A wife in these modern days has to be appeased. In fact a wife in any era or geography always had to be appeased, whether she is from Venus, Earth, Patna or Dehri-on-Sone. And what better way to appease her than sing her a song or two. And my chosen number for my wife is the Manoj Tiwari song, “Ai champa chameli, badi albeli.” The moment I feel some corrective actions are required to restore matrimonial harmony I break into this song. And, lo and behold, normalcy is restored promptly. It is only rare that I have to use the brahmastra: ” Ham hain Bihari, hamni ke baat nirala.” In this eventuality I just take care to skip the killer lines from Tiwariji towards the end of the song, “Jaao, maaf kiya, but never again!” Too much of a risk in the context of an angry wife!
But this piece of mine is not about Manoj Tiwari songs but the seven Bhojpuri songs which are my personal all time favourites. I am sure we all have our favourite lists of songs and I will be glad to know the ones you like. Also remember that all such songs lists are personal and contextual. What I like may be similar to what you like, but for an entirely different reason! Or, we may have pretty similar tastes in life, but our lists of favourite songs may be entirely different!
These seven songs are listed in no particular order. And they are from a fairly eclectic mix of genres. I hope my selection sparks off a discussion and gets you to make your own list. I would love to read about your favourite songs.
My song number one will probably feature in most of your lists. The yearning for the beloved has never been as well expressed as well as in this song from early 1960’s. “Hey Ganga Maiyya tohe piyari chadhaibo“, (हे गंगा मैय्या तोहे पियरी चढैबो) from the eponymous film. This duet by Lata and Usha Mangeshkar has been an all time favourite of all Bhojpuri language lovers. And only someone from the Bhojpuri area would be able to understand the intensity of the simple words. How does one really translate the emotional surcharge around the word piyari? ” A yellow-dyed cloth?” No way! Piyari has a far greater meaning than this prosaic translation! This movie with lyrics by Shailendra and music by Chitragupt has another gem of a song by Md Rafi: “Sonawaa key peenjaraa mein band bhailey hai raam, chiranyee key jeeyara udaas…“. Amazing expression of loneliness in this song!
Perhaps you would expect me to list Manna Dey’s “Ara hiley, Chhapra hiley” as my song number two. This of course was a big hit from the movie Dangal released in the 70’s . But my choice is another song which perhaps is not as popular but this sizzles with sensuality as no other Bhojpuri song does. This is from a movie released perhaps in the 80’s. “Anguri mein dansley biya naginiya“ ( अंगुरी में डंसले बिया नगिनिया )is my choice. Asha Bhonsle’s sedutive voice urges her friends to summon her beloved (“Piya key bulai dey“) as the painful intensity of seperation from “him” is nothing less than the sting of the nagin! Can you beat this for a metaphor! And for someone like me who was in his late teens, raging hormones and all, when this song was gaining popularity, this was a killer! Perhaps the difference was made by Asha Bhonsle’s voice. I have been searching for this song for a while now but I have not succeeded. Would appreciate if any of you sends me the song.
Kabir has written many masterpieces. Actually Kabir has written only masterpieces. I studied some in my school days and I thought that was the end of Kabir (and Tulsidas, Meerabai and Surdas for that matter). I had not factored a whole new world of Kabir when I grew up. There are so many of these which you undersatnd only when you grow up. Consider, for example, my favourite “Naiharwaa, hamkaa na bhavey” (नैहरावा हमका ना भावे) (sung by Kumar Gandharvji). It takes a while to appreciate the philosophical heights Kabir Das reaches when he says, “Saain ki nagari, param ati sundar, param ati sundara…. yahaan koi aaye na jaaye“. The desire to unite with God has never been expressed so intensely. There are those days when I play this song on my music system, close my eyes, and float away with the words of this piece… “Chand, suraj, pawan, na, pani….” All my worries seem to be far, far, away! If you like Kabir then I would even recommend the book “Kabir” by Pandit Hazariprasad Dwivediji. What erudition!
Chhannulal Mishraji is a renowned classical singer from Banaras. He sings in the “purabiya ang” and has many albums to his credit. I would personally recommend his selection from Ramcharitmanas (A two-CD set produced by Music Today) where he dons the role of a katha-vachak as well. He sings and parallely explains some selected pieces from Ramcharitmanas. His rendition of Kewat Samvad brings a lump to my throat, even though I have heard it a number of times. But I select here a “sohar” sung by Pandit Mishra ji. Sohar, as you all may be aware, is sung by women on the birth of a son in the household. Pandit Mishraji has sung a sohar in the album called “Krishna” produced by Ninad music. “Morey pichhawarwa chandan gaachh, avaro sey chandan ho” ( मोरे पीछावरवा चंदन गाछ ).I often wonder why my eyes mist when I hear this song. And then I realize, I am visualizing my mother singing the sohar. Mai has a great sonorous voice, even in her late seventies, and she is a sought after singer on such occasions. And then the climactic words of the sohar, ” Chupa rahu Jasumati, chupa rahu, dusman jani suney ho. Jasumati, eehey ta Kans key marihein, arrey Gokula basaihein ho“. This Krishna album also has another great song: “Nand ghar baajey, baajey badhaiya“.
This song from Mauritius would not have been heard by most of you. It goes thus, “Saanjh key bakhat nana aawein, khana mangey naani sey.” ( सांझ के बखत नाना आवें ) The song is about a chat between nana and naani when nana returns from his labours in the field. Remember, this is Mauritius; some of our forefathers went their as girmitiya labourers. They worked for their colonial masters and over a period of time bought land and became prosperous. But they still remained hard working people. This little song narrates the endearing chat between nana and naani after the former returns from the fields and asks for dinner. Naani lists what all she has cooked and playfuly asks him what he would like to eat; “Kaa khaiba ho..?“. Nana says he will eat whatever she serves him. After the meal is done, she asks him what he would like to have as a drink. Those were colonial times when drinks were had after the meal. Nana says he will drink whatever she serves him! This banter between the 60 plus couple is so playful and interesting that no listener can withhold a smile from his or her face. A lovely song by this band from Mauritius, Baja Baje Boys. Another great song in this CD: “Bhauji hamaar, okar sang shaadi ham na karbo”.
I have written about the festival Chhatth earlier. And I have mentioned this song, “ Kaanchahin baansa key bahangiya, bahangi lachakata jai.….” ( कान्चाहीं बांसा के बहन्गिया ) It is not only the meaning of these words but the entire context of chhatth puja, kids’ participation and the associated memories . Never fails to emotionally rewind myself back to childhood participating in the chhatth procession in the evening and in the very early morning. Then the burst of crackers at dawn while mai is doing her morning arghya. The wait for the prasad. Mai‘s full throated rendition of this song and many other songs like, “Khetwa ke aari aari“. I have not witnessed or particpated in this festival for decades now but the opening words of the song are enough to bring a lump to my throat!
We all must have been patted, caressed, cajoled, nursed to sleep under the loving and benign watch of our ubiquitous relative- chanda mama. In the open courtyard (aangan), in our mother’s lap with chanda mama overhead casting a benevolent eye on his “sister” and the “nephew”! And the lilt of the lori sung by mother, “Ai chanda mama, arey aawa, baarey aawa, nadiya kinaarey aawa.” ( ऐ चन्दा मामा आरे आवा, बारे आवा, नदिया किनारे आवा) Many an infant was coaxed into her/his dinner motivated by this lori. Mother’s love kneaded into a silky dough with honey, malai and silky strands of cool moonlight! Can we ever forget Lata Mangeshkar’s mellifluous voice? Can we ever forget our own early parental days when we sang this song to our children? Can we ever forget the magic of these words?