Last week, we heard Hindustani compositions that mentioned the koel and papiha. Today, we look at compositions that describe the crow as a messenger carrying tidings between lovers, often requesting an early tryst.
A Punjabi couplet attributed to the Sufi spiritual leader Baba Farid has found its way through many translated versions into qawwali and thumri-dadra renditions and has equally been used in film and non-film popular music. The commonly heard version of the text is as follows:
Kaagaa sab tan khaaiyo chun chun khaaiyo maas
Do nainaa mat khaaiyo mohe piyaa milan ki aas
While its reference to the crow pecking at human flesh appears morbid, the metaphor in the second line of the eyes waiting eagerly to have a glimpse of the meeting with the beloved is what actually defines the significance of the couplet. It is for this reason that the couplet has been used to accentuate the emotional content of qawwali and thumri-dadra song-texts that describe the yearning for the beloved.
Here is an example of the couplet used as an introduction to a dadra in the raag Bhairavi set to the seven-matra Rupak taal. It is sung by the Patiala gharana vocalists Amanat Ali Khan and Fateh Ali Khan from Pakistan, accompanied on the tabla by Shaukat Hussein Khan, exponent of the Punjab gharana.
The same couplet is used in a song from the film Mr. Sampat.
But we turn to references of the crow as a messenger in Hindustani khayals and thumris. Often, the lyrical content in such cases is quite straightforward and mundane. This may surprise those who believe that Hindustani compositions are all related to the sacred.
Here are examples of a few compositions that use this image.
Mewati gharana maestro Jasraj sings a drut composition in Bilaskhani Todi set to the 16-matra Teentaal.
Kishori Amonkar, the famed vocalist trained in the Jaipur-Atrauli style, sings two compositions set to Teentaal in the raag Bhinna Shadja. The drut or fast composition appears to be a lyrical response to the vilambit or slow composition.
Popular vocalist Padma Talwalkar sings a composition set to Teentaal in the raag Alhaiya Bilawal, followed by a tarana.
The next track features thumri exponent Shobha Gurtu. She sings a dadra that employs the image of the crow carrying a message to the beloved. She is accompanied on the harmonium by Purushottam Walawalkar and by me on tabla.
The final track is a short clip of a thumri from an Akashvani recording featuring Begum Akhtar.
Read other articles by Aneesh Pradhan in his Sonic Saturday series here.
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