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Archive for the ‘The Universality of Music’ Category

I was re-reading some old posts and was surprised that my initial reaction to Arziyan (from the soundtrack of Delhi 6) wasn’t exactly jumping-off-the-walls enthusiastic. I had forgotten that for some strange reason it took time for me to warm up to it. Perhaps because it feels like I’ve always been enamored with this song, with the depth and beauty of its lyrics, with its lovely melody, with the sense of peace and calm it endows me with each time I listen to it. Arziyan has now firmly become a part of those select songs that I listen to in difficult times, the songs that give me strength and hope, that heal my heart and nurse my troubled mind. Each time I listen to it, its lyrics make a stronger and stronger impact on me, and they transport me to a different place. I’ve posted a particularly favorite stanza on my desk, and a friend who asked about it asked me to translate the song for him. I’m going to do my best, because as always, its not easy to properly translate the feelings behind the lyrics, and also I often stumble on the Urdu. And so, as always, anyone passing by is asked to help! 🙂

Arziyan (Supplications) is written by Prasoon Joshi, rendered by Kailash Kher and Javed Ali, to music set by the maestro A.R. Rahman.

Arziyan saari chehre pe likh ke laaya hoon/Tumse kya mangoon tum khud hi samajh lo

(All my supplications I bring to you written on my face/What shall I ask from You; You know it all)

Ya Maula/Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula (2)

(O God/God, God, God my God)

Ch: Daraare daraare hai maathe pe Maula/Marammat muqaddar ki kardo Maula

(There are creases* on my forehead, God/Help me restore my destiny/fate, God)

*creases: worry or frown lines

Tere dar pe jhuka hoon, mita hoon, bana hoon (2)/Marammat muqaddar ki kardo Maula (2)

(On Your doorstep I have kneeled, been destroyed, been made/Help me mend my destiny (or fate), God)

I: Jo bhi tere dar aaya, jhukne jo sar aaya/Mastiyan piye sabkon jhoomta nazar aaya

(He who came to Your doorstep, he who bowed his head to You/Appears to be intoxicated and dancing with pleasure)

*This is not a great translation! Mastiyan is better translated as something intoxicating. Here, we are told that those who have been given God’s grace appear intoxicated with their love for Him, and they are dancing in pleasure. Dancing and being mesmerized in prayer and devotion is a feature of Sufi practices and beliefs.

Pyaas le ke aaya tha, dariya woh bhar laaya/Noor ki baarish mein bheeghta sa tar aaya 

(He who came with thirst, has a river in front of him/Is drenched in the downpour of Divine Light)

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula…

Ch.

II: Ek khushboo aati thi (2), main bhatakta jaata tha/Reshmi si maya thi, aur main takta jaata tha

(A perfume would come, and I would go stumbling after it/Wealth (material goods) were like velvet, and I followed greedily)

Jab teri gali aaya, sach tabhi nazar aaya/Mujh mein hi woh khushboo hai, jisse tune milwaya

(When I came Your way, only then did I see the Truth/That the perfume I seeked lies within me, and You helped me recognize it)

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula…

Ch.

III: Toot ke bikharna mujhko zaroor aata hai/Varna ibadatwala saroor aata hai

(I know too well how to break, be shattered/And I am also aware of how to worship)

Sajde mein rehne do, ab kaheen na jaoonga/Ab jo tumne thukhraya tho savar na paoonga)

(Let me be prostrated in Your presence, I will not go anywhere else/Now if You forsake me, then I cannot be saved)

IV: Sar uthake maine tho kitni khwahishen ki thi/Kitne khwaab dekhe the, kitni koshishen ki thi

(I had raised my head and made so many wishes/I had dreamt of so much, had tried so much)

Jab Tu rubaroo aaya nazren na mila paaya/Sar jhukake ek pal mein maine kya nahin paaya

(But when You came near me, I couldn’t raise my eyes to meet Yours/In that one moment when I bowed my head to You, there was nothing I did not gain)

This stanza is my favorite, I am struck by it every time I listen to it, and this is the one I have taped to my desk so I can be reminded of it daily. I don’t know if the translation does it justice. It speaks of Man’s continuous quest, infinite desire, untiring ambition. Man wants more and more, asks for more and more, tries for more and more. This stanza summarizes this quest. I raised my head and I demanded so much from you: that my wishes may come true, that my efforts bear fruit, that my dreams all become reality. But when You appeared before me, God, and I had to bow my head against Your luminosity, in that one moment I realized I had gained everything I ever wanted.

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula

Ch.

