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Monday, July 01, 2013

Another list of 10 Great Movies

Few weeks back I wrote about the most influential movies ever, itgenerated good discussion. I am giving another list of 10 moviesproduced outside Hollywood/US.All of these movies had huge impact onfilm trade and audience world over. You may not agree with the listbut if you haven't seen these movies,believe me you have missedsomething for these are definitive expression of human creativity.any feedback?


1. THE BATTLESHIP POTYOMKIN-1925 by Sergei EisensteinIt is from silent era and is a fictional narrative of a real-lifeevent that occurred in 1905, the Battleship Potyomkin uprising, whenthe crew of a Russian battleship rebelled against their oppressiveofficers during the Tsarist regime. Eisenstein's recreates the mutinyby sailors of the battleship Potyomkin and in the process pushes theexpressive potential of cinema to its limit.Battleship Potemkin has been called one of the most influential filmsof all time, and has been in the many critics and viewers list as thegreatest film ever.Those who are interested in cinema history might know; The OdessaSteps sequence, which remains one of the most memorable set-pieces incinema. Sergie Eisenstein also pioneered the `Russian montage'technique for action sequences. I have personally used it, and itworks wonderfully well.As the movie is from no voice period, the highlight of the movie isthe original score which was composed by Edmund Meisel. I am notaware of any of his other work, but music score is brilliant.Composer/conductor Mark-Andreas Schlingensiepen has reorchestratedand improved the score based on the original piano score and hasadjusted it to fit the reconstructed version of the film availabletoday.In order to make the film relevant for the 21st century, Pet ShopBoys composed a new soundtrack in 2004 based on the original byMeisel. The DVD which I have contains new sound track composed by PETSHOP BOYS accompanied by pieces of classical music.


2.LA RÈGLE DU JEU/ RULES OF THE GAME-1939 by Jean Renoir.

This one also is considered to be one of the greatest films of alltime. The film is about upper-class French society and set in theperiod just before the start of World War II.I have read that the film was initially condemned for its satire onthe French upper classes and was greeted with derision by a Parisiancrowd . The French upper class is depicted in this film as capriciousand self-indulgent, with little regard for the consequences of theiractions. (Which reminds me of our upper class in Pakistan)I have seen this movie recently on DVD and was extremely impressedwith its simplicity of production and great storytelling technique.Technically it pioneered the use of deep focus to highlight theevents going on in the background are as important as those in theforeground.


3.LADRI DI BICICLETTE/BICYCLE THIEVES (ALSO KNOWN AS THE BICYCLETHIEF) 1948 by Vittorio De Sica.

The Bicycle Thief is an all time classic and a master piece ofItalian director Vittario DeSica.The movie is based on the novel byLuigi Bartolini .The film tells the story of an unemployed workerAntonio, who gets a job that requires that he must have a bicycle. Onthe first day on the job, the bike is stolen and the rest of the filmis a frantic pursuit of the bicycle thieves. Along the way heencounters injustice and apathy. From beginning to end, his small butfierce son is his companion. At the end of the film Antonio,desperate to keep his job, attempts to steal a bicycle himself. He iscaught and humiliated in front of his son.The Bicycle Thief is representative movie of neo-realism movement.Majority of the cast were not professional actors but were peoplefrom real life. The documentary-style camera work helped convey thefeeling that the film is truly about real people. It mixed melodrama,documentary and social commentary. Steven Spielberg used thetechnique for his Schindleir's List.


4. RASHOMON (Japan, 1950)by Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa was cinema's grand samurai and is my favouritefilmmaker. He is arguably the greatest ever as well. His workinspired many filmmakers around the world. Some of the all timeclassics are inspired from his movies. The Magnificent Seven wasbased on his `The Seven Samurai', Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollarswas a remake of his `Yojimbo' and George Lucas gives credit toKurosawa's `Hidden Fortress' for inspiration for Star Wars.Rashomon is Akira Kurosawa at his best. It is a story offering fourdiffering accounts of a rape and murder, all told in flashbacks, agripping study of human behaviour. The theme is the difficulty ofreaching to the truth about an event from conflicting witnessaccounts. In English "Rashomon" has become a word for any situationwherein the truth of an event becomes difficult to verify due to theconflicting accounts of different witnesses. In psychology, the filmhas lent its name to the `Rashomon effect'. In the nutshellKurosawa's parable said; life has many meanings or maybe none atall.Technically also Rashomon was a ground breaking production. Useof close ups, contrasting shots and innovative use of direct sunlightand reflectors gave an interesting and different look to the film.


5.SMULTRONSTÄLLET /WILD STRAWBERRIES-1957 by Ingmar Bergman. (Sweden)

This is my personal favourite. Written and directed by IngmarBergman, It is a story of a medical doctor and teacher who re-evaluate his life due to his old age, his impending death, hisnightmares and daydreams. It was a complex character performed ablyby Victor Sjöström. The film contains many themes and subtle nuanceswhich later became Ingmar Bergman's artistic trademarks. Many filmcritics and film historians consider the film to be one of Bergman'sbest, despite having been made relatively early in his career.Woody Allen's 1997 film `Deconstructing Harry' is loosely based uponBergman's Wild Strawberries. Bergman stated in an interview that thefilm had helped him overcome his fear of death.


6. 8 ½ /THE BEAUTIFUL CONFUSION-Federico Fellini-Italian

This is a 1963 film written and directed by Italian director FedericoFellini. It is acclaimed by film critics as one of the finest filmsever made and is considered Director's movie. The Beautiful Confusionis a seminal movie about film-making and the agonies and ecstasies ofthe creative process. The film is a free-floating tale often blurringreality and fantasy. The story revolves around a film director,played by Marcello Mastroianni, who is suffering from `creativeblock'. He is supposed to be directing a science fiction film but haslost interest and suffers creative confusion due to maritaldifficulties. No wonder the movie is so popular with directors. Ihave seen this movie several times and each time I was able to enjoyit.


7. DET SJUNDE INSEGLET / THE SEVENTH SEAL-1957, Ingmar Bergman.(Sweden)

Another brilliant Ingmar Bergman movie. The title is a reference tothe passage from the Book of Revelation. The protagonist of the movieis a knight (played by Max von Sydow) returning from the Crusades andfinds that his home country is ravaged by the plague. To his dismay,he discovers that Death has come for him too. In order to buy time hechallenges Death to a chess match, with his life resting on theoutcome of the game, which allows him to reach his home and bereunited with his wife. An image of a man playing chess with deathin the form of a skeleton actually existed in a medieval churchpainting from the 1480s in Täby kyrka, Täby, north of Stockholm.Bergman has referred to this painting as the inspirational source forthe movie. The film was the winner of the Special Jury Prize at theCannes Film Festival, in 1957. Irish pop musician Chris De Burgh haswritten and composed a great song `Spanish train' based on this theme.


8. FIST OF FURY (Hong Kong, 1972)

This is an action packed Bruce Lee movie. I saw this in Shaheen Cinema Sargodha,Pakistan on a weekend book out with my friend in 1979.At that time I was not aware of its merits. It was just a rip-roaringkung-fu action for us. It is story of a student who returns to HongKong to avenge death of his dead teacher. Bruce Lee proved that anintense young man could kick the bad guys, the audience as well asbox office the way he liked. Directed by Lo Wei's, it is one of thefinest Bruce Lee films, which made him an international sensation.The film had a huge impact and launched Hong Kong cinema world over.A wave of martial arts movies followed, Bruce Lee himself starred inseveral but Fist of Fury was his finest.


9. SHOLAY; by Ramesh Sippy (India)

"Sholay "arguably is the finest bollywood movie-great script,outstanding direction, superlative performances and magnificentmusic. So much has already written and talked about this movie that Imight not be able to add to it, yet, one can always talk somethingabout "Sholay".It is an evergreen classic. Sholay took inspirationsfrom various films including `Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid', ` TheProfessionals' even `Seven Samurais' and many other buddymovies .Sholay is a masala film but with all the right ingredients injust the right quantities. Salim-Javed are at their best in Shoaly,direction by Ramesh Sippy is crisp as well as seminal. Casting issuperb and movie features some of the biggest stars and the finestactors of Bollywood cinema, yet a debutant Amjad Khan steals theshow. Gabbar Singh is the singular most important character evercreated in sub-continent. Salim-Javed wrote great lines for him, butAmjad Khan immortalizes them.


10. Olympia - Pt. 1 & 2 (1936) Lenni Riefenstahl.

An absolute gem, no greatest movie list can be considered authenticwithout mentioning Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia or Triumph of Will.Olympia is Leni Riefenstahl's documentary about the 1936 BerlinOlympics. It consists of two parts. Olympia Part 1: "The Festival ofthe Nation" includes the lighting of the torch ceremony, and thetrack and field events in which Jessie Owens won four Gold Medals.Olympia Part 2: "The Festival of Beauty" includes field hockey, polo,soccer, aquatics, bicycling, sailing, rowing, the marathon race,and the decathlon. This is a groundbreaking and landmark documentaryfilm and was made specifically at Hitler's request.The movie is filmed in blank and white. Leni is an absolute master ofcinematography. The angles she used and her blending and fading fromone scene to the other along with the experiments with outdoorfilming, extremely effective use of dramatic music and depiction ofhuman emotion all make this an extra-ordinary viewing experience.I have read that Leni spent several years personally editing Olympia.She only slept a few hours per nights during those years as she wasobsessed with creating a masterpiece. And her masterpiece ismesmerizing indeed.

