Thursday, January 1, 2009

A poem for the new year

Yesterday, I received this poetic wish for the new year from an American friend: "May the new year bring peace like rain dropping gently on our wounded world."
I picked a poem to start off the new year on a peaceful note. It's by the Punjabi sufi saint-poet Bulley Shah, who lived from the late 17th to the mid-18th century. He was of Uzbek heritage, was born in Bahawalpur, and lived and died in Kasur (both cities are in what is now the Pakistani Punjab). Bulley Shah wrote in his poems that no amount of learning was useful unless people looked inside themselves. Like other sufis, he saw no distinction between the God of one person and another -- for him there was no "false God", and Hindus and Muslims were one.
Well, the poem I chose is "Ki jaana main kaun". Here it is in the Nastaliq script, if you can read it (I can't). Here's an English transliteration-cum-translation. Below, I'm posting videos of three vastly different interpretations by Junoon, Rabbi, and an unidentified singer who's not identified.
Below is Junoon's sufi-rock "Bulleya" from their album Parvaaz. No comments on the video, but musically speaking, this is by far my most preferred version:

Next is Rabbi Shergill's pop version. I included it because the video contains many scenes of Mumbai - the Taj Mahal hotel, which was the site of a terrorist siege from November 26-28, 2008, the Gateway of India and waterfront across the road from the Taj, Churchgate station, and parts of Marine Drive including the Nariman Point stretch where the Oberoi and Trident hotels are. Of course, the video was made long before the recent attacks, which only goes to show how iconic the locations are where the terrorists struck. Also, Rabbi's version is more complete than Junoon's abbreviated text.

And last is this unidentified singer in what I'm guessing is a Pakistani TV studio. Personally I'm not a big fan of what I call "sugam sangeet" orchestration, although I like singer's voice. I also included it because it illustrates how differently people can interpret the same text, and because this version includes some lines missing in the two preceding versions:
Chal Bulleya, othey chaliye
jithae sarae annae
na koi saadee jaat pachhaney
thae na koi saanu manney
Let's go, Bulleya, let's go to a place
where everyone is blind,
where nobody knows our lineage
and nobody judges us by it.

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