20 comments on “Celebrating the Urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Part I: The Song

  1. Thank you for this, Richard! That was very informative – I hadn’t known about Ashiq Hussain (I always thought the tune was a traditional folk tune, possibly because I remember having heard a Rajasthani folk singer render it on Indian TV, back in the 80s… I realize now that it was most likely just another instance of popular music being given a very folksy twist). I wish I could find that clip because to me, it’s probably the best rendition of the song I’ve ever heard. No luck so far.

    A coincidence, though: on a recent road trip, my toddler insisted that we spend the hours with Mommy singing. and the one song that kept coming to me – mainly because I know nearly all the words, and because I know that this is the sort of beat that will appeal to my daughter – was Dama dam mas qalandar. It was such a hit with her that even now, every other day, I’m asked to sing it. This kid’s got good taste!

  2. Madhu, that’s a fun story. I don’t remember you saying anything about having a toddler in the past… Though I guess this would have to be fairly recent news. :)

    Sunil (wingedream), I’m a bit confused by your comment. Who is the “he” to whom you are referring?

  3. Yes, Richard. The toddler’s two and a half (almost), and I keep her photos (and most mentions of her) off social media, so that’s probably why you didn’t know about her.

    Wingedream: Echoing Richard here. Who’s the ‘he’?

  4. Enjoyed reading this well researched post and listening to the various renditions, though some did not play. I liked Runa Laila’s rendition a lot, perhaps because I watched her live back in the 70s.
    It is heart wrenching to read about the music director behind the song. Like Madhu, I took it be a traditional folk tune. It saddens to listen to him. I have a new respect for Lata Mangeshkar who fought for royalty for the songs. So many great music directors, actors also ended up in poverty in India. Too bad that the show biz industry forgets their own. Looking forward to part 2.

  5. Anu and Neeru, thanks for the nice words.

    Neeru, I like Runa Laila’s rendition, too, and I like Runa Laila in general. I see that a lot of people have identified the song with her. I’ve also posted her rendition of this song on this blog before.

    It is very troubling to read about Ashiq Hussain’s fate.

    Regarding Lata Mangeshkar, she fought for royalties, but many people say she fought to dominate the world of Hindi film music in other ways, too, some not so nice. It could be that in many cases, to really stay on top or even stay afloat, one has to have a kind of personality that will have this negative side, too. And many artists do not at all have these qualities needed to stay on top of things – which qualities have nothing to do with the those needed for the art, whether it’s composing, singing, writing, etc. (When I start talking about writing and related things, I could talk about personal experiences, too, but I won’t here, not right now. :) I could talk about the system, but this isn’t really the blog for that.) It’s not a problem limited to South Asia, either. Maybe Hollywood has fewer tales like these, but I believe there are some, and there are many other tales of riches-to-rags (or at least relative-comfort-to-rags) ruin to be found – among many different kinds of people. In fact, that tale is becoming more common now in the west and the U.S.

  6. Richard,
    You have surpassed yourself! Congratulations and thanks for this wonderful post. For most of us in India, this song was synonymous with Runa Laila. Later, another variant, which is probably an altogether different song, that became humongously popular globally was Dam mast Qalandar mast mast by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Is there any link between the two songs, besides Qalandar?

  7. Thank you for the nice words, AK. I am very glad to see that you liked this one so much.

    Regarding the version by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, etc….

    It’s a bit confusing. Going by Wikipedia – which seems as good as any source that I could find on this – the song that I always referred to as “Lal Meri Pat” is based on the poem known as “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar” and is generally called that, and the “…Mast Mast” song is based on that poem also, so “variation” would be a good term, but a lot of people don’t even seem to distinguish them. Nate’s post talked about the “Mast Mast” variation but cited the same poem, with the same lyrics, beginning with O “al meri pat…” I think that the Kathak dance by V. Anuradha Singh is also backed up by this variation, and that’s why I wondered if it should be included – because I didn’t hear Ashiq Hussain’s melody in there at all. (I realized this while going through all the songs together after I wrote the post. But as I said, the dance is so good, I am reluctant to take it down…. I haven’t really decided, so I threw in a bracketed statement for now that kind of interrupts the flow of the post. :) ]

    One thing I have noticed is that a lot of people go into a sort of improvisational chant at the end of “Lal Meri Pat,” and this better matches the “Mast Mast” song. I am guessing that the improvisational chant is the thing that was always done at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine, etc., before Ashiq Hussain gave the world his particular meoldy.

