I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Friday, November 11, 2016

...Of Field Commander Cohen

Years ago, I deferred the supervision of all matters of the heart to a five member committee. A group of five wise men; an esteemed and exalted group who held each other and were held by "my" kind of people in very high esteem. Each new adventure, disappointment, opportunity, setback or absurdity was seen through the prism of their collective judgement.

There was the Boss; chronicler of the high drama of my everyday life, bard of microcosmic epics and raconteur of the ageless, timeless and altogether abstract Youth. A constant entreater towards optimism, reminding me of the nobility and beauty of daily life, the Boss taught me to set my sights on a dream and to let it permeate every living moment.

There was ol' Shakey; singing of Old Men, of Needles and the Damage done, of Harvest Moons and murderous conquistadors. With a steely, cranky conscience, distilled through the distorted, fuzzed out guitar and the reedy, insistent voice, Shakey instructed me to Walk On, to pursue harebrained schemes and lofty, un-achievable ideals, all the while maintaining a half bemused, half contemptuous smirk on my face.

Then there was Mr. Waits; organ grinder, carnival barker, a cross between Dr. Caligari and Baron Munchhausen. Twister of reality, reveler in the absurd, gleeful in his inebriation and trickery yet the ideal guide for an exploration of the fun-house mirror world of the heart. He taught me to reconcile with chaos, to find meaning within insanity, to look for the hidden wells of tenderness and kindness within crusty, decrepit and profaned exteriors.

Next came Bob. Zimmy. Elston Gunn. Jack Frost. Lucky Wilbury. Blind Boy Grunt. Him of the many names and the many personalities. Voice-giver to undiscovered, unexplored and unmentionable thoughts, exemplar of aging forwards, backwards, sideways and every-other-way, populating my life with innumerable friends, countless stories and unsolvable paradoxes, opener of a thousand doorways and companion at all ports and in all weathers.

Finally, there was the Field Commander. The Traitor, the Partisan. With his wry smile, his sad eyes and his unbelievable, almost smarmy charm, he taught me calmness, forbearance and the ability to find humor, even hilarity in the ravages of the heart. He framed my defeats in military, almost heroic terms and taught me that even retreat has its secret pleasures. He told me that the carnal and the profane were just as holy and as cathartic as the spiritual and the exalted.

These five men have ruled my heart, occasionally as an authoritative military junta, other times as a benevolent five man monarchy. And even though there has been something of a revolving presidency to this Board of Governors, I have always known who has had the final right of approval, the one to whom the others have always deferred because of his wisdom, his grace and his insight.

And now that wise, sweet, wicked, funny, morose man is no more. May he rest in peace. His place will forever remain in the committee, and his shall always be the final say. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Rest in Peace Edhi sa'ab ...

Arguably Pakistan's greatest citizen has passed away. May he rest in eternal paradise.

While everybody is taking to social media to mourn the loss of Edhi saab, there are more productive ways to express your grief.
1. Pray for him. Offer fateha, organize ghaibaana namaaz-e-janaaza or pray according to your own religious convictions.
2. Donate. Go to www.edhi.org and donate(You'll have to be patient, the website is crashing because of heavy traffic). It takes five minutes. Alternatively, drop off your contributions at one of the literally hundreds of thousands of Edhi donation boxes nationwide,
3. Think seriously about becoming an organ donor. Go to Transplantation Society of Pakistan's website http://tx-society-pk.org/ and look it up.
4. Try to emulate his example in your daily lives, every little act of kindness helps.
It would be a shame if the death of Pakistan's greatest citizen does not compel us to anything more than social media comisserations only

Friday, November 20, 2015

...Of Further Stops Along The Journey

It's coming on to a full year since my fateful journey of musical discovery, and like the Farsi verse, 'the intoxication still lingers in mine eyes'. Over the last year, the partners in crime have begun piecing together the journey into a coherent whole that will be ready for presentation soon. Till then, we've also been regularly releasing some of our favorite selections in audio and video on our Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud pages. There's also talk *hush hush* of a reprise of last year's journey this December. As a result, my levels of excitement have been on a wonderfully high plateau all year. There's also been the added benefit that I've been honing my rather shoddy translating skills with each video. Till there's new and more exciting news to share, here's a selection of some of my favorite recordings from our journey.

1. Al Ishqu Deeni Ma Dum'tu Haiyya - Taj Muhammad, Shad Muhammad Nasir Niazi Qawwal

2. Khayal In Raag Shahana - Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan

3. Surkh Aankhon Main Kajal Ke Doray - Ustad Ameer Ali Khan Qawwal

4. Maa Ra Ba Ghamza Kusht - Ustad Fareed Ayaz, Abu Muhammad Qawwal And Brothers

5. Khabaram Raseedah Imshab - Subhan Ahmed Nizami Qawwal And Brothers

Sunday, August 16, 2015

...Of The Journey So Far

Around five months ago, me and my co-conspirators announced the details of our collaborative project entitled "The Dream Journey - Discovering Musicians Across Pakistan". We had spent the end of December 2014 traveling cross the length of Pakistan, meeting, interviewing, listening to and recording some of the most talented traditional musicians across Pakistan. By the time the trip was over, we had accumulated hundreds of hours of footage and audio, and then began the arduous task of organizing and editing the material into a coherent whole. Apart from our fabulous director/editor, the rest of us had little or no past experience in putting together a project of this magnitude. However, through trial and error, communicating through email, Facebook chat and the occasional albeit wonderful meetings, the team has begun making progress.

We began by releasing short audio teasers on the project's Soundcloud page , which were greatly appreciated by the listeners. The next step was to begin sharing the wonderful performances we had recorded, in HD video and audio. And that's what we've been doing for the past three weeks. I was terrifically happy at having participated in this brilliant journey, and after seeing the performances being released, that happiness is mixed with a lot of pride. Our motley crew of enthusiasts has managed to create something really noteworthy, something that will live on long after this project has been forgotten. I am a voracious gatherer of Qawwali recordings (the understatement of the century) and thus have been privileged to see and hear a lot of performances, both on TV and online, and I can state unequivocally that I have not come across anything as wonderfully recorded as our project.

For those who wish to follow our journey, we are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram; where our current as well as future releases are being curated. For those who wish to support our project, please go HERE to donate via PayPal. Any and all donations shall be gratefully received and acknowledged.

Well I can't just leave the gentle reader hanging after writing two paragraphs loaded with superlatives and not sharing what we've released so far. So, without further ado, presenting the first three performances from The Dream Journey - Discovering Musicians Across Pakistan.

P.S Be sure to watch in HD

1. Charkha - Ustad Ameer Ali Khan And Party 

2. Kaliyan Sang Karat - Ustad Fareed Ayaz - Abu Muhammad Qawwal And Brothers

3. Dil Burd Az Mun - Ustad Abdullah Niazi & Waqas Niazi Qawwal

Friday, May 15, 2015

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King.

BB King passed away today at the age of 89. Rest in peace sir, and thank you !