Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tahira Syed's pure rendtion of 'Abhi to main jawan hoon"

It was a difficult act to follow at any time. Mallika Pukhraj has made Hafeez Jalandhari's "Abhi to main jawan hoon" her very own. She made it both melodious and immortal. Her languorous, sensual voice captures the pain and sorrow of the ebbing away of life by putting up a romantic resistance through the words of the poet.

The words reflect a person who is past his prime, but who is not willing to give up his claim to the joys of life. Anyone who hears it is pulled into a sentimental haze, some sort of an emotional nebuliser working on you. And you enjoy the pleasure of sadness. Of course, much of romantic poetry, especially in Urdu, is this plaintive moaning of loss of love. It is soothing and it is irresistible, and it is numbing as well. But soon you grow sick of it. You cannot suspend rationality for too long. You have to come up for the fresh air of logic.

So, when Tahira Syed, the Pakistan ghazal singer and daughter of Malika Pukhraj, concluded her part of the musical sevening which she shared with Bangaldesh's Runa Laila and India's Rita Gangfuly (organised by the Indian Women's Press Corps and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi on October 20, 2007), with Hafeez's famous lyric, she did with admirable control.

First, she sang the whole of the lyric poem unlike in the Mallika Pukhraj one. That was indeed the right thing to do because what holds together the mood of romantic mourning is the strict form of the poem which allows for the smooth flow of considered thought interwined with deep feeling. Yes. Writing poetry which has so much of feeling is a sober act of creativity though the poet may not have been aware of it at the time of composition.

The whole poem has a certain movement -- emotions and feelings become mawkish when they are struck at a single note -- which covers various aspects of desire for pleasure that a person losing his vitality longs for. It centres round music and wine. But at a deeper level it also refers to the 'self' that persists against the ravages of time. There is a strong spritual and philosophical tinge to the lyric, but not too much. What holds the whole thing together is this overwhelming feeling of loss. But this lament of loss is anchored in deep reflection. That is why, it is a good poem.

By choosing to sing the whole of the poem without too much of lilt in her voice -- which was the treacherous charm of the Pokhraj version -- Tahira Syed has managed to draw attention to the words and away from the musicality of the poem and that of the person singing it.

It is quite possible that Tahira Syed did not really think of all this that evening. It was not a premeditated performance. There was enough spontaneity in her voice. And the audience heard it all in enraptured silence. There was no temptation to hum it along with her which is usually the case with popular numbers. And 'Abhi to main jawan hoon' is a very popular numbber, cutting across generations.

She gave a certain dignity to the poem, and the listeners heard it with some amount of reverence.

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