Category Archives: Music

The Memory of Music

Published / by Jehangir

My earliest musical memories (should that be memory of music?) are of qawwali singers at a great fair. Terracotta parrots in life-like colours and a gargantuan degchi (?) complete the vision that has endured in my mind for almost half a century.

The memory is most certainly of the Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer Sharif but my thoughts associate a lakeside location. I should ask my brother who seems to have inherited our father’s legendary memory.

Anyway science accepts that ‘the songs we love become woven into a neural tapestry entwined with the people, seasons, and locations throughout our lifespan’. My qawwali memory was nudged by the Aaj rang hai qawwali in Shashi Kapoor’s Junoon and jolted many years later by NFAK‘s estatic version.

Junoon is a haunting tale of obsession and tragedy set during the 1857 Indian Mutiny. I feel that the meticulous attention to costumes, language and music make it one of the most historically accurate films of Indian cinema.

My fondness for qawwali translates into an undying passion for Urdu (or the other way round) and dismay that the inexorable march of capitalism, masquerading as globalisation, can only progress at the expense of the local language and culture.

Globalisation is being touted as a harmless process of deeper economic integration around the globe but the expediency of a global village demands a global language. We have seen how Hindustani slowly crowded out Urdu over the years – fueled mainly by Bollywood songs and the Hindi film industry. Globalisation (Cocacolisation!) may just ensure that English and its illegitimate sibling Hinglish deliver the death blow to Urdu.

Fewer young people these days seem interested in the fading beauty of Urdu. My elder son is one lonely example so it is heartening to discover this awesome website by Hamza Shad. Hamza has authored excellent translations of some of the classic qawwalis including those of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Urdu, Qawwali & NFAK!

More power to your pen, Hamza Shad.

A video primer on the Art of Qawwali.

P.S : As expected Javid Bakshi not only confirmed visits to Ana Sagar (hence the lake) but also the existence of the storey-high communal degchi that was presented by Akbar the Great to Ajmer Sharif. Thanks, Bro.
Cooking vessel at Ajmer Sharif

To the Stars and Beyond

Published / by Jehangir

Regular readers of this blog may have been secretly hoping that they had been spared my summer translation ordeal. No such luck.

In my last post I wrote about Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's live performance of Sitaron Se Aagey by Allama Muhammad Iqbal.

Jamshed has the song on repeat mode and I have to admit that Iqbal's words and Rahat's vocals soar synergistically in this hypnotic qawwali.

Today it is the Allama's turn to suffer my efforts to translate some of his most famous verses.

In his live performance, RFAK quotes additional verses from Iqbal's famous poems like Bang-e-Dara and Armaghan-e-Hijaz besides the poem 'Sitaron Se Aagey' from Bal-e-Jibreel.

sitaron se aagey

fareb-e-nazar hai sakoon-o-sabaat

tadapta hai har zarra-e-kainat (1)

theharta nahin karwaan-e-wujood

ke har lehza hai taaza shaan-e-wujood (1)

samajhta hai tu raaz hai zindagi

faqat zauq-e-parwaaz hai zindagi (1)

jawanon ko meri aah-e-sehar de

phir in shaheen bachon ko baal-o-par de (2)

khudaya! arzoo meri yehi hai

mera noor-e-baseerat aam kar de (2)

sitaron se aagey jahan aur bhi hain

abhi ishq ke imtihan aur bhi hain *

har ek maqam se aagey maqam hai tera

hayat zauq-e-safar ke siva kuch aur nahin (3)

tahi zindagi se nahin yeh fizaayen

yahan sainkadon karwan aur bhi hain *

qanaat na kar alam-e-rang-o-bu par

chaman aur bhi aashiyan aur bhi hain *

tu hi nadaan chand kaliyon par qanaat kar gya

warna gulshan mein ilaaj-e-tangi-e-damaan bhi hai (4)

agar kho gya ek nasheman to kya gham

maqamat-e-aah-o-fughan aur bhi hain *

nishan yehi hai zamaane mein zinda qaumon ka

ke subha-o-shaam badalti hain unki taqdeeren (6)

na pucho mujh se lazzat khanaman barbad rehne ki

nasheman sainkadon main ne bana kar phoonk daale hain (5)

tu shaheen hai parwaaz hai kaam tera

tere samne aasman aur bhi hain *

nahin tera nasheman qasr-e-sultani ke gumbad par

tu shaheen hai basera kar pahaadon ki chataanon mein (7)

guzar auqat kar leta hai ye koh-o-biyaban mein

ke shaheen ke liye zillat hai kaar-e-aashiyan bandi (8)

garche hai dilkushan bahut husn-e-farang ki bahaar

taerik-e-buland baal dana-o-daam se guzar (9)

ay tair-e-lahuti us rizq se maut acchi

jis rizk se aati ho parwaaz mein kotahi (10)

jhapatna palatna palat kar jhapatna

lahoo garam rakhne ka hai ek bahaana (11)

parindon ki duniya ka darvesh hoon main

ke shaheen banata nahin aashiyana (11)

gaye din ke tanha tha main anjuman mein

yahan ab mere raazdan aur bhi hain *

All poetry defies translation, Iqbal's even more so.

