Thursday, September 10, 2009

Amrut Ras by Lakshmi Shankar : Divine Melody

Lakshmi Shankar has been a celebrated singer well known in the realms of Hindustani Classical music for more than half a century and is credited with popularizing Indian Music in the west. Her wide repertoire includes Thumri. Kajri, Bhajans etc. Her age-defying voice is a testimony to her command over her singing. Her recordings with HMV mostly done in the 60’s and 70’s are yet to be released in their entirety in CD. Her other recordings has been through Music Today in the Shringar series released in early 90’s.Most of her later releases have been through European recording companies. The Album in review is Amrut Ras released by Audiorec Limited,U.K.

In this Album of devotionals, Lakshmi Shankar has given a sensitive performance from the devotional traditions to the accompaniment of only Tabla and Sarangi. The playing of Tabla by Partha Sarathi Mukherjee and Sarangi by Pt. Ramesh Mishra are notable creating the mood for the divine melody transcending the limitations of being mere accompaniments.

The opening number is the Meerabai number Eri main to prem diwani.. sung in Raag Bhimpalasi .Meera says that none but the wounded know the pain of love’s wound. The Sarangi piece perfectly highlights the pathos and anguish suffered by Meera. The second number is again a Meerabai song, Daras bina dhukhan lage nain..(Without a sight of you my eyes feels pain…).The divinity of the Lord expressed by His physical beauty is what Meera longs for to have a glimpse. Sung in Raag Nat Bhairavi, the number is spell- binding.

The succeeding two numbers are again classic Meera poetry Hoji Hari tum kit gaye neha lagaaye.. and Jo tum todo Raam main nahin todu.. Lakshmi Shankar renders these numbers in Raag Todi and Raag Kirwani respectively. Her expressive voice aptly brings out the sentiments of Meera spell bound in devotion to her Lord.

The next number is Kabir’s Maati kahe Kumhar ko tu kyun rounde mohe.. Kabir making a mockery of the transitory nature of the material world says that the potter who moulds his clay should remember that his ultimate fate is to return to the clay himself. This beautiful poetry in metaphors has been sung in Raag Pahadi.

This follows again with a Meera number Mere to Giridhar Gopal.. sung in Mishra Pahadi. The rendition of this song has been done with a sense of deep and ardent devotion imbuing the surroundings with spirituality. Raidas’s Prabhuji tum chandan hum paani.. follows the number sung in Raag Ahiran. The devotee-poet sees his relationship with the Lord as inseparable as the sandalwood which requires water to form the paste. The vocals in this number communicate the sublime feelings.

Tulsidas’s best-known hymn Sri Rama Chandra Kripalu bhaja mana.. sung in Raag Abhogi forms the last number of the Album. This solemn hymn in praise of Lord Rama has been sung by many eminent artistes. Lakshmi Shankar adds a new dimension to the rendition to the perfect embellishments of Tabla and Sarangi pieces.

This Album released in 1991 has of late been available by the Indian subsidiary of Audiorec Ltd. in the label of Audiorec Classics. (This review has earlier been published in

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I write,I recite by Meena Kumari

Much has been written and discussed about Meena Kumari as an actress. Her swansong ‘Pakeezah’ perhaps epitomized her Screen personae as the unquestioned ‘Tragedy Queen’ of the Indian Cinema. However, the lesser known faculty of this Screen legend has not been given its due it deserves. Meena Kumari is also an accomplished poet and most of her writings after her demise in 1972 passed on to Gulzar, who was instrumental in publishing her poems.

I write, I recite is the only recorded Album of the actress wherein she recites her selected poems. The composer of the Album, the inimitable Khaiyyam has contributed his genius in crafting the poems to suit the voice of Meena Kumari. The poems are a reflection of the personal tragedy and loneliness which the Actress encountered in her own life. Strains of melancholy and sadness are evident in her poetry.

First poem is a recitation in free verse…Akelepan ke usi Bekinaar Sehra mein/Uljhi Bikhri hui, Takdeer ko lakeeron mein ghiri…..
The next number is a slow rendition of her immensely beautiful poem. Accompanied by Sarangi/Santoor, the number gives an ethereal experience.
Tukday Tukday Din Bitaa/Dhajji-Dhajji raat beeti/
Jiska jitna aanchal tha/Utni hi saugaat mili….

The following number is again a beauty. The rendition simply mesmerizes by its simplicity and the emotion-laden voice of Meena Kumari.
Puchhate ho to suno kaise basar hoti hai/Raat Khairaat kee sadqe kee sahar hoti hai… (You ask me, How do I survive? /Night goes in earnest and Prayers fill my morning….)
Mera Majhi meri Tanhai ka yeh andhaa sifaq…. is again recited as a free verse and keeping in mood of the poetry, the voice is modulated for the desired impact.

Chand tanha hai asman tanha/Dil mila hai kahan kahan tanha.. is the subsequent rendition which again characterizes the melancholic mood. The theme is repeated in the next number Aaghaz to hota hai anjam nahin hota/Jab meri kahani mein vo naam nahin hota…( There is a beginning, but without any end/ When his presence is no more in my life….) The remaining numbers are Abala paa koi dasht aaya hoga… and Yeh noor kaisa raat ka sarong pehne….. enhances the mood so far built up in the Album. Who else, but except for the poet can better express the feelings. Meena Kumari pours out her heart in the renditions. The last number is Yun tere raah guzar se diwana vaar guzre/Kandhe se apne sar rakh ke, apna mazaar guzre….which has been aptly chosen as a finale to the selection.

The Album as LP has been released by EMI and was re-released as CD in 2001 by Music India. Now the Album is available in the label of Universal Music .A must-buy rare collection for every lover of Hindi Cinema.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prayers of the Heart by Viju Kulkarni

Prayers of the Heart or Vandamala is a garland of devotionals sung by Viju Kulkarni,released by Chitshakti Publictions of Siddhayoga Ashram,Ganeshpuri. This beautiful collection includes songs by Kabir, Tukaram, Rabindranath Tagore, and others. Available both in cassette and CD format, the Album contains ten tracks with a duration nearing one hour.