10 most influential movies

It's hard todetermine a "most influential film", unless you categorize in whatarea the decision rests i.e technology, storyline or script,production values or performances. I tried to combine all theseareas. These ten movies may not be greatest ever made but undoubtedlythey contributed to the progress of cinema. I have restricted my self to English/Hollywood cinema and feel guilty for not including such masters like Akira Kurosowa, Ingmar Bergman, Sergie Eisenstein and Vitario DeSica even Alfred Hitchcock.here is my list of tenifluential movies ever produced.

1.The Great Train Robbery (1903):-Directed by Edwin S. Porter, GreatTrain Robbery was the first, what we call a feature film narrating astory. It was a silent film had lot of action and gun fights. Beforethis pioneering western, films were shot and produced placing camerain the centre like a spectator in a theater. Porter pioneered cameramovements like pans and medium close-ups etc. He also experimentedwith parallel story telling, that is, action occurring in differentplaces at the same time and drawing it together at the conclusion. Tothis day, it remains one of the basic story telling tool in cinema.(I have seen only glimpses of this movies-some totas)

2.Birth of a Nation (1915):-This movie set the production grammar.Master craftsman D.W. Griffith directed this epic movie. He was anactor but very soon realized that the creative potential in cinemaexisted behind the camera. He turned cinema to an art form almostsingle-handedly. With his cameraman,legendary Billy Blitzer hepractically invented film production. In `Birth of a Nation, heexperimented with lighting, framing, camera movements etc. The moviehad cuts,dissolves and many other techniques like 'montage'notproperly understood then. Most of production techniques are stillvalid today. In my humble opinion `Birth of a Nation' is the singlemost important and influential movie ever made. I could not get holdof this movie and have seen just few sequences still what everportions I could muster were amazing.

3.The Jazz Singer (1927). It was the first talkie and arguably, themost influential film for the whole industry. The film changed theworld of silent motion pictures. A new era began, and initiated asearch for pleasing, acceptable stars whose voices would sound normaland believable on film. Al Jolson immortalized these words," you aintheard nothing yet".

4.Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) .This animated productionwas Disney's first full length feature. It is as fresh and delightfulas when it was made. What is so special about it. well let meexplain. In a one second movie length there are 24 frames, when youare doing an animated movie you have to draw each and every frame.This means, if you have to produce around 90 minutes long movie, youare talking about more than 100,000 drawings. Only an eccentric likeWalt Disney could have thought about it. Besides the excellence ofproduction, the superb filming and wonderful music, movie had greatdramatic tension between Ms.White and her little friends and thevillains.

5.Citizen Kane (1941):- Orson Wells co-wrote directed and stared inthis magnificent production, it is his masterpiece. The story isabout a domineering newspaper publisher who builds a vast empire.Citizen Kane broke new grounds in cinematic craftsmanship andpioneered many modern day lighting, shooting and productiontechniques. It is said that the story was based on the life of W.Randolph Hearst and surely remains a gem among Hollywood offerings.

6.Dr No(1962):- It was directed by Terrence Young who was a an ex-airforce flyer. This first James Bond super spy thriller is one ofthe best of the Bond series. Sir Sean Connery made his debut andplayed secret agent 007,who saves the world from a powerful fiend.James Bond movies are tell-tale of western popular culture. Thesefilms sparkle with fabulous humour, thumping music, snappy action,gorgeous girls, exotic gadgets and beautiful locales. Bond moviespioneered marketing gimmicks like product placement. This series hasalso influenced film trade and evolved a winning formula- Car chase,super stunts, martinis shaken not stirred and off course lusciouswomen-What else would you like to see on the screen?

7.Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) :- By seventies, cinema pretty muchgot settled and most of genres were defined. After Vietnam War andWatergate scandal spirits in US were quite low. Americans lost faithin their political system. There were oil shortages, inflation, highunemployment and a sense that American dream was fading away.Hollywood was churning out hippy movies, and than came Star Wars.George Lucas provided a perfect happy ending fantasy. From theopening scroll it touched audience hearts world over. It was amagnificent adventure for a kid in everyone. The movie was part FlashGordon, part Wizard of Oz and had a simple good guys vs bad guysplot . However it changed film trade forever. Before `Star Wars'nobody knew about merchandising, toys, posters, tee-shirts, videocassettes sales etc etc. George Lucas also employed dazzling specialeffects, fantastic Graphics and very believable puppeteering. It alsolaunched Harison Ford ,Mark Hamil and Carrie Fisher to unparallelstardom however R2D2 and C3PO stole the show.I have heard theserobots have been placed in Smithsonian institute.

8.Saturday Night Fever (1976-77):-This movie was based on a newspaperarticle about Brooklyn youth and disco scene of 1970s. Though thescript was loaded with clichés yet it conveyed a convincing statementabout youth culture. It reminded Hollywood about musicals andreignited interest in musicals and dance movies. It was forerunner tomany dance movies including Grease, Flash dance, Fame, StayingAlive , Dirty Dancing and so on. Directed by John Badham, JohnTrovolta debuted as a young disco stud and brought enoughcreditability to the otherwise dark role. And his dancing was a crazeworld over. It was a stunning film debut. Some of the songs by BeeGees like `You should be dancing', `how deep is your love', 'Nightfever' and `Staying Alive' have become pop culture anthems. The moviesound track album remains one of the highest selling albums ever.

9.Pulp Fiction –I have very fond memory of this movie. Back in 90s, Iwent to my video rental shop in F-8 Islamabad which was owned by aretired Chief Tech.I asked for some latest good movie. he said thatthere was a movie which nobody liked but he was sure I wouldappreciate. I was amused by his remarks, still rented it out. and Ihated its every frame and cursed its director as well as my friendchief tech who rented the movie to me. However by concluding sequenceI realized I was watching a new type of cinema. Undoubtedly `PulpFiction' generated a new level of cinema where the film consisted ofnumber of stories which linked into one final outcome. Directed byQuinten Tarintino ,Pulp Fiction is episodical story telling. It isfull of shocking and lyrical violence. The movie turned aroundsagging career of John Travolta and gave Samuel L. Jackson a bigbreak. Uma Thurman was the icing on the cake. Quinten Tarintino madeKill Bill Vol-1 and 2 on the similar format but Pulp Fiction remainshis best effort.

10.The Matrix :- Finally The Matrix; so much has been written aboutthis movie that I cannot add anything to it. Matrix changed the waymovies are made and the way audience watch. The script borrowedheavily from mythology, philosophy and religions. Some of the ideaspresented were rage, like Morpheus telling Neo, "what is real, just abio-chemical signal to your brain." The shooting techniques forexample things like `bullet time' were ground breaking, actionbreathtaking and post production out of the box.

About Omar Khayam

About Omar Khayam

Omar Khayyam's full name was Ghiyath al-Din Abu'l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nisaburi al-Khayyami. A literal translation of the name al-Khayyami (or al-Khayyam) means 'tent maker' and this was the trade of Ibrahim his father. Khayyam played on the meaning of his own name when he wrote:-

Khayyam, who stitched the tents of science,
Has fallen in grief's furnace and been suddenly burned,
The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life,
And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing

He was tutored by Sheik Muhammad Mansuri, one of the most well-known scholars of the time. In his youth, Omar Khayyám studied under Imam Mowaffak of Nishapore, who was considered to be one of the greatest teachers of the Khorassan region. According to one account, two other exceptional students began studying under the same teacher at about the same time. One of these rose to become the Vizier to the Seljukid Empire and was famous as Nizam-ul-Mulk Tussi. The other was Hassan-ibn-Sabah, who went on to become the leader of the Hashshashin and created his "janat"(paradise) in Killa al Mout.

Omar Khayyam was an outstanding mathematician, astronomer and poet. He wrote several works including "Problems of Arithmetic", before he was 25 years old. In 1070 he moved to Samarkand in Uzbekistan which was at that time one of the most culturally advanced and intellectually stimulating cities of Central Asia. There Khayyam wrote his most famous algebra work, "Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra".

Omar Khayyám was a brilliant astronomer as well. He estimated and proved to an audience that included the then-prestigious and most respected scholar Imam Ghazali that the universe is not moving around earth as was believed by all at that time. By constructing a revolving platform and simple arrangement of the star charts lit by candles around the circular walls of the room, he demonstrated that earth revolves on its axis, bringing into view different constellations through out the night and day (completing a one-day cycle).

All these theories were adopted by later day astronomers. He also came up with a star map (now lost). Khayyam measured, in eleventh century,the length of the year as 365.24219858156 days which is outstandingly accurate.

Outside the world of mathematics and astronomy, Omar Khayyam is best known as a result of Edward Fitzgerald's popular translation in 1859 of nearly 600 short four line poems the Rubaiyat. Khayyam's fame as a poet has caused some to forget his scientific achievements which were much more substantial. Versions of the forms and verses used in the Rubaiyat existed in Persian literature before Khayyam, and only about 120 of the verses can be attributed to him with certainty. Of all the verses, the best known is the following:-

The Moving Finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

He had some unorthodox ideas and non-conventional views about religion, which is a natural outcome of intellectual curiosity and searching for answers. It is also said that he converted to Christianity. The myth of his supposed Christian faith was spread by some Orientalists after Fitzgerald's translations. He is buried in Nishapore according to the Muslim custom.

Sources:-Britannica and some other material

Nisar Bazmi passes away

Nisar Bazmi, died after a long illness in Karachi on Thursday March22 ,2007 . He was 82. Bazmi Sahab was a brilliant composer and composed many unforgetable songs. AhmedRushdi's "Aise bhi hain meherban" or "kuchh loag rooth kar bhi", Noor Jehan's "Abhi dhoond hi rahi thi", Runa Laila's "Dil dhadke"or "Kaatay na katay", Mehdi Hasan's "Ranjish hi sahi", Nayyara Noor's "Bol re guriya bol zara", and Alamgir's "Hum chale to humaray"are all his unforgettable hits and demonstrate the quality of his work.


