Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Archive for the ‘Instrumental Music’ Category

Tala’a Al Bardu Alaina… by Um Kulthum

It is a myth propagated by the ultraconservatives that music is haram in the faith.

Another myth propagated by the ignorant is that the songs in praise of Prophet Muhammad PBUH are sung as a biddat( innovative distortion) only in the South Asia and not in the Arab world. On the contrary, my favourite naats are in Arabic and they are called Nasheeds.

Having lived in Saudi Arabia, for nearly 2 decades, and travelled extensively in the Arab world from Egypt to Syria to the Gulf, the overload of beautiful music I have enjoyed is beyond the scope of this post.

Here I wish to share the FIRST EVER Arabic song in recorded history which was sung in 622 AD in Madina when Prophet PBUH entered the city, and he was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Ansars ( the residents of Madina). The singers lined up were women, who played Duff( a hand drum) and sang in his praise.

The lyrics say: Tala’a Al Badru Alaina…The white full moon has arisen….

The one shared below is the modern original version sung by none other than my favourite Arab singer, Um Kulthum, for the film The Message.
The video also gives an overview of how the welcome scene may have looked like 1400 years ago.

This is my utmost favourite, and the catchy music still gives goosebumps and serves as a reminder of the hundreds of trips to the tranquil city of Madina from Makkah in our 19 years stay there and numerous weddings we attended in the Arab world.

In a typical Arab wedding even today, the bride-groom are traditionally received in the wedding hall by women singing this very song.

طلع البدر علينا Oh the white moon has arisen over us
من ثنيات الوداع From the valley between hills
وجب الشكر علينا And we owe it to show our gratitude
ما دعى لله داعWhere the call is to Allah
أيها المبعوث فيناOh you who were raised among us
جئت بالأمر المطاعComing with a word to be revered
جئت شرفت المدينةYou have brought to this city nobility
مرحبا يا خير داعWelcome best caller to God’s way


Do listen to the song, the music and the powerful voice.
Does it feel as a beautiful piece of music as it feels to me?


Sitar, Sarod and Santoor

If  “Music is wine” the following three intoxicationg  instrumental pieces do live up to these remarks by Beethoven.


Sitar by Pandit Ravi Shanker  


Sarod by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan : 


Santoor by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma: 

“How does one put the spiritual significance of music on paper?  Music transcends all languages and barriers and is the most beautiful communicative skill one can have. Music makes us all experience different emotions or the Navarasa as we call it. Different types of music, whether it is vocal or instrumental, Eastern or Western, Classical or Pop or folk from any part of the world can all be spiritual if it has the power to stir the soul of a person and transcend time for the moment. It makes one get goose-bumps in the body and mind and equates the highest mental orgasm and the release of grateful tears! ”
~ Pt. Ravi Shanker.

In philosophy :

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Amir Khusrau, the maestro of Tarana.

This blog is just an attempt to familiarise the lovers of Amir Khurau to a form of singing, called Tarana, the fascinating  fast paced rendition often intended  to attain trance ( haal),   is attributed to be invented by him. Needless to say his other inventions being Qawwali, seventeen taals, tabla and sitar.

All I get is that Tarana  uses sargams and vocables like na, ta, re, da, ni, odani, tanom, yalali, yalalom shuffled in a fast pace coordinated  by rhythmic percussion from Dhol or Tabla.

A legend says that Amir Khusrau discovered this genre of music by default when   Khusrau at a performance of raga Kadambak by Gopal Naik,  allegedly,  remembered the music but not text. So he created the tarana through a merging of bols from the tabla, the sitar or the mridang.

Since I am absolutely bankrupt in classical music so I would just quote what Ustad Amir Khan Sahib,  a master of Tarana says:

“It is generally believed that Tarana is a composition of meaningless syllables followed sometimes by the bols (words coined to denote the various sounds of instruments) of the tabla and sometimes by Persian poetry. This view is not true. As a matter of fact at the time of the Amir, the texts of the songs used to be in the languages of South India, which were not easily understood by the people of the North. The court language was Persian, which was evidently the language of the contemporary intelligentsia. The Amir naturally thought of composing the texts of songs in the language understood by the intelligentsia. Thus the Tarana was born. The various words used are Dartanaa, Dar Tan Aa, Yala an abbreviation for Ya Allah. Yali for Ya Ali, Dar Aa etc., which when translated would mean:

Yala – Ya Allah

Yali – Ya Ali

O Dani : He knows

Tu Dani : You know.