Perhaps this is the only Album available in publication by the singer.Not only her voice is impressive, but the renditions are soulful conveying the essence of the devotionals selected for the Album. Each and every piece stands out in creating the bhava or the moods so essential in devotionals. Antara mama vikasita karo(Unfold the glory of my heart)/Mahima Mahaprasad ki(The glory of Maha Prasad)/Kehi Samajhau(How Can I Convince You ?) are the selections which usually do not find place among the Devotional Albums and are the pieces that can be heard over and over again.Other selections include Santa Charana Raja/Prabhu teri Mahima Parama Apar/Biraje rom roma mein ram/Prabhu more/Prem mudita manase kaho/Amuche Prema Guru Padi raho/Chadariya jhini re jhini.

This Album is to be treasured by lovers of devotional music. Since this Album is not released through any music label, this Album is difficult to get noticed.. Information for buying the Album can be obtained from or in communication with Chitshakti Publications,104, Dhanlaxmi Complex,Rutu Estate, Off. Ghodbunder Road,Thane(W), Maharashtra-400 607/ Phone/ Fax –022 2586 2766/2791

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Astachchap Poets : Praising Sri Krishna

The published Albums by Bhajan Maestro Purshottamdas Jalota are few and these are a Collector’s delight not only for their choice of very best in devotional poetry but the magical voice that continues to regale listeners. Praising Krishna-Astachhap poets is one such Album.

One of the major proponents of Saguna Bhakti has been Vallabhacharya of Sixteenth century. The devotional sect formed by him and his son & successor, Vitthalnath was based on the worship of Shrinathji, a form of Lord Krishna. The deity is worshiped through a process of elaborate rituals personifying the Lord as a living person.The hymns written in Braj Bhasa by the eight saint-poets formed the basis of temple worship or what has been called as Haveli Sangeet. These eight poets are disciples of Vallabhacharya and Vitthalnath. As introduction to the Album Pushottamdas Jalota describes the meaning of ‘Astachhap’ as the influence or ‘Chhap’ of these eight poets on the Indian society.

Paramanandadas,Nanddas,Govindswami,Khumbandas,Chaturbhujdas,Krishnadas,Surdas,Chittswami are these Astachhap poets.The selection of the poetry has been done according to the timing of seva or service offered to Srinathji starting from the morning Darshan to the Shayana or ‘bedtime’ of the Lord. The selection of the ragas has been in consonance to the timing of the seva. The Album starts with mangala or the first darshan of the Lord with a composition in Raga Durga-Chitta ko chora abahin jo paun by Paramanandadas wherein the devotee speaks of giving milk and butter to the Manohar in person. The singing portrays a persuasive mood where the Lord is awakened in the morning.

The next poetry by Nandadas Ram Krishna kahiye uthi bhor has been sung in Raga Bhairav,and is sung during Shringara where the Lord is dressed up in fineries.The song focuses that both Rama and Krishna are the incarnations of Vishnu. The rendition in this morning raga by the Maestro is mesmerizing.

Shringar is followed by Gvala,the third Darshan of the Lord when Krishna takes the cows to graze and is dressed as a cowherd.The composition by Govindswami Kaha karun baikuntha jaun is sung in Raga Darbari for the seva.The poet says that there is no point in going to heaven, as Krishna’s flute only resounds in Vrindavan. Purshottamdas Jalota being a master of the art again does full justice in evoking the appropriate mood.

The next Seva is Rajabhoga where Krishna’s feasting in his main meal of the day is celebrated.The poetry of Kumbhandas is used for the hymn during this period of darshan.Bhijata kaba dekhaun ina naina is the composition sung in Raga Hamira.The devotee in ecstatic mood desires to see Radha and Krishna beneath the Kadamba tree in the monsoon rain.The intense desire is reflected in the singing of Bhajan Samrat.

Surdas composition is used as hymn for the folloeing darshan i.e,Utthapana or awakening of the Lord after the mid-day sleep.Ab main nacyau bahut gopala is the popular number sung in Raga Mishra Khamaj.This is a celebrated song in the repertoire of Purshottamdas Jalota.

Bhoga is the next darshan where the Lord is offered fruit and sweets in the middle of the afternoon.The hymns of Chaturbhujadas Naina aisi bana pari/binu dekhe giridharana mukha jugabhara ganata ghari has been used for the seva. Sung in Raga Bhopali the single-minded devotion of the poet is manifested.

The hymns of Chittaswami Pritama priti ten basa kinon sung in Raga Yman form the song for the Sandhya Arati where the evening worship of the Lord is done. The tenderness of this special hour is brought to life by the rendition.

The Shayana forms the last seva where the Lord is left for His sleep. Gvalino Krishna darasa ko ataki is the composition by Krishnadas sung in Raga Malkauns as a hymn for this period of darshan. The rendition represents a form of lullaby ending the day-long seva of the Lord.

The last piece is a selection from Sursagar where Surdas sings in praise of his guru Vallabhacharya Bharaso dridha ina charanan mein (Firm is my faith in the feet of my Lord) is the perfect ending to this Album sung in Raga Bhimpalasi by the inimitable Purshottamdas Jalota.