Bazmi was born Syed Nisar Ahmed in Mumbai, India, in 1925 into a religious family, he changed his last name to Bazmi to embark on a film music career in Bombay-India. His first film, Jumna Paar, was released in 1946 which immediately established him as a first-rate composer.Bazmi composed songs for more than 40 films in India.


In Pakistan, he started his career with "Aisa bhi hota hai".He also composed some very popular national songs . PTV played agreat role in popularising Mehdi Hasan's "Yeh watan tumhara hai", "Khayalrakhna",by Alamgir "Hum zinda qaum hain" and "Aae rooh-i-Quaid".


I had the honour to record a PAF song with him in 1994.The song "HumArz-e-Pak kee Hawayee Fauj kay Auqab hain"was written by the famous post Sahba Akhtar.Bazmi Sahab composed it and Muhammad Ali Shayki was the singer. He was very particular to give it a `martial-tune' feeling. We later-on shot its video in Sargodha. AM Mushaf Ali Mir was the Base Commander. I wanted a shot where a close formation of four F-16s was to fly under the hovering helicopter with a cameraman. It was quite a complex sequence. However, Base Commander agreed and we went ahead to shoot it. Also I selected some really rugged, tough looking pilots (Muhammad Iqbal 72nd Rafiqui was there) in the video. I remember Director Public Relations PAF joked," I suppose all these guys are there to scare people" .


Bazmi sahib was a very religious man in his private life.May Allahrest his soul in eternal peace.


This was written in March 2007, for Sargodhian forum.A more detailed version will be part of the book.

Something about BEE GEES

BEE GEES are arguably the most durable band in the history of pop music. No other popular music act can claim of attracting audience across decades the '60s, '70s, '80s, or '90s. Bee Gees started in the mid '60s with a Beatlesque sound and quickly developed as songwriters in their own right and style, perfecting in the process a progressivepop sound all their own. They were at the zenith of popularity in thelate 70s. Their popularity faded with the passing of disco's appeal,but they reinvented themselves and transformed to the most successfulwhite soul band of all time. No wonder Bee Gees have following invirtually every corner of the globe.



The Bee Gees are three brothers: Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, and Maurice Gibb. In 1970, while Robin pursued a solo career, the album "Cucumber Castle" was released with just Barry and Maurice as the Bee Gees. After the death of Maurice Gibb, Barry and Robin have stopped performing, however it is said that their music remains on air somewhere around the globe round the clock.



The brothers Gibb were born in the Isle of Man. Barry was born onSeptember 1st 1946. Robin and Maurice, twins, were born on December22nd 1949. The family later on moved to Manchester, England. In 1958 the Gibb family moved to Australia. It was there that the brothers started pursuing professional careers as musicians. Their father, Hugh Gibb had been a professional drummer and band leader in his youth. He guided them well and soon they were performing on local radio and TV broadcasts. Around that time they named themselves the Brothers Gibb, and later, the Bee Gees. Previously they called themselves "The Rattlesnakes".



In 1966 the Bee Gees had their first number one single inAustralia, "Spicks and Specks." The following January the Gibb family boarded a ship back to England. The 1967 album "Bee Gees First" was a tremendous debut. However they sounded so Beattlesque that the single, "New York Mining Disaster 1941", was believed by many to be recorded by the `Beatles' under a different name. With thesuccess of "Holiday" and "To Love Somebody", people soon knew quite well who the Bee Gees were. Later that year, the Bee Gees released the album "Horizontal" which had an amazing single "Massachusetts"which topped the UK charts. Next year in 1968, the "Idea" album followed having classics like "I Started a Joke" and "I've Gotta Get a Message To You". Despite being brothers and years of performing together, the sudden rise to fame overwhelmed the Bee Gees. In 1969, with the releaseof "Odessa" album, Robin departed to pursue a solo career. Meanwhile,Barry and Maurice continued together as the Bee Gees. Their next album, "Cucumber Castle",was a modest success. Soon after, however,Barry and Maurice went their separate ways as well.



Thereconciliation was slow and gradual. Barry once remarked that if they hadn't been brothers, they probably never would have gotton backtogether. Their get together "Two Years On" album seemed more likean anthology of three soloists than a group effort. This album had "Lonely Days", another huge hit. On their next album, "Trafalgar", the reconciliation process continued.



Bee Gees finally had their first #1 single in theUS, "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart". The success of this classic showed that the brothers were far more successful as a group than they would ever be as soloists."Trafaglar"and their next effort, the 1972 album "To Whom It May Concern", demonstrated that Bee Gees were best doing soft ballads.The songs "Run To Me" and "My World" were typical of the group's sound of that time.Bee Gees decided to move to United States and find new directions musically. Unfortunately, Bee Gees were not successful in US initially but they recovered and in 1974 Bee Gees recorded "MainCourse", featuring "Jive Talkin", "Nights on Broadway", and "Fanny(Be Tender With My Love)". The sound of the album was intrinsically different and far more intense.



The 1976 "Children of the World" album was a true test of their talents. The album's first single, "You Should BeDancing", quickly rose to success as the dance clubs latched on to its intense rhythms and falsetto harmonies. Among the trendy night clubs and discotheques, the song became an anthem. Other songs from thealbum,"Boogie Child" and "Love So Right", also did very well.



And then came "Saturday Night Fever". Robert Stigwood, their manager and friend requested some songs for a movie soundtrack he was producing-a low budget dance movie set in Brooklyn. He persuaded brothers to give him the songs that were already recorded for their next album. These recordings eventually became the soundtrack of "Saturday Night Fever". In late 1977, the film "Saturday Night Fever" was released. Three songs from the soundtrack -- "How Deep Is Your Love", "Stayin Alive", and "Night Fever" -- instantly climbed to the top of the singles charts. The soundtrack album stayed at #1 for24 weeks, becoming the all time top selling album up to that time, and remains even now one of the best selling album in history of pop music.




At one point, Gibb compositions held all the top five slots on Billboard's top ten. With the astounding success of the "SaturdayNight Fever" soundtrack, Disco suddenly was a rage around the globe.This sort of success naturally evokes a wide span of reactions,ranging from blind imitation to outright resentment and loathing and thus an anti-disco backlash began.It was unfortunate and unfair that the Bee Gees were blamed for disco. Had the movie "Saturday Night Fever" never been made, and those same compositions made their way to the Bee Gees' next studio album as originally planned, the whole "disco fever" travesty might have been avoided.



Disco was as much a fashion fad as a music trend and the irony was that the Bee Gees didn't like to dance and didn't even like the movie" Saturday Night Fever ". They took pride in their craft, not in the merchandising of garish disco lifestyle.In their next studio album, "Spirits Having Flown", they sought to be different. The lead single, "Too Much Heaven", was a slow ballad,not a disco dance tune. The "Spirits Having Flown" album had avariety of musical styles, from the Caribbean feel of the title track to the smokey nightclub sound of "Stop, Think Again." "Tragedy", was undeniably disco in style but it was quite rockish.Still everybody blamed Bee Gees for disco.



Early eighties were not agood time for the brothers because of the disco backlash and the emergence of punk rock and new wave groups defining the sound of the80's.the release of "Living Eyes" was hence a huge disaster.For the next 5 to 6 years Bee Gees didn't release any more studio albums. They didn't go on tour. Instead, their efforts were divided between writing and producing for other artists and working on their own occasional solo projects. The lone exception to this period was the soundtrack to the movie "Stayin' Alive". Sylvester Stallone was hired to direct this sequel to "Saturday Night Fever". Looking at the film, it is obvious that this was a work crafted in Stallone's own image. Even John Travolta ended up looking like Rambo.



Barbra Streisand asked the brothers to work with her on her nextalbum. Barry agreed and produced her album "Guilty" which had three top 10 singles in 1980, and has been the most successful album of her career.Later on Barry produced Dionne Warwick's "Heartbreaker" LP, and "Eyes That See In The Dark" for Kenny Rogers. "Islands in the Stream" was a huge country hit for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. It also crossed over and dominated mainstream pop also one of very few country duets to ever do so. In all the excitement, people didn't seem to notice who wrote and composed the song. The biggest country hit of 1983 was written by the same composers who wrote the disco anthem "Stayin' Alive". Bee Gees had made a most remarkable transition in their music, and hardly anyone seemed to realize it.



As if to emphasize the point, the Bee Gees made another transition.They agreed to work on a R&B album for Motown diva DianaRoss. "Eaten Alive" and the single "Chain Reaction" gave Diana Ross her first major chart success on the both sides of Atlantic. Surprisingly, Bee Gees had proven their worth as songwriters and producers with both country music and R&B acts but at the sametime their own career was going nowhere. In 1987, The "E.S.P." album brought the single "You Win Again", a #1 success in several countries. The USA, however, wasn't one of them.



Following the tragic death of younger brother Andy Gibb in 1988, the Bee Gees started to seriously re-evaluate their careers.Trying to make sense of the tragedy, they also began to feel a needto truly dedicate themselves to what they've always done best; theirmusic-song writing and performing. Regardless of what the criticsthought about Bee Gees, they made a come back with the 1989 album "One" which brought the brothers success in USA and Europe. For the first time in ten years, Bee Gees set forth on a world tour.In 1993, they released the CD "Size Isn't Everything". Appearances on radio and TV brought inevitable one-liners about the meaning of the title. Howard Stern asked them "which one is the 'biggest' Bee Gee? Answer was off course Barry.




