Bulleh Shah: The best rendition ever!

Posted on August 26, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Music, People, Poetry
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Adil Najam

The 249th annual urs of the great sage Bulleh Shah’s begins in Kasur today.

We here at ATP have paid tribute to the sage in two earlier posts (here and here). And even though I have been itching to write about the poetry of other greats such as Waris Shah, Khawaja Farid, Sultan Bahoo, Shah Hussain and others, the moment befits more mention of a sage who can never be mentioned enough.

On this wonderful occasion, I thought I would share with you the audio recordings of some of my favourite renditions of Bulleh Shah’s poignant kalaam. Including what is, at least for me, the single best rendition of a Bulleh Shah work ever!

Yes, I know that is a tall claim, and you are certainly more than welcome to your own opinions, but let me try to substantiate my view. For me Pathanay Khan singing this rendition of ‘Mera Ranjhan koi hor’ is the perfect voice, singing the perfect selection, with the perfect pathos, for the perfect depiction of the essence of a perfect Bulleh Shah experience. In case you missed the emphasis, I REALLY love this rendition. I have, quite literally, been pacing my study for the last hour and a half listening to this in a state of semi trance, physically unable to just sit still and type.

After having said all that, I hope you will give it at least one listen (here). If you do and if you have never heard it before, give it your full attention, give it time to seep in, and listen deeply to the passion in that voice as well as the power of those words. If you are one of the impatient types and can’t sit through the momentum building up, just push forward to around to minute 13 and see him getting into:

jaiN dil wich pyar di ramz nahiN
bass ouou dil kouN weeran samajh
jadouN pyar di jaan sujhaan nahiN
ouou banday kouN nadaan samajh
ee-o pyar aye dars waleeaN da
aye maslak paak nabeeaN da
anmool pyar di daulat aye
ee-koun uqba da samaan samajh
eee pyar di khatir arsh banney
eee pyar di khatir farsh banney
khoud pyar khudda wich wassda aye
meiN sach ahdaa, Quran samajh

Like all of the greatest poets – Faiz, for example – the beauty of Bulleh Shah is that in some ways it does not matter who is singing those words and how, the power of the words will carry through. At one level, I think that is the real power even behind the Shergill and Junoon versions. But as with Faiz (for example, Noor Jahan singing ‘mujh say pehli si muhabbat…‘ or Mehdi Hasan singing ‘gulouN meiN rang bharray…‘) there are some renditions that just perfectly blend music, voice and words. To me, this is one such renditions.

But I do understand this is a personal taste thing. I would love to hear what other folk’s favorite renditions are. There are many other renditions that are also tremendously powerful. For example:

Jumman Khan singing “Assan Ishq Namaz JadooN Neeti aye” (listen here). Its not the best recording, but note the opening verses:

jay rabb milda naataiN dhotaiN
tay rabb milda daddouaN maachiaN nou
jay rabb milda jungul phiraiN
atay rabb milda gaayaN wachiaN nou
way Bullayaa, rabb unnaaN nou milda
attay dilaiyan sachiyaN aachiyaN nou

Abida Parveen (listen here) brings a different sensibility to her rendition of the same song (here) but opens rather differently; by making fun of (as Bulleh Shah often did) of my profession:

paRh paRh ilm hazaar kitaabaN
qaddi apnay aap nou paRhiya naee
jaaN jaaN waRhday mandir maseedi
qaddi mann apnay wich waRhiya naee
aa-vaiN laRda aye shaitan de naal bandeaa
qaddi nafss apnay naal laRiya naee

[yes, yes, you have read thousands of books
but you have never tried to read your own self
you rush in, into your Mandirs, into your Mosques
but you have never tried to enter your own heart
futile are all your battles with Satan
for you have never tried to fight your own desires]

Note how she also weaves in that other immortal verse about:

… kuttay, taiN touN uttay
mulla kanouN kuKKar changaaN
jehRa yaar jagaway suttay
taiN kan uttay…

[dogs are higher than you
and the rooster is better than the Mullah
for at least they wake friends who are asleep]

ATP had earlier written about how contemporary artists (Rabbi Shergill and Junoon) were rediscovering the work of this immortal poet and discovering — as so many earlier generations have — the vibrancy, political and social poignancy, and amazing musicality of the Bulleh Shah’s work.

For those who search for more contemporary renditions, here is another one. This one by Noori, based on Bullay Shah’s ‘Kuttey terray uttay’. I am a huge fan of Noori, but do not think this is their best work. Nor is it a good rendition of Bullay’s ‘Kuttey.’ But the social and political message is intense and the video, especially the first minute or so, is amazingly poignant. For those reason’s alone – and as an exhibit of the versatility and timelessness of Bullay Shah’s idiom – its worth watching.

Click on arrow at center, or view it directly here

The website DesiPundit had picked up on that post and, writing there, Neha mentioned something that has had me thinking ever since:

If others also paid Bulleh Shah more attention, they might find that in terms of his themes Bulleh Shah may be the most contemporary poet in South Asia today. Try looking at ‘Bass kar ji’ (Enough is enough) or ‘Moun aayee baat na rehndi hai’ (I must utter what comes to my lips) and you will find them resonating with your most contemporary political and social preoccupations.

