने सिवा कौन है
शहर-ए-जानां मे अब बा-सफा कौन है
दस्त-ए-क़ातिल के शायां रहा कौन है

But thee their friend who else?
Untainted in town of Beloved who else?
Named for assassin's hand who else?

रख्त-ए-दिल बांध लो दिलफिगारों चलो
फिर हमीं क़त्ल हो आयें यारों चलो
आज बाज़ार में पा-ब-जौला चलो

Bind up torn heart, come to the path of love
Join we those to next to die, come my friends
Let's walk the market-square enshackled today.

Here is Faiz himself, reciting the verses.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Bulleh Shah: Mahiya Tere Vekhan Nu

The Mughal emperor Akbar gave a name to the doab between the Beas and the Ravi - he combined the names of the two rivers to call it the Bari. The tehsil of Dipalpur, a stronghold of the Bhatti Rajput clan, lies in the Bari. It was here that the  first Mongol invasion of India was deflected  by Balban in 1285 (at the cost of the life of his son.)

The most noticeable feature inside old Dipalpur town is the monastery of Lal Jas Raj Dipal, venerated by locals. According to legend, Lal Jas Raj was the son of Raja Dipa Chand, the founder of Dipalpur. The boy had a lock of hair on the back of his head, while the rest of his head was shaved, a common practice for the Hindu devout. One day, while he was teasing his step-mother, she got annoyed and told him to go bury himself. The curse took hold, Dipal's body started entering the earth. When his step-mother saw what was happening, she quickly ran to his rescue but by then he had almost completely disappeared, with only his choti (lock of hair) above ground. Eventually the choti turned to stone, and the spot where Dipal had sunk became a shrine, testament to the destructive effect of cruel words on those we love.

This area at the Punjab-Rajasthan border has been the holy ground of many peoples' saints. Hazrat Bahawal Haq (Bahawal Sher Qalandar) came from Baghdad and settled outside Dipalpur. Guru Nanak lived here for a while. When Akbar visited along with his son Saleem (the future emperor Jahangir) in 1578,  it was to pay homage to Hazrat Farid Ganj Shakar.

Below, Amir Ali Khan, Saleem Ali Khan, Ejaz Ali Khan and party render traditional qawwali inside the old town of Dipalpur - an act of defiance by the Shia, for the Shahi Masjid of Dipalpur flies the banner of Maulana Fazul ur Rehman, the well-known Islamist politician from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. The Maulana and his men follow the Deobandi school of thought and look down upon song as un-Islamic.

The qalam is that of Bulleh Shah, the raga is Des.

There is no longer a canonical channel of these lyrics, which have spread across the doab like the braids of the Beas, here is an approximate translation of another version (performed by the Wadali brothers here.)

Charkha mera rang rangeela, ban gai teri yaad vaseela.

My charkha (spinning wheel) of many colors, has become a way of meeting Thy memories.

E mahiya tere vekhan nu, chuk charkha gali de vich panwa.

Beloved, to catch a glimpse of Thee, I place my charkha in the lane outside.

Ve loka paane main kat di, tang teriya yaad de panwa. 

People think I spin cotton,  but I truly weave the thread of Thy memory.

Charkhe di oo kar de ole, yaad teri da tumba bole. 

I tire,  set charka aside in shade, the music of Thy memory still rings in my heart.

Ve nimma nimma geet ched ke, tang kath di hullare panwa. 

Humming slowly, slowly, I spin gently and dwell on the joy of meeting Thee.

Vasan ni de rahe saure peke, mainu tere pain pulekhe.

Kin let not me rest in ease, but I feel Thou art come close.

Ve hoon mainu das mahiya, tere baaju kidhar main jayiyaan. 

Beloved, I ask this: If I don't go to Thee then where do I go?

Ho Eid aayi, mera yaar na aaya, tera ve khair hove ove tamd.

The festive day (Eid) has come, but my Beloved hasn't returned.

Haar singar change nai lagde, ho kisi cheez pe nazar na jamdi. 

Jewelry and colors seem dull, nothing around catches my eye.

Sukha waalian needra mangne, yaar mile to main eid manva. 

I only pray for sleep,  let my Love come then I'll celebrate Eid.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Maruvani: Kesaria Balam Padharo Mharo Des

Mix-and-match is becoming ludicrous.  Farid Ayaz just passed off "Padharo mharo des" as a Sufi spiritual. Erm, a little background, then you, gentle reader, be the judge.