In 1997 Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.Their 1997 release, "Still Waters," debuted at #2 on the UK charts.The compilation album "The Very Best of the Bee Gees" also remained in the top ten for quite some time.Despite many ups and downs their extraordinary song-writing, composing and singing-rooted in the voices that are appealing individually as well as melding together so perfectly and naturally-remained a constant through out their history. Their harmonies are so good that they make the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, and Simon &Garfunkel - all famous for their harmonies - almost seem hollow and artificial. After the death of Maurice Gibb they have stopped performing still I am sure they would be planning another album or the next single.


I am also listing my favourite Bee Gees songs:-



1. I started a joke



2. Massachusetts



3. How deep is your love?



4. staying alive



5. Night fever



6. Words



7. Too much heaven



8. Closer than close



9. New York mining disaster



10. Nights on Broadway






Note:-several print and internet sources have been used for the article.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Governance Issues in Media

Session I: Electronic Media
Concurrent Session B-7


The speakers said there is a massive communication gap between the citizens and the local governments despite efforts by the National Reconstruction Bureau to rectify it through its Governance and Media Cell. They urged a strong local media involvement for awareness about the local government system.

Media analyst Jehanzeb Aziz, in his paper, Gaps between governance and the masses: the case of devolution plan, analysed the National Reconstruction Bureau's media strategy and its impacts. He called for more independent, fair and objective studies to bridge the information gaps between the devolution plan and the citizens.He shared that the NRB has equipped itself with many diversified tasks. The organization, though a part of the Prime Minister's Secretariat, does not have a practical, executable plan for advocacy and education regarding its role and functions.

According to his presentation, the Media and Governance Cell, devised to bridge the gap in governance issues among masses, keep people abreast of different activities going on at tehsil and district levels and dispel false impressions against the devolution process, has not been able to perform these functions.He said only 12 percent of the people are aware of the local government system, 23 percent how nazims are elected, while a bare 2 percent have knowledge about Citizen Community Boards (CBOs). He said in the urban areas only 11 percent and in the rural areas 9 percent felt that the local governance was a better system. Reviewing the mass media environment in Pakistan, he said only 5.3 percent of the people have access to newspapers, and 97 percent of these only read headlines, and 21 percent read columns, which is a healthy trend. His research indicated that magazine readership among women was higher compared to males. While 50 percent have television sets, only 5 percent have access to computers. Interestingly, he found that despite a 39-percent listeners of FM radio stations, 9 percent listen to the All India Radio.

He concluded that despite the fact that a worse kind of oligarchy was being created with the devolution system, it was still a good system. He stressed that the media needed to take greater ownership of the process to carry it to the people. “An independent, fair and objective study is required to know how much progress has actually taken place.” Syed Abdul Siraj Ahmed, from the Allama Iqbal Open University, Pakistan, in his paper, Post-modernism and the mass media, gave a comparative analysis of the pre and post-modernist media. He discussed how post-modernist society had become a visual society dominated by media reality. “We are living in a three-minute culture because reality is littered with video footage, computer games, advertising, film, television images and photographs.”

He discussed how post-modernism was a set of literary and cultural movements emerging after the collapse of the division between the elite and mass/common cultures. He said the speed of communications had brought about the concept of “here and now”. He felt that the remote control had given more control to the audience in the communication process. Siraj cited this as a key reason behind fragmentation and segmentation in the society. “This cauterization of audience has changed the very definition of mass communication.” Tragically, now more emphasis was on style rather than the substance and content. His presentation highlighted how advertising techniques are used to make or break a company, irrespective of the quality of the product. “A poor product can be successful due to great advertising while an excellent product can fail. People get influenced by brands when they buy things.”

Matiullah Jan’s paper, District governance and the role of FM radio, recommended that given the regulatory laws regarding coverage of public service messages, the districts should make best use of the FM radio channels. He said the district governments and FM radio were both a new phenomenon at the grassroots. He felt that FM radio would be the ultimate tool of empowering people. “Aggressive news reporting, interviews, debates and discussions by an FM radio station will put life into an otherwise dull system of local governments.” He said a local FM radio could be a powerful instrument to bring people back to participatory democracy and draw them out of their houses on polling days.

He identified various departments/sections (CBO activities) of the district government set up that ought to be covered by FM radio reporters to keep the community well informed. Matiullah said the lacunas in the laws and by-laws of the district council legal framework prevented journalists from obtaining information and for this there was need for greater transparency on the part of nazims. Media personnel should have access to union council proceedings, he recommended. The website launched by NRB to facilitate free flow of information was only used as an advertising tool to glorify the nazims, he said, and called for bringing the public into the mainstream political discourse. The discussant, Eamoinn Taylor, head of Development Section at DFID, reiterated that electronic media needed to work aggressively and strategically to bridge the gaps, as the government bodies failed to inform the public about the devolution process.

He felt it was important for the state and the media to involve the citizens, adding that it was disheartening the citizens had such little information about CBOS, bodies designed specifically to work for them. He called for structural and behavioral reforms to move from “notions of tabedaree (submission) to notions of barabaree (egalitarianism).” In the brief plenary, it was suggested to discuss and debate the issue of the “tyranny of reportage” under a military rule as well. A participant questioned how Pakistan could be called a country living in the post-modern era since we were neither a text age nor an audio visual one, given the rate of rising illiteracy. Moneeza Hashmi of PTV, Pakistan, chaired the session.

Reference:
http://www.sdpi.org/help/research_and_news_bulletin/Nov_Dec_2004/governance_issues_in_media.htm

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Humour Is Always Native

This interview was recorded in 2003 by the VOICE Monthly, Islamabad

A tête-à-tête with writer, dramatist and producer Jehanzeb Aziz,
By The Voice Team

HUMOUR is serious business. Ask the failed slapsticks! In the realm of Urdu literature, very few people have ventured the genre and fewer still earned a reputation worth the salt. Jehanzeb Aziz, our personality of the month, entered the arena through his book Aik Dafa Ka Zikr Hai. According to Jehanzeb, the book was not exactly a conscious effort. Apart from the book, he is keen to do a lot many things. The Voice interviewed the PAF officer turned writer, advertising and PR practitioner , who heads the media department of the National Registration and Data Base Authority (NADRA). He has also served in the Inter Services Public Relations Air Wing.

Jehanzeb has not limited his craft to humour, trebling as a dramatist and producer to boot. He claims to have been infected with the bug of writing from his childhood. His joy and happiness knew no bounds when his first essay Makhan Lagana Aik Fun Hai (Buttering Is An Art) was published in the Urdu journal 'Hakayat'. As a person, he is forthright and amiable.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What were your feelings on reading your script for the first time?A: Beyond explanation. I always enjoy reading whatever I have written and it gives a strange kind to happiness to me.

Q: You have had a distinguished career in Pakistan Air Force. How did you manage to spare time for literary activities?A: Life at PAF was so hectic and exciting that today when I recall, I am unable to understand how I managed to do it all. Writing is a full time job and it is only possible to write when you are able to develop a train of thought. Otherwise, you cannot even imagine writing anything. In my opinion, if you want to write one page, you have to read a hundred, otherwise, you cannot produce anything worthwhile. As far as I am concerned, I lay no claim to having produced any special work. I’m indebted to Syed Zamir Jaffery, who advised me to test myself in writing. This is how I came to be.

Q: Humour is not any easy form of literature. What inspired you to opt for it instead of relatively easier forms?A: I did not intend to write humour. I just wanted to write in the language which is in vogue and which abounds in humour. My language is not the traditional language of other books, couched in grammar. It is local parlance done without preparation of any kind of notes.

Q: Pundits opine that one loses all fire for writing after penning a book or that craze for writing gets a new impetus. What is your experience?A: My craze is still alive and at peak. My second book is headed for the shelves shortly although I have yet to finalise the title. This book also deals with the lighter side of life, where the reader will be able to enjoy a fresh lease. I believe the majority of Pakistanis are not greatly tuned to reading. I have made a very deliberate effort to keep a lighter vein so that the reader is tempted not to leave it in midway. I have just finished a novel written in potohari language.I am also working on another novel which is based on my experiences especially in armed forces of Pakistan.

Q: Are you inspired by big names in Urdu humour?A: I think a lot of serious poetry and prose on romance has been written in Urdu, but the same is not true of humour. Yet, one aspect about this genre of literature is encouraging: although small quantitatively, Urdu humour competes favourably with international standards qualitatively and the credit for this goes to the big names. Pitras Bukhari, Mushtaq Ahmed Yousafi, Syed Zamir Jaffery, Shafiq-ur-Rehman, Colonel Mohammad Khan, Mohammad Khalid Akhtar are the torch-bearers.

Q: Which among these inspires you the most?
A: Khalid Akhtar off course. He is in league of his own.I also like Ibn-e-Saffi.He is probably one of the most under rated writers of urdu language despite the fact that he is the most selling writer even almost two decades after his death. His characters and his stories are awesome.

Q: Poets and writers enjoy recognition, globally. Do you think humorists also share the same limelight?A: No. In my considered opinion, humour does not conform to a way of writing that has a certain international appeal. Poetry on the other hand, is universal in content. Novel and romance also share a global slice. Whereas humour is always native, addressing the local environment. In a way, you can find a similarity here, with folk arts.

Q: Tell us about your skills on the canvas?A: Apart from writing, I also have an abiding interest in painting. I enjoy romancing with canvas, I was not able to go to some art school for formal training primarily because of my cadetship and PAF service but I enjoy painting.

Q:Have you exhibited your work?A: No and yes. I have not had a formal kind of exhibition. I normally paint and sell them.

Q :And how you ended up in Advertising and public Relations.?A:Somewhere in 1994-93, I met Director Public Relations ( P.A.F). Group Captain Naveed, he asked me to work for Yaum-e-Fizaya (Air Force Day). He offered me to join ISPR Air Wing and from then on I am in it. Later, Group Captain Sultan M. Hali took over as DPR (PAF), who had been my instructor when I was a cadet. We, by the grace of almighty became a winning team and together we implemented many changes and improvements. We produced several documentaries, videos and a very successful drama seriel based on life in Pakistan Air Force.

