Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bhawaiya : Diney Diney

The territory of the Bhawaiya folk song is North Bengal, Coochbehar, and Assam -  also covering much of the Rangpuri-dialect-speaking areas of northern Bangladesh.  Some say Bhawaiya is derived from "bhava" - emotion.   Others think the term originated from the word "bhabaiya" -  that which inspires contemplation. Certainly the themes of this genre are contemplation, love, and loss. The lyrics below are traditional - dated sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries, now resurrected in a MTV sherwani. (Disregard the mishmash of overlaid new-age Punjabi lyrics, which bear no relation to the original.)

দিনে দিনে খসিয়া পড়িবে
রঙ্গিলা দালানের মাটি গোসাঁইজি ... কোন রঙে?

Diney diney khoshiya poribe
Rongila dalaner mati Gosain-ji ...  Kon rongey?

Day by day will crumble
Mud-walls of this pretty-colored house, O priest ... In what color?

বাঁধিছেন ঘর মিছা
মিছা দ্বন্দ্ব মাঝে গোসাঁইজি ... কোন রঙে?

Bandhichhen ghar michha
Michha dwandwa majhe Gosain-ji ...Kon rongey?

Your house-framing is futile
Futile in midst of doubt, O priest ... In what color?

বাল্য না কাল গেলো হাসিতে খেলিতে
যৈবন কাল গেলো রঙ্গে
আর বৃদ্ধ না কাল গেলো ভাবিতে চিন্তিতে
গুরু ভজিবো কোন কালে, গোঁসাইজী ... কোন রঙে?

Balyo na kaal gelo hashite khelite
Jaiban kaal gelo rangey
Aar briddho na kaal gelo bhabite chintite
Guru bhojibo kon kaale Gosain-ji ... Kon rongey?

Childhood went in laughter and play
Youth in dance and song
Old age in thinking and worry
When to chant of Guru, O priest ... In what color?

হাড়েরও ঘরখানি, চামেরও ছাউনি
বন্ধে বন্ধে তার জোড়া
আর তাহারই তলে ময়ুর আর ময়ুরী
শূন্যে উড়ায় তারা গোসাঁইজি ... কোন রঙে?

A room of bones, thatched by skin
Joint by joint tied
And beneath, peacock and peahen
They fly in space, O priest ... In what color?

(মতান্তরে )
হাড়েরও ঘরখানি, চামেরও ছাউনি
বন্ধে বন্ধে তার জোড়া
সেই ঝড়েরও প্রহরী ময়ুর আর ময়ুরী
কবে দেয় যে গো উড়া গোসাঁইজি ... কোন রঙে?

Harero gharkhani, chamero chhawni
Bandhe bandhe tar jora
Shei jharero prohori mayur ar mayuri
Kobe deay je go ura Gosain-ji ... Kon rongey?

A room of bones, thatched by skin
Joint by joint tied
That tempest's guards, peacock and peahen
Who knows when they fly away, O Priest ... In what color?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Amjad Sabri: Yehi Mera Zauq-e-Sujood Hai

A few weeks ago, two motorcyclists opened fire on Amjad Sabri's car in Karachi. Sabri was shot twice in the head and once on the ear and died shortly after.  The killing was claimed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban who accused Sabri of blasphemy.

Here is a piece of traditional qawwali from Amjad Sabri. The circumspect poster of the video (apparently the music label who produced it) has bleeped some of the problematic lines, wherein Hindu deities and Western philosophy are said to be found within a saint's shrine along with Muhammad or Allah. At one point, a camouflaging grunt of "Allaaaaah" is added to the soundtrack.

Yehi mera zauq-e-sujood hai, yehi mere ishq ka raaz hai
Teri yaad mein mera jhoomna, mera Hajj hai meri Namaaz hai

This is my perception of the essence of prayer: acknowedgement of my love for Thee
My whirling dance ,with Thee in mind, this is my pilgrimage (Hajj) and my prayer (Namaaz.)

