sunday sounds

The final cut: Songs that never say goodbye

A long-time columnist bows out.

All good things must come to an end.

This trite truism pertains to everything from a honeymoon to an ice cream cone. The good times eventually do stop rolling.

And such a day has come for Sunday Sounds. Or at least, for my part as your weekly curator, host, evangelist, pracharak, deewana, companion and guide through the sensational music of South Asia and the desi diaspora.

Since the early days of this digital daily I have been granted a free licence to indulge my love of music while hiding behind the mask of a columnist. Such an opportunity is a rare and great gift and one for which I will always be indebted to the editors of Scroll.in.

For two-and-a-half years I have tried to excite readers with the fantastic musical heritage of this region while also promoting the work of musicians of South Asian origin around the world.

Though I have but scratched the surface of this rich endowment, the time has come for me to hand over the excavation to others.

To all the readers of this column I say thank you for coming along for the ride. It has been a privilege to share the fun and grooves with you each week. I will miss being part of your weekend but alas, other projects (some much-delayed) await my attention.

For my last column, I have selected some old favourites from across the Sunday Sounds world. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I have had putting them in front of you.

Nashenas
Choon Nay Ba Nawa Amad

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Mohammad Sadiq Fitrat is one of the great living voices in Afghanistan. Known ironically as "Nashenas" or The Unknown One, he has been enthralling audiences for more than half a century. His commanding voice is sonorous and instantly recognisable. Throughout his career, Nashenas has sung Pashtun and Persian folk songs, ghazals and Hindi film songs, which he fell in love with as a child in Raj-era India.

In a majestic performance, Nashenas pays a moving homage to Jalaluddin Rumi, perhaps the most revered and admired Sufi poet in history. Rumi was born in Balkh, in what is now northern Afghanistan, before heading Westwards to Turkey.

The ecstatic chants of “Allah Hu” toward the end of this composition bring to mind Jazz great John Coltrane’s repetition of “A Love Supreme” in the eponymous musical and spiritual tour de force.

AR Rahman
Kadhalenum Thervezhudhi

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That I was unable to penetrate the great publicity wall that surrounds AR Rahman, India's famed composer, singer and musician who's also an international face thanks to work on the soundtrack of the movie Slumdog Millionaire and remains one of my few Sunday Sounds frustrations.

While nearly everything Rahman has composed is delightful and worthy of serious attention, I am particularly partial to the scores he has made for Tamil movies. This track from the 1999 movie Kadhalar Dhinam (Valentine's Day) is vintage Rahman – melodious, beautifully layered and as colourful as a Kanchipuram sari. I listen to this song at least once a week just to remember what happiness feels like.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Je Tu Rab Nu Manan

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Get a load of the instrumental intro that opens this masterpiece from Pakistan qawwal Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. There is enough funk and groove packed into this much-abridged alaap, or opening section (the original cassette version continues for several minutes) to resurrect original soul brother James Brown from the grave.

"Before you make up with God, make up with your lover."

This simple and profound advice is served up in an exciting confection of qawwali hand claps, snappy drumming and Khan's soaring vocals. This is about as close to heaven most of us will get in this life.

Purna Das Baul
Golemal Golemale

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Bob Dylan may not have visited India (yet) but he once fancied himself the Baul of America. And on one of his most humorous album covers, for John Wesley Harding, Dylan posed with Purna Das Baul and a fellow Bengali companion. Such is the adventurous spirit of India’s best-known and best-loved Baul. His music is filled with love and longing and there is always that cheeky trace of a smile on his face.

Amanat Ali
Inshaji Utho

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From the very moment I heard this song, on a cheap cassette in a bazaar in Rawalpindi, it has remained in my personal top ten. The mood of this song of fate, resignation, acceptance and futility, by the handsome scion of the Patiala gharana, Amanat Ali Khan, is absolutely haunting.

It is said that soon after recording and performing this song, perhaps his most popular, Amanat Ali died. His loss at the age of just 52 left a huge gap in the cultural space of Pakistan. Though his son and brother carried forward the torch, he was a truly unique and gifted artist whose reputation continues to shine down through the decades.

Kishore Kumar
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

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How credible would a final playlist be without this evergreen classic of Kishore da? And as the lyrics of the famous song go:

Chalte, chalte,
mere yeh geet yaad rakhna,
kabhi alvida na kehna.

Never say goodbye.

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