Another well-known qawaali

A few days ago, I wrote about a ‘secular’ qawaali – once which combines references from Hindu, Muslim, Nasrani, I mean Christian, Buddhist, Jewish and Sufi traditions. However, that was written for a film by Sahir Ludhianvi. There is an earlier and more famous example, being sung at a Sufi saint’s shrine for centuries and most of us have heard one version or the other….. a few like me, several versions including some by the same singer. New stanzas appear in some versions while some remain in all, and the chorus and refrain remain constant…. it is a delight to hear any of them. I still feel what may be termed as the original, or lets say the earliest, by the folk singer, who embarked on a long and successful career following her rendition, must be considered one of the best. 

(At this stage, I begin to understand why some call me pompous and long-winded or verbose – when I would prefer articulate and cogent. I have written more than a 100 words without even identifying the qawaali I am talking about… I will remedy it right now).

The qawaali I am talking about is sometimes called “Shabaz Qalandar” , but more popularly known as “Damadam Mast Qalandar”, while others might recall it as “Jhoole Lalaan”…… they are are partially correct.

As I said above, though I admit it was somewhat cryptically worded, this qawaali came into public consciousness after being rendered by the young Reshma, and then every folk singer or qawaal, worth their salt, scrambled to sing it. A partial list of these would include Runa Laila, the Sabri brothers, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen and even the Pakistani pop band, Junoon…..  and some even succeeded in producing something that became popular, though not as famous as Reshma’s.

However, for me, it was the original Reshma version which I heard the first, courtesy our old Philips record player and an HMV-EMI 45 rpm record and later on cassettes. Since then I have heard recent renditions by her, in which her voice sounds more mature and nuanced, but that early sweetness and if I may say, brio, is definitely lacking and the music of the the recent versions is not a patch on the original, but that is my opinion. I will be sharing the lyrics of a current version by Reshma, which has two stanzas that appear a little incongrous from the rest of the traditional but have a significance of their own. Later, I shall cite some variant stanzas….. I must also apologise for my failure to be true to all the bandishes and various other flourishes by the perfomer and will stick to the bare unadorned lyrics.

And yes before I begin, let me explain what makes this qawaali secular. Dedicated to Sufi saint Lal Shahbaaz Qalandar, whose dargah is at Sehwan Sharif in Sindh, overlooking the Sindhu Darya (Indus for the geographically and linguistically-challenged, I mean, all you), it, in the same breath, invokes the river god, Jhoole Laal, of the Sindhi community (Jhoole Lal is also known as Zindapir and for those interested in knowing more on the topic, I recommend Alice Albinia’s Empires of the Indus). And for good measure, it invokes Ali ibn Abu Talib, the first of the Sufis, in his role as Mushqil-Kusha or the remover of difficulties….

Meanwhile, the qawaali……

To be continued…..


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