Tere dar pe sajda ada kiya, tujhe apna kaaba bana liya
Yeh gunah hai to hua kare, mujhe is gunah pe naaz hai

I lay my prayers at Thine door, I made Thee my most sacred enclosure (Kaaba)
If these be sins, so be it, I cherish such sins of mine.

Yehan pehle raaj hain Aulia, yehan paaon rakha rawaan naheen
Yahan sar ke bal chalo aashiqon, ye dayar ye banda nawaz hai

The First Lord here is the shrine's saint (Aulia), none stepping here are sent back
Prostrate here your heads, O Lovers, this be the realm of Friends of Worship.

Yahan Falsafi bhi hai Ram hai, yeh ajeeb kaisa maqam hai
Jahan khud se jhuk na sake zabeen wahan sajda karna haraam hai

Here be philosophy (natural philosphy, i.e. science), here be Ram (avatar of Vishnu) too, what a strange station this is
Where Beauty (Pride?) cannot bow down before itself, that place is forbidden for prayers.

Mujhe Anwar-ul ka hai aasra, ke wahi to mere rafeeq hain
Main ghareeb hoon to kya hua mera silsila to daraaz hai

I take shelter in the Luminous One (Ali, the first Shia Imam), for he is my ally himself
So what if I am poor, my link to him is still unbroken.

Another rendering of this qalaam, by Shafqat Hussain and Shujaat Hussain qawwals, is here.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Nizami: Mara Ba Ghamza Kusht

Nizami Ganjavi (Persian: نظامی گنجوی, Nezāmi Ganjavi‎‎), 1141-1209,  is considered the greatest romantic epic poet of Persian literature.  He forged a colloquial, realistic style of writing, and his heritage is shared today across Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kurdistan and Tajikistan. Nizami was born in Ganja (an outpost of the Seljuq empire, in present-day Azerbaijan, named from the Turkic 'Gan chai,' refering to the eponymous 'Wide river',)  and is believed to have spent his whole life in the South Caucasus.

By the end of the 10th century, Persian literature had become widespread from the Mediterranean to the Punjab. The Seljuqs took Ganja from the Shaddadids in 1075, and adopted Persian for their courts. By the middle of the 12th century, the Seljuqs' control of the region had weakened;  their provincial governors, usually local Persian nobles, further encouraged Persianization. Political power was diffused; Farsi remained the primary language of court and commerce. This was especially true in Ganja: Nizami was patronized by different rulers, and dedicated his epics to various rival dynasties including the Seljuqs, Eldiguzids, Shirvanshahs, the ruler of Ahar and Ahmadilis. Although he rubbed shoulders with rulers and princes, Nizami avoided the court life and is generally believed to have lived in seclusion with his 'most beloved wife', a Qipchaq slave girl of the Eurasian steppe named Afaq ('Horizon'.) It is after Afaq that Shirin ('Sugar') of Nizami's epic Khusrau and Shirin is modeled.

Often referred to by the honorifics Hakim ('Sage') or Rind ('Knowledgable'), Nizami is both a learned poet and master of a lyrical, sensuous, secular style. Poets of the time were expected to be well versed, Nizami was exceptionally so. His poems show not only that he was fully acquainted with Arabic and Persian literatures, as well as with popular traditions, but also that he was familiar with diverse fields such as mathematics, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, medicine, botany, Quranic exegesis, Islamic theory and law, Iranian myths and legends, history, ethics, philosophy, esoterica, painting, and music. His strong character, social sensibility, and knowledge of oral and written historical records, as well as his rich Persian cultural heritage  - all serve to unite pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran into the creation of a new standard of literary achievement; one that not only creates a bridge between pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran, but also straddles Iran and the whole ancient world.