The Album is accompanied by exhaustive sleevenotes by Dr.Rupert Snell,Reader in Hindi at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.The Album was originally produced in 1993 by Audiroec Limited,U.K.Of late it has been released in India through the subsidiary of the company in India under the label of Audiorec Classics. This timeless Album is a Collector’s delight and is a must possession for all those keeping interest in the divine poetry.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rare Gems : The early recordings of Jagjit Singh

It almost took a decade for Jagjit Singh to cut his first LP ‘The Unforgettable’ in 1976.When Jagjit Singh started his career as a singer in the Mid-60’s film music ruled the roost as popular music and Ghazals as existed being esoteric in their format were only patronized by the connoisseurs. Jagjit Singh as a singer and composer released some EPs and Super Sevens (EPs with 33 rpm speed) in this period spanning from 1966 to 1975.To commemorate the silver jubilee of his recording career, HMV brought out a 2-Volume Cassette in 1992 of these earlier recordings of Jagjit Singh-Chitra Singh. This Album now available in CD though contains 19 numbers out of the 21 original compilations would certainly be an item to be treasured by Jagjit Singh fans, if they are still yet to acquire this Rare Gem.

The recordings not only offer an opportunity to relish these unheard songs, but also give an idea about the evolution of Jagjit Singh as a singer and composer. After a brief introduction on the production of the Album by the Maestro himself, the two 1966 compositions by C.K.Chauhan follows in succession. Faruq Kaiser’s Apna gham bhool gaye and Shamin Shahabadi’s Aankh ko jam samajh baitha anjaane mein/saqia hosh kahan hai deewanon ko give a feeling of singing style of early Mehdi Hasan songs. Both the Ghazals are exquisite.

What follows next are compositions by Jagjit Singh. The choice of poetry has been that of the Masters of Urdu Poetry as Momin/Mir/Daagh/Ghalib etc. These recordings of 1970 includes Jigar’s Yeh kisika tassavur /Momin’s Who jo hum mein tum mein qarar tha /Ghalib’s Bas ke dushwar hai/ Daag’s Ajab Apna Haal Hota Jo Visaal-E-Yaar Hota, all sung by Chitra Singh.Jagjit Singh’s numbers include Jigar’s Mujhe de rahe hain tassaliyan/ Daagh’s Dil Ko Kya Ho Gaya Khuda Jane and Mir’s Patta patta boota boota. These numbers are structured around the style of ghazal singing in vogue at that time with minimal use of instruments as Sarangi/Sitar/Tabla. These poetry bearing a theme of unrequited love have the spark of the wizadry of the Maestro, who has to take the musical scene by storm in a few years hence.

The 1973/74 recordings have Zauq’s Ab To Ghabrake Yeh Kahte Hain/ Ghalib’s Phir Kuchh Is Dil Ko Beqarari Hai sung by Jagjit Singh.The Chitra Singh numbers are Ghalib’s Kab Se Hoon Kya Bataoon/ Jigar’s Os Pade Bahar Par and Ishq Fana Ka Naam Hai. Jigar seems to be the favorite poet with as many as seven selections of his poetry finding place in these recordings. A brilliant wordsmith, Jigar’s poetry oozes with feelings which are a reflection of his pathos-ridden life. Jagjit’s composition gives them a living presence.
The 1975 recordings present a change in the singing style with use of guitar and violin pieces and perhaps can be considered as precursors in shaping the distinct style which identifies Jagjit Singh. Krishan Adeeb’s Jab Bhi Aati Hai Teri Yaad Kabhi has been sung by Jagjit Singh. This beautiful number has been included in one of his later Album. Shamin Shahabadi’s Dhuan Utha Tha Deewane Ki Jalte Ghar Se is a solo by Chitra Singh, while Ameer Minai’s Uski Hasrat Hai Jise Dil Se Mita Bhi Na Sakoon is the only duet in these recordings. Altogether this compilation presents a ‘rare’ listening pleasure.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Meera Kahe – A legend rediscovered

There have been a spurt in the genre termed as World Music over the past years. World Music while breaking away from the straight-jacket structure of traditional music is influenced by cultures across the globe. Meera Kahe –A legend rediscovered is an Album in the genre that presents the poetry of Meera in a new perspective.The brilliant music has been composed by the musician duo Ajay-Atul with the singers Richa Sharma and Sujata Mohan doing full justice in infusing life to the compositions. The Album presents the yearning of Meera for her Lord in a moving and tender manner with a confluence of sounds.

Richa Sharma renders the first song Prabhuji tum darsan bin moye. The pain and anguish of Meera bereft of her Giridhar has been beautifully portrayed in this slow number.The sweet voice of Sujata Mohan has been utilized for the second track Parasi hari ke charan. Meera dreams of the touch of Krishna’s feet and glorifies them.These were the feets that crushed Kaalia and these were the feets that danced with the Gopis in Vrindavan. The touch of his feet will take away the sins of Meera.

In Tero koi nahi hai rokanhar, Meera after denouncing all relations and belonging leaves in search for her Lord. Richa Sharma sings this beautifully crafted song bringing out the defiant mood of Meera. The arrangement and sequencing of the instrumentation is fabulous.

Mere to Giridhar Gopala,the popular Meera number has been rendered by Sujata Mohan. This particular number have been rendered by the likes of Lata Mangeshkar and M.S.Subbulakshmi wherein Meera declares that Krishna is her one and only. The composition brings out the feelings of Meera.

Daras mare begi dijyo ji by Richa Sharma is a fast paced number where Meera begs Krishna to reveal in flesh and blood to her. The desperate call of Meera has been expressed by the rich voice of the singer.The crowning piece of the Album is Sakhi meri neend nasani ho sung by Richa Sharma and Pyaare darshan dijyo aaj by Sujata Mohan. Both are emotive and moving numbers presenting heart-rending calls of Meera to have a glimpse of her Lord. The music and the vocals rise in crescendo in tandem with the devotional fervour of Meera’s poetry which makes a lasting impression on the listeners mind.
The Album has been released by Kosmic Music,Chennai This Album is a must buy for music lovers for this unique attempt.

