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The original trance music

Legend has it that Amir Khusrau was once dancing with his arms stretched up to god, his ‘beloved’. Nizamuddin Auliya, his guru, came up and asked him to lower his arms because he didn’t need to submit to anyone but his murshid, or teacher. Amitava Sanyal tells more...

music Updated: Feb 19, 2010 21:31 IST
Amitava Sanyal

Legend has it that Amir Khusrau was once dancing with his arms stretched up to god, his ‘beloved’. Nizamuddin Auliya, his guru, came up and asked him to lower his arms because he didn’t need to submit to anyone but his murshid, or teacher. “That’s how haal (out-of-body condition, trance), the dance of ecstasy, got its form,” says Irfan Habib, historian and professor emeritus at Aligarh Muslim University.

Habib, whose vast academic interests include Sufi philosophy, explains, “In Sufism, the love of god acquires a sexual tone... To dissolve oneself in god is the ultimate consummation. That’s why a pir’s death is called urs, or marriage. And that’s why the Sufis developed the ghazal, a form of love poetry.”

It’s the approach that, at once, turns Sufis into enemies of orthodox Islam and friends of music lovers. In the week ahead, it’s the latter who will rejoice. Coming up are two celebrations of the works of Khusrau, Bulleh Shah and Mirza Abdul Qadir ‘Bedil’.

Bedil who? Sohail Hashmi, a conservationist who is organising the Bedil show, sheds light on this unlit corner of Delhi’s history. “Mirza Ghalib had an ego the size of...,” he says and makes a space between his hands the width of a harmonium. “Such a person recognised the works of only two other poets — Mir and Bedil (1642–1720). But he’s rarely heard in Delhi... Today, anyone who can sing in Afghanistan sings Bedil.” And the connect is so strong in Tajikistan that the Indian government named after the poet, of all things, an IT institute it set up in capital Dushanbe.

To fill the gap at home, Akhlaque Ahmad, assistant professor of Persian at Jawaharlal Neru University, has translated some of the works from Farsi to English. The texts will be presented with the music at the show on Thursday.

One may not need such interlocution with the works of Khusrau or Shah, two nodal points in Delhi’s music circuit.

Muzaffar Ali, whose brainchild Jahan-e-Khusrau will showcase the masters’ works in the three-day show, promises a “Punjabi tinge” to it all. An aesthete who believes in “cracking the boundaries between artforms”, Ali has composed a ballet to Bulleh Shah’s ‘Tere ishq nachaya’ that will be performed by Astad Deboo and Malini Awasthi next Sunday.

Then there will be the unruly mane and intense growl of Abida Parveen, the only artist who has featured in all the eight editions of Jahan-e-Khusrau.

“When such a show is presented as between a dargah (place of worship) and a khanqah (place for Sufi gatherings), the grace of the fakir permeates the air,” says Ali.

It’s the air hundreds of Delhiwallas will breathe the coming week.