Tom : I am yours, I belong to you
Main Tum Hun (I am you).

Na Dir Dani : You are the complete wisdom.

Dar – Bheetar, Aandar (inside)

Dara – Andar Aa (get in or come inside)

Dartan – Tanke Aandar (inside the body)

Tanan Dar Aa : Enter my body.

Tanandara – Tanke Aandar Aa (Come inside the body)

Nadirdani – Tu Sabse Adhik Janata Hai (You know more than anyone else)

Tandardani – Tanke Aandarka Jannewala (One who knows what is inside the body)

Another feature of Tarana as sung by many in India is the repetition of certain words at a great speed. The justification for this type is also not to be sought., It is not merely an exhibition of speed or virtuosity at pronouncing words, but the idea is that while in prayer a person goes into a trance, and that in that state of mind he just continues to repeat one word or one set of words.”

( source:
Yar-e-man bia bia Tarana sung by Konkana Bannerjee.

Main melody:
Yar-e-man bia bia.
Dar Tan tadim,
Ta-nan Ta na dim, Tom Ta Na Na Na
Ba labam raseeda jaanum
Fu bia ke zinda maanum
Pas azari ki man na maanum,
Ba cheh kar khahi amud.

which means:

O love, come soon, come at once.
Come and enter my body,
for I am yours, come
My life hangs on my lips,
Come thou that I may live again
for if thou shall come when I am no more,
to what avail shall it be.

Also see:

A lifetime encounter with Sain Zahoor ~Part 2

Contd..from Part 1

I repeat, these two days were like a trip to the world of Bulleh Shah, his life and philosophy in the company of Sain Zahoor.

Having been over awed by his deep mystical eyes, I had to gather some courage to ask him all the valid and invalid questions I had in my mind.

For most of the questions I pounced at him, he bounced the answers back with verses from Bulleh Shah’s poetry .

I began with an inquiry about the details of how his life began as a devotee, and he remarked that it was destined. He had a great passion for singing sufi songs from a young age, despite the opposition from his peasant parents.

It was his ‘famous dream’ of a hand calling him, that took him at the age of 10 from one Sufi shrine to the other all over Pakistan for next 7 years. At last some indications made him realise that the hand was from a Dargah ( shrine) at Uch Sharif. From there he was ordered to go to the Shrine of Bulleh Shah at Kasur, and reside there.
Learning about Bulleh Shah’s life, he said , he was astonished to know how similar he was to Bulleh Shah in terms of his love for music and it’s opposition from his family.

He recalled how he was first noticed by the professor cum TV producer Dildar Bhatti, on the shrine of Lal Hussain and was called to sing on PTV. The first words that were aired were:

Na Kar Bandeya Meri, Meri,
Na Teri Na Meri,
Char Dinan Da Mela, Duniya
Pher Mitti Di Dheri

( Do not indulge in self,
Life is neither yours nor mine.
It’s a 4 day trip and then shall all be a mound of earth.)

He mentioned of the honour he was given as the best folk singer by BBC for the year 2006, an Award in France and a Presidential Award in Pakistan, but what he really takes pride is in how he converted two Japanese boys to follow the path of Sufism and Islam.

He talked of the selflessness one needs to have in devoting one’s life to Sufi singing.

On a question of the purpose of sufi music—he mentioned that music was Sufi’s innovative method to attract common man towards the path of peaceful religion. It served the purpose to diffuse the inter-communal tensions and the hegemony of the orthodox religion that existed in the 16 th or 17th century. He said the music was like a magnet for those who wanted to escape from hatred and were attracted to peace and love. .

He said that even in todays world where there is hatred widespread everywhere, he wishes to contribute for world peace, his bit, through Sufi music, like a drop in the ocean.

