Music unifies across cultures

I have a deep love for music from different countries. growing up in delhi, i got my dose of 80’s rock, in bangalore, i picked up the old school rock of Cream, Knopfler, Rush and Neil Young. in the last 5 years, i deep dived into two genres –

1. Indian classical – started with Hindustani, and then moved towards Sufi. Now, Abida Parveen and Nusrat are my Gods.

2. Indie easy listening – I discovered Nick Drake, and then went on to become a huge fan of Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and the likes.

Both genres, extremely beautiful in their own ways, have nothing in common (or so I thought). Sufi music is primarily driven by love for the Allah, with most quawaalis songs for the love of God. Artists such as Joni and Jeff, however, are inspired by life and the absurdity of it, the few joys and the many sorrows of love, and the blues that come with thinking about things.

However, I had always wondered – the soul of the music is the same. its love – how it takes you to places you’ve never been, and makes you feel you never thought you were capable of feeling. sometimes its the love for a higher power that takes away your cosmic loneliness (like in sufi music), and sometimes it is the pain of losing the girl you love (blues).

More than two months ago, my roommate Brian and i were talking about this very topic – how music from different cultures and times has always tried to make sense of love. my favorite artists is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and he is a big fan of Jeff Buckley. As our conversation progressed, he made me hear a beautiful piece from one of Jeff Buckley’s live recording albums – Live at Sin-e

During the performance, someone asked Jeff if he had ever heard of Nusrat. Jeff paused, and then said, “Nusrat is my Elvis.”  And then, in what was a moment of complete shock for me, Jeff went on to sing “Yeh jo halka halka suroor hai” from Nusrat, in almost impeccable Urdu. Check it out here –

I was mesmerized. I have all of Nusat’s music on my iphone, and i am a huge fan of this quawaali too. Here’s the original from Nusrat –

This brought a huge smile on my face, and led to a deep realization. It’s that music binds. Here i was, hearing one of my favorite artists from America playing a quawaali from my favorite singer from Pakistan. Born in different countries and raised in remarkably different cultures, they had nothing in common but their belief in music as a higher power. And the two genres I had loved individually for years, just merged in a moment.

This post doesnt really have a bottom line, i know. but if you’re a music lover, and a die-hard one, i hope you will understand =)

till next time,

sanjay

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