Q : And your writing and painting background helped?A:Off course- painting is about visuals- and it helped a lot. ISPR Air Wing and at Hawk Advertising where I was Creative Director, these skills helped.

Q: What is the story behind drama seriel Shahpar?A: The drama serial was planned in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the country. Group Capt Hali and I did all the planning and requested noted playwright Mustansir Hussain Tarar to write the script. He very kindly consented to it. The production of the serial was assigned to me. For direction, senior television producer Qaisar Farooq was requested but the then PTV managing director did not agree to the proposal and instead asked Syed Shakir Aziz to do the job. The drama was a major hit, producing record business. I was responsible for the production and I also directed the aerial sequences.

Q: But there was lot of controversy also about 'Shahpar'?A: You see anything good is controversial. Some people raised some objections about the serial drawing heavily on romance. My response to such objections was that flying per se, is a romance. Through Shahpar we tried to portray the proud pilots of PAF as normal human beings, not supernatural creatures. We wanted to communicate that they are not mere mechanical parts, but wholesome human beings with feelings as strong or weak as any other mortal.

Q: How was your experience doing various PAF projects?A: Very challenging. Actually doing anything in air adds another dimension to the whole scheme of things. When you are recording a sequence on ground your characters and camera remain on ground. But when you are in the air, everything changes. Your camera is in the air, your characters are flying and the light source changes at every moment. It has a different dynamics altogether.

Q: Did you receive an award for Shahpar?A: Yes Musawar Award.

Q: You wrote drama seriel Sajri Sawai for PTV. Have you switched over to drama writing from production?A: You see, basically I am a writer. Senior PTV producer Syed Taufiq Shah is among good friends of mine, he asked me to write the script. It is a story of Pakistanis living abroad with a bent on the trials and tribulations of these expatriates.

Q: After Air Force how is NADRA getting along.?A: Well NADRA is something truly exciting. First of all every Pakistani, young old, living here or abroad is our audience. Then NADRA’s product is very unique. It remains with (you) always. All these things makes it challenging as well as exiting.

Q: Why these new ID cards?A: We are changing the system, as you know the previous system was manual and according to a safe estimate there were more than 10 million fake or illegal or bogus identity cards in circulation. However NADRA is not about just making ID cards, it is infact one of our by-products. The main target is to get registered each and every person in Pakistan through all available means.

Q: What is the response of the general public?A: The response has been overwhelming; beyond our estimates and projections. Till date more than 30 million application forms have been acquired. The rate of submission of filled-in forms is also very fast, it is faster than what we can easily handle.

Q: How do you see NADRA performance as far its goals are concerned?
A: In a short span of time NADRA has successfully completed the scanning and data entry of all the National Data Forms (64 Million) and has successfully used this data for the production of the computerized Electoral Rolls. NADRA is already issuing the new computerized National Identity Cards to the citizens of Pakistan. National ID cards for Overseas Pakistani(NICOP) and Pakistan Origin Crad (POC) is in the pipeline. The national data warehouse is a national asset.I am sure it will inshalla be a very effective decision support system in the future.

Q: How are you approaching your audience?
A: This has been a real challenge. And I had and still have huge tasks at hand. We are employing integrated approach for our mass communications effort using various above the line and below the line communications methods.

Q: What is your opinion about current media and advertising in Pakistan?A: We are witnessing major changes. Media ,advertising professionals and advertisers all must be prepared to deal with the new situation in the times ahead. Like satellite and cable TV have arrived in Pakistan but we still do not know what to do with them. In the same way we are yet to exploit the potential of internet properly. Our advertising agencies must be prepared to take up new challenges. There is an acute shortage of trained people in advertising industry. There is shortage of creative directors, good copywriters and visualisers. Karachi based agencies are more professional because of the availability of trained manpower and better infrastructure like studios etc. On client side, especially government media managers need to be more professional. I think we are moving towards more accountability. We need research organizations like Gallop Pakistan and Aftab Associates for devising media plans based on facts and figures.

Q:What are your future projects?A: As I have said earlier my second book is almost complete. I have just finished a novel written in potohari language, Drama seriel Sajri Seware was based on this novel. I am also working on another novel.It is a very difficult subject but I hope and pray, I will be able to finish it. I am in pre-production stage of a comedy drama serial. lets see what happens only Allah knows about the future.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sub-Continent Classical Music

The sub-continent classical music has thousands of years of history but it remains predominantly an oral art form with very little written tradition. It is based on a system of seven notes called Sargam.The seven basic notes are as follows:-

• Sa -Shadaja
• Re- Rishab or Rekhab
• Ga- Gandhar
• Ma- Madham
• Pa -Pancham
• Dha-Dhewat
• Ni-Nishad or nikhad

According to some accounts these notes have been taken from sounds of various animals. The sound of Shadaja has come from cry of peacock; Rishab has cry of cuckoo; Gandhar is from goat; Madham from the cry of crane; Pancham from the koel; Dhewat from neighing of horse and Nishad from the trumpeting of elephant.

It is also believed that these notes come from different parts of body, Sa is from abdomen, Re from heart, Ga from chest Ma from throat, Pa from palate, Dha from mouth and Ni from the nose.

The basic scale of sub-continent music is similar to the western 12-note scale. The main difference is that the intervals between consecutive notes are not equal. This means they can be varied to suit a particular composition or raag/raga. The differences in names of notes from Western are:-

Sub-continent: Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni
Western: Do(C), Re(D), Mi(E), Fa(F), Sol(G), La(A), Si(B)

These seven notes are like the white keys on a piano keyboard. The intervals between them are further divided and there are five intermediate notes. In other words five out of these seven are further divided into two known as Komal and Teever. To clarify and make it easier; the first two notes are Sa and Re. The one between Sa and Re is called ‘Re Komal’, so the first three notes are Sa, Re Komal and Re Teever.

Likewise between Re and Ga is "Komal Ga" , between Pa and Dha is "Komal Dha" and between Dha and Ni is "Komal Ni". That accounts for four notes. The fifth lies between Ma and Pa but it is called "Teever Ma". The final result is :-

Sa, Komal Re, Teever Re, Komal Ga, Teever Ga, Komal Ma, Tivra Ma, Pa, Komal Dha, teveer Dha, Komal Ni, Teveer Ni

Hence these twelve notes compile a saptak or an octave. Two of these, the first note Sa and fifth note Pa are fixed or natural known as Shudh. Five are komal or flate and five are teever or sharp. It must be kept in mind that terms komal and teever are not exactly the same as western flate and sharp. For example, in western system every note can be flat or sharp but in sub-continent music Shajda(Sa) and Pancham(Pa) are fixed. The four Komal notes and one Teever note correspond to the black notes on a piano keyboard. Five Teever and two natural or fixed or Shud notes are like the white keys on a piano keyboard. Both western and sub-continent systems repeat the octave.

The sub continent music is based on two fundamental components; Sur and taal or melody and rhythm. Some also include “Laye” or tempo but widely agreed components are sur and taal. These two are embodied in a note pattern or raag/raga and rhythm pattern or taal. This brings us to the backbone of sub-continent classical music, RAAG or RAGA. So what is a raag?

Raag is defined as a precise, subtle, and aesthetic melodic pattern of notes with its own peculiar ascending and descending pattern consisting at least five notes. Omission of a dissonant note, or an emphasis on a particular note, or the transition from one note to another distinguishes one raag/raga from the other. Following are the important points about raag/raga:-

The first note of the sargam Sa (shadja) can never be absent in a raag/raga as it is considered the reference note.

A raag/raga can exclude either "Ma", or "Pa" but both "Ma" and "Pa" cannot be excluded simultaneously.

A raag/raga does not have less than five notes.A raag/raga with all seven notes is known as Sampooran raag.khado raag is a raag having six notes and a raag which has five notes is known as Odho raag.

Each raag/raga has its own principal mood such as tranquillity, devotion, eroticism, loneliness, pathos, heroism, etc. It is associated, according to its mood, with a particular time of the day, night or a season.

There are three basic types of raags/ragas:-

Shuddh Raag : The raag in which even if any notes that are not present in it are used, it's nature and form does not change.

Chhayalag Raag : The raag in which if any notes that are not present in it are used, it's nature and form changes.

Sankeerna Raag : The raag in which there is a combination of two or more raags.

How to describe Raag/raga?

Following important terminology is used for describing a Raag/raga:-

Vaadi : The most prominent note or most dominant note of the raag is known as its vadi sur or principle note.

Samvaadi : The second most important or complimentary note or harmonic note of the raag/raga is its samvadi. It used lesser than the vaadi but more than the other notes of the raag. Normally samvadi is the fourth or fifth note from the Vaadi.

Anuvaadi : The other remaining notes of the raag are anuvaadi.(other than Vaadi and Samvaadi).

Vevaadi or Bevaadi: The note which is not present in the raag and one which produces dissonance is vivadi sur or dissonant note.

Aaroha : Ascending order of the notes in raag/raga is known as Aaroha or Aarohi. Here each note is higher than the preceding note for example : Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni

Avaroha : The descending of the notes in raag/rag is known as its Avaroha. Here each note is lower than the preceding note for example Ni, Dha, Pa, Ma, Ga, Re, Sa

Pakad/Pakar : A small group of notes which describe the unique features of the raag.

Thaat : The system of classification for the raags/rags in different groups. In sub-continent classical music there are 10 thaats or classification scales (more on this later)

Samay : Each Raag has a certain time attached to it or the time when it should be performed. This is because specific notes are believed to be more effective or have a greater effect on audience at that particular time.

