The Memory of Music

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 huge communal 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