Das Konzert war dann, kurz gefasst – perfekt

Taste the war paint on my tongue/as it’s dripping with my sweat/place my gaze in the futures path/seeing things that ain’t come yet

Many years ago, a different me was in a car driving down a highway I had travelled many hundreds of time to a destination I was intimate with, and from a base which was called home. I guess it was 2001-2? I was thinking, listening to My Morning Jacket (review of Circuital), on the car’s cd player that I must talk to farangi about this band. Must. This was the best of jam-band and this guy had a voice that I couldn’t quite believe. Plus, they were from Kentucky – a place that is well, legend to me.

watchin’ a stretch of road, miles of light explode/driftin’ off a thing i’d never done before

Plus, they seemed not only to be amazing musicians but also had a deft way with lyrics. I liked them.

Every one else in the car hated them.

Years passed and they released more records, which I purchased. Listened to them. They toured within reach of me. But I never saw them. Once, I remember trying to make a plan with farangi to watch them, but who knows. We didn’t.

A few nights ago, I saw them in Berlin. In a very intimate little venue in Kreuzberg. I saw Jim James channel his inner qawwal and dance as if the haal was on him. When they started “Outta my system” I was bouncing from the ceiling. Standing within arm’s reach of the band, the sheer weight of polished rocking inexorably lifted all weights on me.

Have you ever lost yourself at a rock concert?

But, here is the well thing. At one point Jim James puts a towel over his head and sings through “Gideon” and “Mahgeetah” and I am transposed immediately to the haal-singers in sufi circles in Lahore, where the act of veiling is precisely to note that the voice coming out is supernatural. James’ voice is supernatural.

Thanks, Berlin.

Oh, and after, the roadie tossed me the set-list. Guess a salt-and-peppered-bearded-brown guy bouncing all night elicits sympathies.

Unification 2.0

From the inbox, a great event in NYC, hosted by Brownstar Revolution:


Featuring performances by:
DJ Rekha
The Kominas
Hari Kondabolu
Fair and Kind
Curated by: BROWNSTAR

11pm Saturday, August 14
Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette Street between East 4th Street and Astor Place), New York City

Commencing at 11 pm on Saturday, August 14 (Pakistan’s Independence Day) and continuing into the early morning hours of August 15 (India’s Independence Day), UNIFICATION 2010 celebrates 63 years of independence and the voices of talented, socially conscious South Asian/American artists. With performances by DJ Rekha, The Kominas, Hari Kondabolu, Fair and Kind, and others, UNIFICATION 2010 will explore the politics of our motherlands, reveal the experiences of being brown outside of it, and question the tensions between us, while fostering a movement towards a more peaceful, unified South Asia. Proceeds from UNIFICATION 2010 will support South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

Advanced tickets $20 @ www.joespub.com
Same day tickets $25 @ the door

Co-sponsored by:
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
Indo-American Arts Council
Naan Sense Radio

If you are in NYC, you should go – say hi to the Kominas or, more appropriately, yell something obscene at them.

Nights I have Missed Out On

Stephen Merritt:

Tiny Tim was, like yourself, a song historian.

Well, he had a pick-up band who had not rehearsed at all, I think. And what he did was play three chord cycles over and over again, and sing on top of that. The songs from the entire 20th century and part of the 19th century – songs that happened to go over those chord progressions. And every 20 minutes or so, he would switch the chord progressions he was playing. So, sort of “CFGG”, then her would switch to “CGFF”. And the amalgamation of the songs in a pretty random order was eventually deeply, deeply moving. And everyone in the bar, the nightclub, was crying at some point. There were six people in the audience. And very few people working. So maybe the total number of people in the room, including onstage, was 12 or something. And all of them were crying at some point. Including Tiny Tim. I think he was just very sad that night.

Iqbal Bano, 1935-2009

My first cassette, paid for, was Iqbal Bano sings Faiz which was put out by Shalimar Recording. That summer, I think it was a summer, I was obsessed with Faiz’s Dast-i Saba (1952). That dog-eared, tea-stained, copy still sits on my shelf, with pages marked and poems underlined. In that collection is the poem Yaad (Memory) which I saw being performed by Iqbal Bano on PTV. And I rushed out to purchase Bano’s music.

In the desert of solitude, o love, quiver/the shades of your voice, your lips’ mirage/In the desert of solitude, underneath the dirt of distance/blossom the flowers and roses of your presence

Iqbal Bano’s voice, especially on the cassette version, gorgeously quivers when she begins the last stanza. Is kadar pyar se, ai jan-e jahan, rakha hai/dil ke rukhsar pe, is waqt, teri yaad ne hath (With such tenderness, o love, has placed/your memory, its hand on heart’s cheek). Pyaaaar – se. I love that soft elongation, imbued with longing, that word. And going into the hopeful last two verses, she picks up the tenor. You have to hear it.
Continue reading “Iqbal Bano, 1935-2009”