Ramadan is a time of self-reflection, of love and celebrations. It’s a reminder of fraternity and community – food is shared when the day ends and charity is embraced. When the body is starved to feed the soul, it’s a test but the resulting serenity is beautiful. As we prepare for next week’s Eid al-Fitr Eid, may this playlist remind us that art transcends all boundaries.
Lucky Ali has a voice that can soothe any soul. In an instant, he still conjures up 90s nostalgia of light-hearted MTV love. In a clip on Instagram, he sings his famous ‘O Sanam’, with a guitar in his hands and this time a taqiyah on his head. Like the older track, ‘Intezaar’ also tells us the story of young love in the manner that has earned him the reputation of being ‘evergreen’. But is his new song a just ‘Forrest Gump’ story in desi clothes, or a song of hope and resilience, or metaphorically a plea to wait for seher (dawn). Maybe we’re overthinking the imagery of lambs and cricket matches in the track’s video, but a picture really does say a thousand words.
Marhaba Ya Mustafa
“For me, Sufi means destroying the evil in your heart,” said AR Rahman famously on the occasion of a concert held for peace. “The need of the hour is to share spirituality and love, which Sufi gives, with humanity.” Compared to Rahman’s other work like ‘Khwaja Mere Khwaja’ featuring the whirling dervishes of Emperor Akbar’s court and a rockstar finding refuge in God in ‘Kun Faya Kun’, ‘Marhaba Ya Mustafa’ from the 2008 album ‘Al-Risalah’, is more of a straightforward na’at – a poem in praise of the almighty.
Allah Megh De
Desperate times call for spiritual measures. This song comes from the fields of Bengal from a genre of folk music called zaari gaan (zaari is Persian for ‘lamentation’ and gaan, is song in Bengali). The land has dried up and there is no water in the lakes and rivers. This song is a prayer as well as a rain ritual. On the silver screen, Dev Anand is fasting to end a drought, in lore; during the Battle of Karbala, supporters of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hussain ibn Ali, face terrible thirst. In practice, when Bangladesh was facing severe droughts in the 90s, the song became a fountain of power in the face of a natural calamity. Listen to the sweet old Bengali version by Abbas Uddin Ahmed.
It’s both Vishu and Ramadan in the Southern state of Kerala, in which Hindu temples may host iftar dinners and Muslims may attend rath yatras and all communities must have strong local affiliations. ‘Chandrathundin Ponpira’ is a popular Mappila Paattu or folk Muslim Malayalam song, and naturally covered many times by singers of various religious leanings. It enumerates the ways in which this period is holy to the observants of Islam, when it starts and ends and the rituals and customs to be followed.
A song by Kashmiri singer-songwriter Ali Saffudin speaks about the spirit of introspection that the holy month encourages. ‘Tabsur’ showcases the lush greenery of the valley and the blue mountains on the horizon against Saffudin’s soaring, husky vocals. Saffudin is part of a new crop of singers from the valley who, through music, echo the plight of Kashmir, where everyday existence is resistance. Their call is to show it as it is – the trauma of an entire State through art. “Gul teye gulzaar yemow rout mazaar / Yaad tehinzeye wizi wizi es thaawow” (Blooming flowers, nipped in the bud/Let us remember them often) sings Saffudin in ‘Asaan Gindaan’, a song more representational of his repertoire. But ‘Tabsur’ is a pause from trauma. It is respite.