& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Celebrating Bulleh Shah – A Night of Poetry and Songs

The first time I heard of Baba Bulleh Shah was in a song from Bobby (1973).

The lyrics were simple and effective.

Break mandir and masjid, if you must
Don’t break a heart full of love
That is the lover’s home

Narender Chanchal sang to Laxmikant Pyarelal’s music. The legendary Raj Kapoor filmed the song on the young Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia.

It was a longing look at innocence of young love.

Then, years later, when MTV India and its variants introduced the laity fed on a steady staple diet of Hindi movie songs to non-film music genres, it opened new doors.

For the first time, we in India heard and saw many Pakistani singers (the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) who experimented with their musical forms and genres.

For all of them, Bulleh Shah’s poetry was an effective means to spread the message of love, inclusion and acceptance.  

The Sufi poet captivated us again in Chaiya Chaiya (Dil Se, 1998), a song that has come to epitomize AR Rahman’s mastery.

Coke Studio Pakistan – a youtube favourite for many of us – gave us more of great singers (again mostly from Pakistan) bringing alive Bulleh Shah’s many poems.

Bulleh Shah’s message is simple. Love conquers all. Despite its universal appeal, one associates his poetry and music to  South Asia, and more specifically to the Punjab.

Then, last evening, I went to a show that changed my perception forever.

The show proved that the message of love knows no boundaries. 

The awesome Azalea Ray who lifted the show to an altogether different dimension by her rapturous performance encapsulated what every one of the nearly 200 people at the show felt in one word – Wah!

Sheniz Janmohamed’s Ignite Poets organized Celebrating Bulleh Shah – A Night of Poetry and Songs at Beit Zatoun.

Quite simply, it’s a show Toronto won’t forget in a hurry.

In her introduction, Sheniz said her interest in Bulleh Shah’s poetry began during her first trip to India a decade ago when she heard Rabbi Shergill sing Bulla ki jana mein kaun. 

A fan of Coke Studio Pakistan, she had long wanted to do a program in Toronto that’d match the original verve, zest, creativity and chutzpah.

The show had spoken word artists recite their pithy political as well as love poems, and the kind of music that would’ve done Coke Studio Pakistan proud.

The poets included Ali Abbas, Ikhwan Allani, Ali Alikhani, Patrick Connors, Lishai. Sheniz, herself a spoken word artist, surprisingly didn’t perform. Each poet had a different style but the same message.

All the poets had different styles but they had one thing in common – originality, belief in humanity, and a fervent urge to preach love.

I found Lishai’s poem on Mumbai and India particularly interesting because of the interlocking ideas of alienation and belonging. Being different and yet wanting to be the same.

Musicians included Sassan Irani (daf and vocals), Mehdi Rezania (santoor), Ravi Naimpally (tabla), Azalea Ray (vocals), Samer Shahid Khan (vocals & guitar), Ernie Tollar (bansuri/flute), Demetri Petsalakis (oud).

Haris Sheikh’s sufi paintings of the whirling dervishes added to make the ambiance right.

Ravi Naimpally on table was an absolute delight. It’s been a while since I heard the table played with such dexterity.

Of course, the evening belonged to Azalea Ray. This is the first time I heard her perform live, and she more than lived up to her astounding reputation. 

She’s a master performer, which is infinitely more than being a maestro (which she undoubtedly is).

Sheniz is a young woman to watch. Within six months, she has mounted two absolutely stunning shows.

In October 2012 she was the force behind the success of International Festival of Authors (IFOA) – Markham.

And now in March 2013 she out did her previous achievement with a show that will become a benchmark for similar shows in the future.

Images: From Facebook

No comments:

Post a Comment