Monday, May 08, 2006

Music has no religion.

Naushad passed away three days ago. His music was unbelievably beautiful. I will not say more, because there is no use in restating the obvious. Anyway, I was watching the reports on TV with my father, and I saw his body being taken out of his house, and I suddenly realized that the men carrying his body were Muslims. "Oh!" I said, "He is a Muslim. I hadn't realized." My father laughed, and recalled an incident that had occurred many years ago.

Back then, I had just observed that some Hindustani musicians were called Pandit, and some Ustad. I had asked my father why that is so. He had told me, "Simple, Hindu musicians are called "Pandit", and Muslim musicians are called "Ustad". See, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Dinkar Kaikini are all Hindus, and are called 'Pandit', whereas Ustad Alla Rakha, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan are all called 'Ustad'". "Oh!", I said, "I hadn't realized that they were Muslims."

I was not thick in the head, nor was I a kid. I was old enough to know one religion from the other. Yet, this minor detail had escaped me. Just like I had not realized that Naushad was a Muslim. And why should it have crossed my mind? It is just not relevant. They are all the same to me - great musicians. Nothing else matters.

Even as my father and I recalled this incident, the reports showed a file clipping of Naushad, speaking on stage in an assembly, where, I think, he was being honoured. He was thanking everybody, and saying, "....I am very fortunate that .... Mujhpe Maa Saraswati ka Ashirwad hai.. " [I have the blessings of Goddess Saraswati]. Whaaaat??? Saraswati? Naushad? Muslim???

My father reminded me that this was nothing new - Ustad Allauddin Khan was a staunch devotee of the Sharada temple at Maihar, reportedly going so far as to refuse to move away from Maihar for medical treatment, saying that if he had to die, he would rather die close to Sharada (Another name for Saraswati). Ustad Bismillah Khan is also a devotee of Saraswati. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, among many others, sang beautiful compositions in praise of Hindu Gods. Likewise, There are many Urdu compositions which are religious or spiritual in nature, and are sung by all musicians, religion notwithstanding. And why should it matter? After all, it is just music.

No wonder it is said that Music has no Religion.

[Do check out the comments for some more heart-warming examples!]


Nirwa Mehta said...

Music - It knows neither religion nor boundaries! :-)

May Naushad's soul rest in peace!


Sunil said...

well, this can be extended to languages too. There are some songs from languages that we dont understand, but, still move to the rythm and beat.

I guess, music has no relevence to politics and politicians. So, it is spared from religion and boundaries !!

Anil Jagalur said...

Very touching. I am afraid most will not believe you. Alas!

Only after the Babri Masjid incident did I realise that I had a muslim maama - Rehman Maama. I knew that he was a muslim. It never looked incongruous to me to call him maama. I have been planning a blog on this - the death of innocence. That is my greatest grouse against the saffronites.

Similarly Reddy Maama. Incidentally, he died yesterday and here is the report: . (Take a look at the family he leaves behind, as listed in this report!)

And Naidu Maama


Coming to the music part of it. I heard Bismillah Khan say "Arre, hum Pakistan chalegaye to Shivji ka rozana seva (playing Shehnai) kaun karega?" (My Hindi is not very good, but I guess I have reproduced what he said correctly. If not, you know what he meant.)

No wonder Allauddin Khan's daughter is Annapoorna Devi.

I also heard Bismillah Khan play a beautiful Yaman and ask the audience “what jaat is this?” Defiantly – almost. And with the amusement of a father about his son's follies. Kind, loving, still contemptuous.

Gangubai was honoured in Mysore. An association of the community to which she belongs offered a garland to her. She accepted it but in her speech took exception to it. We musicians are just musicians. But people like this remind us to what community we belong to.

The past great “GNB”, G N Balasubrahmaniam, once touched the feet of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan after a concert to the great consternation of the orthodox Brahmin community. He could not care less. He was paying obeisance to a great master. In some ways, their music was similar. Vigorous lightning quick birkhas were the hallmark of both.