The tribes of Rajasthan have long exported mercenaries. These foreign legions of the desert have buttressed the ranks of kings of alluvia, and their women have been stranded in the Thar waiting for men who may never return. In the eyes of these women, the saffron/ochre of desert-turban (kesar/kasumal respectively) mix metaphorically with the mane (kesar) of the Gir lion to label the lost lover "kesaria". May he return safe to my arms. Saffron/maned lover, return to my lands - kesaria balam, padharo mharo des.

Kabir also asks us to come to his land - chalo hamaro des. But where is Kabir’s country? It is a different, more elusive country, one that you inhabit when you understand how to live in the knowledge that you will too die:

Mati Kahe Kumhar se, Tu Kya Raunde Moye,
Ek Din Aisa Ayega, Main Raundungi Toye

Clay calls out to Potter, What of thee mauling me
The day'll come soon by, Mauling thee I will be.

Here are Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammed:

Narwar is a historic town in Madhya Pradesh in central India, roughly between Gwalior and Jhansi, east of a steep scarp of the Vindhya range where the Sind River turns sharply to the south. Classically Nalapura, the town is said to have been the capital of Raja Nala, a character in Hindu mythology who princess Damayanti of Vidarbha Kingdom chooses for husband, who loses everything to gambling, and wins it all back - a popular story told in the Mahabharata.

Dhola, son of the king of Narwar and successor to the kingdom of Nala, is wed to Maruvani, daughter of Pingal, chief of Jhangal (Bikaner), as a child: the bride is 1 1/2, the groom 3. After the formalities, Dhola returns to Narwar with this family, and soon forgets what all those lights and flutes and sweetmeats had been all about.

As a young man, Dhola is married off again, to another princess, this one named Malvani. When they hear of the second marriage, the parents of his first bride, Maruvani, send messages to Narwar asking that the lawful first daughter-in-law be fetched to her husband, but thanks to Dhola's forgetfulness and Malvani's scheming, that is never allowed to happen. There is probably an element of an alliance having lost strategic value.

So Maruvani takes matters in her own hand. She composes music in Raag Maaru - the desert raga of the Thar, and sets couplets to the music. She trains a minstrel in the couplets and sends him off to Narwar.

The night when the bard reaches the outskirts of Narwar palace is a stormy one with lightning and thunder obscuring his approach. The singer creeps up to palace walls and starts in Raag Malhar; when the preamble reaches Dhola's ears at the palace window, over air laden with static, he stands electrified, listening. Raag Malhar gives way to drizzles, the downpour subsides, the thirsty earth soaks up water and in the pungent aftermath the singer shifts to the couplets in Raag Maaru:

ढोला नरवर सेरियाँ, धण पूंगल गळीयांह !
Dhola of Narwar heed, the Treasure in lanes of Pingal !

At the mention of Pingal Dhola starts, he remembers his first bride of long ago. The singer sings out the rest of the composition, Maruvani's musical letter to her husband, that she waits for him still.

आखडिया डंबर भई,नयण गमाया रोय |
क्यूँ साजण परदेस में, रह्या बिंडाणा होय ||

My eyes red like fruit, my sight gone from tears
Why did my love leave, and why does he forbear?

केसरिया बालम आओ नि पधारो म्हारे देस
Saffron/maned lover, come this way, arrive in my land

मारू थारे देस में निपूजे तीन रतन-
एक ढोलो, दूजी मारवन , तीजो कसूमल रंग

In the desert of Thar hide jewels three
First Dhola (chivalry), Second Maruvani (fidelity), Third the color Ochre (of blood and sacrifice)

Chagrined, Dhola sets off for Bikaner on his fastest black camel. Pingal's court bursts out in celebration when he eventually reaches. After a few days in Maruvani's palace, the couple set off to return to Narwar. Several adventures ensue. Maruvani is bitten by a snake but resuscitated by Hara-Parvati. Umra-Sumra the highwayman lays a trap for the couple in the form of a traveling musicians' mehfil, but Umra-Sumra's wife, who is from the court of Pingal, tips the would-be-victims off and Maruvani escapes with Dhola. And so on.

केसरिया बालम आओ नि पधारो म्हारे देस
नि केसरिया बालम आओ सा पधारो म्हारे देस

Saffron/maned lover, arrive to my land
Come back, come to my lands

पधारो म्हारे देस, आओ म्हारे देस नि
केसरिया बालम आओ सा पधारो म्हारे देस

Return to my land, come to my land, do
Saffron lover, arrive in my land.

