Saturday, August 22, 2015

Farid Ayaz, Abu Muhammad — Sanjan Nagar Institute, 2007

We take a break in this post from our tradition of presenting music from the personal collection of Asif Hasnain mamu and his father, the late Mr. Mehdi Hasnain. The session we are sharing here was recorded in Lahore in 2007 at the Sanjan Nagar Institiute of Philosophy and Arts.

The founder of the institute is Mr. Raza Kazim, an eminent lawyer, activist, intellectual, and musicologist.  Mr. Kazim comes from a family of lawyers with roots in U.P.  He migrated to Karachi in September 1947, later settling in Lahore to pursue his legal practice.

Mr. Raza Kazim

When I met him last December at his Lahore residence, Mr. Kazim shared with me copies of a couple of qawwali sessions recorded several years ago at his Institute.  The Institute is housed in a villa that also hosts a recording studio and a workshop for building high-end audio amplifiers and speakers.   My wife (who is his niece) and I spent a couple of hours with him that lovely Saturday morning in a rewarding conversation that covered a range of subjects from the Pakistan Movement to Marxism, genealogy and personal influences, and, of course, music.   I came out so much the richer for the conversation.  It will be impossible for me to do justice to Mr. Kazim's fascinating life and extensive achievements.  I can only point interested readers to his website and to a recent interview for more information.

Incidentally, his daughter Noor Zehra is an accomplished sitarist and has been working with Mr. Kazim on testing and demonstrating the prowess of the Sagar Veena, an instrument of the veena family invented and perfected by Mr. Kazim over the last thirty years.  (As it happens, Sagar Veena was the original name for this instrument.  After many years Mr. Kazim has recently concluded that the appropriate name for it is Shruti Sagar, so that's what it's called now.  The famous Pakistani sitar master Ustad Sharif Khan Poonchwala was a close acquaintance of Mr. Kazim and affectionately referred to the instrument as "Raza Been," a name Mr. Kazim did not consent to.  To my knowledge there is at least one published recording (from EMI in the 1970s) featuring Ustad Sharif Khan performing on the instrument.  Some lovely recordings of Ms. Noor Zehra playing the Shruti Sagar can be heard here.)

Mr. Kazim kindly permitted me to post the qawwali recordings on the blog.  This session stands out to me for a couple of reasons.  First, for the high quality of the recording.  And, secondly, for the crisp and measured presentation style Farid Ayaz had chosen for the melodious recitals.  The tracks of this session, especially Kanhaiya, Khabaram Raseeda, and Moray sar se tali bala, are among the finest renditions of these brandishes I have heard Farid Ayaz & Abu Muhammad perform.  The Harshab manam futada was new to me and left me mesmerized.  It has been sung the way it should be.  Overall, the session belongs in the category of memorable live performances that come about only in the presence of discerning audiences. Bohotkhoob.