Travel Shot: MS Subbulakshmi’s house in Madurai

About a year back, I visited Madurai with Chennai Pastforward. Led by V. Sriram, the 3-day was filled with temples, music, culture, rock-cut caves, heritage, history and was fantastic (watch out for posts on Madurai coming up next week!).

On one of the evenings in Madurai, our group was walking back towards the bus when Sriram, who was leading, suddenly ducked into a narrow street. Actually, alley would be a better word for the street which had a sign that read Mela Anumantharayan Kovil Street.

We obediently followed him, walking in a single file as the alley wouldn’t allow for anything more. Lined with shops on both sides and double storeyed structures above them, the sky was visible as a dark blue ribbon floating above us. I don’t suffer from claustrophobia, but I had the feeling of being hemmed in.

Just when I was wondering Sriram was leading us to, he stopped and pointed at an open window, through which light was streaming out, and said: “This is it. This is the house of MS Subbulakshmi.

Madurai, Heritage, Music, Hanumantharayar Street, Anumathnarayan Kovil Street, MS Subbulakshmi Continue reading

The incredible music of the Thar at Suryagarh

The sight of a canopied seating and fresh juice organised by the Suryagarh team was a welcome relief after a morning spent exploring the Thar. Set up outside an abandoned human settlement, the location and timing of the ‘refreshment pitstop’ was perfect. Much as I love the desert, I was getting dehydrated pretty quickly.

As I made my way to pick a glass of juice for myself, I heard some music being played in the distance. Music that was both familiar and unfamiliar, if not strange. It was familiar because I recognised the instrument, and unfamiliar because I had never heard it played outside of a Carnatic classical music katcheri (concert).

Juice forgotten, I changed directions and headed towards the music and the musician, Sumar Khan, who was playing the morsing or the wind harp, a wind percussion instrument.

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My “now” song: Ambwa talay

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a story line, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My current “now” song is Ambwa Talayan Amir Khusro composition, sung here by Javed Bashir and Humera Channa as part of a Coke Studio Pakistan performance.

Ambwa Taley is a traditional bidaai or farewell song, which is sung when the bride leaves her parents’ home for her marital home. The bidaai songs are usually weepy songs, but Ambwa Talay is different. It is a sublime song with just the right tinge of the bittersweet. The bride can’t wait to begin a new phase of her life with her beloved, and yet there is sadness at leaving her childhood behind — her dolls, carefree days of playing on the swing, the rains… The bride requests her palanquin bearers to halt under the shade of the mango tree to look back and reminisce.

A friend recommended this song to me about 2 months back and I was instantly drawn to it. It began with the melody and then the beautiful lyrics and each time I listened to it I fell more in love with it. Javed Bashir’s earthy vocals and Humera Channa’s melodious voice with just the right tinge of longing — for both the future and the past — were spot on and I can’t imagine anyone else singing this song. I also felt that the use of the clarinet as a substitute for the shehnai was masterstroke for mirroring the sentiments of Ambwa Talay. As a ‘modern’ instrument, it hinted at the future, and yet its reedy notes conveyed the sacredness and solemnity of the traditional shehnai, which usually accompanies a bidaai song. Ambwa Talay is based on Raga Desh, one of my favourite ragas, and one more reason for it to be my “now” song.

It has been a very busy time lately and I have been away from the blog for more than 2 months. Glad to be back here with this song that has literally captured my heart and my emotions too. Hope you enjoy listening to it as well.

PS: What have you been listening to these days and what is your “now” song? Tell me.


For more of my “now” songs and my other writings on music, do click here.

Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as I explore the world around me and share “My Favourite Things” with you.


 

My “now” song: Umraan langiyaan / Chhan chan chankan

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a story line, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My current “now” song is actually two different songs —  Umraan Langiyaan and Chhan Chan Chankan — by different composers and lyricists seamlessly blended together into one composition for the purpose of a Coke Studio Pakistan performance.

Someone (and I can’t remember who) shared the link of this “song” on Twitter. I listened to it once, then twice, then a few more times to try to identify the raagas (Bhoop for the first song and Shuddh Kalyan for the second) in the composition. Before I knew it, I was playing this composition on a loop, and even though I didn’t understand the lyrics, it didn’t come in the way of my enjoying or appreciating the music.

About a couple of weeks back I came across the behind the scenes video for this composition. The video opens with the singer of Umrah Langiyan, Ali Sethi, explain that the song roughly translates into how an entire lifetime has passed on tiptoes waiting for something/someone. That something could be one’s homeland or and the someone could be a beloved. It could also be something that one has yearned for a long time.

Recently, I travelled to Uzbekistan (blog post coming here soon), a place I had been wanting to visit for a long, long time. In other words it was a trip to my dream destination. When I had my first glimpse of the Registan Square at Samarqand, Umrah Langiyan just came into my mind — a yearning that got fulfilled. And Chan Chan Chankan was the thanksgiving for the dream come true.

Just apt and perfect.🙂

PS: I still don’t know what the lyrics mean, but I think they reflect the sentiments I’ve described above.


For more of my “now” songs and my other writings on music, do click here.

Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as I explore the world around me and share “My Favourite Things” with you.


My “now” song: Piku’s background score

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

I watched Piku the other day. Like most people who’ve seen the film, I loved it. However, unlike most people who’ve seen the film, I thought the real star of the movie was its background score. Composed by Anupam Roy and also played on the sarod by him, Piku’s background score is my “now” song.

The score is first heard in the film when the opening credits appear on the screen — white lettering on a black background with the tittle on the ‘i’ appearing in red. Simple and beautiful. (In retrospect, I thought it was the perfect way to listen to the score and not get distracted by any visuals or graphics on-screen.) The background score appears several times in the film sometimes as an interlude, sometimes to underscore a particular emotion, and sometimes as the background score it is meant to be.

Each time this music was played in the film, I would just get lost in the music. And each time a different set of emotions would be invoked, some nostalgic, some bittersweet. Continue reading

My “now” song: Aao balma

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

That day, I was bored and trawling YouTube for some interesting music to listen to, when a suggestion popped up. It was a Coke Studio India session featuring A.R. Rahman and Ustad Ghulam Mustafa. Now, I had not been particularly impressed with Coke Studio India till then. Sure there had been one or two good sessions, but nothing really spectacular like Coke Studio Pakistan has been (some of which I have shared in this series).

I clicked on the link and the music began to the familiar strains of Raga Yaman and then a young boy started to sing, followed by three other men before the chorus joined in to sing Aao, Aao Aao Balma… Three generations of Ghulam Mustafa family singing together. So far so good, I told myself. Nice, but nothing spectacular.

And then at exactly 1.52 minutes something happened. The guitar or rather Prasanna’s guitar came in and the magic began.

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