Mora piya ghar aaya, mora piya ghar aaya (multiple times)

(My beloved has come home, my beloved has come home)

God is the Beloved, and this is a phrase in many Sufi bhajans, celebrating, in my interpretation, God’s entry to your heart, mind, and soul.

Afterthoughts:

Arziyan speaks to me on a deep, spiritual level. It has a special appeal to me because I find that it traverses all religions and faiths; it does not speak of any single faith or denomination or describes any particular flavor of the Holy. It supplicates to a universal God, a God for anyone who chooses to believe in Him/Her. It is a piece about faith in a greater power, and the hope and the strength that faith can bring to you, when you need it most.

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What hurts the most

Was being so close

And having so much to say

And watching you walk away


And never knowin’

What could’ve been…

(Rascall Flatts, What Hurts the Most)

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I have no words to describe my shock, confusion, anxiety, sorrow, and disappointment, my helplessness, my anger, my frustration, my irritation, at what is happening in my country now. I do now know how to voice my thoughts. I just follow the news and think, think, think constantly.

I just want to dedicate this to all those who lost their lives, whose families were destroyed, those who are injured and perhaps crippled forever, for the city, for all the citizens, for all those who were affected in any manner. This should not have happened. I pray for everyone affected, for my friends and family, for my country, for the world.

(The music is written by Amit Trivedi, from the soundtrack of Aamir, performed by Shilpa Rao. The lyrics are by the very talented Amitabh Bhattacharyya)

Ek Lau Is Tarah Kyun Bhuji Mere Maula…

(Why was a flare extinguished like this, my Lord…)

Gardishon Mein Rehti, Behti Guzarthi,

Zindagi Aahein Kitni…

(Struggling through dark clouds, flowing, passing by,

There are so many lives [being lived]…)

In Mein Se Ek Hai, Teri Meri Agni,

Koi Ek Jaisi Apni…

(Your life and my life is just one flame amongst all of these)

Par Khuda Khair Kar, Aisa Anjaam Kisi Rooh Ko,

Na De Kabhi Yahaan…

Guncha Muskuratha Ek Waqt Se Pehle,

Kyun Chodd Chala Tera Yeh Jahaan…

(But God please, may no soul here receive, this kind of ending…

Why is it that a smiling bunch of flowers wilted/died before its time had come?)

{*writer refers to the gradual, sweet smelling natural death of a flower. Edited with Madhavi’s comments: thanks}

Ek Lau Is Tarah Kyun Bhuji Mere Maula,

Ek Lau Zindagi Ki Maula.

(Why was a flare extinguished like this, my Lord,

A flare of Life, my Lord)

Dhoop Ke Ujaale Se, Aus Ke Pyaale Se,

Khushiyan Mile Humko…

Zyada Manga Hai Kahaan, Sarhadein Na Ho Jahaan,

Duniya Mile Humko…

(The light of the sunshine, the beauty of the morning dew,

We recieve joy from all of this…

Is it too much that we ask for a world with no borders*)

{*As in, borders/divisions between people, ethnicities, religions…symbolizing all artificially created conflict amongst humanity}

Par Khuda Khair Kar, Uske Armaan Mein Kyun

Bewaja Ho Koi Qurbaan,

Guncha Muskuratha Ek Waqt Se Pehle,

Kyun Chodd Chala Tera Yeh Jahaan…

(But God please, why should anyone be sacrificed to fulfill this desire*…

Why is it that a smiling bunch of flowers wilted/died before its time had come?)

{*Why should there be sacrifice for the sake of creating this division-less, conflict-free society? Thank you to senthil to pointing out I had left this out, and for giving an apt translation}

Ek Lau Is Tarah Kyun Bhuji Mere Maula,

Ek Lau Zindagi Ki Maula. (2)

(Why was a flare extinguished like this, my Lord,

A flare of Life, my Lord)


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I was happy to read this news piece, confirming my own thoughts on his songs, in his own words. Rabbi is indeed a female sympathetic song writer, and chooses to write about the crucial topics facing India right now: female foeticide and the rights of the girl child. His beautiful songs speak out to me, and to many women, for these reasons.

I must go back and look at Avengi Ja Nahin in this new light now. Which is always the greatest thing about Rabbi: you discover new qualities, new meaning, new aspects each time you listen.

Singer Rabbi Shergill, the voice behind popular songs like Bulla Ki Jaana and Tere Bin, says his latest album Avengi Ja Nahin focuses on social issues like female foeticide, rights of the girl child and racism.

