Friday, January 26, 2007

The Magic of Malkauns at Midnight

Like western classical music, the roots of Indian classical music are religious. But while western classical music emphasizes harmony, Indian Classical Music is based on melody and rhythm. A Rāga specifies a set of rules for building the melody, and the rules for constructing melodies are different in different rāgas.

Different rāgas activate different emotional states. Pandit Ravi Shankar refers to a Sanskrit saying ‘Ranjayathi iti Rāga’, which means ‘that which colors the mind is a rāga'. In addition, each rāga is associated with a particular time of the day or a season of the year.

Malkauns is a rāga to be played in the midnight hour. Listen to this rendition of the Malkauns by Ustad Bismillah Khan. His instrument is the shehnai. If you have attended Indian weddings, you must have heard the lilting sound of the shehnai wafting in the air.

[For uninterrupted listening: click on play, immediately click on pause, and let the music buffer for some time - till the grey line reaches the end]

Bismillah Khan was an epitome of simplicity. He lived a spartan life in the city of Varanasi, also known as the 'city of temples and learning'. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor. Read about his performances at Delhi’s Red Fort here.

A good way to remember rāgas is to identify them by the tune of film songs. Here is a song (from the famous movie Baiju Bawra) based on Malkauns, sung by Mohammad Rafi. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Rocking gypsies

Music, such music, is a sufficient gift. Why ask for happiness; why hope not to grieve? It is enough, it is to be blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music--not too much, or the soul could not sustain it--from time to time.
-- Vikram Seth in An Equal Music.

Fandango nights is from Willie and Lobo's album Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, a novel of the same name by Robert James Waller. Yes he is the same guy who wrote The Bridges of Madison County. Both the novels have been made into movies.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jatindra Nath Das

[A large number of revolutionaries were convicted in the Lahore conspiracy Case … many of them were sent to the Andamans. The revolutionary under-trials went on hunger strike protesting against the horrible conditions in jails. They demanded that they be treated as political prisoners and not as criminals. On 13th September, 1929, after 64 days of an epic hunger strike Jatin Das, the iron willed young man from Bengal died. The entire nation rallied behind the hunger strikers. Thousands came to pay homage at every station passed by the train carrying his body from Lahore to Calcutta. At Calcutta, a two-mile-long procession of more than half a million people carried his coffin to the cremation ground.] link (scroll down little)

To know more read this excellent article by Balbir K Punj.

Here is Bhagat Singh’s letter to The Home Member, Government of India.

Hearing Jatin Das’s painful death, on the night of 13th September, 1929, Tagore wrote this poem and put music to it. An attempt at translation will be futile. The poem is presented in Bengali script, the song is sung by Shantidev Ghosh (starts at 00:46).

The image of the poem was generated from this digital library prepared by Somen Bhattacharjee .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ankhiyan Bhaili Lal

Beat of India is trying to save the rich folk songs of India from the onslaught of the big record labels. It is a fantastic effort. Once you become a member you get three songs free - like this bhojpuri song by Manoj Tiwari. It is about a couple's mischief during Holi. Enjoy!

[For uninterrupted listening: click on play, immediately click on pause, and let the music buffer for some time - till the grey line reaches the end]

Also, listen to the enchanting Music from Malwa.

The morning light

Nikhiler alo purba akashe jolilo punyodine
Ekshathe jara cholibe tahara shokolere nik chine।

His own translation:

The great morning appears in the East.
Let its light reveal us to each other
Who walk on the same path of pilgrimage.

-- Tagore, Baghdad, 1932

Monday, January 15, 2007


Clock, switch, mirror, brush
Soap, shower, shampoo, flush
Kitchen, sink, breakfast, bus
Traffic, red, green, class.

Ticket, people, stand, sit
School, faces, smile, meet
Recess, coffee, terrace, smoke
Inbox, reply, sent, joke.

Hector, Megan, Caroline, called
Met, discussed, argued, solved.
Group, meeting, venue, fix
Books, library, journals, six.

Grocery, queue, next, please
Home, cooking, washing, cease.
Mark, Carlos, Lee, Neil
Joy, sorrow, pour, fill.

Today, tomorrow, day, night
Traveling alone, traveling light.
Inside, outside, within, without
Mountain stream, solitary trout.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This land is your land, this land is my land

-- from Maps of War.

Wait! Wait! Wait!

You see the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity !

-- Anthony Gonsalvez in Amar Akbar Anthony

Monday, January 8, 2007

The elements of style

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

- William Strunk, Jr. in The Little Book

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Take a look at sweet Madhava

How many do you know?

Saturday, January 6, 2007

This be the verse

New eyes each year
Find old books here,
And new books, too,
Old eyes renew;

So youth and age
Like ink and page
In this house join,
Minting new coin.

-- Philip Larkin