Danish Punjabi Sufi Singer & Music Therapist Pervaiz Akhtar in Town – March 9


Singer, Composer, Music Therapist Pervaiz Akhtar sings Punjabi Sufi poetry and Urdu Ghazals. He has issued five albums featuring poetry of Khwaja Ghulam Farid, Madhulal Husain and Bulleh Shah, among others; and, his repertoire as a composer includes works of Rumi, Hafiz, Saadi and Amir Khusrow in Farsi. His Jazz fusion concerts have been held in Pakistan, Europe and the USA. For more information:

Visit Pervaiz’s blog
pervaizakhtarblog.wordpress.com
Contact Pervaiz
pervaiza@gmail.com

Pervaiz is visiting from Copenhagen and he will stay in Vancouver till the middle of March. This presents us with a rare opportunity to listen to him in a public event. Details are below.

‘Kahe Fakeer’ by Pervaiz Akhtar
7pm, Friday, March 9, 2018
Punjab Banquet Hall
8166 128 St #215, Surrey
(604) 598-7611

$30 per person (dinner included), $50 for two.
To book your ticket, call: 604-780-0164

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Jatinder Mauhar’s ‘Qissa Panjab’ – a film about youth

‘Qissa Panjab’ by Jatinder Mauhar is a pleasant departure from typical ‘commercial’ or ‘formula’ Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu films being produced in India and Pakistan.

Dheeraj Kumar and Kul Sidhu

First of all, the two women protagonists do not, at any point in the whole hour-and-a-half long film, appear to be ‘heroines’, ‘actresses’, ‘fashion models’ or ‘prostitutes’- instead they always appear to be who they are supposed to be: two young women from lower middle class making their way through poverty, crime and misogyny in today’s urban and rural Punjab.

Second, the music thing. Yes, there are songs and dances, but each are made to occur ‘naturally’, so to speak. For example, most songs and dances were performed on stage by characters who are singers and dancers; and, there’s a nice recurring theme song by Gurdass Mann.

Jagjeet Sandhu

This same ‘common sense realism’ sets off and permeates the plot, characters and scenes of ‘Qissa Panjab’- and its done very well where there isn’t a dull moment in the film.

Director Jatinder Mauhar

The director has achieved an important milestone in creating a real-to-life film for the box office. The film has no pretensions of being an ‘art’ movie made for foreign film festivals and academic institutions, and it does not covet to become a box office hit by employing the usual ‘selling’ tactics of sexualizing women, over-dramatizing or providing solutions palpable to exploitative societal structures.

This is Jatinder Mauhar’s third full-length feature film as a director, earlier he had made ‘Mitti’ (2010) and ‘Sikander’ (2013) where he was also the screenwriter. Jatinder’s short films include ‘No exit’ (2005) and ‘Reth (The Sand)’. He has worked as researcher for the documentary ‘India’s Frontier Railways’ in 2014 for BBC London. He is a regular columnist with over 82 articles published about films, film literacy and current issues for the USA based newspaper Punjab Times, and for other publications in India and abroad.

Jatinder is now working on his fourth film titled ‘Saade Aale’.

‘Qissa Panjab’ was presented in Surrey on December 20th by Sukhwant Hundal and Sadhu Binning for ‘Watan’ where Jatinder Mauhar was in attendance.

View its trailer:

Contact Jatinder Mauhar
jatindermauhar@gmail.com

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Goodbye Sabri

sabri

Written by Randeep Singh

I was not a fan of Amjad Sabri. I don’t know any of his tunes. Why am I mourning his passing?

Sabri was one of the leading singers of qawalli in the subcontinent. As part of the Sabri brothers, he performed in dargahs, concert halls and stadiums around the world.

He was shot dead today in Karachi. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. In the past ten years, Pakistan’s Sufi Islamic culture has been bombed, murdered and assailed. Shrines are attacked, worshippers are killed and festivals are fired on.

No one is pure in the Land of Pure. Not Sabri, a devotee of Allah and His Prophet. Not Farid or Data Ganj, Sufi poets and cultural icons of Pakistan. Only the new guardians of Islam show the straight path. They are the masters of the day of judgement …

Goodbye Sabri. May your voice lift the spirits of those you left behind. May Pakistan preserve your legacy and the spirit of its culture.

