Saturday, February 18, 2017

"BaaghoN mein paray jhoolay" - Ustad Barkat Ali Khan & Chiragh Hasan Hasrat

Ustad Barkat Ali Khan (1906 - 1963), born in Kasur, was a great vocalist of the Patiala gharana. By all accounts he was as talented a musician as his older brother Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. But the older brother's post-partition move to India where there were bigger, more appreciative audiences, his stentorian voice well-suited to Khayal singing and his larger than life personality combined to overshadow his younger brother.

Ustad Barkat Ali Khan (left) with Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan with Madam Noor Jehan in the background) 
Ustad Barkat Ali Khan made a virtue out of necessity in Pakistan where he switched almost entirely to the more popular semi-classical forms. Thumri, Dadra, Kafi, Ghazal and even Geet became his focus. Before Mehdi Hassan became a by-word for classical ghazal singing, Barkat Ali Khan had virtually created that genre with Begum Akhtar. His soft, mellifluous voice and effortless vocals infused his semi-classical pieces with immense feeling. Ustad Barkat Ali Khan's legacy includes training some excellent non-gharana musicians like the ghazal singer Ghulam Ali.

There are few Barkat Ali Khan gems better known than "BaaghoN meiN paray jhoolay" in Raga Pahari. This form of poetry is called a "mahiya"; a poem of 3 verse stanzas where the first and third verse rhyme. The great journalist Chiragh Hasan Hasrat (1904 - 1955) penned this mahiya and it is reputed to be the first piece of poetry sung in this form.

This is a brilliant rendition and despite a bit of crackling in this recording, the mastery of Ustad Barkat Ali Khan is evident.

Chiragh Hasan Hasrat
Every time I listen to this beautiful version it makes me nostalgic for Lahore and the golden era of its cultural prime. Both Barkat Ali Khan and Chiragh Hasan Hasrat lived, worked and died in Lahore and rubbed shoulders with some of the city's greatest literary and cultural icons. In this one recording I hear the echoes of Gowalmandi's "Takiya MeerasiyaN" (where classical musicians stayed and performed), the clanking of printing presses churning out Maulana Zafar Ali Khan's newspaper "Zameendar" and the endless parade of "cups of chai" at the Arab Hotel fueling the local writers and intellectuals (Pitras Bukhari, Sufi Tabassum, M.D. Taseer, Hafeez Jallandhari, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Imtiaz Ali Taj etc.) striving to get Lahore the same literary recognition as Delhi and Lucknow.

The Lahori nostalgia is accentuated by that quintessential verse that could only have been written on the banks of River Ravi:

Ravi ka kinara ho
Har mauj kay hontoN par
Afsana hamara ho

Here are the rest of the verses:

BaghoN meiN paray jhoolay
Tum bhool gaye hum ko
Hum tum ko nahiN bhoolay

Yeh raqs sitaaroN ka
Sun lo kabhi afsana
Taqdeer kay maaroN ka

Saawan ka maheena hai
Saajan say judaa reh kar
Jeena koi jeena hai

Dil meiN haiN tamannaiN
Dar hai keh kaheen hum tum
Badnaam na ho jayeN

Ab aur na tarpao
Ya hum ko bula bhejo
Ya app chalay aao

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