Sunday, June 6, 2010

1994 Mehfil - Munshi Raziuddin & Sons

We were in Karachi on home leave.  Abba and I fixed an impromptu session at one of Abba’s long time friend Shamin Malik’s house near the Quaid-e-Azam’s Mazaar.  Shamin is a prominent businessman based in London and Karachi.  His house is a pre-partition building that he has restored to its pristine glory, with taste and respect for the original that is found rarely in Karachi.  The high ceilings and tiled flooring created very good resonant acoustics and the “concert hall” effects can be heard as picked up by the indestructible Akai cassette deck.

The acoustics were complimented by a great deal of enthusiasm and energy in this session which can be perceived from the very first track, a sound test in which they sang a Tarana in Tilak Kamod. Ayaz and Abu Mohammad were getting their confidence as performers.  The special familial bond had been reinvigorated recently when they made their first trip to Vienna in November 1990.

Talking of the Vienna trip, Abba was in his element, exchanging reminisces with Munshi Raziuddin of the Vienna trip and his past joy of their music.  We have included these conversations in this posting, not least to give the listener a feel of the beauty of the melody, vocabulary and idiom of Munshi Sahib’s language, all of which are not found in contemporary conversation in the subcontinent.  As with many victims of modernity, the beautiful imagery of everyday Urdu expression has also succumbed to the vicissitudes of time and expedience.  The hue and colour of Munshi Raziuddin’s language is unlimited when it comes to communicating and radiating affection.

The rendition of the Qaul Mun Kunto Maula has an unusually beautiful alaap in Shyam Kalyan, deliberate and drawn out.  The section from 3:17-7:10 is so full of ihteraam (respect) for the musical notes, and with a full-blooded expansiveness.  Ayaz's son, who I heard the first time, adds a pretty falsetto voice and timbre to the choral ensemble (he comes into his own from 11:20 onwards).

The overall temper of this session was set in the Kalyan thaat predominantly, established by the Man Kunto Maula alaap and the third piece Sawan ki Sanjh.

The rendition of Phool Rahi Sarson was the high point in my opinion.

I only fully appreciated this composition of Ameer Khusro’s after experiencing the winter in rural UP, in Jaunpur District.  In December 1984, when Juni was a tad above a year old, we went on home leave to the subcontinent.  My mother-in-law took us to her ancestral home where she was in the process of restoring her maternal grandfather’s haveli and farming the land that was her inheritance. This part of rural UP has a distinctly feminine beauty in its gentleness, a contrast to, say, the rugged handsomeness of the Pothwar region in Pakistan.   It was cold, crisp and sunny.  I would walk though the fields every morning to savour the flat, open countryside that seemed to go on forever.  A strip of yellow from the mustard flowers, in full bloom, with a carpet of green underneath, punctuated the vivid cloudless blue of the morning sky.  One morning, some peacocks in the near distance broke into full dance and the riot of colour was breathtaking with the lush blues, yellow and greens of this scene.  Quite spontaneously the phrase of this song and the tune of raaga Bahar filled the head…it seemed such an intimate echo of the fertile majesty before me.  A joyous moment and one thanked God for his bounties, not least for the gift of our son.

Around 8:00 Ayaz changes tempo, delightful galakari.  And what a masterful transition of tempo without breaking the beat! The Taraana (about 12:40)...fabulous!

They had a mental construct of where they wanted to go from the Bahar, however Abba challenged them by asking for the switch to Shankara.  A spontaneous request and change in the flow is not easy for the ordinary performer to accomplish, but they did it brilliantly, taking it all in stride.  Abba often talked about how he first heard this raaga, during his childhood in Banur in Patiala, our family’s ancestral home of some seven centuries.  Abba was 12 at the time (this must have been 1927), and ever since then had a haunting association of Shankara with Banur, a wonderful childhood and his lost home.

My visual image of Shankara—which is such a sensual raaga—is that of a haughty, beautiful princess, carried rhythmically by her palanquin bearers, wonderful whimsy in her look, an arrogance yet fundamental care for humanity, tenderness that cannot be allowed to express itself because of her stature in a highly stratified class consciousness society.

Despite the effortlessness in entering the Shankara, I feel the tarana they added at the end did not go with the stellar performance of the main raaga, and it offers a somewhat tentative attempt to round it off.

By the time they got to the subsequent Hameer they had recovered their musical composure.  We have various renditions and have written about the raaga in another posting on this blog; suffice it to say that this rendition has its characteristic beauty.  To play on an old saying, you have not lived if you have not heard Hameer or savoured its mood!

And the Maru Behag, another favourite, what a beauty!  They start with an ethereal, slow classic alaap reiterating the root notes around 5:50.