Quoting Bulleh Shah he remarked, the eseensce of his life was to spread the message of love:

Masjid Dha Day, Mandir Dha Day
Dha Day Jo Kujh Disda
Par Kissay Da Dil Na Dhawee(n)
Rub Dilaa(n) Wich Wasda

Tear down the Mosque, tear down the temple
Tear down every thing in sight
But don’t (tear down) break anyone’s heart
Because God lives there

While talking, came up the fact that he was unlettered, and when I asked if he did he think that education would bring more awareness and openness in the minds of those who spread hatred he remarked:

Parrh Parrh Aalim Faazil Hoya
Kaddi Apney Aap noo Parrheya hi nahin
Jaa Jaa Warda Mandir Maseetaan
Kaddi Mun Apney Vich tun Wardeya ee Nahin

Reading books over and over you want to be a learned man
but you never study your innerself.
You run to enter mosques and temples
but you never enter into your innerself

He took out a paper from his pocket remarking, “This is my ‘parhai’ ( literacy)”, and he tried to read some meaning out of those pictures. It was beyond me, perhaps because I was illiterate in that language.

On asking about his travels he said that his music has take him to over to 35 countries explaining it simply as “ 5 passports have been filled up with with stamps and visas for different countries.”
I asked him of the place that he liked to visit the most?
He remarked with a diplomatic smile:
“Chal Way Bullehya Chal O’thay Chaliyay
Jithay Saaray Annay
Na Koi Saadee Zaat PichHanay
Tay Na Koi Saanu Mannay “

O’ Bulleh Shah let’s go there
Where everyone is blind
Where no one recognizes our caste (or race, or family name)
And where no one believes in us

I asked: “Is really any such place on Earth? “
He retorted: “Why do you need a place on land, if your heart is that place, where you do not differentiate ? Is it not enough ?”

As the time passed and my audacity to ask him personal questions increased, an informal Sain Zahoor with a great sense of humour emerged out too.

While talking to him, I could not meet his gaze. I was staring at his ektara, which he calls tumba.
He remarked: “I think you like my tumba more.”
It was embarrassing, but I retorted without a second thought “Yes, I like it a lot”.
And so he offered to teach me how to hold and play it. It was his idea to click a picture with the tumba in my hand.

We talked about his family and his sons, two of whom were part of the orchestra and the third one sings independently.

I was keen to know about his wife, and asked him if he took his wife with him on the tours.
He just smiled and nodded a ‘No’.
“Doesn’t she get angry on your frequent trips and you don’t take her”, I complained.
He smiled and said : “ I have learnt from Bulleh Shah, how to appease her.”
“How? ” was my obviously inquisitive question.
He narrated with a naughty sparkle in his eyes: “ I sing to her:
‘Bas kar ji hun bas kar ji,
Ik baat asan naal has kar ji.’

and my old lady smiles.

I found the verses very intriguing, so he offered to narrate the whole poem, which indeed was beautiful. And I share the first stanza here…
Bas kar ji hun bas kar ji,
Ik baat asan naal has kar ji.
Tuseen dil mere vich vasde ho,
aiven saathon duur kyon nasde ho.
Naale ghat jaadu dil khasde ho,
hun kit val jaaso nas kar ji.
Bas kar ji hun bas kar ji,

Enough! Now enough!
Smile! Speak to me!
You inhabit my heart.
What is the use of running away?
Using magic, you pulled my heart toward you.
Whom do you run toward now?
Enough! Now enough!

I couldn’t help ask: “Did Bulleh Shah also appease his wife by this poetry?.”
“No he was never married, but he loved his Master Inayat Qadri like a woman loves her beloved.”

And he narrated the interesting story of how Bulleh Shah has once faultered in front of his master by being ‘snobbish’ referring himself as ‘Syed Bulleh”. The master felt offended and disowned Bulleh Shah as a disciple. And his master had set extremely high standards for his disciple, he would not agree to any easy means of appeasement.