The Sufi Legacy in South Asia

nizamuddin

Written by Randeep Singh

On September 13, 2014, the Hari Sharma Foundation in association with a number of arts and cultural groups, presented the conference, “Spirituality, Humanity and the Marginalized: The Sufi Legacy in South Asia” and a musical concert “Songs of Waris Shah, Bulleh Shah, Kabir, Lalon Fakir and Rabindranath Tagore.”

One of the musical highlights was the husband-wife team from Bangladesh, Farida Parveen (on voice and harmonium) and Ghazi Abdul Hakim (on flute). Ghazi on the bamboo flute turned music into poetry, filling the concert hall with the colour of Bengal, taking us beyond the streams and paddy fields.

Farida Parveen sang the songs of Lalon Fakir with a gusto and a tenderness in her earthy tones. The concert also featured Enakshi Chatterjee from Calcutta who opened with songs of Tagore and Madan Gopal Singh from Delhi who sang songs of Sultan Bahu and Bulleh Shah and others.

The highlight of the conference was Dr. Nile Green (UCLA) and the ensuing discussion. Green’s presentation, “Mazaars for the Marginalized” underlined the pluralistic, cosmopolitan dimensions of Sufism, of its journey across trade routes by caravans from Khurasan eastwards to Turkey and southwards through the Khyber Pass into Hindustan.

That plural and cosmopolitan spirit, Green spoke, is heard in the tradition of Sufi poetry and music which filtered into India from Khurason. It is in words like “Auliya” (Arabic), “Pir” (Persian) and “Baba”(Turkish), epiphets for Sufi masters and in the shajars (genealogical trees) of Sufis tracing their ancestry to Samarkand or the Hejaz. Sufi shrines included Greek Christians in Turkey as they did Hindus in India.

The appeal of Sufism to the marginalized according to Green was in its creation of a space where social power was redistributed more evenly. Sufis also acted as important intermediaries between the ruler and the common man in economic, political and legal matters and Sufi institutions provided food and medical care to the poor.

The piety and inclusiveness of the Sufi was questioned during the discussion period. Sunera Thobani mentioned how the Sufi pirs themselves had vast estates and wealth, whereas Habiba Zaman pointed out how Sufi spaces often clearly excluded women. Green himself pointed out today how Sufis became kings of Libya upon that country’s independence or how those of Sufi lineage sit in parliament in Pakistan. Green also reminded us of the hierarchy within Sufi orders, no where more uncompromising than in the relationship between the murshid and the pir.

One member of the audience asked whether Sufism or “Islam-lite” was a way of making Islam more acceptable and congenial to a post-911 West. Whether it is remains a topic for further discussion. But what Green reminded us is that Sufism has always had an appeal beyond just Muslims and the shariat and the importance of its role in shaping culture, Islamic or otherwise.

An Evening with Saeen Zahoor

Sain_Zahoor_14_leugk_Pak101(dot)com

Written by Randeep Singh

On May 31, 2014, Pakistani Sufi singer Saeen Zahoor performed at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre, sending the audience into trance, dance and inspiring reverence throughout.

The evening brought together local Indian and Pakistani performers, organizers and audience members. Indo-Pakistani band Naqsh IPB opened the evening with their blend of modern Sufi, rock, classical and filmi musical stylings. Through clashing drums, pulsating guitar riffs and the soaring vocals of Daksh Kubba, Naqsh warmed up the crowd for Saeen.

He entered in his long black kurta embroidered in yellow, ghungroo bells jingling around his ankles, carrying his colourfully decorated ektaara (one-string instrument). “I am not an artist,” he began, “I am a dervish who recites the name of His Master.”

Saeen didn’t just sing: he performed in every sense of the word. The spirit of Bulleh Shah poured through Saeen, his songs, his dance, his story-telling. His two hours on the stage was a musical theatre on the life and poetry of Bulleh Shah.

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After declaring his devotion to Bulleh Shah in “Ni Mai Kamli Haan” (‘Crazy I Am!’), Saeen sang “Aukhen Painde Lambiyaan Raavan” (‘Hard and Long are the Paths’), of how Bulleh Shah journeyed for miles in search of his teacher. On meeting his teacher, Shah Inayat, Bulleh Shah asks: “how does one find God.” Shah Inayat, planting spring onions, replies: “what do you want to find God for? Just uproot this from here and plant it there.”

Saeen then broke out ecstatically into “Nachna Painda Ae” (‘Dance One Must’) swirling on the stage in his ghunghroo bells just as Bulleh Shah had once for Shah Inayat.