This entire session is characterized by brilliant transitions.  In the Mere Bane ki Baat, for instance, around 7:20 there is brilliant interlude to Maand and a return to it around 11:50 for a couple of moments.  Also notice how the Chaap Tilak (raaga Des) is flirtatiously interspersed brilliantly with raaga Kalawati and other raagas. Around 27:00, Ayaz switches from Abu Mohamad's Tilak Kamod detour into raaga Basant Mukhari with the comment Aik thaat reh gaya tha mein ne kaha woh bhi paish kar doon.  Pretty much all the major thaats are covered in this one piece!

This is one thing that is beautiful about masterful Qawwali that no single raaga is adhered to in any given piece.   Here there is an exquisite transition from Maru Behag to smooth and emotive.  That is what music is all about!

Aey Daiya Kahan Gaey Ve Logh, soulful poetic bandish, suits the temper of the raaga, a wistful and plaintive melodic mood.  This bandish in Bilawal becomes evermore more poignant for me at this stage in life, when loved ones, lifelong companions, dear friends leave for their eternal destiny.  May they have eternal peace.  Their presence in life has made it such a rich and beautiful affair.  They will always live in our hearts and minds.

After the conversation interlude between Munshi Raziuddin and Abba they returned to Tilak Kamod, where they had started this evening.  The energy of the evening and their performance is that after all these hours of singing, both Ayaz and Abu Mohammad could embark on brilliant galakari, heard from 6:00 onwards.  The bandish is rather unusual ‘Piaray pardesi ghar aa ja saavan mein'.  A powerful piece of poetry directed at me, expressing their love and the desire to see me back home.  I have since returned to a Pakistan that is very different to that which I left 38 years ago, and to the realization that home is a state of mind, people and circumstance rather than a place.

The last part of this session entails my son Ali doing his impersonation of Michael Jackson.  He was eight at the time, and full of beans.  He took up the microphone and proceeded to Do His Thing.  Even till today he hasn’t yielded the fantasy of being a pop star.  This performance seems to have lived in the Qawwal’s minds.  At my niece Niya's concert in 2008, commemorating her first birthday, Ayaz remembered this one when he said Hamaari nazrain Ali par theen magar in ka khyaal kaheen aur tha.  It was Ali’s cuteness, rather than his talent, that probably left the indelible impression. Asif Mamu.

The Qawwalis sung were:

01 Tarana (Raaga Tilak Kamod)
02 Sazeena (Raaga Tilak Kamod)
03 Qaul - Man Kunto Maula
04 Sawan Ki Sanjh (Raaga Shyam Kalyan) - Tarana (Raaga Gaud Sarang)
05 Mein Kaisi Karun
06 Baro Ghee Ke Diyena Bhaile Aamana Ke Lallana
07 Mare Bane Ke Baat Na Puchcho
08 Mun Bhajras Har Dum Ali Ali
09 Phool Rahin Sarsoon (Raaga Bahar)
10 Kagawa Bole Mori Atariya (Raaga Shankara)
11 Raaga Hameer
12 Rasiya Ao Na (Raaga Maru Bihag) - Aey Daiya Kahan Gaey Ve Log (Raaga Bilawal)
13 Chaap Tilak Sub Chehney
14 Chaleya Re Pardesi Naina Mila Ke - Bara Jori Nahi Re - Tarana (Raaga Bhairavi)
15 Conversation between Abba and Munshi Raziuddin
16 Ab Ke Sawan Ghar Aaja (Raaga Tilak Kamod)
17 Mangal Karan Soondhar (Raaga Tilak Kamod)


Musab said...

Exceptional mehfil. Maru Behag is slowly overtaking Shahana as my favorite raag after listening to the different performances by Munshi sahab et al, and this one is high up with the very best.

I can't help but think of the '69 mehfil and a young Farid Ayaz when I listen to his son on this one. The Qawwal Bacchaas have a great future ahead of them inshaallah.

Glad the blog is back, and with quite a bang I must say. Jazaak'allah!!

bohotkhoob said...

Dear Musab,

Thanks for your appreciation of the music and the blog. We are enjoying sharing these recordings with kindred spirits. And more to come, inshallah.


Chintan Tyagi said...

Excellent music and a beautiful post. To me this is a unexpected bonanza. Thanks for sharing.

Smarth said...

Maaru Bihaag - Munshiji creates an ambience that is serenely heady...many thanks for posting this...wish I could get the lot for my collection...possible?

Smarth said...

Asif mamu, aadaab - there is an amazing Hameer by Ustad Munawwar Ali Khan...and, if you like Hansadhwani - Kishori Amonkar has rendered an absolutely marvelous one (with due respect to (Amir Khan saheb)...

Asifmamu said...

