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RIP Pyarelal Wadali: Loss of the kaafi sung true

The younger of the Wadali Brothers duo, Pyarelal Wadali, died on Friday morning. He was 75.

music Updated: Mar 09, 2018 20:20 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times
Pyarelal Wadali,Wadali Brothers,Pyarelal Wadali Obituary
In this file photo, Pyarelal Wadali and elder brother Puran Chand Wadali (unseen) perform at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi.(PTI)

Sufi music sung in classical strains suffered a shock Friday morning with the death of Pyarelal Wadali, the younger in the duo Wadali Brothers. He had kept a tradition alive in Punjab on this side of the barbed wire; that was significant because Partition had dealt a cruel blow to music with many migrating across the border.

For the older brother Puran Chand Wadali, it is the loss of his partner in music and the most beloved of his disciples. Coming from the Baazigar clan of Guru ki Wadali village near Amritsar, they had an ancestral tradition of singing the Sufi kaafi. Puran Chand was fond of wrestling but his father Thakur Das Wadali stressed on learning music and Puran was to become ustad to his younger brother, who played Krishna in the village raaslila.

Puran Chand Wadali, Pyarelal Wadali, in 2003 (HT Photo)

They were late bloomers, having gone through rough struggle. As the story goes, they were turned back from the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar in 1975 because of their jagged appearance but were spotted by an All India Radio producer and gradually started giving programmes on Jalandhar Doordarshan. Fame came to them in the mid-90’s when one of their qawwalis was included in a Punjabi film. Harjit Singh, former station director of Jalandhar Doordarshan, says: “They were able to hold their own with Sufi music of the soil when Punjabi music was going through its worst phase of commercialisation”.

They were particularly respected as exponents of the kaafi, a classical form of Sufi poetry and singing style, mostly in Punjabi and Sindhi languages. Some well-known kaafi poets are Bulleh Shah, Shah Hussain, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Khwaja Ghulam Farid.

Paying tributes to Pyarelal, renowned Sufi and pop singer Hans Raj Hans spoke of the pair: “I met them when I was very young and learning music from Ustad Puran Shahkoti, and the Wadali brothers came to sing at functions at his home. I witnessed their phenomenal growth. Their success came from the strong guru-shishya tradition.”

Punjabi music composer Atul Sharma adds, “I have seen the older brother yell, after downing some country brew, at the younger one if he got a note wrong. Pyarelal worked hard to elevate his learning and became an asset in the magic the Wadali Brothers went on to create.”

Speaking of the talents of Pyarelal, writer and music buff Des Raj Kali says, “He was the ideal musical companion to his brother Puranchand and the two excelled in singing Sufi kaafi. Pyarelal was also very good in verbal explanations of the kaafi during performances”. Pyarelal along with his older brother Puranchand, a recipient of the Padma Shri, went onto win many laurels including the national Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1992.

Their music in Bolywood films such as Pinjar, Tanu Weds Manu, Mausam, or their recording of ‘Tu Mane ya Na Mane, Dildara’ with Coke Studio India’s Season 3 took them to pinnacles of popularity, and their greatest hit remained ‘Dama Dam Mast Kalandar’, the very essence of Sufi music at its glory.

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First Published: Mar 09, 2018 19:39 IST