Ras : Each raag is supposed to invoke some emotion depending upon the
notes used in the raag. This is known as Ras or effect of the particular raag.

To be continued...

This article is from the research of the forthcoming book 'Classical Music of The Sub-Continent'.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Origins of Sub-Continent Classical Music

Think about a world without music. It would be a place quite different and hard to identify with the world we live in because music is an integral and defining part of human existence. It is a great unifier and symboliser. Through the ages humanity has explored music for a variety of purposes. It has been used for religious rituals, for cultural representations, entertainment, education, for social interaction, for setting agendas and context switching, for colouring actions and events, for business; in fact the list can be unending.

There are legends, myths and theories about the origin of music but it is strange that no one knows how human beings discovered or created music. The most plausible explanation can be the theory of articulation of sounds of nature. Early homo-sapiens learned to communicate and express themselves with the help of sounds they learned from nature and those inarticulate sounds and tones evolved into music.

The idea that speech and music are systems of intoned sound is well accepted. Language is the system of sound reference- semanticity, referentiality, lexical meaning- where random sound patterns are used to convey symbolic meaning, while music is the system of sound emotion, where tonal sound patterns are used to convey emotional meaning. This means that music and language differ mainly in their emphasis rather than in their fundamental nature.

Steven Brown , Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, Canada has suggested a 'Musilanguage' model which has wide acceptance. According to him both music and human language have origins in a phenomenon known as the "musilanguage" stage of evolution, which followed well-described class of primate vocalizations known as referential emotive vocalizations. A referential emotive vocalization (REV) was a type of call that served as emotive response to some object in the environment, thus, each call-type signified a given object. REVs served an important communicative function for a group, as the meaning of each call was understandable to all members of the group, thereby encouraging appropriate responses. REVs hence provided for the dual acoustic purpose of the sound as referential meaning and sound as emotive meaning. That hominid referential emotive vocalization system evolved to a unitary lexical-tonal system, followed by a phrase system involving both combinatorial syntax and expressive phrasing properties.

The next step was divergence stage, leading eventually to the mature linguistic system and acoustic system of music that occurred through reciprocal elaboration of either sound as referential meaning (language) or sound as emotive meaning (music). An important aspect of the divergence process was the formation of different syntax types; prepositional syntax in the case of language, and blending syntax in the case of music.

Then there is a rhythm theory. Anthropologists postulate that the earliest music was rhythmic clapping of hands, clanking of stones or the striking of wooden sticks. At some stage early human found hollow tree and observed that it gave a peculiar sound, that evolved to a drum-possibly the first musical instrument known to man. This is quite plausible because fear was the strongest emotion known to primeval humans. Therefore auxiliary aids to express and cause fear were necessary.

Origins of music can also be traced in mythology. According to Greek mythology MOUSAI or Muses were the goddesses of music, song and dance. Originally there were three Muses or Mousae on Mount Helicon, namely, Melete (meditation), Mneme (memory), and Aoede (song). There they sang the festive songs for gods and sang lamentations at the funerals. Being goddesses of song, they were connected with Apollo, the god of the lyre as he was the leader of the choir of the Muses by the surname Mousagetes. The original three muses evolved to nine and were assigned specific artistic spheres by the gods. Kalliope, epic poetry; Kleio, history; Ourania, astronomy; Thaleia, comedy; Melpomene, tragedy; Polyhymnia, religious hymns; Erato, erotic poetry; Euterpe, lyric poetry; and Terpsikhore, choral song and dance.

The Chinese theory about music is nestled in nature. According to the Chinese there are eight different musical sounds in nature, namely; the sound of skin; the sound of stone; the sound of metal; the sound of clay; the sound of silk; the sound of wood; the sound of bamboo and the sound of gourd. For each of these sounds Chinese developed various music instruments. The sound of wood, metal, stone and skin led to percussion instruments. The sound of silk was embodied into string instruments and the sound of Clay, Gourd and bamboo led to wind instruments. The sound of stone is held by the Chinese to be the most beautiful of all the sounds. According to the legends, only a certain kind of stone found near the banks of the river Tee served for the making of these stone instruments.

The story of Persian music also dates back to the prehistoric era. Persians attribute the invention of music to the great legendary king Jamshaid. Historically Persian Music can be traced back to the days of the Elamite empire (2500-644 B.C) and the Achaemenid Persian Empire (550BC-330BC) which was the largest empire in the ancient world at the height of its power. The writing of Herodotus and Xenophon suggested the importance of music in court life and religious rituals during the period. Archaeological evidence also establishes an elaborate musical culture in the ancient Persians.

Sassani period (A.D. 226-651) was arguably the golden age of the Persian music. Pahlbod( Persian name) or Barbod(Arabic) was the most famous and skilled court musician of the Sassanid times. He is credited to have conceived a musical system consisting of modes and melodies. This was the oldest Middle Eastern musical system of which some traces still exist. Barbod, Nakissa and Ramtin were some of the important musicians of the Sassanid era and their work has survived in the folk traditions of Persian music. During Abbasid dynasty (AD 750-1258), Abu Nasr Farabi, wrote 'Kitab al-musiqi al-kabir' which laid the foundations of the musical tradition in the Muslim world.

Indian music or sub-continent music is one of the oldest musical traditions in the world. The artefacts of the Indus Valley civilization depict dance and musical instruments like the seven holed flute and drum. Relics of various types of string, wind instruments and drums have been recovered from Harrappa-Punjab and Mohenjo Daro-Sindh,Pakistan.

The origin of music of the sub-continent is said to have its roots in Vedas. There are differing views about origins of the Vedas. They are generally considered to be 'apourusheya' or of super-human origins or not of human composition. Saraswati was the goddess of music and learning. Narada was the first sage to whom the laws of music were revealed and Tumburu was the first singer. It is believed that classical music is derived from the 'Samaveda',which is considered to be Veda of music. Actually 'Samveda' is a collection of hymns from Rig-veda, the recital of the hymns was a religious ritual.

Apart from mythology, Natya Shastra attributed to the Sage Bharata and 'Dattilam' are the earliest text about music in sub-continent .The period of compilation of Natya Shatra is uncertain and believed to have been written during the period between 200 BC to 200AD. ‘Dattilam’ is considered a synthesis of earlier works on music and it is attributed to the sage Dattila who is believed to be an early musicologist lived in the period between 2nd and 4th B.C. The early texts points to the ritual chanting of Samaveda and vocal music known as 'Samagan', Sama meaning melody and Gan meaning to sing. Sama-gan presents the body of music having seven musical notes. The order and name of notes used in Samagan were 1. Krusht 2. Pratham 3. Dwitiya 4. Tritiya 5. Chaturth 6. Mandra and 7. Atiswar. The order of the notes was descending.

From Kushan (60-240AD) and Gupta period (280-550AD) onwards music finds a regular mention in historical texts. Kalidasa(370-450AD) who is widely regarded as the greatest writer, poet and dramatist of the Sanskrit language mentions music and various kinds of musical instruments including veena, flute (wind instruments) and Mridang (percussion instrument) in his writings. Music also finds mention in Buddhist and Jaina texts.

Brihaddeshi written by Matanga (circa 700 A.D.) is another important text about sub-continent music. It is this text in which the word "raga or raag" was mentioned, however, it is difficult to tell whether the concept was the same as it is today. Sangeet-Ratnakar written by Sharangadeva (1210-1247 AD) is considered definitive musicological text providing extensive details and commentaries about numerous musical styles that existed till that time in sub-continent.

The most significant milestone in the development of sub-continent music was the body of work of Amir Khusru (1254-1324) a legendary musician, statesman and philosopher who was the advisor to several rulers of Slave-Dynasty in Delhi. It would not be incorrect to state that he was father of the sub-continent classical music as we know today. Many present day musical structures, presentation formats and musical instruments are attributed to him. He is credited as the inventor of such important musical instruments as sitar and tabla. He was originator of musical forms like qawwali and Khayal,(more on this later)which are popular even today. Some scholars however consider his contribution to sub-continent music more legendary than factual. He nevertheless was an icon who played an important part in bringing music out of religious ritual in temples. He incorporated Persian music traditions into the sub-continent music, however his influence was greater in the Northern sub-continent than in the South. The ultimate consequence of that influence was bifurcation of sub-continent music into two distinct systems; the Hindustani or the North Indian music and the Carnatic sangeet of the South.

The contribution of the Mughal emperors being great patrons of arts and crafts to the development of sub-continent music was monumental. The legendary musician Tansen was considered a jewel of the court of Emperor Akbar the great. Legend has it that he could cause rain or that he could light fires by rendition of his music. Tansen is credited with many innovations, new raags/ragas as well as compositions.

Raja Mansingh Tomar (1486-1516 AD) of Gwalior contributed a lot in the shift from Sanskrit to the more common Hindi as the language for classical songs. He himself wrote many compositions on religious and secular themes. He was also responsible for the major compilation, the 'Mankutuhal' (book of curiosity) which outlined the foremost forms of music in India. His most important contribution was the development of 'Dhrupad' a classical musical form (More on this later).Tomar's court had a galaxy of musicians such as Baiju Bawra and Swami Haridas who composed and wrote a large number of songs in Brij Bhasha and Hindi. Swami Haridas is said to have been the teacher of both Miyan Tansen and legendary dhrupad singer and composer Baiju Bawra.

The patronage of music continued in smaller princely states like Lucknow, Patiala, Baroda , Banaras etc after the dissolution of the Mughal empire in India. This resulted to the diversity of styles and a system of teaching, learning and rendition that is today known as 'gharanas'. The term gharana is derived from the urdu/hindi word 'ghar' which means 'family' or 'house'. The gharana concept gained currency in the nineteenth century when the royal patronage weakened. Apart from family identity, a gharana signifies a comprehensive musicological ideology.