Shahnsah-e-Ghazal : Live rendition by Mehdi Hassan

Mehdi Hassan has been an unrivalled Master in the field of Ghazal Gayaki for more than five decades now. Generations of singers have been inspired by the Maestro who can be singularly credited in bringing the Ghazal singing from the purview of elitist few to the masses for appreciation as well as establishing Ghazal singing as one among the other melodic genres as Thumri, Dadra, Kajri etc to be reckoned with. Mehdi Hassan has a number of recordings to his credit and some of the ghazals have achieved a cult status. The live recordings of the maestro have been a delight of connoisseurs where there is ample room for showcasing his eclectic genius.

Shahenshah-E-Ghazal is a 2-CD Set of the live rendition of Mehdi Hassan given at The Royal College of Music, London during October’1990.The impeccable recording quality coupled with Ustad Sultan Khan on Sarangi and Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan on Tabla as accompaniment makes this Album , a listening enjoyment. CD 1 starts with the Rajasthani folk number Kesariya balama padharo mharo desh sung in Raga Mand. Who else, but for the virtuoso having his roots in Rajasthan can faithfully reproduce the emotion of the number. As the rendition meanders through the intricate patterns, the maestro pauses to give a brief on the meaning and technicalities of his rendition of this appealing number.

The second number is the heart touching Mubham baat paheli kaise, bus wohi bujhe jisko bujhae. This melodious ghazal penned by Arzoo Lucknavi has been sung in Raga Yaman Kalyan. This number is an absolute bliss with the maestro rending each word in sync with the mood of the ghazal complemented by the brilliant sarangi recital. This is followed by a Thumri in Raga Desh.Umad ghumad ghir aayo re sajni badra captures the atmosphere of the beautiful over bearing dark clouds enrapturing the listeners. The succeeding number is a Dadra ,Teer nainon ka zaalim ne mera mujhe which again enthralls the listeners.The remaining two ghazals of CD 1 are Ahmed Faraz’s Shola tha jalbhooja hun hawaein mujhe na do in Raga Kirwani and Farhat Sehzad’s Ek bas tuhi nahin mujhse khafaa ho baitha in Raga Miyan ki Malhar.These two numbers spanning for around half an hour regales the listeners with the Maestro experimenting with murkis and taans.

The CD 2 starts with Abdul Hamid Alam’s Jab tere nain mushkurate hain sung in Raga Sahera. The Ghazal is a beauty bearing the unmistakable stamp of Mehdi Hassan. This is followed by Adib Saharanpuri’s Ghazal Ek khalish ko haasil .This slow number will certainly endear the discerning listeners. The magic continues through Farhat Sehzad’s Khuli jo aankh to na who tha, na who zamana tha. Added bonus is the Ahmed Faraz’s Abke hum bicchde to shayaad khwabon mein mile which has been one among the signature Ghazals of the Maestro. The Album ends with a Heer in Raga Bhairavi. The range of musical genres this Album represents is only a testimony to the genius that personifies Mehdi Hassan.
The Album released eaerlier by Navras Records, U.K. in 1992 has been released by Sony Music in India.This Album is a Collector’s item.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Muzaffar Ali : The Master Craftsman

Ultimately an Album has been released which compiles music from films by Muzaffar Ali.The Album has been aptly titled ‘The Master Craftsman Muzaffar Ali’. The compilation contains songs of Gaman(1978)/Umrao Jaan(1981) and Anjuman(1986).The songs of ‘Gaman’ and ‘Umrao Jaan’ has been available in different compilations released by Saregama, however it is the first instance when all the four songs of the Shabana Azmi starrer ‘Anjuman’ are available at one place in CD. The cassette released in 1986 by HMV was not available for many years now.

The songs of ‘Umrao Jaan’ needs no introduction and each piece of these Khaiyyam compositions have found their place in the annals of India Music. Jaidev’s composition for the Smita Patil starrer Gaman again was pathbreaking in the way that fresh voices as Suresh Wadekar/Hariharan/Chhaya Ganguly was used by the Maestro.Chhaya ganguly went on to bag the National Awards for the ‘Aap ki yaad aati rahi’ penned by none other than Makhdoom Mohiuddin.Other perennial favourites are ‘Seene mein jalan’by Sursh Wadekar and ‘Ajeeb saneeha mujhipar’ by Hariharan.Both are penned by Sahryar who has also written all the songs of Umrao Jaan.

Not many are likely to have heard the songs of ‘Anjuman’.All the four songs are rare gems from Khaiyyam. Most important is the fact that three tracks are sung by Shabana Azmi herself and it would be sweet discovery on the singing talents of this Award winning Actress.The duet with Bhupinder ‘ Gulab jism ka yunhi nahin khila hoga/hawa ne pehle tujhe phir mujhe cchua hoga’ is simply superb.The two other solos ‘Aisa nahin ke isko nahin jaante’ and ‘Tujhse hoti bhi to kya’ by Shabana Azmi bears the unmistakable touch of Khaiyyam .

The last song is a duet penned by Faiz Ahmad Faiz and sung by Khaiyyam and his better half Jagjit Kaur.The song is ‘Kab yaad mein tera saath nahin/Kab haath mein tera haath nahin’ . The perfect vocals of the pair blends perfectly with the orchestrations in this rare masterpiece.The Album is a must buy for all those who have a ear for good music.

DVD Set of Kahkashan : A Collector's delight

A pioneering initiative was taken by the noted Urdu poet Ali Sardar Jafri in producing the TV Series during early nineties named Kahkashan which was a lively portrayal of a galaxy of modern Urdu poets. The TV Series extending over 18 parts told the lives and times of Hasrat Mohani, Josh Malihabadi, Jigar Moradabadi, Majaaz, Firaq Gorakhpuri and Makhdoom Mohiuddin. The series was directed by Jalal Agha and the music was composed by none other than Jagjit Singh. Kahkashan in a way saw the culmination of creative genius of Jagjit Singh after the Gulzar magnum opus Mirza Ghalib. Some thirty and odd selection of poems in the series have been beautifully composed keeping in view the personality of the poet and demand of the situation in the series.