I think Neha is exactly right. And much as I loved Rabbi’s version, and even as I have learnt to enjoy Junoon’s, I hope some of these audio selections will stand testimony that you don’t really need a guy totting a guitar and a fast-paced video to prove the eternal relevance and the deep ethos that is the poetry of Bulleh Shah.

P.S. My gratitude to APNA from where the audio is linked. The website is a tremendous public service and truly worth a visit; many visits.

23 responses to “Bulleh Shah: The best rendition ever!”

  1. saraiki zaban ty kam kran aaly har waseebi bhira koon mida salam saraiki zban dy wdhary sangy jitna kam keeta wnjy utna ghat a saraiki bahoon qadeem zban a jeenda koy sani kaini

    Dilshad mehwar karachi 0307-2850483

  2. younis audas says:

    i want to listen talib hussain dard . please give me some information how can i listen him on net

  3. Naveed says:

    Talha, I agree with you to some degree but the lady adapted to the ghazal genre much later.

    I find some of her ghazals rendered with extreme care. When she started with the ghazal genre, her kafi style did not appeal to me at all. She has since made what seems to be a conscious effort to keep ghazal within the traditional parameters.

    sample from “Tairay ghum ko jaan kee talaash thee” by Faiz sung by Abida can be accessed at

    http://www.musicindiaonline.com/s?q=Abida&i=9&f=al l&s=&o=200

    This version is different from the one I recall which she performed at PTV. So if you listen to the above, imagine listening to it without the excess instrumentation which has made it a touch “filmy”

    The vocals are the same. Please listen to the whole thing especially when she goes “No sawal-e-vasl na arz-e-ghum na hikayatain na shikayatain”

    I have always enjoyed the complete abandon with which she has rendered this. She has probably taken a chance with several very difficult ghazals especially two from Nasir Kazmi that have impressed me a lot. One is

    kissee kalee nain bhee daikha naa aankh bhar kay mujhay
    guzr gaaee jaras-e-ghul udaas kar kay mujhay

    This is an absolute gem from Nasir Kazmi. I wish I was born 20 years earlier and in Lahore.

    I would have loved to know Nasir Kazmi & hang out with him :)

    ajeeb manoos ajnabee tha, mujhay to hairaan kar gaya vo

    I remember this ghazal sung by the late Pervez Mehdi. Absolutely the best ghazal and the best vocals that the late Pervez Mehdi was blessed with.

    The other Nasir Kazmi ghazal that Abida has covered beautifully is a chotee behar kee ghazal which goes “shehar sunsaan hay kidhar jain”


  4. Talha says:

    Like all of the greatest poets – Faiz, for example – the beauty of Bulleh Shah is that in some ways it does not matter who is singing those words and how, the power of the words will carry through

    I can not agree to this. You have to hear Abida Parveen sing Faiz to admit that she is not meant to sing Kalam-e-Faiz! I personally believe that it is a 50-50 poet and singer combination to make an artifact that is a masterpiece!

    But everything else, beautifully written and well said.

  5. Naveed says:

    Zubair – There are a few Abida CDs that are not available everywhere. Do do let me know which track you are referring to. Abida and Pathanay cannot be compared. Totally different styles. PK has a style that does not deviate too much. In terms of experimentation, his genre did not allow it too much. But tracks like “Sohni gharay no aakhdee, hun maira yaar mila gharay-ya” (Sohni pleading & praying for uniting with Mahiwal across the river) presents this exchange between the GhaRa and Sohni in a manner for which PK is not known otherwise

    The vocalization points to specific notions of Unity as in “Charkha bolay saeen saeen bayR bolay toon”. I picture a village and a spinning wheel and all the sounds made during the process of weaving thread into cloth and these sounds are pointing to the one-ness of God.

    Abida has variety and she has experimented more. For the past 1 year, I have listened to 2 of her CDs. It is appropriate that I mention it here since we are paying tribute to Bulleh Shah.

    CD 1 – Visaal (Has a orange colored cover with French translation of the Kafi titles)
    Track 1 – Royo Vaithee Royay (Sindhi Kafi – Shah Latif )
    (Sassui crying for her Love & vowing the search for Punnu”)

    Track 2 – “Mera Sohna Sajan Ghar Aya ay” (Punjabi Kafi – Shah Hussain)
    Track 3 – “Tatee ro ro vaat neharan” (Seraiki Kafi – Khwaja Ghulam Farid)
    Track 4 – “Ishq na darda moot kolon” (Punjabi Kafi – Bulleh Shah)
    Trach 5 – “Sajan day hath bahn asadee” (Punjabi Kafi – Shah Hussain)
    Track 6 – Aray Logo tumhara kya – (Traditional Urdu)

    CD 2 – Kafian Hazrat Shah Hussain by Abida
    White Jacket

    Track 1 – Nee Maira dil ranjhan raval mangay
    Track 2 – Raba mairay haal da mehram toon
    Track 3 – Sajjan day hath bahn asadee
    Track 4 – Mairay sahiba, main tairee ho mukee aan
    Track 5 – Raheeyay naal sajjan day raheeyay
    Track 6 – Maira Sohna sajjan ghar ayaa ay

    Both CDs are available at Radio City. Quality & production are superb. If I am not mistaken, these two are recorded outside Pakistan; most probably in India

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