I find his poetry hard to understand even in the language it was written in and it is nigh impossible to convey the nuances in an alien language belonging to a vastly different culture. The rhythm, the emotion, the undercurrent is lost but that having been said, here is what Jamshed and I have been able to figure out.

beyond the stars

peace and stability are illusions

each atom of creation is in turbulence

the caravan of life never halts

for each moment renews the glory of life

you think life is a great mystery

life is just the desire to fly

give the young my sighs at dawn

give wings to these young falcons

lord this is my desire

spread wide the light of my awareness

other worlds lie beyond the stars

trials of passion still await

your destination lies beyond all havens

life is nothing but the joy of travel

these breezes do not arise from the void

a hundred more caravans ply here

do not be appeased by just one world of colors and fragrance

other gardens and nests exist

you, the innocent one, were content with a few buds

though the rose-garden held a cure for your limited grasp

why grieve over the loss of one nest

other places to sigh and lament remain

it is the sign of the vital nations of the world

that their destiny changes every night and day

ask me not the rapture of homelessness

i have built and set afire a hundred nests

you are a falcon – flight is your calling

endless skies stretch out before you

nest not upon the dome of the emperor's palace

you are a falcon – dwell amongst rocky mountain peaks

it ekes out a living amidst peaks and deserts

for the trade of nest-building would disgrace the falcon

though the charm of the west is seductive

resist this baited trap – o bird of paradise

o bird of heavenly skies

death is nobler than prey that encumbers your flight

to swoop and to twist, and to twist to pounce

is just a pretext to keep the blood warm

i am the dervish of the kingdom of birds

the falcon builds no nest

gone are the days of my isolation at gatherings

i now have confidants here

Comments & suggestions are welcome especially for

'tahi zindagi se nahin yeh fizaayen'

Index:

* Sitaron Se Aagey (Bal-e-Jibril-060)

(1) Bal-e-Jibril-142

(2) Bal-e-Jibril-105

(3) Bal-e-Jibril-044

(4) Bang-e-Dara-116

(5) Bang-e-Dara-055

(6) Armaghan-e-Hijaz-34

(7) Bal-e-Jibril-139

(8) Bal-e-Jibril-012

(9) Bal-e-Jibril-025

(10) Bal-e-Jibril-054

(11) Bal-e-Jibril-176

On Wings of Falcons

Published / by Jehangir

Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) was one of the greatest poet-philosophers of the 20th century. Iqbal was born in Sialkot in 1877 to a family that traced its roots to Sapru brahmins of Kashmir.

Iqbal is revered as the Shair-e-Mashriq (Poet of the East) in the subcontinent. For his massive literary achievements in Urdu and Persian he was knighted by King George V in 1922 and gained the title of Sir Muhammad Iqbal.

Annemarie Schimmel (Gabriel's Wing) described Iqbal as a "universalist poet" who strove to span a literary and philosophical bridge between the East and the West.

The central theme of Iqbal's poetic philosophy is the concept of 'Khudi' – a synergestic amalgam of self-realization and decisive action.

The Falcon or Shaheen is a familiar motif in Iqbal’s poetry, especially in exhortative verses meant to inspire muslim youth.

Here are a few of Iqbal’s well-known Shaheen verses, popular enough that even I can quote them when the occasion demands.

~

Tu Shaheen Hai, Parwaz Hai Kaam Tera

Tere Samne Asman Aur Bhi Hain

~

One verse used to grace the header of this blog.

~

Shaheen Kabhi Parwaz Se Thak Kar Nahin Girta

~

Nahin Tera Nasheman Qasr-e-Sultani Ke Gumbad Par

Tu Shaheen Hai, Basera Kar Paharon Ki Chataanon Mein

~

Parwaz Hai Dono Ki Isi Ek Fiza Mein

Kargas Ka Jahan Aur Hai, Shaheen Ka Jahan Aur

~

Jhapatna, Palatna, Palat Kar Jhapatna

Lahoo Garam Rakhne Ka Hai Ek Bahana

Parindon Ki Duniya Ka Darvesh Hoon Main

Ke Shaheen Banata Nahin Ashiyana

This is probably my first post that features Allama Muhammad Iqbal even though Iqbal and Ghalib were conversationally quoted at my naanihal.

Faiz and the rest I sought out on my own later in life.

Der Ayad Durust Ayad !

Bonus: Enjoy the Shaheen verses in this spirited performance of Iqbal's 'Sitaron Se Aage' by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan