Friday, October 24, 2008

Forgotten Movies : Unforgettable Songs

Very few international movies have made use of, and done full justice to the music of our sub-continent (both folk and classical). Most make do with the string sounds of the sitar here and there, symbolic to the music of India. Few have used the heady concoction of vocals and instruments and made the appropriate impact on the viewer.

Heat and Dust by Merchant Ivory
(story of two English women living in India...)

Heat and Dust - Kahe Ko Tum Naheen Aye (Pilu) :  (Download)

Heat and Dust - Sarangi Recital :  (Download)

Jalsaghar (Le Salon de Musique) by Satyajit Ray
(depicts the age-old conflict between the landed nobility and the un-pedigreed rich of the Raj era...)

Jalsaghar - Megh Malhar (Salamat Ali Khan) :  (Download)

Jalsaghar - Bhar Bhar Ayeen (Begum Akhtar) :  (Download)

Dead Man Walking by Tim Robbins
(starring Susan Sarandon & Sean Penn - the story of a nun, comforting a convicted killer on death row...)

Dead Man Walking - Face of Love (Nusrat Fateh Ali...) :  (Download)

Dead Man Walking - Shadow (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) :  (Download)

Latcho Drom by Tony Gatlif
(the journey of the Romany people (gypsies) told through musicians and dancers of India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary...)

Latcho Drom - O Kesario Hazari Gul Ro Phool :  (Download)

Latcho Drom - Saat Bhayan ki Ek Behanadli :  (Download)

The movies have been forgotten but the music still plays on...

Enjoy !!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Voices along the Ganges : Chants & Folklores

Before commencing any further, a small 'statutory' warning. Please do not blame me if you find the links to the mp3 files in my posts to be dead, sooner or later. I do not know of a site that has hosted it's music files for more than a few years. The web is abundant with dead mp3 links. Already many of the songs that I had put in my previous posts have been removed by their host servers, and visitors on my blog have been sending me frantic complaints.

Amusingly mp3 files are like orphan kids, living on the streets, forever yearning for a permanent abode. They are more often than not, shunned after a few days of shelter offered by a kind soul. Ironically mp3 files are the most sought after but also the most hounded after files, always being chased by copyright laws. At first loved, then hated and feared by the webmasters, mp3 files are almost treated like live bombs amidst peace loving net-citizens. So don't be surprised, if you wake up one fine morning and find the links not working anymore and the files gone forever.

Continuing our journey along the holy river of Ganges, we arrive at Benares (Varanasi), the holiest city of the Hindus. The significance of Benares lies not only in the fact that it is considered so holy, but in the fact that it embodies the Hindu philosophy of death. Death for the Hindus is just one step forward in the endless cycle of birth and rebirth. And believers come to Benares to die or to cremate their departed relatives, believing that Lord Shiva himself whispers words of salvation into the ears of the dead here.

Benares - Nirgun Pad : (Download)

Benares - Hori in Raga Mishra Kafi : (Download)

Benares - Birha : (Download)

These words of salvation, Hindus believe, free their souls from the cycle of birth and rebirth, granting them moksha. Nowhere else do death and life coexist so closely as they do in Benares. Boatmen row, beggars beg, bathers bathe, and pilgrims pray.

The largest tributary to the Ganges is the Ghaghara, which meets it before Patna, in Bihar, bearing much of the Himalayan glacier melt from Northern Nepal. The Gandak, which comes from near Kathmandu, is another big Himalayan tributary. Other important rivers that merge with the Ganges are the Son, the Gomti which flows past Lucknow, and the Chambal made notorious by the ravines in its valley which are noted for lawlessness and banditry (including the infamous Phoolan Devi).

Patna - Pachra Chant : (Download)

Patna - Kilona (Chant to a Child) : (Download)

The journey along the river Ganges will continue...

.. more Voices along the Ganges »

Enjoy !!

Monday, October 20, 2008

M S Subbulakshmi : the Jewel of India

Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi (1916-2004) has been the queen of Indian classical music in the South Indian Classical style (Carnatic) in the modern times. From Mahatma Gandhi to the most common of the people have admired her voice, conditioned perfectly to render some of the great Indian works of devotional literature. Her 'Suprabhatam' is like staple music in temples all over south India.

With her rock-solid technique, sure tone, deep spirituality and splendid emotional expression, M S Subbulakshmi was rightfully considered an Indian national treasure during her lifetime. Thanks to a legion of great recordings, her place among the great vocalists of the 20th century is assured.

She was born in 1916 in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, to a family of famous instrumentalists. While still quite young, she began Carnatic musical training with Madurai Srinivasa Iyer and briefly studied Hindustani music from Pandit Naryan Rao Vyas.

