So Long, Farewell. Khuda Hafez.

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All good things must come to an end.

This trite truism pertains to everything from a honeymoon to an ice cream cone. The good times eventually do stop rolling.

And such a day has come for Sunday Sounds. Or at least, for my part as your weekly curator, host, evangelist, pracharak, deewana, companion and guide through the sensational music of South Asia and the desi diaspora.

Since the early days of this digital daily I have been granted a free licence to indulge my love of music while hiding behind the mask of a columnist. Such an opportunity is a rare and great gift and one for which I will always be indebted to the editors of Scroll.in.

For two-and-a-half years I have tried to excite readers with the fantastic musical heritage of this region while also promoting the work of musicians of South Asian origin around the world.

Though I have but scratched the surface of this rich endowment, the time has come for me to hand over the excavation to others.

To all the readers of this column I say thank you for coming along for the ride. It has been a privilege to share the fun and grooves with you each week. I will miss being part of your weekend but alas, other projects (some much-delayed) await my attention.

For my last column, I have selected some old favourites from across theSunday Sounds world. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I have had putting them in front of you. [Full article]

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Everybody must get stoned

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The exact moment that India finally embraced Flower Power is captured forever in the hypnotic and groping guitar riff that opens the hippie anthem “Dum Maro Dum” in the film Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971).

That this cultural milestone was designed by director and film lead Dev Anand to warn Indians about the loose, drug-addled lifestyle of hippies, rather than embrace it, is the very definition of irony.

“Dum Maro Dum” became an instant hit. Along with Asha Bhosle’s sultry vocals, the acrid smell of charas (hashish) seemed to seep out of radios all across North India. The composer, RD Burman, used the song as a platform to fly at the loftiest levels of popular music for the next 15 years. A young Zeenat Aman, on whom the song had been picturised, shot to “national sexpot” status overnight. Even Anand confessed he had fallen in love with his co-star.

The song remains one of Bollywood’s all-time favourites, as evergreen as eternal young man Dev Anand himself.

Over the years, as reputations of Bhosle and Pancham da (Burman) grew internationally, “Dum Maro Dum” became a source of inspiration for a slew of artists all over the world. [full article and songs]

The Poetry of Sophia Pandeya

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Sophia Pandeya is a South Asian-American poet currently based in California. Her poetry is luscious and verdant. Meanings and ideas sprout out from each line, some reaching for the sky while others burrow deep into the soil. For the past year or two I have been reading and falling in love with her poems.

Pandeya has published in prestigious journals such as The Adirondack Review and her first volume, Peripheries is currently available on Amazon and receiving excellent reviews. On her website Sophia identifies herself as “an in-between, an inhabitant of hyphen”. That thing, the hyphen, is both a separator and a joiner. And an indicator of something ‘missing’. An ambiguous, even scary, place for most people. But for Pandeya, it is home and a wellspring of inspiration.

Scroll caught up with Sophia for a discussion about her tangled roots and absorbing poetry.

[Full article with audio of poems as appeared in Scroll.in]

The Glories of the Rubab

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The region known in ancient times as Khorasan bequeathed a rich and diverse cultural heritage to human civilisation. Like all long-lived cultures, Khorasan’s geography expanded and constricted like a huge lung breathing art, beauty and elevated thought, spread across much of what today we call Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. So huge was its presence and vast its territory that Babur, the first Mughal, proclaimed, “The people of Hindustan call every country beyond their own Khorasan”.

Among the roll call of illustrious Khorasanis is an “A List” of poets, mystics, theologians and scientists: Rumi, Rudaki, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Omar Khayyam, al Biruni, Abu Hanifa and al Ghazali being just the more renowned. The contributions of these great souls to the understanding of astronomy, physics, literature, medicine, Islamic philosophy and mathematics, in many cases, formed the “standard texts” until relatively recent times.

Sometime around the 7th century CE, Persian texts including the writings of Sufis began to mention a musical instrument they called rubab. Its inventor and exact place of birth is not recorded, but given its undeniably Khorasani origin, I like to imagine the rubab was played for the first time in northern Afghanistan around Balkh. Others claim it was invented in Ghazni. Whatever the truth, the rubab is now the beloved national instrument of Afghanistan. [Full article appearing in Scroll.in]

A Rare Gem from Pakistan

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Timelessness is a quality every artist hopes to achieve in his or her work. Many have, but often as posthumous acknowledgement. Rarely does a piece, even a masterpiece, completely capture the imagination of an audience so well as to distil the spirit of centuries into a few eternal moments. Umaraan langhiyaan pabbaan bhar, a Punjabi poem is one of those rarest of gems.

Best known as a song, the poem was set to music and first performed by Pakistani singer Asad Amanat Ali Khan in 1975. It has gone on to become one of the best loved songs to come out of Pakistan and is still capturing new audiences today, almost a decade after Asad Amanat’s passing in 2007. [Read the rest of my Sunday Sounds column for this week]