In early twentieth century Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936) undertook extensive research on North Indian or Hindustani as well as Carnatic music. He painstakingly analysed and documented his research. Between 1909 and 1932, he brought out the definitive work on sub-continent music, 'Hindustani Sangeeth Padhathi' in four volumes. He suggested a system for the transcription for the music. He classified almost 2000 compositions from the major gharanas and musicians and codified various raags/ragas in 'Thaat' system. Although some of the Ustads (teachers of music) point out many inconsistencies and ambiguities in Bhatkande's system still his contribution remains monumental.

After the British Raj , the emergence of India and Pakistan affected the thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music in Sub-continent in many ways. Traditionally classical Music had patronage of royals and aristocracy. The performances were held in the courts or in "Mehfil"(house concert) of wealthy Zamindars' homes. It was considered high culture, something which the upper class society and connoisseurs enjoyed. After independence all princely states merged with either India or Pakistan. The patronage of Music hence shifted from aristocracy to Government or non-governmental institutions. With the change of patronage the emphasis of performances and presentation also changed. Instead of closed performances for well cultivated audiences, the new lay listeners of Music did not appreciate the finer points. The performers were compelled to satisfy the common audience. This resulted in shifting the focus of performances towards variety in music compositions and attention on pleasing the audience according to their tastes. This was a major and quite unfortunate change because exhibition of technical expertise and improvisation was a very special and unique feature of the classical Music.

The musicians in Pakistan got closer to 'Urdu' and folk traditions of the areas in Pakistan. In India, the musicians moved towards Sanskrit as the concept of national integration gained importance. Efforts were made to integrate the north Indian classical music and carnatic sangeet. The All India Radio introduced a special type of concert where integration of the two different classical systems was attempted and highlighted.

To be continued...

References:-

The Origins of Music- Brown, Steven, N. L. Wallin , and B. Merker (2000). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Israr-e-Mausiqi-Firoze Nizami, Idara-E-Nashreen,Lahore.

The Raags Of North Indian Music-Their Structure and Evolution- N.A. Jairazbhoy, Faber and Faber,UK,1971.

Hindustani Music in 20th Century-Wim Van Der Meer, Allied Publishers, Bombay,1980.

Raag Rung-Inayat Elahi Malik, Kitab Numa,Lahore

Classical Music Of Sub-Continent-S M Shahid,Fazeel Sons Karaci,1999.

The Lost World of Hindustani Music- Kumar Parsad Mukherjee, Penguin Books India 2006 and Oxford University Press Karachi-2007

Monday, May 25, 2009

Qawwali

Qawwali is the traditional form of music found in sub-continent associated to the Sufi traditions. The word qawwali is derived from the Arabic word ‘Qaol’ which means ‘axiom’ or ‘quote’. Sufism is a school of Islamic thought which is based on the yearning to attain truth and divine love. The Sufi believes that it is possible to reach God through Zikr (the remembrance) of Almighty. Zikr can be silent or vocal. The qawwali may be viewed as an extension of the vocal form of the zikr or remembrance.

Qawali has developed from the Persian and Central Asian tradition of Samah or hadrah(hazrah in urdu) in Arabs. A group zikr (dhikr in Arabic) ceremony in Arab countries is called the hadrah. The typical hadrah is most often held on Thursday evenings after night prayer or on Fridays after Juma prayers. In Turkey the group ceremony is called Zikr-i Kiyam. Initially no instruments were used; later on Daf (A percussion instrument) became a common instrument. Samah included vocalist and instrumentalists and took place under the direction of a spiritual guide or sheikh.

Imam Al-Ghazali(1085-1111) discussed the spiritual effects of music and its principles within the Islamic context. These principles were later on expanded by the Chisti school of Sufism. It is this sufi-order which adopted qawwali for the propagation of the message in sub-continent.

Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti(1141-1230 / 1143-1234) was the most famous Sufi saint of the Chisti order. He was born in khorasan (Iran).He was a descendant of Imam Jafar Sadiq (AS).He was also known as Sultan-e-Hind. It was a practice of Sufi saints coming to the Indian subcontinent those days to first visit the shrine of Hazrat Ali Usman Hajweri Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore. Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti also came to Lahore to pay his respects at Data Ganj-Bakhsh. From there he went to Ajmer Shareef. He observed locals to be romantic, emotional and had an established taste for music. Instead of condemnation of the indigenous way of life, he introduced Zikr and Samah in his teachings.

Khawaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (1173-1235) was Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti’s celebrated Khalifa or successor,he continued teachings of his Sheikh and established Chishti Order in India. Among Khawaja Qutbuddin Baktiyar’s prominent disciples was Hazrat Fariduddin Masood Ganj Shakar (1173-1265).Commonly known as Baba Farid, he not only was a highly revered Sufi saint but also one of the greatest poet of Punjabi-sairiki languages.He was based in Pakpatan near Multan,Punjab. Khawaja Nizamuuddin Aoulia (1238 -1325) popularly referred to as Mahbob-e-Ilahi (God’s beloved) was pupil of Baba Farid. His shrine is located in Delhi. From Ajmer, Pakpatan and Delhi, Chisti disciples branched out to various regions of Sub-continent. The shrine of Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti Sultan-e-Hind at Ajmer took on the special distinction of being the ‘mother’ dargah (shrine)of them all.

Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya was born in Budaun India .When he was 20, he became a disciple of Fariduddin Masood Ganj-i-Shakkar. After spending some time in Pakpattan, Baba Farid sent him to Delhi. He introduced samah in his gatherings. Delhi was the capital of Sultans of Slaves dynasty in India. There in Dehli, one of the most gifted and prominent scholar in the history of sub-continent Amir Khusro (1254-1324) became his disciple. Khusro’s father was a Turk soldier who migrated to sub-continent from Central Asia and his mother was from Delhi having Persian origin. Khusro hence had influences of Central Asian, Persian and Indian cultures in his upbringing. Later in his life he became a legendary musician, poet, statesman and a great intellectual. He mixed various elements of sama and Indian musical traditions to create Qawwali as we know it today. He can hence be regarded as the "father of Qawwali". The tradition continued with Chisti sufi saints. It had patronage of saints as well as rulers of the various sub-continent states.

Structure and Performance Format

Qawwali is performed by a group of vocalists unlike a classical performance which revolves around one or two singers. In a usual Qawwali performance, there is one or couple of main vocalist or qawwal positioned in the front and a group of supporting vocalists (humnowa) sit behind them who join in the chorus and also provide rhythm with clap of their hands.

In the wings are instrumentalists. The most common instruments used are harmonium, sarangi, and rabab but the use of guitar, mandolin, violin and clarinet is also quite acceptable. Percussionists are traditionally placed at the back. There is no particular preference for the percussion instrument and it can range from tabla or a dholak (Punjabi folk drum) to Arabic Daf to African drums. The most common taal is the fast dadra of 6 beats or the fast Punjabi folk Kaherva of eight beats. Unlike the classical music forms, the percussions (taals) are played in a way to produce a driving beat. The audiences are also considered participants.

Although Qawwali is not a classical form of singing but the presentation structure does have some common elements with khayal gayeki. It typically starts with an instrumental prelude, after which the main singers launch into the alap which establishes the melody and the tonal structure of the qawwali. This portion has no rhythm. After this, the introductory poetic verses are sung maintaining the melody. Then the main portion of the performance starts with the rhythm and percussions usually in a medium tempo. The song proceeds in a "call and response" format. The pace keeps on getting faster until a state of great excitement is produced. Qawwali usually has three or five sets of stanzas, which can be compared to the asthai and antra in eastern, and verse and chorus structure found in western music. The duration of a Qawaali is about twenty to thirty minutes on average, with a few lasting an hour or more.

The most common raags used in Qawwalis today are Bilawal, Khammaj, Kafi, and Kalyan. It is not unusual for Qawwals to use fast taans, meend, gamaks and the other forms of musical ornamentation of typical sub-continental classical music performances.

Contents

Qawwalis can be categorized by their content. Following are the major categories:

Hamd is the poetry in praise of Allah. Traditionally, a qawwali performance starts with a hamd.
Naat is in praise of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. A hamd is traditionally followed by a naat.
Manqabet is the poetry in praise of Ail-e-baat or the Sufi saints. It follows after the naat.
Manadjat (conversation in Arabic ) is a song where the qawwal thanks Allah. It is often in Persian. It is from the samah tradition and Mawlana Jalal-ud-din Rumi is credited to be its inventor.

Some Important Qawwals in Modern times

Sabri Brothers are arguably the most important exponents of this art who made invaluable contributions to its development. They set the format and standards for most qawwali singers that followed. Sabri brothers were four brothers but Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri and Maqbool Ahmed Sabri are more well known because they were the vocalists. The other two Kamal Sabri and Mehmood Ghaznavi Sabri were instrumentalists.

The eldest brother Haji Ghulam Farid Sabri possessed a deep and powerful voice where as Maqbool Ahmed had light and melodious voice more suitable for geet and ghazal. Together they produced a mesmerising effect. Ghulam Farid Sabi was born in Kalyan, in the district of Rohtak in East Punjab now part of India in 1930. Maqbool Ahmed Sabri was also born in Kalyan in 1941. Their family lineage stretches back to Mughal era as they are the direct descents of Mian Tansen, the legendary musician of the court of Akbar the Great. They learnt music from their father, Ustad Inayat Sien Sabri. He trained them in Qawwali and classical music. Their first public performance was at the annual Urs festival of Hazrat Mubarak Shah in Kalyan in 1946. In 1947,the family moved from India to Karachi,Pakistan. Their first recording was released in 1958 by EMI Pakistan , "Mera Koi Nahin Hae Taray'' Sewa which still is very popular today.