Surdas Bhajan - Maiya Mori Main Nahin Makhan :  (Download)

Kabir Bhajan - Bhajo Re Bhaiya :  (Download)

Surdas Bhajan - Bujhat Shyam Kaun Tu Gori :  (Download)

She debuted as a soloist at 17, and with the full support of her husband Thiagarajan Sadavisam (whom she married in 1940), she began acting and performing in films. Her most famous film was 1945's Meera, in which she portrayed the revered medieval poet-saint Meerabai and sang several popular Meera bhajans (Hindu devotional songs attributed to Meerabai). After the huge success of Meera, however, Subbulakshmi turned her career entirely away from films.

While she was an extremely popular performer throughout India, she did not appear abroad as often as other Indian artists of similar renown. However, she did appear at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1977 and at London's Royal Albert Hall in 1982, among other high profile venues.

Surdas Bhajan - He Govind He Gopal :  (Download)

Bhajan - Yaad Avey Brindavan Ki :  (Download)

An intensely devout person, Subbulakshmi specialized in singing kritis (religious songs) and such religious hymns as the Bhajagovindam, a series of praises for the lord Krishna written by the Sankaracharya, and the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam (a recitation of the 1000 names of the lord Vishnu).

Among her many awards were the Padma Bhushan in 1954 and the Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1968, she was the first female artist to be awarded the latter title. Subbulakshmi was also named the Bharat Ratna ('Jewel of India', India's highest civilian award) in 1998 by the president of India. After her husband's death in 1997, Subbulakshmi withdrew from performing, and passed away in 2004.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Voices along the Ganges : Saints & Beggars

'The Ganges, above all is the river of India, which has held India's heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history. The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, from old times to new, is the story of India's civilization and culture, of the rise and fall of empires, of great and proud cities, of adventures of man...'
- Jawaharlal Nehru in Discovery of India

Twenty centuries ago, the essential role of music of India was deemed to be purely ritualistic. Much part of Indian music is folk music. Indian classical music is said to have evolved out of the fusion of these. It is presumed that folk music existed long before the Aryans in India. Indian classical music has become unique in the world.

Hindustani music is an enveloping influence in Indian life. It pervades the big and small events of Indian life, from the birth of the child to it's death, religious rites and seasonal festivals. Originally, not all developments of music were transformed to writing. To keep their traditional integrity, they were imparted orally from master to pupil : the Guru Shishya tradition in gurukul.

Winding 2,510 km across northern India, from the Himalaya Mountains to the Indian Ocean, the Ganges river is NOT just a flowing body of H2O (water), but a whole culture and way of life to India. Innumerable stories, plays, songs, movies, history is woven along the wild journey of this mighty river. From the small but wild Himalayan birth to the mighty, fast paced or silent journey into the fertile Indo Gangetic Plain, and cities of Allahabad, Benaras, Patna and Kolkata, the Ganga is a major contributor to the political history and spiritual culture of this subcontinent.

Gangotri - Ganga Stuti :  (Download)

Kanpur - Nautanki :  (Download)

Mirzapur - Badhaiyya :  (Download)

'Voices along the Ganges' is an effort to take the listener on an odyssey down the river Ganges, from Gangotri to Kolkata. The rich music, a fusion of various instruments, permeates the senses infiltrating them with a soulful confluence. The compositions have been beautifully woven around a meditative pattern ranging from soft to rhythmic and highly energetic.

Mirzapur - Gauna :  (Download)

Mirzapur - Kajri :  (Download)

We will travel further south and savour more of the Ganges 'flavour' in my future posts.

Enjoy !!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pandit Jasraj : Variations of Todi

Raga Todi is a morning raga that expresses both heroic and devotional moods. It is also called 'Miyan ki Todi' which is now, the most important raga of the Todi family and sometimes also referred to as 'Shuddh Todi'. It is a believed that Miyan Tansen had created this raga. Todi is a plaintive raga, which creates a mood of delighted adoration in a gentle, loving sentiment. When played it creates an aura of a profound & pathos-filled melody.

Apart from the raga Todi or Miyan Ki Todi, there are also other forms of Todi such as, Gurjari Todi, Bilaskhani Todi, Asavari Todi, Desi Todi, Bhoopal Todi & many more. Posted below are four variations of Todi beautifully rendered by none other than Pandit Jasraj.

Miyan ki Todi :  (Download)

Gurjari Todi :  (Download)

Jayawanti Todi :  (Download)

Abiri Todi :  (Download)

This set of music was recorded in 1980. All the above songs are in variations of the raga Todi. Accompanying Pandit Jasraj are Appa Jalgaonkar on harmonium and Nizamuddin Khan on tabla. These performances are now out of print.