Since Bulleh Shah knew appeasing his beloved was no easy task, he dressed himself like a woman, adorned the nath (nose ring), wore ghungroo( ankle bells) and hid behind a veil.
“Why did he have to become a woman?” I asked.
He said “He wanted to show his master that he had given up all his masculine ego and acted like a helpless woman.”

Bulleh Shah sang and danced in front of his master, till the master’s heart melted . He recognised, this extreme devotion could be from none other than BullehShah, so he asked : “Are you Bulleh?”
From behind the veil came the reply: “No master, I am Bhullah( the defaulter).”

He narrated the words which Bulleh Shah used during the appeasement:
Tere ishaq nachaya kar ke thia thia
Tere ishaq ne dira mere ander kita
Bhar ke zehar piala, main taan aape pita
jhabde bohrin we tabiba, nahin taan main mar gai a

Compelled by love, I dance, I dance.
This love has set up camp inside me.
I Physician, come back! my life is ebbing away.
It is I who filled the cup with this poison and drank it.

Come back right away, else I will surely die.
Compelled by love, I dance, I dance.

As the time for the group came to pack up and leave for the Hotel, I joked: “Sain, are you taking back my tumba?”
He smiled and said: “Come to Pakistan, I will give you an identical one, but the condition is that you will have to learn to play it.”

He did not give me the ektara, but the time he gave to answer my unending questions and the interest with which he offered to answer my queries about him, his poetry and Bulleh Shah, I shall chesrish for rest of my life.

Ektara will remain as mine in the memories and the pictures, for sure 🙂

ABC of Qawwali

A small irritant from a dear friend, a westernised desi, who kept calling Qawwali as ‘Qawwali song’ got me to make a polite request to her call it only Qawwali. She probably thought I was an expert in the field and with innocent curiosity started to fire questions at me about Qawwali.

I really felt cornered and actually regretted for having made the silly request to her. And I realised that beyond the ABC of Qawwali I had no idea of what qawwali really was made of.

Her basic questions made me wonder that I was equally ignorant of the indepth details. Probably except for calling it Qawwali instead of qawwali ‘song’ there wasnt much difference between me and her. So I began to dig deeper.
It was indeed a wonderful journey to flip through the e-searches learning about Qawwali details.

All I knew earlier was this bit:

The word Qawwali was derived from the arabic word Qaul which means the utterance ( of Prophet).

Qawwali, a Sufi devotional music is unique to north India. It arrived in the subcontinent in the 14th Century. Amir Khusau, known as the ‘Father of Qawwali’ developed this form by incorporating Farsi and Arabic in the Indian music centered on the classical structure of taal and raag.

The word Sama is used in Central Asia and Turkey to refer to forms very similar to Qawwali, and in the subcontinent, the formal name used for a session of Qawwali is Mehfil-e-Sama.
I had known that the singers are called: Qawwal and those group of singers who sing a qawwali chorus in unison are called Humnawan.
I had heard, long ago in Delhi that Qawwals are also called Qawwal bacche.

I began to hunt for what was the reason why they were called so. What I learned was this:

“There is a renowned tale frequently told by qawwals- that of the ‘Qawwal Bachche’. Hazrat Amir Khusro wished to do something extraordinary for his ‘sheikh’ (spiritual mentor) Nizamuddin. So he discovered twelve gifted young men and educated them to render the ragas he had created. The sheikh was thrilled with their performance and these twelve lads went on to be recognized as the ‘Qawwal Bachche’.This ancestry of qawwali singers, the sons of the initial qawwal or Qawwal Bacche, was begun by a man who, as fable goes, was hearing impaired and mute. Inexplicably healed by a Sufi saint, he converted to become one of the earliest disciples of Amir Khusro. Qawwali has been handed down from father to son over generations, with weight on the children memorizing the poetry and precise elocution of the words because several of the songs are in Persian.”