Ballo, one of the nine songs of the album, talks about the issue of pre-natal sex determination, Rabbi explained. “Female liberation is guided by the patriarch and women are still manipulated,” said the singer, who is known for the Sufi influence on his music.

While the album’s title song Avengi Ja Nahin is dedicated to the girl child, Ballo will suggest gender selection”, said Rabbi.

Credit: http://sify.com/movies/fullstory.php?id=14701943&?VSV=SMM

Another exciting piece of news: The video for Challa is now out. Maybe now I’ll be able to understand the meaning behind the song better. Interesting MV, though I wish the quality was a tad better.

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Lyrically, Avengi Ja Nahin has several songs that seem singularly female-sympathetic, an attitude that is refreshing in a young male singer, and important in our generation. While the first album had songs that chose a woman as their heroine, like the girl wandering around the country searching for answers and finding more questions in Jugni, or Ishtihaar, a song which describes an advertisement for a lost woman, a lost love, this second album is more feminist in its approach. I’m not sure how purposeful that is; perhaps as a woman I read too much into them. But whatever the reason behind it, I find that especially attractive in his lyrics, because I can relate to them more and understand them more.

Avengi Ja Nahin discusses more about love than Rabbi did, and is more ‘direct’ in a way. By that I mean this: in the first album, the songs discussed love but with a certain tragic quality (like the lost woman in Ishtihaar or the story of Heer-Ranjha, or even the sudden change in the lovely Tere Bin where the hero makes a significant realization about the woman who left (‘giving up’ or losing love). In this new album, the love songs are more direct, more open, and more flirtatious in a sense, as the lyrics proclaim confidence in the hero’s love and lust. Therein lies an irony that confuses me about Rabbi’s lyrics. The woman in his love songs (self-written or chosen) is always leaving, or teasing, or out of his reach while the words claim the pain and loss he has felt from her. Yet, other songs are on her side, proclaiming her beauty, her strength, or even giving her encouragement. Why the difference between his love stories and social narrations?

The title song, Avengi Ja Nahin (Will you come or not), is not my favorite by any means, but it has good music. Its almost a straight talk kind of song, where the lover demands his beloved if she will come or not, if she will return his love or not, or will she just leave him with empty promises?(A new article leads me to reconsider my thoughts on this song: Must go back and reanalyze.) Challa is confusing to me, and I’m waiting for more clarification on its lyrics in which the challa (ring) becomes different things that hold meaning (there was an original version sung by Gurdas Mann, which I must also check out). Maen Bolia (I said), is one of the songs I mean when I talk about a confident love…it is a defiant, bold proclamation from a lover that says that he knows she loves him, she has the fever, and she will come to him. Another love song is dedicated to the mysterious girl from Karachi, who is beyond his reach, who he can never have because of many obstacles, yet who he knows yearns for him too.

That’s it for the love songs, and while they are all quite good and Challa is gorgeous in its music, none of them caught me with as much force as the simple Tere Bin did from Rabbi. The others songs are my real favorites, and not just because of their larger meanings and greater symbolism, but because their lyrics are simple and the music is just right, complementing each word. This is kind of a talent that Rabbi has that ends up bringing the most out of the lyrics (thus creating the sensation by his working of a 16th century poem, Bulla).

Bilqis, or Jinhen Naaz Nahin, will stand out for everyone who is a fan of Rabbi’s social commentary. It is a narrative that is based on the shocking true story of Bilqis Bano, the woman who was gangraped in the 2002 Gujarat riots and lost 14 members of her family (and still awaits justice from the courts in India, and goes on to describe other incidents of innocents wronged by the society we live in. And Rabbi demands through their voices that the people who have such pride in India, who like to boast and claim all is well in this nation and there is only growth and no problems, who are so nationalistic and jump at any criticism: where were you? Where were you and where are you when such horrendous crimes against humanity take place?

Bilqis (Jinhen Naaz Hai), Rabbi Shergill

Paghri Sambhal Jatta is a re-interpretation of a popular inspirational song for the Sikh youth, and I wouldn’t be able to say much and as well as is written here on The Langar Hall which I found very interesting. http://thelangarhall.com/archives/352

Return to Unity, Rabbi’s first full English song, I’m still chewing and pondering over, so thoughts on that will come at a later time. Tu Avin Bandra (You should come to Bandra) is a love song of sorts to Bandra, a part of busy, bustling Mumbai. I like the song for its music, its slow, laid back quality, and the almost smiling voice with which Rabbi sings “tainu idhar accha lagega (you’ll like it here).” Its a very different song, and it creates an image of a hustling, bustling, complicated Bandra, one that I’m sure I’d appreciate more if I had spent any time there. The song, for some reason, makes me think of a big city on a wet, rainy day. I really couldn’t tell you why, but its a nice image and makes me happy.

