An Evening with… INTER-CULTURAL LINKS (At A Performance)

Dear Friends,

Good-evening and a warm welcome, once again. With pleasure, I am going to take up very briefly, the theme of: Inter-Cultural Links in Dubai. This room by itself is a definite living example demonstrating how different nationalities are sharing good thoughts and company of each other! I am presenting 3 songs and the total duration of the programme will be about 17 minutes in continuation. Anilesh, who is a bamboo flute player in Indian classical music is supporting me on the harmonium. It will be of interest to mention to my worthy audience, stepwise, the following: The Empty Quarter, the Sufi Poets, the Ghazal, the Harmonium and the Tabla. Alongside their respective allocations, these features contribute through their roles the passable ways of cementing multi-national cultures – which is the evening, itself.

The Empty Quarter: All of us gathered here have come to this region, leaving our homes behind. This is the place where we have chosen to make our home, away from home. This is where we are linked together in our different ways of life. Here again, the link with inter-cultural bond occurs on a constant basis. Please permit me to recite a poem which I had composed in the year 1996 with similar sentiments. The title of my poem is: The Stalker. (The poem is now appearing in my book: An Indian Ode To The Emirates).

The Sufis: The word ‘sufi’ has been associated with the Arabic word safa, meaning pure. The word saf means wool. Early pages of history reveal, the dervishes (Saints), who wore suf (a woollen cloth) and led pure life of renunciation were known as Sufis. The Sufis were wedded to extreme quietism and poetry. Sufism began to spread in different regions of the world through the traveling mystical poets from Persia, Turkey and India. Bulleh Shah was a poet hailing from Pakistan and his lyrics hold a prime place among the treasures of literature. I will be rendering a composition of his in song.

The Ghazal: The ghazal is a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets. It is derived from the Arabian qasida. Mostly, ghazals may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation, and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The ghazal spread into South Asia in the 12th century under the influence of the new Islamic Sultanate courts and Sufi mystics. Although the ghazal is most prominently a form of Persian and Urdu poetry, today it is found in the poetry of many languages. Ghazals were written by the Persian mystics and poets like Rumi (13th century) and Hafez (14th century), Mirza Ghalib (1797–1869) and Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938).

The Harmonium: The name "harmonium" was invented in 1842 in Paris by Alexandre Debain. During the mid-19th century missionaries brought French-made hand-pumped harmoniums to India. The Indian musicians immediately favoured this instrument as it flowed very well with the voice. However, the Indian musicians preferred their own version without the foot pedals, because for the Indian school of thought it is a matter of discipline and practice to sit on the floor.

The Tabla: The Muslims who came from outside, undoubtedly, influenced in the culture and structure of the tabla. The name tabla is probably derived from the Arabic word for a drum (generic), called the tabl; and possibly to some extent the Turkish word dawal. Over time, the instrument slowly became the primary drum for both classical and popular music of north India.

Also, supporting the musical composition is the instrument of Tanpura.

Tanpura: Tanpura has four or five wire strings, which are plucked one after another in a regular pattern to create a harmonic resonance. Tanpura does not partake in the melodic part of the music but it supports and sustains the melody by providing a unique resonance.

Song I

Hindola: Ghir ghir aave piya kari badariya…

This is a folk song originating from Uttar Pradesh, India. It is possessing the purity of a romantic lamentation coming from a maid who is pining for her husband’s presence and love. The dark clouds, the cool breeze, the rainy weather and the singing of Papiha are all features of a striking arrow, striking her heart. Her husband is away from home and when she sees other couples swinging on the swings, she is filled with great sorrow and yearning for him. To a passing traveler, the maid pleads and begs that he takes her message of longing to her husband’s destination.
Song II

Sufi song: Tooney Kaman Kar Key Nee Main, Rusiya Yaar, Manavaange…
By the Sufi poet, Bulleh Shah.

The core meaning of the verses is: “By wizardry and arrows, I will capture my Lover who is sulking with me.” What modes of enchantment the Sufi poet devises! Bulleh Shah says, he will sit on the threshold of his home and play the pipe for his lover. He will burn magic-potions and offer them to the sun to achieve his Companion. He will apply dense kohl which will make his eyes look like dark clouds to attract his Lover (God). The Sufi poet says that with the force of seven oceans, he will lift his heart’s feelings to win his Lover; he will turn into lightening of the whirling clouds, in order to intimidate his Lover, so that he can show the power of deep affections.
Song III

Ghazal: Kahin gul kahin pey shabnam, hai ajeeb woh nazar bhi…

Unique is that look of the one I love. It is like flower and dew. It is the wound of my heart. It is also the healer of my heart.

O, do understand that stars are not only in the sky,
Look, there are stars on earth as well.

Though he separated from me, yet, he could not separate himself from me because my gaze has gone along with him.

What sort of a guide was he? He was to have shown me the way and he has disappeared.

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