Swarathma’s Blog

Music and Wisdom: What I learned from Mukhtiyar Ali
December 31, 2010, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Experiences | Tags: , ,

Pavan Kumar writes about one of his musical inspirations, the intrepid Mukhtiyar Ali. Coming from a family of Sufi singers, Mukhtiyar brings with him a rawness that is as awe-inspiring as it is uplifting. Swarathma’s percussionsist/vocalist Pavan had a chance meeting with him that developed into a deeper relationship. It is not often that you have the chance to being in the presence of true greatness, one that is not overshadowed by the clouds of flashing lights of fleeting fame. Read on to know more.

I am a great fan of sufi music. I remember getting hooked to it during my high school days. My list of favourite singers goes like this: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Wadali brothers, Sabri brothers and Abida Parween. I had not heard of Mir Mukhtiyar Ali until I saw ‘Had Unhad’, a documentary on Kabir by Shabnam Virmani, in which there is a segment on Mukhtiyar. I liked his singing instantly and immensely. At that point I had never imagined that I’d one day meet Mukhtiyar Ali.

My first meeting with Mukhtiyar in person was a short one. This was about five years back in my hometown Mysore, where Mukhtiyar was giving a concert. My brother Sachu was instrumental in organising Mukhtiyar’s concert titled Roohi Rang, in Mysore a couple of years later. And this is how I met Mukhtiyar for a second time, and again in my hometown. This time around, Sachu was very keen on organizing a recording of Mukhtiyar’s singing and managed to make it happen a couple of months later. Fortunately Swarathma didn’t have many shows around that time and I landed up in Mysore, happy to have a chance to listen to Mukhtiyar’s singing again.

A voice that soars: Mukhtiyar Ali

I had felt that this man was very humble and down to earth. I realized it practically after spending time with him. When I had spoken to him over phone a few months before I had casually asked him to get me a dholak from Rajasthan. I didn’t imagine that he would take this request from me seriously. But I went over to meet him as he arrived in Mysore and lo! He handed over an awesome dholak for me!

This time I had opportunity of spending 4 days with him. While in his company I used to closely observe him as a person and as a musician. The most important aspect I learnt from him is how to be humble and how to let go of one’s ego. Mukhtiyar shared a lot of things about himself and his musical journey. He was born on Aug. 1, 1972 in a small village called Pugal in Rajasthan. He is from the semi – nomadic Mirasi Community that hails from Thar Desert. He represents 26th generation of this community, which has successfully kept alive the oral tradition of Sufiana Qalam! His performances in festivals in Canada, Belgium and Sweden got overwhelming responses, as did his recital in New Delhi in 2008, as part of an international festival of arts. He has performed in most of the metros in India. He has to his credit many performances and has released three albums, two of which were brought out by Shristi School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore. He has also lent his voice to a few film songs. And he’s off to France for a series of concerts in February 2011.

Despite economic hardships and the onslaught of globalisation, which threatens to dilute much of folk traditions and music forms; Mukhtiyar has stood firm and kept alive the oral tradition of Sufism. When it comes to music, I must say that Mukhtiyar has a voice which can only be experienced and never expressed. In soulful Kabir he has preserved the ideology of Sufiana music. Mukhtiyar’s recital of poetry is so heartfelt that it begins to resemble music.

Mukhtiyar has been singing Rajasthani folk songs including poems of Amir Khusro, Shabahu and Kabir, whose lyrics have no religious barriers. When asked about the latest remix culture, Ali said that they were short-lived pieces of music, produced in bulk every day and forgotten even faster. “Sufi poets’ verses have been sung since the past 27 generations and are popular even to this day,” he pointed out.

Though I had read poems of Kabir like any other primary school kid, I started understanding the meaning within it, as I got older. After listening to Mukhtiyar, my understanding of Kabir became much more clear because Mukhtiyar intersperses his singing with explanations in Hindi for the audience’s benifit. Explaining about Kabir’s verse in which he compares the human life to a garment that passes through various phases of production from raw cotton to the tailor, Mukhtiyar says that Kabir himself was a weaver by profession and propagated philosophy through easily understandable verses.

A couple of popular Kabir’s dohas sung by Mukhtiyar which have inspired me

Bura jo khojan main chala
bura na mileya koye
anthar khoja apno so
mujhsa bura na koi

(I went out in search of the worst person
And later, on searching my own soul,
Realised that none could be worse than me,
For looking for the worst in others)
In another verse, Mukhtiyar, citing himself as an example, sings;

Gaoon bajaoon… sab ko rijhaoon…
albeli mastani… deen dharam se begaani…
(I sing and play, I entertain everyone;
I am unaware of caste or religious barriers).

When Swarathma composes songs on Kabir I perceive it with a deeper understanding today. Thanks to Mukhtiyar.


1 Comment so far
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Thanks for sharing video of great Mukhtiar Ali. Glad to see these humble musicians performing with a true sense of dedication.

Comment by Ankur Srivastava

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