Tu Avin Bandra, Rabbi Shergill

Now to my hands down favorite: Ballo, a simply lovely, amazing piece giving empathy and encouragement to a woman. It is beautiful because it seems to know, to have a very eerie sense of what it is really like to have the pain only a woman can have. It could be directed to a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a distressed lover. Rabbi’s soothing voice begins the song with words that acknowledge pain without being arrogant or patronizing.

Ballo, Rabbi Shergill

Main janda, tainu aaj/Peer hundi/Dil tere uthdi ek/Cheez

(I know today you/have pain/in your heart rises/a pang)

And goes on to further accept the fact that this is difficult, that the time, the events, the circumstances, are akin to storms, raging across your word. The next two stanzas describe the betrayal and struggle a woman feels when one she treasured, loved, showered affection on, is the one that causes her this pain, this suffocation, this trauma (and Rabbi maintains the gentle tone of, “yes I know its hard”).

Main Janda Aunde/Din ‘ch tufan kei/Kuch Sujda Na/Uddi ey reit

(I know in the day/arrive many storms/you can think nothing/and there’s just sand)

Rakhdi ti jisne tu/Saambh Saambh/Ghut ghut seene naal/La

Kal jo si sohna/Sagna da haar tera/Ajj ban gia/Gall da o faah

(What you guarded/with great care/against your bosom/very close

What was yesterday/a lucky necklace/is today a noose/around the neck)

The chorus stanza comes next and is simply uplifting, and the music changes, complementing the tone, as it becomes encouraging, telling Ballo that all of this is karma, and this too will pass, as long she faces it with dignity and strength.

Ni Ballo/Ni Ballo/Gham khada/Ey tan lekha si/Karma da/Vekh lai jar lai/Ihnu khirhe mathhey/Beetaga sama/Hovange/Katthey

(O Ballo/O Ballo/Why this sadness/This is just cause/And effect/See it, feel it/Raise your chin/This time will pass/We shall be/Together)

The next stanzas couple stanzas hold the most meaning for me, and are quite powerful yet simple. Again, I am amazed by just the depth and feel, and how does one convey so much in such few words? And exactly what is needed to be said and heard?

Main janda dabbian tu/Kai yadan/Jo suttian na gaian/taithon

O aundian ne kandhan tapp/jadon meetein tun akhan/jadon laven foki mattan/maithon

(I know you buried/many memories/that you couldn’t/throw away

They come climbing walls/when you close your eyes/or when you listen to my/empty advices)

See what I mean? I may be getting too excited in my love for this song, but I personally have the impression that for a lot of women, this song is almost like what Killing Me Softly describes (for those who are fans of that song). In a song being played, you hear and feel like your own emotions have been stripped open. Except Ballo is not just empathic but aims to say “Its okay, and you can’t let this bring you down.” Yes, it is a struggle, and yes, it is a constant fight within you. As the next stanzas describe, you constantly judge yourself, debate yourself, accuse and sentence yourself. You try to find your faults one day, and another day blame the one who hurt you; one day you attack yourself and blame it all on your own doings, another day its not you…and yet, there is never a resolution, it is never over.

Kardi ein nitt tu/Mukadma/Kardi ein tikhian/Jirha

Kade akhein dokhi/Kade kar devein bari/Par hovey na/Koi faisla

(Everyday you/Litigate/Everyday a sharp/Debate

Sometimes its guilty/Sometimes its innocent/But never a/Resolution)

Again, the chorus comes in, and tells Ballo to lift her chin up and face the time, because this will pass.

And the last stanzas are both empowering and desolate. Rabbi ends with words that leave you both saddened, and also strangely stronger.

Tera maseeha/Bane das kivein koi/Duniya sabh bhulli firdi

Khud varke tainu folne painu/Khud painde tainu chalne paine/Navein akhar gharne paine

(Who tell me/Can be your messiah/When all are as lost

You’ll have to turn the pages yourself/You’ll have to journey yourself/Shape your own script)

It is the truth, and it is delivered like a soft blow at the end of a motivational speech. Ballo, there is indeed only you. Only you can control your life, pick up the pieces, create your world and your journey, clean up the messes and answer your own questions. We are all lost beings, and we cannot guide each other, and while we feel pain and hurt by each other, we are all on an equal footing, just trying to make our way and live our life.