  8. I am going to add this clip because I just found it on YouTube and it had been posted on exactly the day of the Urs… This is a rendition by the remarkable British singer Tanya Wells. I have been enjoying her performances of ghazals for a while, and she may be the subject of an upcoming post sometime soon.

  9. Swarup, thank you for the link. I have not seen this site, but I am pretty sure I’ve seen all of these clips. A while back, I did a post that consisted entirely of Noor Jehan singing dhamals. I can’t find it at the moment. I may have deleted it because most of the clips disappeared. (I think these film clips disappear a lot – but they also get replaced a lot.)

  10. Richard, That is from a post in my blog from January 2009. I am surprised that it still works.

  11. I found the post that I was talking about. The search worked when I tried a different spelling. My post came out in 2011. I think our posts – or, rather, my post and the search that your post linked to – have two songs in common, but one of them was a clip I used that was dropped. (Most of the clips are still up.) I am pretty certain that I never saw your post on the subject – although I certainly would have been interested at the time, considering that I’ve been posting regularly about Noor Jehan since 2008. It’s just another uncanny coincidence! :)


  12. Thanks Richard for the links. My introduction was through a blog called Crazyfinger, now the blog is gone but I got to know the guy, a Telugu IT professional in USA who does not normally write about music. It was the Noor Jehan one from the film that you linked above. I was bowled over and searched for her other Sufi related songs. It may have been around that time I found your blog, I India references to your blog from that year. Meanwhile some bad news Amjad Sabri was shot dead.

  13. Swarup, was that your introduction to Noor Jehan Sufi songs specifically, or Noor Jehan songs in general?

    I had gotten into Sufi and qawwali music in the ’90s, though I did not really have the same knowledge of the genres and traditions back then. I got a CD of the greatest hits of Abida Parveen in ’97, and I played many times over the years. Of course, I was familiar with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and also some fusion versions of Dam Dam Mast Qalandar (both of the variations talked about above).
    I probably did hear Noor Jehan, but I wasn’t conscious of her and her role in films back then.

    The first person I corresponded with about old “Bollywood” in the blogging world was Suzy aka Sitaji of Bollywood Food Club, who’d found my blog while researching mujras in the fall of 2007. She introduced me to Greta/Memsaab, who was just starting her blog, too, and a few others within the next few months, and soon I was in the community and also well on my way to obsessing about this stuff. Suzy recommended Mihir Bose’s book Bollywood: A History, which had come out just recently, and I hunted it down and read it with much interest. I found the section about Noor Jehan particularly intriguing (part of it actually consisted of the notorious quotes from Manto – though it would be a few years before I finally got to read Stars from Another Sky), and I think that’s why I started looking for Noor Jehan a lot (sometime in 2008). I think I also saw the Noor Jehan-on-Naghma “Lal Meri Pat” somewhere around that time, too.

    A few of these blogs that we know about got started in 2008-09. And this one didn’t really get started as a blog for old Indian films until the beginning of 2008 (though the blog, in general, had started six months before – coming up on its ninth anniversary)… I’ve talked about this before, wondering if there was something in the air at the time…

    Well, it’s always fun to recount that history in one way or another. It’s not so fun to talk about what happened to Amjad Sabri. Yes, that is horrible news. I was actually planning post something in this comments section tonight. That will come next.

  14. I heard some popular Noor Jehan songs before but that one in 2009 blew me away. Since then I listened to some of her other songs.

  15. And here is another good version of “Lal Meri Pat.” Very sadly, I am adding it as a memorial tribute because Amjad Farid Sabri was killed by terrorists yesterday. RiP.

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