Sunday, May 25, 2008

Singing Dakus

Music has no language but it doesn't hurt if it is in your own language. My first memory of music was the Cibaca/Binaca Geetmala that Mom would listen every night with the mesmerizing voice of Ameen Sayani as the host. It was always preceded by almost as haunting voice declaring, "Yeh Akashvani hain, ab aap sunege Ammen Sayani ke saath, Binaca Geetmala", the early Indian version of top ten songs of the week. Me and Mom will sit around our radio, which was as big as some of today's tv sets, and wait for the Geetmala to begin.

My other early musical encounter(s) came through my Dadajee who was a fan of Urdu shayaris and ghazals. He used to write shayari in chaste Urdu as a young man and according to him had written a diary of Urdu couplets. But he failed to grab that diary when leaving Pakistan during the partition (because at that time everyone believed that they will one day return back home) and it was one of his greatest regret that he did. He never wrote shayari again but didn't forget to appreciate the beautiful tradition either. I always shared a very special relationship with my Dadajee, maybe because I was the first son in the family (or that's how my cousins put it across me). One of the many things that my Dadajee passed me was his love for good shayaris and ghazals. He was a big fan of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and the moment he would start singing, the whole house would reverberate with wah wahs from Dadajee.

My Dadajee was also a big fan of pair of classical Punjabi Sufi singers, Wadali Brothers (Puranchand and Pyarelal Wadali). For him the world would stop when the brothers would come on tv. Those were the days of Doordarshan and in order to promote Indian arts, there would always be segments of classical dancers and singers. Whenever Wadali brothers would come, me and my brother will run to Dadajee and shout, "Dadajee, Daku aa gayee, Daku". He would leave whatever he was doing and sit infront of the tv with a loud wah wah. We would call the brothers Daku because they had a very rustic look and infact looked like Dacoits to us.

My Dadajee passed away few years back and with time so did my memory of Singing Dakus. On my recent trip to India, as I was shopping through a Mall, my ears caught sound of a familiar voice. It was the sufistic voice of Kailash Kher from his new album and the song was, Saiyaan. The voice was so mesmerizing that I almost followed it with my cousin to the Music World from where it was coming. As I was going through CDs in the sufi section, I caught a glimpse of Singing Dakus and all the memories of My Dadajee came rushing back. I got their "Treasured Moments" CD and it was almost like a piece of memory in a little shiny disc.

After coming to Canada, I downloaded the songs on my iPod and started listening them every evening on my way from work. Apart from all the memories, it was the beautiful tradition of classical Punjabi Sufi folk music, that made me fall in love with their music all over again. Almost every song has a story associated with the rural life of old Punjab (incl. Pakistan side of it), whether its a story of Laila Majnu or Bulle Shah or some other sufi fakir or Guru Nanak. The songs are sung in old traditional Punjabi which has a certain softness to it despite of the harsh but deep throated voices of the singers. Every song is a masterpiece straight out of Punjabi folklore.

Ghoonghat Chak Ve Sajna starts with a beautiful redention of Bulle Shah's poetry with the writer asking a philosiphical question, "Bulle shah kehnde ne, padh padh aap mufazil baneyo, kadhi apne aap nu padiya nayee..." [Bulle Shah says, you have studied and studied and can explain everything, but have you ever read yourself?]. The song is sung very differently from the version sung by Late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab. The art of injecting stories within the song makes it very unique.

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Ve Sone Diyan Kangna is another song which is one of my favorites where they render stories about Laila Majnu and poetry of Waaris Shah in a beautiful way. The song is infused with sufi music about love with some amazing lines like, "...Ishq waaliyan de renda sadaa yaar saamne..." [For those in love, the lover always remain in fromt of (eyes)]. Another beautiful way love is expressed is the way they tell the stories from the love story Laila Majnu. One my my favourite story goes like this...

Majnu saab Laila de aashiq saan. Jis vele school jaana tee Laila da naam hee likhde see. "Mere Laila mera rabb hain. Mera mehboob mera khudaah hain." Apne Laila tohn baigaar khudh nu khudh nahin samjheya, Laila nu khuda samjheya. Jis tarah Pir Bulle Shah kehnde ne, "Na tu saada rabb na asee tere bande, naa asee maare marde, jis jannat da tu maan karda, tere jannat vich nayee varde."

Majnu ne apne Laila nu khuda maneya, tee aake phatti tee Laila da naam likh denda hain. Maulvi jee kehnde, kee likh reeya hain. Majnu saab kehnde, kya likhun. Kehte, khuda ka naam likh. Majnu saab kehnde, khuda kaun hain? Maulvi ne kaha jisse La-eh-lah kehte hain. Majnu saab kehte, wohi toh main likh raha hoon. Woh kehta tu toh Laila likhta hain. Kehta nahin, aap La-eh-lah kehte ho main Laila kehta hoon.

Khuda ne khush hoke Mujnu ko inaam deeya aur kaha, Majnu ko bula ke leke aao. Mujnu saab kya jawaab dete hain...

"Farishte jaa kaha Majnu, tujhe Allah bulata hain...
Mujnu saab kehte, kya woh mujhe dekhna chahta hain...
Mujnu unke paas kyun jaaye, Mujnu unke paas kyun jaaye...
Agar Khuda ko zaroorat hain toh Laila bann ke aa jayein..."

Each and every song makes me appreciate the musical taste of my Dadajee and the wonderful tradition of Punjabi folk music. The album is indeed my treasured moments of the Singing Dakus and all the memories associated with them.