An Evening with Latif

Seeking The Beloved

I attended an evening of Sufi Sindhi music organized by The Kabir Project – the evening was a wonderful experience to say the least.

My interest in Latif had been piqued due to the detailed mention he got in The Empires of the Indus, with his risalos being quite popular and a big celebration in Bhitai on the day of his urs. He is quite obviously one of the most famous icons of Sindhi culture. More about the Shah:

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (1689-1752) is one of the greatest Sufi poets along with Rumi (1207-1273) and Mir Dard (1721-1785), but relatively speaking lesser known. His poetry draws on the power and beauty of Vedanta and Islam melding the two philosophies into one poetic and spiritual vision. His major work is the “Shah Jo Risalo” and his poems thrive today as a vibrant oral tradition being widely sung, quoted and loved by both Hindu and Muslim communities in the Sindh region on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. He takes the popular love legends of the region and speaks through the voices of different woman protagonists. Sometimes he is Sasui, sometimes Moomal, sometimes Sohini and sometimes Marui… and through their journeys of seeking the Truth he expresses his own. His poetry creates a tantalizing dance of expressions between the sensual yearnings for the earthly Beloved and the deeply meditative yearnings for the transcendent Beloved.

What made the event outstanding was the organization – the music was completed by a sampling of Sindhi cuisine, including their samosas, tosha, daal and halwa. There had souvenirs available in the form of t-shirts and books. The artwork and the presentation playing in the background was absolutely fascinating. Shabnam Virmani, as the emcee weaved a number of stories and kep the audience enthralled. even the sign boards to the venue said, “Seeking the Beloved? … This way”.

Just putting down a few couplets that I really liked

all bear
some burden of sorrow
I carry a full load

I seek
sellers of sorrow
most have left
the marketplace


ordinary ears
do not decipher whispers

throw away
sell these
donkey ears

tune into the inner ear

The only comment would be that the second part (Waee music) was probably not very mellifluous and for popular consumption. While the authenticity of the experience is very important, the organizers should have kept public taste in mind.

Raag, Taal and Kanada

I can’t help being moved on hearing great music — Pandits Rajan Sajan Misra singing Raag Darbari Kanada, Raag Suha, Raag Bahari.
A bird swinging and soaring, a river beating and heaving on the rocks, a wind shaking the banyan tree — music can take all these forms and more!
Thank you Pancham Nishaad for organizing this.
[Also read this]


Jalsa is a celebration, and in the context of this post, a celebration of music. And such a celebration I went to yesterday; a celebration which was lead by Pandit Jasraj and Shashank (an upcoming flautist) and which my imagination willingly followed.

It was the first Hindustani classical music concert I had gone to. If I said that it was an eye-opening experience, that would be an understatement; a more precise statement would be that it was so rapturous that I hardly ever opened my eyes during the performance.

The evening was organized by the Indian Music Academy. IMA is planning to hold 12 different concerts in different cities of the country where a well-known maestro will perform along with an upcoming artist. The evening began with Shashank on the flute, and Panditji came later to transport the audience to a make-believe world.

I personally believe that just like beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, music lies in the ears of the listener. I assume people relate to different kinds of music and they related to each of them differently. However, to me the quality of classical music (both Indian and Western), that instead of relying on giving a direction to the listener by words, and giving a meaning to the melodies, it leaves the interpretations completely to the listener. And this is how I like to listen to music. Close your eyes and let your imagination run. And let it not stop!

And that is what I experienced yesterday. Music. Music that feels like a river flowing in a gorge. A waterfall. Rains in a rainforest. Wind whistling through the woods. Leaves rustling. Music that feels like a squirrel sprinting through the thick undergrowth. Music that feels like a lion chasing the antelope. The antelope escaping its predator. Music that feels like resting after a day’s hard work.  Music that feels like being able to do work after moving heaven and earth. Like the precision of the planets around the sun. Like the madness of the sea. Like waves splashing on the shore. Like the sea-shells, each of a different design. Like the multitude of fish. Music that stagnates, music that enlivens, the constant and the variable. Music that feels like the touch of the beloved. Music that feels like the lover longing for her love. Like the dance of passion. Like the song of harmony. An orgasmic pleasure. Music that undulates like your heart before you utter those three magical words. Music that exhilarates like a “yes”. Music that can depress like a “no”. Music that feels like the touch of that special someone. Music that can feel like the closed fist of the newborn. Music that can laugh like a child, and cry like an adult. Music that grows like your baby. Music that can heal like the touch of the mother. Like the assurance of the father. Like the wishes of the forefathers. Music that feels like the spirits rising upto the heavens above. Music that descends from the heavens above to the auditorium below. Jalsa.

What you can do with just a flute is mind boggling.

Then came Panditji. At once guttural, at once shrill, at once wavering, at once constant, at once repetitive, at once spontaneous, at once nuanced, following a pattern, breaking from tradition, invoking the Gods above, inspiring the people in front of him.  Not for nothing the Padma Vibhushan.

They said that music could inspire and entertain. I am so grateful I went.

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