The authentic depiction of lives of these poets was possible as Ali Sardar Jafri himself had the opportunity of associating with most these poets.Ali Sardar Jafri represented the last crop of eminent poets who were involved in the freedom movement and have truly believed in the friendship between India and Pakistan. All these poets lived in the turbulent times of the pre-independence era and have gone through the moments of trauma of partition. Now, this rare 2-Disc DVD Set is available which is certainly an Collector’s item.

DVD 1 depicts the series relating to Hasrat, Jigar,Firaq and Makhdoom.DVD 2 depicts the series relating to Majaaz, Josh and remaining parts relating to Firaq and Makhdoom. The choice of artistes in the series with its racy narrative littered with exquisite compositions of Jagjit Singh makes it an interesting watch. Farooq Sheikh as Hasrat, Raj Zutshi as Jigar, Pareekshit Sahni as Josh and Irfan Khan as Makhdoom have played the characters to the hilt.

Hasrat Mohani was a freedom fighter who spent almost a decade in penal servitude for writings considered as seditious by the British Government. He is the poet who has penned the hugely popular Chupke Chupke Raat Din. One would wish the refrain to continue in this soft number by Jagjit where Hasrat recites this poem in the jail remembering his wife. Roshan Jamaal-e-yaar se hai anjuman tamaam… (The beauty of my beloved is lighting the whole festivity……) is the arresting number.The Chitra Singh number in the serial Ab to uth sakta again a soft number with sensitive portrayal by Deepti Naval. Khayal-e-ghair ko dilse mitado yaa Rasool Allah.. sung by Ram Shankar in chorus is another highlight of the series. The scene is the grinding of the mill stones by Hasrat and his fellow prisoners in the Naini Jail.

The series on Jigar considered as the mentor of Majrooh Sultanpuri has a solemn number from Jagjit -Muddat mein who phir taaza mulaqat ka aalam..The series on Firaq presents the loneliness and the misery that haunted this Jnanapith Award winner which was reflected in his poetry. Jagjit’s Kisika yun to hua kaun umr bhar ke liye…. and Ghazal ka saaz uthao bahut udaas hai raat…. are mesmerizing.

The series on Majaaz have delicately presented the personal life of the poet wherein he falls in love for a married woman and faced with the improbability of the whole affair was devastated. The heart touching Jagjit numbers Dekhna jazba-e-mohabbat ka asar aaj ki raat…. and Ae gham-e-dil kya karoon /Ae vaishat-e-dil kya karoon…makes the series all the more lively.

The dilemma faced by Josh when he has to migrate to Pakistan under pressure from his family members have been brought to live by Pareekshit Sahni. Till his death Josh could not reconcile to this trauma. It is evident in his poetry. Aye vatan mere vatan …and Kya hind ka zindaan…. are the numbers that suffices it. Jagjit Singh’s Tujhse ruksat ki who sham-e-aske-afsaan hai hai… and Kisko aati hai maee haee kise awaz doon… synthesizes into the ambience of the series .
Makhdoom was a revolutionary poet who was an active member of the Communist Party .The portrayal of this challenging character has been done justice by Irfan Khan. Nine poems of Makhdoom has been selected for the series and is sung by Kumar Shanu, Asha Bhonsle, and Vinod Sehgal. However the focal point remains the Jagjit numbers Raat bhar deeda-e-namaak mein lahrate raho…. and Ishq ke shole ko bhadkao to kuchh raat kate… For those who cannot understand the difficult Urdu couplets, the series provides subtitle in English which is an added advantage.

The DVD is released by Madhu Entertainment and Media Pvt. Ltd.,Shah Industrial Estate, Off Veera Desai Road,Mumbai-53.The DVD is also available for online shopping at The Set is a must-buy for owning this piece of musical legacy.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sar Masti by Zila Khan : A Tribute to Hazrat Amir Khusrau

Zila Hussein Khan is the inheritor of the legacy of the oldest school of Sitar and Surbahar and the daughter of the illustrious Sitar Maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan.Blessed with a gifted voice; she has a diverse repertoire while excelling in Sufi themes. Sar Masti is a tribute to Hazrat Amir Khusrau, the 13th century genius who is considered as the father of Qawwali.

Generations of singers have lend voice to the poetry of Hazrat Amir Khusrau .What makes this attempt by Zila Khan stands out is the pooling of her wide experience which while at the same time being entrenched in her classical foundation also explores the nuances of other formats. No doubt she has performed at World Jazz Festival and Musical play in English.

The Album begins with the popular Man Kunto Maula .The highlight of this number is the beautiful tarana sung with dexterity meandering through intricate rhythmic patterns.
The second number is a recitation of poetry followed by its rendition.
Abr-Mi-Barado man bhi shabam,Aj yaar judaa/
Chun Kuman Dil-ya-Chuni,Roz je dildar judaa/
(Like the rain parts from the clouds, I too am separated from my ‘Pir’, my beloved……)
This poetry in Persian speaks the devotion of the poet to his Master Hazrat Nizamuddin.
Zila Khan portrays this poignant number manifesting the sentiment of the poet.

The next number is another popular number of the poet, Chhap tilak sab chhini re mose naina milaike …..(You took away my all, just by looking into my eyes…..)
The secular love that is transformed into divine love is the underlying theme. The vocals are again the focal point of this number.

Aeri Sakhi more khwaja ghar aaye is the selection which conveys the ecstatic outpourings of the poet following the visit of his Master. The languorous rendition to the perfect accompaniment of musical instruments is a listener’s delight.

