Sunday, August 18, 2013

...Of Codicils And Collaborations - The Tazmeen

I think it's proper to preface this post with an apology for laziness, tardiness, negligence and all-round faience (I had to look that up, how's that for not being lazy). I've neglected writing a new post for way too long. I could make excuses; some of them pretty valid too, but the underlying cause of not regularly updating the blog has been downright procrastination. I haven't been able to devote the extra time and effort that goes into earmarking the hours that I usually carve out of my once a month weekends. The realization that this temporary hiatus might insidiously turn into something of  a permanent rut that might be impossible to get out of has been bothering me for quite some time. Therefore, when the time came for a period of extended leave - 10 days is about as extended as my leave can get, sigh - I started planning a series of posts aimed at rectifying the long hibernation and revivifying the blog. Over the next week or so, I'll try to make up for the absence, in quantity if not in quality.

Now that that's taken care of, let's get to the point, shall we.

Qawwals are distinct from other performers in many respects, and one of the qualities that distinguishes a great Qawwal from the run-of-the-mill performers is versatility of repertoire. To put it another way; with obvious exceptions, a good ghazal singer sings ghazals, a good folksinger sings mahiye or tappay or baits or whatever he specializes in and a good classical performer sings classical/semi-classical pieces. A good Qawwal, a really good Qawwal sings all of the above and then some. Or perhaps, good Qawwals used to be able to sing all of the above and then some, for most of the current crop of Qawwals - especially the innumerable Nusrat clones - have painfully limited repertoires. This was borne out to me on my most recent "Organize your Library Week" -yes, it takes me a week to organize my music library, I'm that annoying a stickler for order - when I realized that among almost two hundred recordings of one of the most important Qawwali parties of today, I could find only thirty-odd kalaams being repeated. The repertoire that just one generation ago had spanned hundreds of kalaams was now whittled down to three or four dozen pieces mish-mashed together in various combinations.

This is something of a natural phenomenon in an art form that mostly relies on centuries-old canonical pieces passed down generation to generation, but it's still a troubling trend. Some forms of poetry have almost disappeared from the repertoires of most Qawwals - it's been ages since I heard a Ruba'i performed by a Qawwal - and performers have mostly fallen back on the Farsi/Urdu/Punjabi ghazal as a staple of their repertoire, with the Punjabi qawwals borrowing from the kalaams of Hz Baba Bulleh Shah and Khwaja Ghulam Fareed (RA) and derivations thereof.

One of my favorite forms of poetry, which is sung very rarely by Qawwals, and which is written even more scarcely by modern poets is the Tazmeen. A tazmeen is a slightly unusual verse form, and it needs some explaining. It's when a poet takes a ghazal - usually of one of the "Asaateza" of Urdu or Farsi - and appends three rhyming verses before each couplet, converting the verse from a couplet (two lines) to a cinquain (five lines) and changing it from a ghazal to a "mukhammass". A 'mukhammas', another verse form rarely written today, consists of series of five-line cinquains in which the last 'misrah' or hemistitch of each cinquain rhymes with the last misrah of each succeeding cinquain and constitutes the 'samm' of the kalam while the first four misrah's of each cinquain rhyme with each other and follow a different rhyme scheme for each cinquain. The result is a hybrid, with each cinquain or 'bandd' containing three lines from one poet and the final two lines from another.

I know it sounds confusing, all this talk of cinquains and hemistitches leaves the gentle reader's mind boggling,so let me give an example. The following is a wonderful Farsi ghazal of Hz Quddusi (RA).



آستین بر رخ کشیدی ہمچو مکار آمدی
با خودی خود در تماشا سوۓ بازار آمدی

در بہاران گل شدی درصحن گلزار آمدی
بعد ازان بلبل شدی بانالۂِ زار آمدی

خویشتن را جلوہ کردی اندرین آئینہ ہا
آئینہ اسمے نہادی خود بہ اظہار آمدی

شورِ منصور از کجا و دارِ منصور از کجا
خود زدی بانگِ اناالحق بر سرِ دار آمدی

گفت قدوسےؔ فقیرے در فنا و در بقا
خود بخود آزاد بودی خود گرفتار آمدی

And now here's the same kalaam with a Tazmeen by Amjad Hyderabadi.