Sabri Brothers also took Qawwali to the West. Their performance in 1975 at Carnegie Hall, New York was a sold-out smash. Brothers enjoyed great popularity from the 60s to the mid 80s. In the late 80s, the party split up and that was the beginning of their downfall. Ultimately they rejoined in the early 90s, but the death of Ghulam Fareed in 1994 brought the the end of this amazing talent of the tradition of Qawwali. I met Maqbool Ahmed in 1998 in Islamabad, when he came for a cup of tea in my office. we had a long conversation about music, qawwali and their contribution. He was gracious enough to do few alaps also.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is credited for modernization of qawwali but in reality Sabri brothers were the true pioneers and lead the way to the popularity of the genre. Most of the vocal, instrumentation, and musical improvisations, use of variety of rhythms, grooves and percussions common today were introduced by them. And importantly, they remained within the format also.

Another very major qawwal in the modern era was Munshi Raziuddin Ahmed Khan. He was born in Dehli in 1912.He belonged to the best-known gharana of Qawwali, Qawwal Bachchon Ka Gharana, which performed at the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aoulia. It is claimed that Qawwal Bachchon kay gharana learnt the art of qawwali from Amir Khusro. Raziuddin was the court qawwal of Nizam of Hyderabad. After the fall of Hyderabad, he moved to Pakistan. In 1956, he formed Munshi Raziuddin, Manzoor Niazi & Brothers group, along with his cousins, Bahauddin Qawwal and Manzoor Niazi. He was a great qawwal and the group remained very popular till mid-seventies.

Abdul Aziz or Aziz Mian was born in Delhi but his family was from Meerath, India.They migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and settled in Lahore, Pakistan. Aziz Mian started qawwali at the shrine of Data Gunj Bhashk .He was very a educated person .He qualified Masters in Persian and Urdu literature, and History from the University of Punjab, Lahore.

Aziz Mian had a very powerful and raspy voice and wrote his own lyrics. He remained faithful to the traditional format of qawwali yet his style was unique. He paid little attention to musical ornamentations. He had extraordinary talent for reciting poetry and his live performances touched the hearts of his audience.The trademarks of his stage performances was swinging his head on the rhythm of his percussionist.

A very interesting incidence happened when Sabri Brothers criticized his Qawwali, 'Main Sharabi Sharabi' (I am an Alcoholic, I am an Alcoholic) through their Qawwali, 'Peena Veena Chhor Sharabi' (Quit Drinking, Alcoholic). Aziz Mian came back with 'Hai Kambakht Toone Pee Hi Nahi' (Alas You Haven't Drunk).

Fateh Ali Khan and Mubarak Ali Khan & Party were regarded as one of the foremost exponents of Qawwali in their time. Fateh Ali Khan was born in Lyallpur, Punjab in 1901. Ustad Fateh Ali Khan was the father of the legendary Qawwali musician, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Mubarak Ali Khan was the father of Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan and uncle of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. After the death of Fateh Ali Khan in 1964, he trained the family youngsters until his death in 1971.

The family claims to have over 600 years of tradition of Qawwali. Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Mubarak Ali Khan were trained in classical music and Qawwali by their father, Ustad Maula Baksh Khan. Fateh Ali Khan was the leader of the family's Qawwali party. They are also credited for singing poetry of Allama Iqbal because Iqbal's poetry was regarded difficult for composition in music.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was born on October 13, 1948 in Lyllpur/Faisalabad, Pakistan. Nusrat's father Ustad Fateh Ali Khan wanted his son to become a doctor or an engineer or join civil service of Pakistan because Qawwals had a lower social status in Pakistan. After observing his son Nusrat's enthusiasm for Qawwali,he agreed to train him and further the family traditions. In addition to qawwali, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan taught him khayal , dhrupad and other forms of classical music . After the death of Mubarak Ali Khan in 1971, Nusrat became the official leader of the family Qawwali party and in due course of time it became world renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan & Party. Nusrat assumed leadership of the group, despite the fact that his cousin Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan was much older than him. This group was a rage world over till the death of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on August 16,1997.

Nusrat had a rich and expressive voice though it was not a voice of a singer or a 'gulo-kar' like Muhammad Rafi or Mehdi Hasan. His voice had an uncanny grittiness to it without being unrefined and had an amazing emotional intensity. He was also quite successful in introducing various innovations to the presentation of Qawali. He expanded the traditional introductory portion to a full-fledged classical alap. His extensive training gave him ability to interject sophisticated Khayal ornamentations like sargam, meend and singing of taals at is will during a performance. His instrumentalists especially the percussionists of the party were the best in the business and played a thumping groove.

Nusrat was successful in the west because he was more willing than his predecessors for improvisation and experimentation. He was not afraid to move away from the tradition and his fusion of traditional Indo-Pakistani and Western music was able to create quite a stir in the music world. However he was also part of some contentious projects. He worked with Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack of “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1985, which was a very controversial film. In 1995,he collaborated with Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder on two songs for the soundtrack of “Dead Man Walking”. He also contributed to the soundtrack of extremely violent film“Natural Born Killers”. Nusrat himself reportedly was unhappy about it. After his death, Peter Gabriel song "Solemn Prayer", which Nusrat sang was part of the Peter Gabriel’s album “Up” and also used in the soundtrack of the film “Blood Diamond.”He worked for many Indian productions.

Apart from these, Aziz Ahmed Warsi, Badar Miandad, Bahauddin Qutbuddin and Jafar Husain Khan Badauni are few important qawwals of the recent times.


Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan lifted Qawwali to a whole new level and world recognition, still despite all the success and fame, the type of music he was doing in the later part of his career was too far from tradition. It was not qawwali, it was sufi-pop. In a way he can be named as the father of sufi-pop. It might be early to ascertain whether his improvisations and departure from tradition lead to the downfall of qawwali or not but the absence of any credible exponents of this glorious sub-continent music tradition is quite depressing.

Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Amjad Sabri, Fareed Ayaz, Mehr Ali Sher Ali and few others are around and performing but they move away from tradition frequently and on the footsteps of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan moving closer to Sufi-pop.

References:
  1. Origin and History of the Qawwali, Adam Nayyar, Lok Virsa Research Centre, Islamabad. 1988.
  2. Psychology of early Sufi samā By Kenneth S. Avery
  3. Ahmed Aqeel Ruby, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: A Living Legend.
  4. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan His voice was a conduit to heaven By Aryn Baker
  5. Yahoo Group Writers’ Forum Discussion

Friday, May 02, 2008

Magain Shalome Synagogue in Karachi

According to 1998 census there are no Jews living in Pakistan ,but at the turn of the twentieth century, Karachi had a Jewish population of about two to three thousand.They were mainly traders and a few were civil servants. They spoke Marachi, which was spoken by most of Ben-e- Israel people living in various parts of the British India. The community was well to do, vibrant and fun loving.

It seems under British jurisdiction, the Jewish people were treated with tolerance. A small community lived in Peshawar where apart from the Bene Israel, the Baghdadi Jews and Bukharan Jews formed a small community and city had a synagogue. It has disappeared now. Few Jewish families lived in Rawalpindi and some in Lahore also.

Karachi had couple of synagogues. The famous Magain Shalome Synagogue was built in 1893 in Karachi by Shalome Solomon Umerdekar and his son Gershone Solomon. Some accounts suggest that it was built by Solomon David, a surveyor for the Karachi Municipality and his wife Sheeoola bai. It soon became the center of a small but vibrant Jewish community.

There existedvariety of social and welfare organizations to serve the Jewish community. The Young Man's Jewish Association, founded in 1903, whose aim was to encourage sports as well as religious and social activities of the Bene Israel in Karachi; the Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund, established to support poor Jews in Karachi; and theKarachi Jewish syndicate, formed in 1918, to provide homes to poor Jews at reasonable rents. Abraham Reuben, one of the leaders of the Jewish community, became the first Jewish councilor on the city corporation in 1936.

After the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 and Arab–Israel war , things got ugly for small Jewish community in Pakistan. The synagogue in Karachi was set to fire and Jews were attacked.The synagogue was later on repaired and restored by the community. The situation got worst and the plight of Jews became more precarious following disturbances and demonstrations directed against the Jews during the Arab-Israel wars in 1956, and 1967. Eventually most of the Jews moved to India, Israel and the United Kingdom. By 1968, thenumber of Jews in Pakistan had decreased to about 250 to 300.

However Magain Shalome Synagogue , a welfare organization, and a recreational organization kept functioning in the city. The small community in Peshawar and other parts of Pakistan ceased to exist, and the synagogue in Peshawer disappeared.Magain Shalome Synagogue, Karachi's last synagogue, was demolished in 1980s to make way for a shopping plaza in front of the last few Jewish families still braving in Karachi, with the understanding that in the new building a smaller synagogue would be built,that never happened.The Bene Israel (People of Israel) graveyard situated in Mewa Shah, alongwith the graveyard of Kutchi Memons and is the last resting place for hundreds of Karachi's Jews, many of whom preferred to stay on in Pakistan instead of going to Isreal or Europe or United Staes.

Unofficially some Jewish families do remain in Karachi, but they prefer to pass themselves off as Parsis. I met a Karachi Jew in 2004 and he told me that there are about 10 to 12 Bene Israel families in Karachi and they observe Sephardic Jewish rites. He also told me that Bene Israelis still living in Pakistani are living comfortable life and have excellent friendships with many people here in Karachi.

Majority of the Karachi Jews now live in Ramle, Israel. The Older members still speak Urdu or Marachi and have built a synagogue there, and named it, Magen Shalome.what else.

Written in September 2005 for Writers' Forum.