The Album ends with the Zihal-e –Miskin Makun Tagaful, Duray Naina, Banaye Batiyan. This number famous for its witty crafting of both Persian and local dialects conveys the sublime feelings of the poet for getting the grace of his Master. This captivating rendition exhibits the exquisite voice-culture of Zila Khan .An Album that would appeal to all categories of listeners. The Album has been released by Music Today

Temple Music of Vaishnavas by Pt. Jasraj

Haveli Sangeet as it is called revolves around poetry of Astacchap poets belonging to the cult founded by Vallabhacharya based on devotion of of ‘mind, body and wealth’ to Lord Krishna. Devotional Music has been the forte of Pt.Jasraj and more so particularly for the Haveli Sangeet. His earlier release in 1989 ‘Echoes of Temple Music’ under the label of Magnasound is an outstanding Album relating to the Krishna Seva songs.

The recently released 2-Volume CD is a rendition of this exponent of Mewati Gharana in a live recording at Kenigston Town Hall, London in 2000.The Album starts with invocatory prayer Chinta Sanatan and Om Namo Narayan Dhun. The two prayers builds up the atmosphere for taking the listeners through a spiritual intoxication.

The first number Ho Charanar Patraki Chhaiya in Raga Puriya Dhanashree is where the devotee pleads with the Lord to grant him a place at HisLotus feet .It is followed by Ghata Bhara Dehu Kakhuti Tab Dehun in Raga Gauri conveying the theme of Radha and Krishna. The last number in CD 1 is the popular Mai Mero Mana Mohiyo where Radha speaks of her devotion to Lord Krishna. The rendition by the legend , as it traverses through varied scales and notes depicts an intense spiritual expression creating a sublime atmosphere. The rich and expressive voice of the Maestro makes all the difference.

The CD 2 starts with Saint Paramananda’s Mai Meethe Hari Ju Ke Bolana in Raga Maru Bihag. The song speaks about the sheer sweetness embodied in uttering the name of Sri Krishna.The highlight of the song is the perfect violin ensemble accompanying the rendition by Kala Ramnath.The next number is Lal Gopal Gulal Hamari by Krishnadas sung in Raga Adi Basant.This song in praise of Lord Krishna rendered slowly heightens the feelings of the poet in utmost devotion to his Lord. The last number is a favorite of Pt.Jasraj himself,Vraje Vasantam Navanneta Choram by Vallabhacharya sung in Raga Piloo. A soothing number sung in the traditional style wherein the main refrain is followed by supporting vocalists Tripti Mukherjee/Suman Ghosh.This piece is a perfect piece which epitomizes the theme of Krishna Bhakti. It is He who causes restlessness, yet it is the utterance of His name that brings peace to troubled hearts. Listening to the Album is an ethereal experience.
The Album has earlier been released separately by Navras Records,U.K. in 2002 and 2006 respectively and released in India as 2 CD Set in 2009 by Sony & BMG Music .

Meera - Voices from the deserts of India

Like Kabir,the theme of Meera has been a constant favourite among the singers. There is no dearth of Albums with selections from ecstatic poetry of Meerabai. MEERA-Voices from the desert of India is an attempt to present the timeless poetry of Meera sung by the traditional singers of Rajasthan which have their legacy over the past centuries.The singers Padmaram and Maheshram are members of the Meghwal community who specializes in singing devotionals of Kabir,Meera,Gorakh and Sadaram.The Album has a selection of eight tracks,with Padmaram singing six tracks and Maheshram the remaining two. These traditional compositions carries the flavour of the region which is further heightened by the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments as Tandura,Kamayacha,Sarangi,Khadtaal and Dholak.

The Album begins with Sawariyo Parnay sung soulfully by Maheshram where Meera speaks-
Rana,why should I marry a man
Who will die birth after birth?
I will marry the Dark one Shyam…
The music and the voice brings out the intense longing of Meera.
Le liyo Bairagi ro bhes and Nath Tum jaanat ho speaks of the adoration of Meera for her Lord.The melancholic strain of Padmaram’s singing makes them a listeners delight.

Ritu aai bolat meera/Nache Nandalal/Dwaraka wasi are the three compositions that presents the joyous mood of Meera in praise of her Lord where metaphors fall short in praise of her Giridhari.These songs create a sublime experience for the listeners .Surat Hari Naam se (My love is only for Hari’s name) is the number where Meera professes her intense longing for her Lord oblivious to the ways of the world.

The Album finishes with the charming number Kanha raja Mohiyo Bairagi re sung by Maheshram wherin Meera sings in ecstasy praising her Lord after being accepted as the disciple by Saint Ravidas.She imagines Lord Kanha to be coming in different form to accept her offerings .A moving and melodious number which lingers in the mind of the listener.
The sleeve notes gives a translation of these poetry in English.The Album is released by Ninaad in association with Patrika TV,Jaipur. Information on buying the Album can be obtained from the website

Advaita : Chantings by Dr. Subhadra Desai

Rarely does a Album comes across where the singer is both an accomplished vocalist as well as a Sanskrit scholar.This rare combination exists in the Album Advaita by Dr.Subhadra Desai. The Album is based on the Vedanta theme of Advaita or non-dualism as has been propounded through the Vedas, Upanishads and more importantly through the teachings of Adi Sankaracharya. A research scholar in Sanskrit, the mantras and the sukthas has been carefully chosen by the singer herself with lucid commentary of the sacred verses at the beginning of each composition.

The chanting of the verses has been as per the vedic traditions to the minimal accompaniment of instruments i.e, Harmonium,Flute and Manjira createing an aura of spirituality. Each word of the verses comes to life in the voice of Dr.Subhadra Desai. Purusha Suktam from Rig Veda has been selected as the first composition where the invocation is followed by the chanting in Raga Vibhas.Purusha Suktha is an important hymn of the tenth mandala of Rig Veda and is an eulogy to the Purusha.The expression etymologically signifies ‘that which fills all with strength’.