Saeen also sang on Bulleh Shah’s rebukes to legalistic Muslim clerics in “Bas Kare O Yaara Ilm” (‘Enough of Learning, My Friend’). Saeen tells us, Bulleh Shah gave up the shariah for the way of Love just as Heer refused to marry another man according to the shariah because she had been wedded spiritually to her Beloved. On love’s path, Saeen sings “let’s go Bulleh to that place where everyone is blind” in “Chal Bulleha Uthe Chale.”

From his stepping onto the stage, the audience became disciples of Saeen. He sang with abandon, he whirled with frenzy and he ended the night to the boom of the dhol drum bringing the audience to its feet. The air was filled with passion, energy and devotion. People went up to the stage and paid their respects by touching their heads to the stage or folding their hands in reverence: the theatre became a Sufi shrine, a dargah.

Above all, Saeen ensured Bulleh Shah will live on as a shared heritage. His spirit and art were the spirit of love and unity. Says Saeen: “humanity is to love one another.”

What Makes a Song So Catchy?

music-notes

A melody that’s simple, familiar and repeated over and over can make a song catchy. What makes a song catchy though raises more questions than we have the answers to, for now.

My friend’s son who is pursuing his bachelors’ degree in music points out that a (catchy) pop song moves easily from one chord to the next and then back to the “root” chord. The notes in the melody fall closely to one another on the musical scale.

A study at the University of London suggests that a chorus which combines a hook over three different pitches was found to be catchy.  Just listening to the chorus of some of the catchy songs I grew up with – Madonna’s “Into the Groove,” Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven on Earth” – suggests it’s one of the things that makes a song so catchy.

Read more: http://www.zmescience.com/research/studies/what-makes-a-song-catchy-science-explains/

The Art of Madonna (Part III)

The “American Life” video was born against the backdrop of the American invasion of Iraq. The video was already causing controversy before the invasion of March 20, 2003. Premiering on American television on March 25, 2003, it was pulled by Madonna on April 1, 2003 who did not want to “risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video.”

American Life 2

Click here to watch video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weCQ6ahu92g

“American Life” is not a song about war but a song where Madonna questions the American Dream. The video uses the metaphor of war as the outgrowth of greed and ego which the dream has become. Madonna appears as a military commander and a guerilla with a girl squad. A fashion show forms the centrepiece of the video featuring models wearing bullet belts, gas masks, grenade necklaces and other “war-fashion” paraphernalia while the deadened upper crust of American society observe from the audience.

Madonna and her girl squad gatecrash the runway and spray the fashion paparazzi with a water cannon. Images flash on an overhead jumbo-monitor revealing the horror and destruction of war. Madonna drives off the catwalk to a laughing audience and, in an alternative ending to the video, tosses a ticking grenade onto the runway. The original ending shows a George Bush lookalike catching the grenade and lighting a cigar with it.

The video highlights how the violence of war has become embedded in a decadent American society and culture. “No matter how many distractions we put up for ourselves, whether it’s a fashion show or a reality TV show or a hot contest,” explained Madonna “what’s happening in the world is still going on.” The video is “a statement about our obsession with the world of illusion.” American society becomes a fashion show with gawking spectators, insulated from the world and desensitized to its realities.

In one scene, two Muslim girls in hijab take the runway and are scared off by two army models to the amusement of the audience. The girls, with their serene, peaceful, sad faces, challenge the idea that there is a “barbarian” other. The water cannon and the grenade are symbols of protest rendered futile in a time of post 9-11 censorship. The grenade tossed at the end of the edited version of the video beckons: what will it take for America to snap out of its stupour?

The “American Life” video was not seen again until it was appeared online in 2005. The irony of the video as a protest is not lost since it was Madonna herself who withdrew it from the air. Yet, in hindsight, “American Life” has proved one of Madonna’s most prescient statements in representing “[her] feelings about our culture and values, and the illusions of what many people believe is the American Dream – the perfect life.” The America of the past ten years – the continued War in Iraq and Afghanistan, the growth of “pop idol” and reality culture, the World Financial Crisis, the loss of homes across America and the bailout of banks – show just how illusory that dream has become, making “American Life” all the more relevant.

Written by Randeep Singh

Further Reading:  “From Blatant to Latent Protest (And Back Again): On the Politics of Theatrical Spectacle in Madonna’s ‘American Life.’ Martin Scherzinger and Stephen Smith, Popular Music, Vol. 26, No. 2 (May 2007), p. 211-229.