نازدکھلاتی ہے پردے میں تیری جلوہ گری
حوربنکر تو نظر آیا کہیں بنکر پری
پھر کہو سیکھا کہاں سے ہے یہ طرز دلبری
 
آستین بر رخ کشیدی ہمچو مکار آمدی
با خودی خود در تماشا سوۓ بازار آمدی

جب سمایا میرے دل میں اُٹھ گیا نقشِ دوئی
نور یک رنگی کا چمکا مٹ گیا حرفِ دوئی
باغ میں کھل کھل کے کہتی تھی چمن کی ہر کلی

در بہاران گل شدی درصحن گلزار آمدی
بعد ازان بلبل شدی بانالۂِ زار آمدی

روح میں میری اَلَسْتُ جس گھڑی تو نے کہا
سنتے ہی کہنے لگی قَالُوبلٰی قَالُوبلٰی
پھر نظر آۓ نہ کیوں ہر شان میں جلوہ تیرا

خویشتن را جلوہ کردی اندرین آئینہ ہا
آئینہ اسمے نہادی خود بہ اظہار آمدی

یہ معقولہ عاشقِ صادق کا بے شک ہے بجا
اس نے جلوہ شان کا ہر رنگ میں دکھلا دیا
تو ہی کہہ دے معرفت میں اے کریمِ بے نوا

گفت قدوسےؔ فقیرے در فنا و در بقا
خود بخود آزاد بودی خود گرفتار آمدی

Tazmeens were regularly written on the ghazals of the "Asaateza" of both Urdu and Farsi, in both Urdu and Farsi, by the leading poets of the past. It was a both a way of paying tribute to poets by their students and admirers as well as a means of exploring or highlighting the hidden meanings of the ghazal. Most of the "asaateza" of Urdu and Farsi have themselves written Tazameen to ghazals of their predecessors. This tradition is shared by the Sufi poets, with everyone from Hz Hafiz Sherazi (RA) to more recent Sufi poets like Bedam Shah Warsi, Amjad Hyderabadi and Isa Amritsari (RA) having written Tazameen on various ghazals.

The Tazmeen was a regular part of the repertoire of Qawwals of the past, with some Qawwals like the seminal Sufi Ali Buksh Waiz Qawwal and Muhammad Ali Faridi Qawwal writing their own tazmeens to canonical kalams. In fact, Hz Pir Mehr Ali Shah (RA) bestowed the title of "Sufi" to Waiz Qawwal after hearing him perform a tazmeen on Pir Sb's immortal Punjabi kalam "Ajj sikk mitran di wadheri ae". Several of Waiz's tazameen - on poets ranging from Kabir to Khusrau (RA) - survive in his 'Beyaaz'. Succeeding Qawwals also regularly performed tazameen, however they have gradually disappeared from repertoires. An important distinction must be made here. Some listeners confuse the meaning of the terms "girah" and "tazmeen". A Tazmeen is the verse form I described above, while a girah constitutes a verse or group of verses that a Qawwal inserts between the verses of the main kalam that help elaborate the main kalam. These verses may or may not be in the same language, the same metre or the same verse form as the main kalam. For example, Haji Mahboob Sb used to insert girahs of Maulana Rumi's (RA) Mathnavi in most of his performances.

The Tazmeen in itself is a wonderful verse form, and is especially suited to Qawwali. The aim of the Qawwal is to perform a text in such a way as to bring out its various mystical and spiritual meanings, while at the same time conveying to the listener it's more literal meanings. A tazmeen fulfills both requirements admirably, with an added benefit. Urdu or Punjabi Tazmeens to Farsi kalams help the non-Farsi literate members of the audience in understanding the meaning and message of the main kalam. Before I acquired the smattering of Farsi required to understand what was being performed by various Qawwals, it was the girahs and Tazmeens sung by the Qawwals that helped me in connecting the dots and understanding the main kalam. It is therefore, doubly sad that the Tazmeen in Qawwali is gradually disappearing, for it is a wonderful verse form to introduce the lay-listener to the nuances of the canonical kalaams. It's heartening to note that Khanqahi qawwals - as opposed to the more commercially oriented ones - in both India and Pakistan continue performing Tazmeens in their repertoire, thus maintaining this important medium of spiritual instruction.

After this rather lengthy preamble, I'd like to share some of the Tazmeens in my collection to illustrate how an expert Qawwal can use this unique verse formin the Qawwali context to highlight and explore the deeper meanings of sufi texts. These recordings range from some of the very earliest Qawwali recordings produced in the subcontinent, to a mehfil from just a couple of years ago.

First off, two grand old masters of Qawwali, who were pioneers of their field. Baba Din Muhammad Jalandhri Qawwal, father of Miandad Khan Qawwal, grandfather of Badar Miandad Khan Qawwal,uncle to Fateh Ali-Mubarak Ali Qawwals and a very important Ustad whose influence can clearly be heard in many of the Fareedi/Fatehkhani shagird Qawwals of the modern era. In this recording he sings the landmark Na'at of Hz Bedam Shah Warsi, Adam Se Layi Hai Hasti Main Arzooe Rusool (SAW). He uses an Urdu tazmeen by an unknown poet, and sings it in his highly distinctive sing/speak style. Along with his trademark shouts of "Haan!" and his fullthroated voice, he uses vacillating taans that were later perfected by Agha Basheer Fareedi, a shagird of Baba Din Muhammad's nephews Fateh Ali and Mubarak Ali.