The second chant is Devi Suktham again from Rig Veda sung in Raga Bhairav. What makes the chanting more lively is the fact that these verses are chanted with the meaning and the inner purport being internalized by the singer herself. One could feel the difference.

Ishopanishad selection Hiranmayena patrena has been rendered in Raga Bilaskhana Todi. All these verses have hidden meaning.
Hiranmayena patrena satyasyabhihitam mukham/
Ttvam purusannapavrnu satyadharmaya drstaye..

In Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation the meaning of this important mantra is :
The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid;
That do thou remove,O fostere,for the law of the Truth,for sight;
O Fosterer, O Sole Seer, O Ordainer, O illumining Sun, O Power of the Father of creatures,marshal thy rays,draw together thy light;
The Lustre which is thy blessed form of all, that in Thee I behold,......
He am I.

The noble thoughts that these verses exude are a legacy of thousands of years old Sanatana Dharma of the Hindu Philosophy. Altogether this rendition is a divine experience.

Next is the famous Nirvanashatakam of Sankaracharya chanted in Raga Shree.The ephemeral nature of everything transient is stressed in this verse.

….Na bandhurna mitram gururnaiva sisya/
Chidananda rupah sivoham sivoham…

….Neither the friends and relatives,Nor the guru or the disciple/
I am the Absolute Knowledge,Existence,Bliss,I am the Shiva…
The rendition is awesome.

A selection has also been made from Suryopanishad, Namo Mitraya composed by Madhup Mudgal which again takes the listener to a new high.

A selection of Kabir, the proponent of Nirguna Philosophy keeping with the Advaita theme of the Album has been done.Biracha puche bija byccha ke mahi is the doha.
Finally the Album signs off with the oft chanted mantra from Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad in Raga Bilakshan Todi. The invocation conceives the Supreme Being as indivisible and infinite.
Punamadah punamidam purnat purnamudachyate/
Purnaya Purnamadaya purnamevavasisyate

A refreshing attempt where the listeners are bound to imbibe spirituality.The Album is released by ANAHAD( The Album can be bought at

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bhajan Dhyanam by Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty

Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty is the name that has carved out an unique place among the luminaries of Indian Classical music in the past three decades.This exponent of Patiala Gharana and Guru at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy has also been at the forefront in imparting training to younger talents at Shrutinandan, the Musical Academy established by him. Being an expert in Kirtan style of singing, the devotionals by Pt.Ajoy Chakraborty has endeared the listeners by the ‘sweetness’ of his rendition.

Bhajan Dhyanam has been conceived by Hemant Mattani of Sona Rupa Ltd.,U.K. who is the man behind many successful Albums. This Album composed by Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty has a selection of the very best in devotional poetry. The ten numbers in the Album has been rendered by Ajoy Chakraborty himself and his talented daughter Kaushiki as well as his singer-wife Chandana.

The Album begins with a Stuti in honor of Lord Ganesha,
Adi Pujita padapankajamapadamapa-ghatakam by Ajoy Chakraborty. The invocation to the accompaniment of Phakawaj speaks about melting away of all obstacles thus paving the way for success by the Lord.

The prayer is followed by Talfai bina aalam more jiya by Kabir sung by Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty. The voice modulation perfectly conveys the acute pang of separation that Kabir suffers being away from His Lord with utmost sensitivity. The beautiful poetry of Lalit Kishori follows the number in the voice of the Maestro. Re nirmohi cchabi darashaye jaa epitomizes the intense outpourings straight from the bottom of the heart by the devotee-poetess. The Maestro leaves the listener spell bind in this portrayal of the pinnacle of devotion. The signature line is mesmerizing.
….Lalit Kishori Nain chakoran, Dyuti mukhchand dikhaye jaa, Bhayo chahat yeh pran batohi, roose pathik manaye jaa..

Saint Ravi Das composition Ab kaise chhute raam rat laagi is the fourth number sung by Kaushiki. The poetry expounds the universal presence of God in every nook and corner and the inseparable relationship of the devotee and the Lord. This lone number by this exceptionally talented singer matches to the brilliance of her father.

Jai Jai Devi Jai Jaga Janani, a composition in praise of Goddess Saraswati by Swati Thirunal forms the next number by Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty sung to the accompaniment of chorus. Koi kahiyo re the Meerabai number is sung by Chandana. The ecstasy of Meera has been perfectly portrayed.

Pt Ajoy Chakraborty continues to excel in the compositions of Surdas and Tulsidas i.e, Prabhu Mere Gun Avagun /Jaun Kahan and Hari Patit Pawan. These soothing numbers grows on the listener as one hears them over and over. The last number is a duet by Chandana and Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty of a Kabir composition, Subhan Teri Kudrat Mein Kurbaan.Kabir reveres the supreme power that has created this universe. This graceful number once again is able to infuse the mood of submission.

A must-keep Album for music lovers. The Album has been released in India by Times Music .

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kabir by Madhup Mudgal

Kabir has been a favorite theme of Devotionals and every singer worth the salt has renditions of Kabir Bhajans in their repertoire. However,Kabir by Madhup Mudgal stands out in its selection of Bhajan pieces and the melodius rendition. The Album was originally released as 2-Volume cassette containing 18 Kabir Bhajans in 1999 by Music Today.

In its re-release in CD format, a selection of 11 numbers is presented from the original collection. The influence of the Kumar Gandharva who has been instrumental in grooming Madhup Mudgal as his disciple is evident in this brilliant collection. Singing devotionals is not only about good orchestration or a polished voice; it’s about manifesting the inherent spirituality of these lyrics which are spontaneous offerings by the Saint-Poets. Madhup Mudgal has been able to bring out this aspect in his singing. The choice of Bhajans has been the lesser known ones of Kabir.
The sleevenotes carry the text of all the 11 Bhajans as well as their transliteration in English.The Album starts with the fast-paced Ram Gun beladi re followed by sublime Narahari sahajey hi jinni jana and Chali meri sakhi ho. Ho Baliya kab dekhonge tohi is again a fast paced number wherein Kabir speaks of his intense longing to have a darshan of his Lord.The next number is a mystical poetry of Kabir .The Divine experience which is unique only to the aspirant is described in metaphors .Murshid nainon beech nabi hai/Syaah safed tilon beech tara is the number. Similar is the selections as Avadhu so jogi guru mera and Sarwar tati hansani tisari.The sonorous voice of Madhup Mudgal makes these rendition an unforgettable experience.