During Googling I came across a list of qawwwali vocabulary, on ‘bohotkhoob’ blog, which I thought was a must share:

Alap = Introductory phrases of a raga sung without rhythm to create a background for the raga used in the composition.
Anga = Aspects of singing which bring out the main style followed by the singer.
Baja = Instrument, chiefly harmonium. Strangely though Harmonium was introduced into qawwali only in mid 19th Century. Earlier instruments used were: double-headed drum (dholak) and a bowed lute (sarangi, dilruba) and an earthenware pot(ghara).
Band = A verse of more than two lines — inserted from a longer poem.
Band sama = A closed or an exclusive performance in which a special song-repertoire is rendered without any instrumental accompaniment.
Badhana = To extend, or elaborate the melodic theme.
Bari ka gana = To sing by turns in an assembly of Qawwal-singers.
Bol = Utterance, the repeatable part of the song-text sung by the chorus.
Bol samjhana = To convey the meaning of the text through musical variations, etc.
Chachar = Metric pattern of 14 beats frequently employed in the genre.
Chal = Gait, the specific melodic contour of the song.
Chalat phirat = Melodic improvisation mostly in a faster tempo and intricate in design.
Cheez = A complete, original song without additions etc.
Chaoki = A performing group of qawwal named after the leader or his ancestor.
Dhun = A tune which is satisfyingly complete and yet may not be in a codified raga.
Doha = A couplet making a complete, rhyming poetic statement in common metre employed by the singers at the beginning or as insertions.
Dohrana = To repeat.
Girah = A knot, i.e. inserted verse in a qawwali.
Hamd = Poem in Urdu/Farsi in praise of God.
Hawa = Archaic Sufi song in Farsi said to be composed by Amir Khusro.
Khas tarz = Special tune.
Makhsus tarz = Special tune.
Manqabat = Poem in praise of a great religious personage, especially Sufi saints.
Munajat= means secret conversation, whispering, prayer, longing or yearning. Sung in Farsi and was invented by Rumi.
Masnavi = Extended Farsi poem with rhyming couplets
Matra = Durational unit in music making.
Misra = Verse line.
Misra kholna = ‘to open the verse line’.
Misra ula = First verse line, especially the opening line of a couplet.
Mukhra = The opening refrain line of the song.
Murki = Melodic ‘turn’ — a specific musical embellishment.
Mushtar ka gana = Mixed i.e. communal singing.
Naghma = Melody, tune, played as a prelude to the qawwali, usually based on a tune derived from the Zikr Allahu.
Panchayati gana = communal singing.
Padhna = Recite, read or chant without instrumental accompaniment.
Phailav = Melodic spreading, expansion.
Qata = Four line aphoristic poetic form in Urdu/Farsi used in introductory section of the qawwali.
Qaul = The basic ritual, obligatory song either as opening or closing hymn with the text based on sayings of the Prophet.
Rang = The second principal ritual, obligatory song after Qaul celebrating the saints (Nizamuddin) spiritual guidance (colouring) of his disciple Amir Khusro.
Rubai = Aphoristic four-line poetic form in Farsi/Urdu in qawwali. It refers to the recitative preceding the qawwali often based on a Rubai.
Sany bolan = Saying it as second, singing a verse line to the tune section of the second concluding line of a couplet.
Sargam = Sol-fa passage.
Sher = Couplet, literally the strophic unit of the ghazal poem.
Takrar = Multiple repetition.
Tali = clapping.Clapping by the performers in the second row complements the instruments.
Tarana = A genre of songs with meaningless auspicious words, often derived from Sufi invocations.
Tazmin = A poem incorporating famous verses around Sufi classics in Farsi.
Thap = An accented drum beat.
Tiyya = A triad of a rhythmic/melodic cadence.
wajd = Ecstacy, invoked by any particular shair or couplet of poetical composition, which is common scene in such mahfils,that particular couplet is repeated continuously by the Qawwal until the thirst of the ecstatic ‘subject’ is fully satisfied and he returns to his normal condition
Zatnin = Poetic metre of the song-text.
Zarb = Accent, rhythmic stress.

It has now somewhat made me understand the rendition beyond just the words sung. The ups and downs, the repeats, the style of singing, punctuated by narration, the claps etc in the middle of the rendition, now seem to make a lot more fascination.

I am sure many of the Qawwali lovers would be far above my baseline of knowledge, but anyhow Happy listening!