मारू थारे देस में निपूजे तीन रतन
एक ढोलो, दूजी मारवन , तीजो कसूमल रंग

In the desert of Thar hide jewels three
First Dhola (chivalry), Second Maruvani (fidelity), Third the color Ochre (of blood and sacrifice)

पधारो म्हारे देस, पधारो म्हारे देस नि,
केसरिया बालम, आओ नि पधारो म्हारे देस ||

Return to my land, come to my land, do
Saffron lover, come back to my land.

Dhola-Maru is one of the most popular love stories of Rajasthan. Probably dating from the 8th century, it is still remembered by couples in love, and women of Thar will still address a beloved as Dhola.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Badar Ali Ansari: Nit Khair Mangi

Here's a Punabi qawwali composed by Badar Ali Saheb Ansari. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had recorded Badar Ali's qalam many years ago, here's a fresh take from Mukhtiyar Ali Mirasi - a folk singer from Bikaner.

Mukhtiyar Ali was born in a small village named Pugal near the Indo-Pak border (where the music-video below is shot), and belongs to the semi-nomadic community of Mirasis, who have been the traditional carriers of the oral tradition of the Sufiana qalam in India. The Mirasi are a Hindu, Muslim or Sikh caste found in Northern India; they are the genealogists for a number of communities in Northern India. Within the name Mirasi are a number of groups, each with its own history and its own myth. Some Mirasi groups are thought to be Muslim converts from the Hindu Dom caste, while others claim to have belonged to the Hindu Charan/bard community, said to have converted to Islam at the hands of Amir Khusrau. The word Mirasi is derived from the Arabic word miras, which means inheritance, or heritage.  As hereditary genealogists, the Mirasi maintain pedigrees of their patrons and are often involved in the negotiation of marriages; they sometime style themselves as Nassab khawan, or the keepers of family trees. They are also known Pakhawaji from the pakhawaj - pakshavadya or two-sided Indian drum - that they play.

Mukhtiar Ali blends the Rajasthani folk idiom with Hindustani classical tunes, to sing the qalam of Badar Ali:

Nit Khair Mangi Sohniya Main Teri, Dua Na Koi Aor Mangdi
Tere Pairanch Akhir Hove Meri, Dua Na Koi Aor Mangdi

Everyday, Beloved, I pray Thee be well, for naught else I ask.
May I be at Thy feet in my end, for naught else I ask.

Tere Pyar Ditta Jado Da Sahara Ve, Mainu Bhul Gai Mai Jag Sara Ve
Khushi Eho Mainu Sajna Batheri, Dua Na Koi Aor Mangdi

Ever since Thy love's support, the world around me I could forget.
This joy is all I need, my love, for naught else I ask.

Tu Mileya Te Mil Gayi Khudai Ve, Hath Jode Akha Payi Na Judai Ve
Mar Jawangi Je Ankh Metho Pheri, Dua Na Koi Aor Mangdi

With Thee, I experience Oneness; folded hands, I pray we never  part.
I will be no more if Thy eyes turn from me, for naught else I ask.

Eho Rab Tainu Mangiya Duawa Ve, Alla Kare Teri Aayi Mar Jawa Ve
Hathi Badar Banawi Saadi Dheri, Dua Na Koi Aor Mangdi

So I ask this of God;  Allah take me instead when Thy time comes
May Badar but be of service to Thee, for naught else I ask.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Baulanga: Hey Kaala

'Baulanga' means the Baul Corpus in Bengali; these traditional songs, lyrics braiding one to the other, do not admit to easy demarcation of authorship.

The singer Parvati Baul tells us that the composer is an unknown Muslim fakir from Bangladesh, who describes the last few moments of Radha’s life, just before she walks into the dark waters of Yamuna river, mistaking it to be the Dark One, her beloved Krishna.

The lyrics are translated in subtitles.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Jigar: Dil Burd Az Man Deeroz Shaame

Jigar Muradabadi had a clear sense of the eeriness of power-exchange,  recalling the cold cruelty of the words Khusrau put in the mouth of Beloved:

Guftam ke houri yaa pari, guftaa ke man shaah-e butaan
Guftam ke Khusrao naatavaan, guftaa parastaar-e-man ast

Said I: 'Art Thou houri or fairy?' said S/He: 'The King of Idols.'
Said I: 'Khusrau is helpless.'  the reply: 'Worship Me.'