Aaah Ustaad Munawwar Ali Khansahib's Hameer...a favourite visited several times on youtube. There is a characteristic beauty and grace to the expose by this scion of the Patiala Gharaana, the last of the great gayaks of the 20th century. One of the all time great recordings we are fortunate to have with us…
In Hamsadhwani, Smarth you touch upon a tender point. Wonderful raaga. I was introduced to it through a 1974 recording (on vinyl) in Munich by Ustaad Imrat Khansahib. Somewhere in the rubble of my music collection is the original Carnatic as played by Chitti Babu. Kishori's version is very pretty. But I think Hamsadhwani was created for Pandit Hariparsad Chaurasia. Two anecdotes. Someone presented my father a worn down tape recording of a live performance in Ahmadabad by Panditji and Zakir. They played Hamsadhwani for over an hour and a half and they both went over the top. Panditji's flute was electrifying, and Zakir ended up playing melody on the Tabla. Also I was at a live performance of Panditji's in Jakarta about 2002. Asked him to play Hamsadhwani. He was accompanied by a mirdangham, pakhawaj, clay pot and tabla. He went to another plane of existence, the percussionists went crazy. When they played the last note, there was not one person in the audience that was sitting. I have never encountered a standing ovation such as this. Panditji was made by God’s own hands, as was Zakir. These people are of a different caliber to normal humans, for the beauty they can produce in their music.

Smarth said...

Asifmamu, delighted to read your memoirs of a scintillating day! My guru is Ma Annapurna Devi(Baba Allauddin Khan's daughter), the doyenne of classical Hindustani music and, really, if you must listen to the flute it should be her student, Pt. Nityanand orthodox musician who does not play to the gallery at all..and Sarod, again, her student, Pt. Basant Kabra...perhaps, these are unsolicited recommendations but I thought I may as well after reading how well grooved you are into's not often I get to read stuff like this, not often...

Asifmamu said...

So you studied under Ali Akbar Khan's sister and have the same musical pedigree as Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar? WOW!I shall take up your valuable suggestions. Thanks!

bohotkhoob said...

Posting some visitor comments that came in via facebook/youtube. Appreciate all the great feedback. It encourages us to transfer more of the music to the blog.

Mr. Hasan Mirza wrote...

Thank you very much for uploading this recording. Since long, I have been waiting for these collections. Now, I do not know where to stop and how to stop listening to these magical renditions by Munshi saheb and hamnawa:

Yeh maekada teri jannat sae kam nahin w'aiz
Yahan bhi gardishae shaam o shar nahin hoti

It will be great to listen to more of such raagas and kalam. I have been listening to Munshi saheb since the 60s, when Bahauddin and Manzoor Niazi used to sing with him, as his party would visit our home during Urs and other prominent fatehas. Still from time to time, Ayaz sings at our place in Karachi though I have moved to a far off land in Canada.

One more thing - Quality of your recordings is superb. At least, I feel like transported into the mehfil while listening.

Mr. Kunal Singh Kamboj wrote...

Thank you so much for the great share. Big fan of Qaul. I have spent lots of time looking for Munshi Raziuddin cassetes or CDs but with little luck so your site is a treasure.

chitispandana wrote..

Thank You, bohotkhoob saab.

Asif Mamu and your contribution to my education on Qawwali and Munshi Saab in particular is immeasureable. So many pleasant hours have been spent listening to him (and his family), not to mention being able to introduce some of my
friends in India to him.

Thanks to you and Asif saab for sharing another installment of sheer joy. As usual Asif Mamu's notes on the music are not just informative but so infused with his feelings, ably rendered by some evocative words. As always, a joy to read.

A little personal footnote: Asif saab speaks about an Akai cassette deck. Well, i have one bought in Dubai in 1979 (with my first earnings!) and it worked for me perfectly until last year! i have/ and own quite a few others (including 'studio machines') but that old crock recorded some great music including live concerts while it worked. Still have it with the intention of bringing it to life again (my wife is skeptical).

Salaam to you and Asif saab.
Pune, India.

Musab said...

I managed to collect a few of the recordins of the Qaul in my possession-including one from your archives- into a blog-post. I hope it is of interest.

Ahsen said...

Dear Sir!
No doubt your this effort is exceptional. I need cd/ DVD of this Mehfil and will be very thankful if you provide me or send me the link for download. My email is "" and my cell no is "00923218956389"

Fawad Zakariya said...

Asif Mamu & other contributors, thank you so much for sharing these rare and wonderful recordings of Munshi Sahib and sons. What a transporting experience. Daiyya Kahan Gaye Woh Log is one of my favorites and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan Sahib's haunting version brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it. Your descriptions of the mehfils are also priceless. Please share these treasures and your memoirs regularly. We need much more of our cultural record in written form for the dwindling number of people who care. At least if it exists, generations down the road will still have a shot at rediscovery.

Gandhi's Chela said...

This is a great collection. I am very greatful for posting this online. However some of the tracks are not working. Can you please check.

Fahad Uddin Siddiqui said...

You are a legend! Thank you very very very much for these and the write-up. It is hard to come-by this kind of thing these days. I will download each and every one of these now :P