A classic with a twist in the tale

I must thank my cousin Ravi Gurjar who stayed with us for the first few months after moving to Mumbai to take up his job in the CTRL.

Till he brought his cassettes and played this song, I had actually never heard any song by this man.

This is an iconic ghazal I will always associate with Ghulam Ali sahab.

“Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa” is a very popular ghazal, most famously sung by Ghulam Ali sahab.

It is written by Akbar Allahabadi and is composed in Raag Darbari.

Akbar Allahabadi’s song is clearly about the pleasures of imbibing alcohol, something I found very unusual coming from a (now hard-line) theocracy that frowns upon this kind of ghazal is said to be a response to those insinuations.

This ghazal was used for the first time in a Pakistani film Aap Ka Khadim which was directed by Wazir Ali.

Its music was composed by Khalil Ahmed and sung by Mehdi Hassan, but the lyrics were (erroneously) credited to Tasleem Fazli, the lyricist for the remainder of the songs in the film.

Later Ghulam Ali adopted it with same basic music composition and made it popular. To be honest, I didn’t like the version by Mehdi Hassan as much as Ghulam Ali’s iconic version. Mehdi Hassan’s rendition , doesn’t allow for a detailed exposition of his gayaki, as it is meant for a film with its temporal constraints. Also the composition has a rather weird set of rather disharmonious instruments and I found it quite unpleasant. Ghulam Ali’s version, albeit adopted from Mehdiji’s does better justice to the gayaki.

Darbari is a calm, introspective raag, played deep into the night, considered to be one of the more difficult to master, and with the capability to have a profound emotional impact on the elaborate meend and andolan are generally more preferred than light and frivolous ornamentations like murki or khatka. That’s the one aspect I found unaddressed in Mehdi Hassan sahab’s rendition. Darbari is usually played deep into the night, around midnight. The slightly somber tone is perfect for the hour.

The wonderful raag Darbari is said to have been imported from Carnatic music by none other than the legendary singer, Tansen.

This is a very old recording from Bharatratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and makes me meditative and become one with the supreme one.

And this is a rendition by the legendary flautist Pannalal Ghosh who raised a flute to an ethereal plane. He was incidentally great friends with Anil Biswas, and was married to Anilda’s younger sister Parul.

Stay safe, folks. Stay happy and healthy and take the jab. Have a wonderful weekend

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

4 replies on “A classic with a twist in the tale”

Akbar Allahabadi wrote
Hungama Hai Kyun Barpa…
which was composed in Raag Darbari Kanada.
But very few are aware of the context in which the teetotaler Akbar Allahabadi, wrote it.
Akbar Allahabadi was born in 1846 & lived through turbulent times, witnessing the first war of independence in 1857, World war I & he was a spectator to the post 1857 ‘divide and rule’ policies of the British. He opposed the British policies & the decadence of the Indian culture through his satirical verses. Most of his topics addressed these issues in the Indian & particularly the Muslim community. He talked of the cynicism of the political leaders of the time & their double speak:
“qaum ke Gam mein dinner khaate hain hukkaam ke saath
ranj leader ko bahut hai magar aaraam ke saath “
(They cry over the community’s woes with rulers over fine dinners
The leaders talk of sorrows but in comfort)
There are many of his verses on the issue:
Ladein kyon Hinduon se hum , yaheen ke an pe panpen hain/
Hamari bhi dua ya hai ki Gangaji ki barthi ho
(why fight with the Hindus, we have prospered here
I pray that the sacred Ganges should prosper too.)
He used humour to interpret & convey his messages & his verse is to be read between the lines & in the social & historical context of the times too.
The fall out of the Khilafat Movement exacerbated the already growing rift & led to the drifting apart of Hindus & Muslims with many Muslims aligning themselves with the Muslim League.
This growing distance between the Hindus & Muslims of India perturbed Akbar Allahabadi & he advocated Hindu – Muslim unity. By then the Muslim league was growing in power & was completely at odds with the Congress. His attempts at propagating Hindu- Muslim unity led to allegations that Akbar had been bribed or influenced by the Hindus as if by alcohol. Though in Urdu shayri alcohol was taken as a symbol of devotion, here Akbar is equating it to love for a community which permits drinking as opposed to Islam which prohibits it.
He often used allegory & symbols in his poetry to convey a much deeper message than the one read superficially.
The verse “ uss mai se nahi matlab “ is a reference to the intoxication of power , resulting in the hateful divisiveness of those days & leading ultimately to partition. He although didn’t live to see that day.
Hungama hai kyun barpa…., his interpretation was,
(Why the furore if a wee bit imbibed have I,
Neither have I looted nor robbed anyone have I)
( this ‘mai’ could be said to be the ‘milk of human kindness”)
Naa tajurbaa kaari se vaaiz ki yeh baatein hain
Is rang ko kyaa jaane pooch tau kabhi pii hai?
Naa Tajurbaa kaari : inexperience
Vaaiz : preacher
(The inexperience of the preacher reflects in these insinuations
How could he recognise this hue, ask has he ever tasted it?
Uss mai se nahin matlab dil jis se ho begaana
Maqsuud hai uss mai se dil mein jo khinchti hai
Mai : wine
Maqsuud : intended,proposed,intent,design
Begaanaa : a foreigner
(Useless is the wine which is a stranger to my heart
I seek the wine which springs forth from my own heart)
Vaa’n dil mein ki sadame do yaa’n jii mein ke sab sah lo
Un kaa bhii ajab dil hai meraa bhii ajab jii hai
Ajab : wonder, astonishment,wonderful,amazing
(There the intent to hurt, here to bear it
Her heart is also amazing & mine also astonishes)
har zarraa chamaktaa hai anvaar-e-ilaahii se
har saans ye kahtii hai ham hain to Khuda bhii hai
zarra : an atom, a particle
Anvaar e ilaahi : Brilliance of God
(Every speck is illuminated by Divine brilliance
Every breath proclaims, I am here is a testimony to God’s existence )
Suraj mein lage dhabbaa fitrat ke karishme hain
but ham ko kahe kaafir Allah kii marzii hai
Fitrat : creation, nature
Karishma : a wonder, miracle, a charm
But : idol, beloved
Kaafir : non believer
(The specks on the sun are Nature’s miracle
The idol calls me a non believer ’tis God’s will)
Next time one hears this ghazal one should spare a thought for the genius of Akbar Allahabadi & his political sagacity.
How beautifully the poet silences the false speaking mass & at the same time maintains its gravity & elegance that makes it a special work of art. One cannot help but soak in the divine euphoria when listening & relating to the poet’s thought of this lyrical magnum opus which has been equally well treated, vocally, by Ustad Ghulam Ali as he makes an attempt to delve deeper into the meaning behind the words & as each word unfolds, in his rendition of the ghazal, one’s left feeling numb.

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