My “now” song: Baisara beera

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a story line, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could remain with me for any length of time.

It was a Sunday and I was at work completing an urgent report. Naturally, I wasn’t too happy to be at work on a Sunday, but the one big advantage of working in an empty office that day consoled me — I could listen to music in the office without earphones, and at full volume as well !

I put on a random playlist on YouTube and got down to work. I work well when there is music in the background, and that day was no different. With no phones to disturb me, I made good progress with the report as I hummed, sang or listened along as the songs in playlist played out one after the other.

Till the haunting strains of a ravanhatta came along. I immediately stopped working on the report and switched tabs on the computer to listen to the song and watch the accompanying video. And then again and once again. And for good measure, a few more times. 🙂 Continue reading “My “now” song: Baisara beera”

My “now” song: Allahu Akbar

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a story line, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness” (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

Music is my answer for everything. It is what I turn to in times of happiness or celebration or despair. Music is my refuge, my comfort food for the soul, my ‘blanket’, and often my support to tide over difficult times. My now song Allahu Akbar” sung by Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan and Ahmed Jehenzeb to music and lyrics by Shuja Haider has been all of this and then some more.

When I first heard Allahu Akbar, I liked it and left it at that. But then something made want to hear it again and then again and before I knew it I was listening to it every morning and then again before I went to bed. My mother too joined in on these listening sessions and we would listen to the song together before we went to bed.

Sometimes it would be the orchestra part that caught our attention and sometimes it was the chorus.

Sometimes it would be the lyrics that would work their magic and sometimes the music.
But what never failed to amaze us were the singers, especially Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan.

We have listened to this song so many times now that we not only know the music and the lyrics, but every pause, every interlude and every musical expression.

But most of all we are aware of the comfort that this song offered. Even now, as I type this out, just 26 minutes into the new year, Allahu Akbar is playing in the background. I have begun my New Year with this song, which is not just my ‘now’ song, but also my song of hope for the times to come.

Happy New Year, dear friend. Which song did you begin 2018 with? Is it also your ‘now’ song? Do share. 🙂


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Tyagaraja’s tambura

When I entered the Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Kovil in Madurai on that January evening in 2016, I had no idea of what I was about to see. I don’t think other members of the group I was travelling with did either.

The only clue that there was something important in the temple came from Sriram’s (our group leader) rather enigmatic statement that there was a surprise waiting for us there. He wouldn’t say what it was though, and went off in search of the priest.

I looked around trying to guess what the ‘surprise’ could be. Was it the 12 ft tall Hanuman idol? Was it the Perumal idol in the sanctum? Or was it something else? As I looked around trying to figure out the ‘surprise’ in the temple, Sriram beckoned to our group to gather around a small shrine on one side. It was a simple shrine with two framed pictures — one of which I recognised as that of Tyagaraja (1767-1847), one of the greatest composers of Carnatic classical music — and two old tanpuras or tamburas.

Tyagaraja, Tanpura, Tambura, Musical Instrument, Saint Thyagaraja, Prasanna Venkatsa Perumal Temple, Madurai, Musical Heritage
Tygaraja’s framed portrait and tambura is on the left, while Venkataramana Bhagavathar’s tambura and framed portrait are on the right.

As the priest bustled around getting the shrine opened, Sriram casually announced that the tambura on the left used to belong to Tyagaraja. You could have heard a pin drop at the silence that followed. Continue reading “Tyagaraja’s tambura”

My “now” song: Allahvai naam thozhudaal

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a story line, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My current “now” song: Allahvai naam thozhudaala composition by Nagoor Hanifa and sung by T.M. Krishna.

Surprisingly, it was Twitter which introduced me to this gem, and I still can’t get over that. I was home on sick leave from work that weekday in October with a fever and body ache. Restless and unable sleep, I logged into my Twitter account to do ‘time pass’.

Continue reading “My “now” song: Allahvai naam thozhudaal”

Madurai, Heritage, Music, Hanumantharayar Street, Anumathnarayan Kovil Street, MS Subbulakshmi

Travel Shot: MS Subbulakshmi’s house in Madurai

About a year back, I visited Madurai with Chennai Pastforward. Led by V. Sriram, the 3-day was filled with temples, music, culture, rock-cut caves, heritage, history and was fantastic (watch out for posts on Madurai coming up next week!).

On one of the evenings in Madurai, our group was walking back towards the bus when Sriram, who was leading, suddenly ducked into a narrow street. Actually, alley would be a better word for the street which had a sign that read Mela Anumantharayan Kovil Street.

We obediently followed him, walking in a single file as the alley wouldn’t allow for anything more. Lined with shops on both sides and double storeyed structures above them, the sky was visible as a dark blue ribbon floating above us. I don’t suffer from claustrophobia, but I had the feeling of being hemmed in.

Just when I was wondering Sriram was leading us to, he stopped and pointed at an open window, through which light was streaming out, and said: “This is it. This is the house of MS Subbulakshmi.

Madurai, Heritage, Music, Hanumantharayar Street, Anumathnarayan Kovil Street, MS Subbulakshmi Continue reading “Travel Shot: MS Subbulakshmi’s house in Madurai”

The incredible music of the Thar at Suryagarh

The sight of a canopied seating and fresh juice organised by the Suryagarh team was a welcome relief after a morning spent exploring the Thar. Set up outside an abandoned human settlement, the location and timing of the ‘refreshment pitstop’ was perfect. Much as I love the desert, I was getting dehydrated pretty quickly.

As I made my way to pick a glass of juice for myself, I heard some music being played in the distance. Music that was both familiar and unfamiliar, if not strange. It was familiar because I recognised the instrument, and unfamiliar because I had never heard it played outside of a Carnatic classical music katcheri (concert).

Juice forgotten, I changed directions and headed towards the music and the musician, Sumar Khan, who was playing the morsing or the wind harp, a wind percussion instrument.

Continue reading “The incredible music of the Thar at Suryagarh”