Two great poets together

November 16, 2014

The Faiz Foundation organised a programme at Alhamra on Iqbal’s death anniversary with the recitation of Iqbal’s poems translated by Faiz

Two great poets together

Tina Sani sang Shikwa and Jawab e Shikwa besides other poems of Iqbal at the Alhamra in a programme on the birth anniversary of the poet.

Organised by the Faiz Foundation Trust, some translations in Urdu by Faiz Ahmed Faiz of verses selected from the Persian Payam e Mashriq too were launched.

Faiz was an admirer of Iqbal and if any proof is needed it was amply supplied by the poem that he wrote on Iqbal. Adeel Hashmi read out portions from Iqbal’s Jawab e Shikwa while Tina Sani sang both to a generally captive audience, a heady mix of admirers -- of both Iqbal and Faiz.

As things turned out, after the creation of Pakistan, Iqbal and Faiz were seen and regarded as representing two opposite ends of the pole. One was pitched as a representative of the forces that were the status quo and the other challenged the same powers that be.

As the years have progressed Iqbal verses extolling heightened emotionalism springing from the fountainhead of faith have occupied centre stage while his more reformist and rational side has been pushed back in the shadows. If Pakistan was the realisation of the dream of Iqbal it was daag daag ujala for Faiz.

Now with the vagaries of time and seismic shifts in ideological and social definitions the two have found themselves on the same page. Faiz too nourished the tone of supplication as a continuation of our traditional mode of address in mainstream poetry. The same tone has helped the vocalists in singing him with a great deal of success. Actually Faiz directly or indirectly did pay homage to a number of poets of the past like Hafiz, Khusro, Ghalib, Sauda, Mir as to emphasise the continuity of the major tradition of poetry.

When Iqbal wrote Shikwa he reached the nadir of his popularity as the poem was often quoted and was on the lips of the educated urban classes but it also provoked a massive backlash, so much so that Iqbal had to write its sequel in the shape of Jawab e Shikwa and that cooled temperatures down considerably and those up in arms felt vindicated and pacified. Iqbal from the ranks of those challenging the prevalent narrative was placed squarely among those who may have wanted change but in measured terms.

When he wrote Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam he feared a backlash but then the lectures were delivered in English in faraway Madras. It was many decades later that these were translated into Urdu but by then much water had flowed from under the bridge and new definitions and concepts had made it to the headlines.

Iqbal himself was very fond of music and one of the reasons of his popularity as a poet was that he could render his verses in tarannum. It was much later with throat and voice problems that he gave up this recitation on public forums. He was also for many years a student of the sitar and wanted to play it but due to reasons not fully known but understandable he did not pursue it as a career which he may have wished in his younger, more salad days.

His Sare Jahan Sey Achaa Hindustan Hamara became hugely popular and was sung across the length and breadth of undivided colonial India. In Pakistan this composition is hardly sung and this poem too is hardly ever mentioned though it was one of his most famous poems in the years that he was alive. It is not difficult to understand and has been placed on the back burner for purposes of political correctness.

The first vocalists to capitalise on Iqbal’s poetry and name were the qawwals.

It was also considered safe and sanitized by the radio authorities which was the main platform for the promotion of music in the first three decades of an independent Pakistan. Mubarak Ali and Fateh Ali made Shikwa and Jawab e Shikwa composed in darbari as one of the standard numbers in their repertoire.

Somehow it is also felt that in the singing of Iqbal the music composer and the vocalists do not truly exercise their freedom of choice. On the official media he is all pervasive and in the society mostly in the Punjab he is so hagiographed that to be sung properly or composed to music the required abandonment laced with profanity is lacking. The tone of Iqbal is of exhortation, and the manner is that of declamation.

In the bols of most of our traditional compositions the tone is that of supplication and entreaty. From the local sensibility with the female voice as the protagonist the entire feel of the music has developed on the lines of beseeching and soliciting rather than of anger, sound and fury. The kheyal, thumri and the kafi with the evoked rasa more in the temper of supplication is certified. If text has to be made exclusively the basis of composition, it is virgin territory for both the composer and the vocalist.

In the ghazal which is again of foreign origin ,the tone of solicitation, insistence and disarming desire of a union with the beloved has blended over decades with the tonal complexion of our music. The laggao that is the intonation which is the true essence of our music has been crafted in this ethos.

Tina Sani was trained in classical music by Ustad Nizamuddin Khan, son of Ustad Ramzan Khan of Dehli Gharana and Ustad Chand Amrohvi. But she really started to emerge and mature as a vocalist when she started to sing the compositions of Arshad Mehmood.

She has come a long way since then and the improvement in the control of the sur is an indication of the hard work that she has put in her singing. She has consistently been offered the platform of the Faiz Foundation Trust and this too has been pivotal in helping her growth. She has been singing Shikwa and Jawab e Shikwa for some years now with other poems of Iqbal as she did in the recent concert.

Two great poets together