I went to the Tavern last night, but I was not admitted
I was bellowing at the door, yet nobody was listening to me
Either none of the wine-sellers were awake
Or I was a nobody, and no one opens the door for a nobody
When more or less half of the night had passed
A knowing man  raised his head from a booth and showed his face
I asked of him: "Open the door"; he told me: "Go, talk not like a fool
At this hour, nobody opens the door for anybody
This is not a mosque where doors are open any moment
Where you can come late and push ahead to the first row
This is the Tavern of Magians and Rinds dwell here
There are Beauties, candles, wine, sugar, reed flutes and songs
Whatever wonders that exist, are present here
Muslims, Armenians, Zoroastrian, Nestorians, and Jews
If you are seeking company of all that is found here
You must become a dust upon the feet of everyone."
O Nizami! if you knock on this door day and night
You won't find but smoke from a burning fire.

Goethe described Nizami thus:

A gentle, highly gifted spirit, who, when Firdausi had completed the collected heroic traditions, chose for the material of his poems the sweetest encounters of the deepest love. Majnun and Layli, Khosrow and Shirin, lovers he presented; meant for one another by premonition, destiny, nature, habit, inclination, passion staunchly devoted to each other; but divided by mad ideas, stubbornness, chance, necessity, and force, then miraculously reunited, yet in the end again in one way or another torn apart and separated from each other.

Amir Khusrau's lament after reading Nizami:

Ruler of the kingdom of phrases; scholar and poet, his goblet raises
In it pure wine, intoxicatingly sweet; in goblet beside me settles only peat.

Below, K.L. Saigal renders a composition attributible to Nizami, though there is some debate on whether certain of the couplets were added later, such as by Mirza Hasan Qateel Dehlvi (Qateel "Lahori" to the Persians.)

Mara ba ghamza kusht, o qaza ra bahana sakht
Beloved killed me with slanted glance, "fate" was what she blamed.

Khud suye ma na deed, o haya ra bahana sakht
Deigned not Beloved meet mine gaze, "modesty" was what she claimed.

Daste ba dosh-e ghair, nihade bar-e karam
Put her arms around rival's shoulder, entwined him without pretense -

Mara chun deed laghzish-e pa ra bahana sakht
Seeing me she sprang apart, said "feet slipped", ashamed. 

Raftam ba masjidi ke bebinam jamaal-e-dost
Hurried I to mosque, hoping to see Beloved's beauty thence -

Dasti ba rukh kashid, o dua ra bahana sakht
Raised she hands to hide her face, and "prayer time", exclaimed.

Zahid na dasht taab-e-jamaal-e pari rukhan 
The pious there dared not meet, raging beauty of fairy-like face -

Kunji girift o yad-e khuda ra bahana sakht 
Retreated they to rosaries, "thinking of the Lord", they claimed.

There are other decent renderings of this qalam - Iqbal Bano's, and Farid Ayaz's.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Baluchi Traditional: Laila O Laila

Rostam Mirlashari grew up in the Sistan-Baluchistan  area of Iran. In 1991, the political situation and fear for his life in Baluchistan convinced him to leave Iran and move to Sweden. Here's a Baluchi traditional song performed by his fusion Baluchi-Swedish band.

Mijaazi ent Laila
Bya tar baraant sail a

O high-and-mighty Laila
The sights let me show ya

Tou shoto der kut
Zaheeran man a koor kut

You been long delayed
Tears my eyes decayed

Laila shan ko Laila
Laila u washe ent Laila

I'd die for you Laila
Laila, O sweet Laila

Gerwaartai saap ent
Dil mani aap ent

Your hair parting's so fine
It melted this heart of mine

Tai sar-e qaida
Kutag mana shaida

Saw your forehead bijou
Fell madly in love with you

Laila O Laila
Bya tar baraant sail a

Laila, O Laila
The sights let me show ya

Laila u washe ent Laila
Mijaazi ent Laila

Laila, O sweet Laila
O high-and-mighty Laila.