 Next up is another seminal Pre-Partition Qawwal, Azim Prem Ragi Qawwal , who performs his own Tazmeen to Maulana Rumi's (RA) Naat from the Diwan-e-Shams Tabraiz, Ya Rusool-Allah Habibe Khaliqe Yaktaa Tu'i. Prem Ragi was well known for writing his own kalam and performing canonical kalams with his own tazmeens. Here he uses his remarkably emotive voice and minimal instrumentation to embellish a very famous naat.


Jumping ahead in time to another brilliantly gifted Qawwal, about whom Nusrat had once remarked, "Takraar main unn ka koi saani nahi hai" (No one comes close to him in Takraar). Sadly, I only have a dozen or so recordings of Murli Qawwal ,but the ones I have are ample proof of his prodigious talent. And as Nusrat said, he has no parallels when it comes to Takraars, seemingly conjuring them out of thin air and seamlessly flitting from one takraar to another, picking up little phrases and repeating them just perfectly. Here he sings a Tazmeen to Hafiz Sherazi (RA)'s ghazal, Ba Mulazimaane Sultan Geh Rasaanad Een Dua Ra.



 Among the modern Qawwals, one of my favorites is Muhammmad Ahmed Warsi Qawwal , hailing from Rampur. One of a very small group of pure khanqahi Qawwals who are also well versed in classical music, Muhammad Ahmed Warsi Sb is a wonderful Qawwal. His unique style, with a staccato harmonium and a seemingly dishevelled performance style that comes off as endearing rather than slipshod, is perfectly complimented by his vast knowledge of Sufi texts and the obvious enjoyment he derives from performing. Here he performs a Tazmeen on Hz Amir Khusrau (RA)'s kalam, Aamada Ba Qatle Mun Aan Shokh Sitamgaaray . The recording is taken from a wonderful mehfil uploaded at Naadsaagar.com .


The final Tazmeen is by Haji Mahbooob Ali Qawwal (RA) , who in my opinion fulfilled all the criteria of a perfect Khanqahi Qawwal. Nurtured and trained personally by Hz Syed Mohyeddin Gilani (RA) - Hazrat Babuji (RA) - Haji Mahboob Sb was extremely well versed in Sufi kalam. His grasp on talaffuz, adayegi and especially girahbandi was legendary. His relative weakness in classical musical education - which he was always the first to admit - was more than balanced by his unique Sitar playing and his wonderful spontaniety as a performer. Tazmeens were his specialty, and special tazmeens were written by poets like Isa Amritsari (RA) for him to perform. His version of Maulana Jami (RA)'s landmark naat "Nasima Janibe Bat'ha Guzar Kun" with a wonderful tazmeen is absolutely spellbinding. In his almost six decades of daily performance at Golra Sharif, he regularly performed Tazmeens. From the recordings that survive, here is a wonderful Tazmeen written by Isa Amritsari to Hz Badruddin Hilali (RA)'s ghazal Ae Teer-e-Ghamat Raa Dil-e-Usshaaq Nishana . Haji Sb's girahs on the final two verses - especially the girah-dar-takraar that he performs on the second last verse- open up whole vistas of hidden meanings in this kalaam. It is one of my favorite Tazmeens, and serves as a fitting bookend to this post.





P.S  I briefly mentioned the "mukhammas" or "makhmas' as five-line verse form that the Tazmeen resembles. Mukhammas is a very popular verse form in the Darri/Farsi culture and is regularly performed by musicians there. Almost all the classical Farsi poets have written Mukhammas, and many of these are still performed today. As an added treat, here's a beautiful Mukhammas of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (RA) , performed by the phenomenal Ustad Muhammad Hussain Sarahang. This Mukhammas was a special favorite of the Ustad, referencing as it does his hometown Kabul suburb of "Kharabaat", once the cultural heart of the city. So, to end this post, Ustad Sarahang performing Maulana Rumi (RA)'s Mukhammas Mun Jaane Kharabaatam.

4 comments:

  1. Amazing informative post filled with beautiful music. Especially loved the beautiful singing of Murli, M A Warsi rampur walay, Haji Mahboob and Sarahang. Zindabad Musab!!

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  2. what an absolute treasure trove of knowledge this has proved to be. God bless Musab.

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  3. This is one of the best posts on your amazing blog Musab bhai... I hope you understand that you are really helping a lot of people out there with limited access to old sufi music (especially Pakistani), really learn more about what they would otherwise not have a hope in hell of learning. Look forward to more posts...and more writing ...you do a damn good job of it!

    Here is another link which might be of interest to someone who liked the ghazal by Sheikh Hilali - The melancholic albeit lovely, Sarban delivering a farsi tazmeen on it ... (do let me know if I got this wrong..) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3XX5arU7XY

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    1. That's a lovely Tazmeen Ajith, performed in a very simple and endearing way. Sarban had a very distinctive voice.

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