(Source: Music contexts: A Concise dictionary of Hindustani Music. By Ashok Damodar Ranade

Perception: Something to Think About

Perception: Something to Think About | InspirationHub | Your Daily Infusion!.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

Said one comment: “If Justin Bieber had stood there playing a triangle they would have had to close the street for people stopping.”

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake–a dream ballet ( Act 1).

Tchaikovsky’s first ballet, Swan Lake is considered by many to be one of the greatest classical ballets of all time. Its romance and beauty has allowed the classic ballet to mesmorize audiences for more than 100 years. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (in four Acts) was composed in 1875 as a commission by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, the intendant of the Russian Imperial Theatres in Moscow. Swan Lake was unsuccessful after its first year of performance. Conductors, dancers and audiences alike thought Tchaikovsky’s music was too complicated and hard to dance too.
It wasn’t until after Tchaikovsky’s death that Swan Lake was revived. Much of the Swan Lake we know of today was a revision by the famous choreographers Petipa and Ivanov.

Plot Summary of Swan Lake:
While hunting, Prince Siegfried sees an amazing swan. As he takes aim to shoot, the swan turns into a beautiful woman. The woman, Odette, tells the prince that she is a princess who has come under the spell of an evil sorcerer. During the day she must be a swan and swim in a lake of tears. At night she is allowed to be a human again. The spell can only be broken if a a virgin prince swears eternal fidelity to her. She tells Prince Siegfried, who happens to be a virgin prince, that if he refuses her she must remain a swan forever.

Prince Siegfried falls madly in love with Odette. However, through a spell by the evil sorcerer, he accidentally proposes to another woman at a party, believing that the woman is really Odette. Princess Odette feels doomed. She threatens to kill herself and throws herself into the lake. The Prince feels terribly sorry and throws himself into the lake with her. In an incredibly touching moment, the two are transformed into lovers in the afterlife.

Act I
Prince Siegfried arrives at his 21st birthday celebration on the palace courtyards to find all of the royal families and townspeople dancing and celebrating, while the young girls are anxiously seeking his attention. During the exquisite celebration, his mother gives him crossbow and informs him that because he is of age now, his marriage will be quickly arranged. Hit with the sudden realization of his future responsibilities, he takes his crossbow and makes haste to the woods with his hunting buddies.

(Other Acts to continue…._
P.S. Have a long time dream to watch this ballet live in theatre !!

Heaven isn’t a Place, it’s a Feeling !

Note from Parents:
She is just a kid who loves music and is good at it, but also loves most things kids love and has a full life. It took 18 months to make this video and it was hard enough to get the film, let alone decent sound in these crowded, noisy environments. Thus we did a montage cover song as all do in these kinds of videos. She is young and it takes great concentration to play such sophisticated songs under such circumstances, but her nature is one of great joy as you can see in our other videos or website.We are not rich and travel and live on a total of 25,000 dollars a year.

This is our little “Mozart” and she is 18 months into a multi year, open ended trip around the world, that started when she was five. She started playing the violin at 23 months old, so we thought it would be fun to mark her unique odyssey by playing her violin around the world at key places.

The beauty that we are seeing and the kindness of people every where, makes this world seem like heaven. This experience has been a great gift to us and we would like to share some of it with you.


More Info:
FaceBook: SoulTravelers3

Walk with Beauty when Sad

Music & Nature-work as tranquillizers and antidepressants.
(…The canyons of S.E.Utah…)

Beauty and sadness always go together.
Nature thought beauty too rich to go forth
Upon the earth without a meet alloy.

~George MacDonald

As I Walk with Beauty
As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is on every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.
~Traditional Navajo Prayer

images~SuperStock inc_DAWL…

Moonlight Sonata ~ Beethovan

Beethoven’s “Moonlight sonata”, a name coined by German music critic Ludwig Rellstab after Beethoven’s death, is one of the most widely known classical music pieces, and has been since it was composed some 200 years ago.

It is said that Beethoven was inspired to write the sonata while visiting Lake Balaton, located in Hungary.

Tag Cloud