My “now” song: Ya Ali

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, 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, etc. This becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

Music and I have a strange relationship and the strangeness is all from my side. There are times when I will listen to a song or a singer every day for no particular reason and suddenly switch to something else or someone else for no particular reason. Ya Ali, sung by the Pakistani singer Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan , and my “now” song, is an example.

I “discovered” Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan in London when music was the only way to overcome severe homesickness during my year (2008-2009) there. Surrounding myself with familiar songs and familiar music made me feel that I was not too far away from home. Shafqat’s mellifluous voice and soothing music were just one of the many that I listened to every day, and also made those visiting me listen to it. Perhaps, that’s why Farzana, my Pakistani friend and hostel mate, got me a CD of Tabeer, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan’s newest release at that time. Ya Ali was one of the songs in that album and quickly became my favourite track in that album.

Back home in India, the CD was added to my existing collection and forgotten. It would have continued being so if a recent cleaning when my house got painted last month had not unearthed it. The moment I saw Tabeer, the CD was plugged in and Ya Ali was the track chosen to play. Since then, it has been my “now” song.

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A Sufiana experience for the mind, body and soul

Sufism is neither a religion nor a cult. Any person who has knowledge of both inner and outer life is a sufi.

(Hazrat Inayat Khan, Sufi philosopher and practitioner)

It is Thursday evening and I am at the NCPA Mumbai’s Tata Theatre to attend an evening of Sufi music. The above words by Inayat Khan leap out of the beautifully produced and informative programme brochure on “Sama’a The Mystic Ecstasy: Festival of Sufi Music” as I read it to familiarise myself with the programme. Though I have listened to some Sufi music over the years, I have never attended a live performance. I also do not know anything about the  history of Sufism or Sufi music, for that matter, except for the fact that music is central to the core experience of Sufism. The programme brochure states that

… music is regarded as a means for the believer to get closer to the Divine. Sufi music therefore is music of the ‘soul’ by the ‘soul’ and for the ‘soul’.

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