Baba jogi ek akala jaakey teerath vrat na mela speaks about the futility of frills and rituals on which much stress is laid by all religions rather than the eternal truths.Antar gati ani ani baani/Ko beenay prem laagi re/Ek achamba dekha re bhai are remaining selections sung with fervour and makes for an intellectual experience.However,the Album misses out brilliant compositions as Aise logani se ka kahiye and Chalan chalan sabko kahat hai, naa jaanun baikunth kahan hai which are a part of the original 2-Volume Cassette.

It would have been better if all the 18 compositions could have been accommodated in a 2-CD Volume .Nontheless the Album is to be possessed by all the discerning listeners of this genre of Music. The Album can be bought online at

Dhyan by Purushottam Das Jalota : Soulful Bhajans

Purushottam Das Jalota has been considered as the great master of Bhajans. Unlike his son Anup Jalota, his Albums though few in numbers are a cut above the rest. Most of the recording companies can not boast of enough titles of the Bhajan Samrat. Even the oldest recording company HMV has only a single double LP released in 1985 titled ‘Bhajan Satsang’ as a notable recording of Purushottam Das Jalota in its catalogue. The Album in review is Dhyan released in 1996 which has been re-released under the label of NA Classical.

This Album contains bhajans by the Master along with his disciple Sandhya Jain. Poetry of Meerabai/ Tulsidas/ Kabir/ Narayan Swami has been selected. These devotee-poets sought the Divine for the sake of the Divine and nothing else which is reflected in their poetry .The challenge lies with the singer to impersonate these feelings to create that aura of spirituality in their rendition. The rendition by Purushttamdas Jalota scores on this point.

The first Bhajan of the Album is the Meerabai poetry Nahin Aiso Janam Payo sung in Raag Aasavari. This is followed by Kabir’s Bhajan bina birtha janam sung in Raag Bhairav. Both are solo numbers by the Master himself .Accompanied by minimal embellishment of musical instruments, the graceful vocals entice the listeners. The third Bhajan is again sung by Purushottamdas in Raag Jogiya. The number is Meerabai’s Main Shyam Diwani Mera Dard Naa Jaane Koye. The Master creates the magic through his rich tapestry of vocals.

Sandhya Jain gifted with a mellifluous voice sings the fourth number in Raag Kalyan. The prayer by Tulsidas Sri Ramachandra Kripalu Bhajamana has been sung with devotion .The next number is Meerabai’s Sun ri maine hari awan ki awaz sung in Raag Maand by Sandhya Jain as solo. Though a difficult number, Sandhya Jain gracefully renders the composition.

The seventh Bhajan is Narayan Swami’s Man mohan jaki drusti padat sung in Raag Kaharva by Purushottamdas Jalota. Master in his craft, Purushottam Das Jalota again gives an enchanting performance. Kabir’s popular number Mat Kar Moh tu Hari Bhajan Ko maan Re has been sung in Raag Pilu by Sandhya Jain. This sweet number is further enriched by the sweet voice of Sandhya Jain. The last number of the Album is a duet sung by the Master and his disciple in Raag Bhairav in Dadra Taal. The song is penned by Kavi Narayan Aggarwal.

The number Jis Desh mein , Jis bhesh mein, Parivesh mein raho/Radha raman Radha Raman kaho is a sheer delight where the Maestro sings the interludes ,while the refrain is followed by Sandhya Jain. The listener is immersed in the sense of surrender to the Lord.
….In whichever country you live, attire you don and environment you dwell/Recite Radha Raman ,Radha Raman….

This Album is a must-keep for those having interest in devotional music.

Karuna by Jagjit Singh

The king of GhazalsJagjit Singh has been equally successful in his Devotional Albums, since the release of Live concert recording ‘Hare Krishna’ in 1998.His magical voice has been able to convey the sublime themes with equal √©lan .Karuna-A cry for compassion is one such Album bringing out the Jagjit Singh magic.

All the eight devotionals are penned by Kavi Narayan Aggarwal who has written devotional poetry for the leading vocalists including Pt Jasraj, Pt.Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar etc. The Album mentions the songs to evoke grace of the Supreme Lord. Simplicity has been the hallmark of poetry of Narayan Aggarwal and the devotionals in the Album are a testimony to the fact.

The Album starts with
Tum Karuna ke sagar ho prabhu/
Meri gagar bhardo/Thake paon hai door gaon hai/
Ab to kripa kardo
This soothing number is followed by an eulogy to Lord Rama,Patita paban naam tiharo.
The Album has four Krishna Bhajans, Krishna hai sraddha/Shyam charan man bhaye/Tum peer haro braj ke swami/Shyam naam ras barse.The singing communicates the sense of surrender to the Lord and is certain to elevate the mood and spirits of the world-weary souls. The sweet compositions in the gifted voice make all the difference. One can go on hearing them any number times and each time the compositions would sound fresh.
The other two compositions Sumiran karle charo bela and Jeevan ki Prabhu Saanjh Bhayee hai completes the Album. The poetry stresses on the ephemeral nature of the surroundings and prays to the Lord for deliverance .Once again Jagjit Singh comes up with a winning composition bringing forth the divine aspiration of the poet.

The Album has been released by EMI and marketed in India by Virgin Records. An MP3 version of the Album is also available. A brilliant Album.