Rabbi Shergill has a way with words, and is one of the finest lyricists on the Indian music scene now. Listen to his songs, explore his music, and interpret and research his lyrics, and each song will become an experience in itself.

Avengi Ja Nahin is available on Amazon, on ITunes, and via Yash Raj Films. For lots more information on Rabbi and to stay updated on his works, visit Rabbism. For the story behind the album, downloads, and complete lyrics and translations (and to sample the tracks), visit http://ajn.co.in.

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Avengi Ja Nahin, Rabbi Shergill

I’m a little late catching up to Rabbi’s latest work, unfortunately, though he has been on my list of favorite singers ever since Jugni, Tere Bin and Ishtihaar reached my ears and their words (translated lyrics, because Rabbi usually sings in pure Punjabi) reached my mind. I caught a video of the title MV from his new album, Avengi Ja Nahin, and honestly wasn’t drawn in and avoided it to prevent being disappointed, but recently I thought I’d atleast go back and check out the rest of the album. And I was very glad I did. Undoubtedly, Rabbi, the self-titled first album, will be my favorite, and in my opinion is the better one, for several reasons: Rabbi Shergill is fresh, passionate, strong, and in a very unique, independent spirit in Rabbi. Those were the songs that swept millions across the world, because you can sense his “I sing for myself” and “I am passionate about my music and nothing else” spirit in each of his songs. And, his sound of rock mixed with the sufi style was so new to the stale Indipop scene (which I’d all but given up, save for Kailash Kher), that Bulla Ki Jaana was literally a movement.

BUT…that doesn’t mean Avengi Ja Nahin isn’t a great album. Rabbi has stayed true to his soul and his passion and has created something quite wonderful. Italian maestro Mauro Pagani has produced the album, which was mostly recorded in Italy. Perhaps there is where my personal tastes are affected: I enjoyed Rabbi’s initial effort because it seemed to come purely within him; it was, after all, self-composed and self-written for the most part (or self-interpreted with wonderful results). While this one is too, there has to be some influence by the producer, and that has both its advantages and disadvantages. But it is always great when artists venture into different territories, especially when that means actually going across borders. Avengi Ja Nahin, as a result, is a very unique album. The lyrics are, as expected, quite great for the most part (still prefer the first, Rabbi, for the lyrical power, too, though). I’ll discuss those further later. The music, because of the international influence is rich in its diversity. A variety of instruments have been used, and creatively and expertly mixed. Ballo has a simple, constant beat in the background, placing emphasis on Rabbi’s strong vocals, and it matches the spirit of the song. Bilqis is strong, heavy on the guitars, and Rabbi seems to narrate the song, appropriately. Challa has a laidback, acoustic feel to it, like its playing on some boat with a lonely man rowing it. You can listen to the songs, get the translated lyrics and read more about the story on its official site: http://ajn.co.in/

Yash Raj Films, who are distributing the album, have a wonderful review: http://www.yashrajfilms.com/News/NewsDetails.aspx?NewsID=fc087a10-8206-4144-b14d-d06898d3bf8c

I think its great that Rabbi provided these lyrics, appreciating the fact that the majority of his fan following is not that well-versed in Punjabi. Also interesting and fun to read: the one-line comments added by him as a footnote to the lyrics. They provide a very personal insight into the creation of these songs. I’d also have liked to hear a bit more on what lies behind his composing, i.e., what drives him to choose the subjects of his songs and what are his inspirations as he writes?

Avengi Ja Nahin is another great offering by a singer, rocker, composer and lyricist whose passion for music is transparent, and who knows how to use his gifts to reach the people. I admire Rabbi for his bold lyrics, his honesty and depth, as much as I love his songs for their powerful beats, rhythms, and the energy in every tone.

PS: If you are a Rabbi fan also, then you will find hordes of information and discussion on the unofficial Rabbi blog, http://rabbism.blogspot.com.

(I forgot and was late publishing this first post. Thus, discussion on the lyrics follows soon in a separate post)

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We lose
Yet we want to spare the feelings of those we love
Don’t cry
We’ve all lied
But there is always room for forgiveness my friend

So don’t treat me bad just be glad I am strong
I know where I belong

And soon you will see we are blessed and complete
There’s a place here for you with me

Shine
You’re fine
See I will always have a smile for you my love
And still
We will
Be ok and along the way we’ll learn a thing or two

So don’t treat me bad just be glad I am strong
I know where I belong

And soon you will see we are blessed and complete
There’s a place here for you with me

(Where I Belong, by Sia)

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