On a lighter note (musically speaking) who can forget the innumerable devotional songs of Md Rafi?

Religion is and must remain personal. If it comes between people it is blasphemy. In music it is unthinkable. Or should be.

Anveshi said...

no Shabda from Noushad.
It is hard to believe... :(


Kalyan said...

yes, I have noticed that pankaj udhas and jagjit singh are very popular ghazal singers

but then as you rightly said, it doesn't matter

direkishore said...

Good post,

To this day my favorite bhajan in a hindi movie along with "Allah Tero Naam" is "Man tadpat hari darshan ko aaj" from Baiju Bawra, which was sung by Mohd Rafi, music by Naushad and written by Shakeel Badayuni!!

Manasi said...

HOw true! If only we all could be 'musical'.
Naushad's music was amazing, soulful and all through those many long years he never failed to enchant us. People like him come scarce.
A moment of silence in his honour.

Anonymous said...

Same Old Anon: In the same light I recall an incident that I read in some magazine some years ago.

The greatly talented and gifted singer - KJ Yesudas once attended a felicitation ceremony which was organised by some association from his community.

Someone there probed him as to why he sings devotional songs in praise of Lord Aiyappa and why he spents nearly 15 days every year without fail at Kollur, praying to Goddess Mookambika.....and that he should instead limit his devotional songs in praise of Lord Jesus....

According to that report, Yesudas left that function immediately saying that he does not want to be felicitated by a group who mixes music and religion.....

Shruthi said...

Nirwa: True!

Sunil: :)) Well said!

Anil mama: Those were wonderfully interesting and fascinating inputs!! Wow! Thanks :)

Asatyanveshi: Haudu :(

Kalyan: Ghazals are in Urdu yes, but I don't think the majority of them have any religious meanings.. spiritual, yes, but religious - haven't really heard any like that. But then yes, even if it did, how does it matter? :)

direkishore: Correct!! That is one excellent example!

Manasi: Absolutely.

Same old Anon: Hey that was a very interesting incident indeed! Thank you! Makes me feel good :)

Chitra said...

Hey...haange noDlikke hodre I never even give a thought to the religion of the cook of a hotel :) !

Sri Harsha said...

Religion fogs everything tht we do....including the way we look at things or people.

It's really amazing tht something we've created for ourselves, out of the fear of the unkonwn.....holds such a command over all the things in the world today.

Jst Imagine.....!

chitra said...

Let alone music, in all creative fields, religion takes a back seat. Take the case of Rahi Masoom Raza, the great script writer. Wrote all the episodes of Mahabharatha!Javed Akhthar is no exception.

Shruthi said...

Chitra of Chitraaz: :D

Harsha: You are so right... it's very unfortunate. A religion-less world is .. sigh.. a beautiful dream!

Chitra: Hey I did not know about the scriptwriter of Mahabharata! Thanks :)

Harshad Joshi said...

Nice blog with thought provoking posts. Keep it up.

Srik said...

I recall one more incident here. Sometimes back, I was watching an interview of the South-Indian legendary film singer SPBalasubramaniam. The interviewer asked him 'Sir, you speak Telugu as good as you speak Kannada. You speak Tamil as good as Malayalam. You manage to speak Hindi too. We are confused as to which is your mother tongue!!' For which the legend answered "My Mother tongue is music." !! What a great answer.

True. Music has no religion, it has no other confinities like language, boundaries nothing.

Shruthi said...

Harshad: Thank you so much! :)

Srikkanth: That's an interesting incident indeed! Thanks! You are right. Music transcends religion, boundaries, languages, everything!

Anonymous said...

shruthi, well written. as u said, music has no religion. want to share an incident with u: few years back, i had the good fortune of meeting MS Subbulakshmi. her drawing room walls were covered with pictures of great singers of all times. i also found a picture of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan amidst all these pictures. i told her he had referred to her as SUSWARALKSHMI SUBBULAKSHMI. she told she was blessed to have learnt under him!
great people are truly humble.