Enjoy !!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Lakshmi Shankar : Melody at its Best

Sister-in-law to sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, mother-in-law to renowned violinist Dr. L Subramaniam, Lakshmi Shankar is a vocalist known for her performances of Khayal, Thumri, and Bhajans. Born June 16, 1926 into a South-Indian Brahmin family, Lakshmi Shankar initially started her career in dancing.

In 1939, when Ravi Shankar's elder brother, Uday Shankar brought his dance troupe to Madras, she decided to join his Almora Dance Centre to learn Uday Shankar's original style of dance based on the Indian classics and became a part of his troupe. That is when her association to the Shankar family began. She married Rajendra Shankar (Raju), an younger brother of Uday Shankar (elder to Ravi Shankar).

Although she had an early background in dance and the Carnatic music of South India, her initial vocal training was in the North Indian Patiala Gharana style of Hindustani music. After a period of illness during which she had to give up dancing, and already having had a background of Carnatic music, she moved to Hindustani classical music and trained rigorously for many years under Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan. Later, she also trained with Pandit Ravi Shankar, whom she has assisted on many of his projects.

She has recorded widely in varying capacities and styles including Tamil folk songs, Hindu devotional songs of all sorts, film work (including Sir Richard Attenborough's Academy Award winning film Gandhi) and for television documentaries. She has toured the world and has worked with the greats such as Uday Shankar, Ravi Shankar, and George Harrison.

To this day, a dancer's sensibility continues to shine through her vocal performances, in the keen rhythmic vitality of her improvisations and in the sheer robustness of the ornaments and slides with which she graces her melodies.

Puriya Dhanashri :  (Download)

Thumri Manj Khamaj :  (Download)

Meera Bhajan (Pag Ghunghru) :  (Download)

The thrill of her rich, melodious voice, her sense of balance and the emotional range of her singing are some of the traits that make her one of the most prized Indian vocalists of the last fifty years. Lakshmi Shankar was also among the first to popularize Indian vocal music in the West.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hindustani Classical Music : 10 Gems Part 2

As promised I am once again posting 10 more songs of my liking. I hope you will like them too :

A Kanan - Hamsadhwani :  (Download)

Ajoy Chakrabarty - Abhogi :  (Download)

Ajoy Chakrabarty - Kaun Jatan Se Preet Nibhaun :  (Download)

Kishori Amonkar - Hindol Bahar :  (Download)

Parween Sultana - Malkauns (Koyaliya Bole) :  (Download)

Bhimsen Joshi - Jaunpuri :  (Download)

Pandit Jasraj - Zilaf :  (Download)

Kumar Gandharva - Dhanabasanti :  (Download)

Mallikarjun Mansur - Jogi Mat Jaa :  (Download)

Salamat Ali Khan - Zila Kafi :  (Download)

Enjoy !!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Malini Rajurkar : Gwalior Gharana

One of the foremost exponents of Gwalior Gharana, Malini Rajurkar is one of the most well known vocalists of her generation. She was born in 1941 to music loving parents and brought up in a middle class household in Rajasthan. Even though music classes at school revealed her talent, Malini was not expected to go beyond fulfilling family duties and taking up a safe, respectable job. In fact, for three years she taught mathematics at the Savitri Girls' High School & College, Ajmer, where she had graduated in the same subject.

But Malini was destined for bigger things. Taking advantage of a three-year scholarship that came her way, she finished her Sangeet Nipun from the Ajmer Music College, studying music under the guidance of Govindrao Rajurkar and his nephew, who was to become her future husband, Vasantrao Rajurkar.

Settled in Hyderabad for over 40 years since the 1970s, her training in her gurus' style has rooted Malini in the Gwalior approach. However, she has felt free to adopt aspects of other styles to create her own. She has been influenced by the likes of K.G.Ginde and Jitendra Abhisheki and by her fondness for the idiosyncratic vocalism of Kumar Gandharva. Malini Rajurkar sings khayal in the Kirana style and is an acknowledged master of Tappa and Tarana.

Bhairavi Tappa :  (Download)

Raga Maru Bihag :  (Download)

Raga Jhinjhoti :  (Download)

Though not a frequent performer, Malini has, over the years, become a name to reckon with. Her concert career started in 1964, drawing the connoisseur rather than the glitz seeker. Ever since, she has been a regular on the Indian concert circuit. She has also had successful tours of the US and UK. She has received several awards, including the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy award in 2001. Malini Rajurkar, in essence is a connoisseur's delight.