Here's a piece of Jigar's qalam in Farsi - Dil-burd az man deeroz shaame:

Dil burd az man deeroz shaame,
Fitna taraze mahshar khirame.

Bewitched my bosom, evening past
Sweet intriguer, Doomsday's stalk.

Roo-e-mubeen'ash subh-e-tajjala
Lauh-e-zabeen'ash mah-e-tamame

Face of Clarity, Morn of Crowns
Tablet of forehead, the Moon around

Mushki-khat-e-oo sumbul-ba-gulshan
Laali-labe-oo baada-ba-jaame

Fragrance Her letters, frailty of vine
Red are Her lips, gateway to wine

Aa’n teghe abru wa’n teere mishga’n,
Aamada har yak bar qatl aame.

Swords arched brows, lashes arrows,
With all else needed, to kill or harrow.

Gahe ba masti taus raqsaa’n,
Gahe ba shokhi aahu khirame.

Often ecstatic, peacock dancing,
Often playful, as deer prancing.

Az jisme larza’n, larza’n do aalam,
Waz zulfe barham, barham nizame.

Shivers body, shiver both worlds,
Locks fall loose, apart comes Order.

Aariz che aariz gesu che gesu,
Subhe che subhe shaame che shaame.

Cheek to cheek, lock to lock
Dawn to dawn, night to night.

Guftam che joi gufta dilo jaa’n,
Guftam che khwahi gufta ghulame.

Asked I of Love “Seek'st Thou what?",
Replied Destroyer: "Slaves, else naught."

Below, Abdullah Manzoor, Makhmoor Niazi Qawwal & Party present the qalam of Jigar (in a snippet within a longer rendition of Mere Bane Ki Baat Na Poochho.)

Yeh ishq nahin aasaan bus itna samajh leejiye,
Ik aag ka daria hai aur doob ke jaana hai

This Love is no easy affair; you might as well understand
It as a river of Fire, one that you must swim immersed, to cross.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Khusrau: Ay Chehra-e-Zeba-e-Tu

A fellow down on his luck, having heard of the munificence of Hazrat Nizamuddin, came in from an outlying village to the khanaqah in Delhi to seek alms. The saint had nothing to give him, so he gave away his slippers.

The mendicant was disappointed, and eventually left. On the way back, he took night's shelter in a caravanserai where, as chance would have it, Amir Khusrau had halted on his way back from a lucrative foray, trading jewels with Bengal. Khusrau recognized his master's footwear, and, after the briefest of enquiries ("I smell the fragrance of my lord"), ransomed the item for all he had made from his trading expedition. "You got them back cheap, then" - was Nizamuddin Auliya's laconic comment when he had his slippers returned.

Below, Farid Ayaz and party render another Khusrau qawwali.

Ay chehra-e-zeba-e-tu rashk-e-butan-e-Azari;
Har chand wasfat mikunam dar husn-az-aan zebatari.

Surat gare naqqash chi rau surat-e-ya-ram qibi
Ya surat-e-kaskhki chuni ya tabr yoon surat gari

Tu az pari ja mukhtari az barg-e-gul na sukhtari
Shamsi nadanam ya qamar, ya zohrai, ya mushtari

Aafaq ra gar deedah am mehr-e butan warzeedah am;
Bisyar khuban deedah am lekin tu cheez-e deegari.

Man tu shudam, tu man shudi, man tan shudam, tu jan shudi;
Taakas nagoyad baad azeen man deegaram tu deegari.

Khusrau ghareeb ast-o gada uftadah dar shehr-e shuma;
Baashad ki az behr-e khuda, su-e ghareeban bangari.

O Thou whose beautiful face is envy of the idols of Azar (Abraham's father and image engraver of antiquity);
Thou remainst every moment superior to any praise of mine.

The mask maker who makes visages, if he saw Thine visage
The dryness of his past choices would make him start all over

Thou Queen of Fairies, bouquets of flowers pale beside Thee
Neither Sun nor Moon can match Thee, Resplendent  Thou, Jupiter Thou

All over the world have I traveled; many a maiden’s love have I tasted;
Many a beauteous star have I seen; but Thou art unique.

I am become Thou, Thou me; I am become the body, Thou the soul;
So that none hereafter may say “I am I and Thou are Thou. (i.e. someone else)”

Khusrau a beggar, a stranger has come wandering to your town;
For sake of God's Ocean, pity the poor, turn him not from the door.