Anonymous said...

very very very well written.
A touching incident though most people will not look into the depth of it.Brilliant!

Shruthi said...

Bellur Ramakrishna: Wow, that's wonderful! Thanks! And you are fortunate, indeed :)

Anon: Thank you so much! Yes, I do hope that people will understand and appreciate what I am trying to convey! Please leave your name the next time you are here :) Thank you!

Kandarp said...

nice post

Raskhan, one of the greatest poet who wrote poems about Krishna was a muslim. And the best Bhajan in the history of hindi movies, "Man tadapat hari darshan ko aaj man", from movie Baiju Bawra, was written by Mazrooh sultanpuri, composed by Naushad and sung by Mohd. Rafi...

Music has no religion....

Shruthi said...

Kandarp: Thanks! I hadn't heard of Raskhan, thanks for this info!
Also, the lyricist for "Man tadpat" was Shakeel Badayuni, as another commenter has already written! (I googled for this too, and found that it was indeed Shakeel Badayuni). But yes, the point is that he was a Muslim :)

Anonymous said...

Music achieves religion. But none of us understand what religion is or has really lived religion and it is this that makes us either to be in one or to be out of it. Neither do we understand music. Without knowing, being any of these we say Music has no Religion and call that profundity. What a pity. Music is religion.
- Raaji

Shruthi said...

Raaji: In this post, I was just expressing my pleasure about the fact that in this mad mad world where religion seems to be the focus of everything, music is such a beautiful thing that when you listen to it, the last thing you think about is the religion of either the singer, or composer. Simple. I am not talking about understanding music deeply. YOu really need not understand, you can just just enjoy listening.
All of us have been tagged with a religion whether we like it or not. This tag is mising in music. That is the message of this post! :)

Ranjit Nair said...

Shruthi, another related story - a K.J.Yesudas one. As Anon has mentioned somewhere here, Yesudas (also spelled as Jesudas sometimes) dominated the Malayalam music industry like nobody had ever before (even Lata did not have such a profound effect on Hindi music, I think), and as a result he has sung a huge volume of bhajans and religious songs (on Krishna, Ayyappa and almost any other god you can think of). Any temple in the state would have the glorious voice of Yesudas blaring through their bell-shaped speakers (illegal, btw!).

Yet, there are many temples (Guruvayoor being the most famous, perhaps) who refuse entry to Yesudas, because he is 'Christian'. If this isn't hypocrisy, then what is?

Shruthi said...

Ranjit: Right! I was really saddened hen I read that news about him denied entry in Guruvayoor.
Actually until then, I hadn't realized he was a Christian! Then I thought, silly me, its so obvious - there is "Yesu" in his name!

Kedar Koushik said...

hey! thnx for the info.
call it ignorance or greatness,i always keep/kept musicans away from religion.
the same incident of u'rs happened with me...but with A.R.Rehman. it was difficult for me to digest that he is of a "different religion".

Anonymous said...

Dear k'dar
He is not from a "different religion". It is only that he was born a Hindu and later converted to Islam.
A lot has been talked about Rahman's conversion to Islam. In fact the quiet music composer even received a lot of flak for the same. It was in the year 1989 that Dileep Kumar and his family converted into Islam. In 1988, one of his sisters fell seriously ill and in spite of the family's effort to cure her, her health deteriorated by the day. They happened to meet a Muslim Pir - Sheik Abdul Qadir Jeelani or Pir Qadri. His prayers and blessings did wonders to his sister who made a miraculous comeback to life. Thus began the journey of A.S.Dileep Kumar to A.R. Rahman.

Shruthi said...

K'dar: My pleasure :) For that matter, even I had a moment of "Ohhh Rehman is a Muslim"!

Bellur Ramakrishna: Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

See Music is Born from Sama Veda... that is why all these Muslim masters of music respect Saraswathi and all other Hindu Gods..when you really into Music you will know.

Now a days K.J. Yesudas even though he is born as a christian he is living a Hindu's life.

First of all we should be proud of our religion and then become spiritual!

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