I just love this song. And if you like music, it is impossible that you at some point have not been driven into a trance by this mesmerizing piece of sufi music which is but one of the countless gems of the rich cultural heritage of the Indian sub-continent. Countless singers & artists from Pakistan & India have given their voice to this sufiana magic, originally written in praise of Hazrat Lal Shabaz Qalander. From Nusrat saab to Allah Jilai Bai, from Runa Laila to Abida Parveen, in a bit modern version from Junoon to Hans Raj Hans, various masters of their gifts through the generations have explored new depths with this song. Each version equally melodious and each one adding his own soul to this cry from heart to ‘Hazrat’.
Love as we know may be a mix of unparallel emotions, feelings or faith of varying strength towards a person, a cause, a belief, a relation or a thought. Love as we experience may be defined around or be free from the grasps of expectations and in its own way lets you put your beloved before you, your wants, needs and desires. Making no claim of what I am saying is right I would say Sufism takes this definition of Love beyond defined or know boundaries. Sufi music for that matter leaves no differentiation between the lover and the beloved, the beloved here being the God or that one elusive truth you seek. You seek him while knowing he is in you and that takes your love above desires, wants, expectations of love in return or even beyond being affected by his wrath. That’s the beauty of Sufi music, it makes you be so much at peace with yourself that you seem to even love the hardships coming your way as you become one with that one you seek.
Music has not language they say and rightly so. But knowing the meanings of the words beaded together in this song to weave its magic, takes this song which while sung originally in praise of Hazrat, to a new level.
“O laal meri pat rakhio bala jhoole laalan, Sindri da Sehvan da, sakhi Shabaaz kalandar, Dama dam mast kalandar, Ali dam dam de andar”
Loosely traslated as; “O the red robed, May I always have your benign protection, Jhulelal, O the lord, the friend and the Sire of Sindh and Sehwan (or Serwan ),The red robed God-intoxicated Qalandar, you who have mastered life, glory unto to you.”
Born Syed Hussein Shah, this sufi saint was and is known to his followers as Hazrat Lal Shabaz Qalander, a name where each word has a meaning and or legend attached to it. Hazrat is an Arabic a title used ahead of names as a mark of respect, pretty much akin ‘His Holiness’ or ‘Your honour’ used in English language. “Lal” is used to refer to him as he was fond of wearing red attire. Also fondly parents in this part of the world call their child lal, here Hazat is probably referred to as Lal or son of god. “Shah” means king & “Baaz” means falcon; the title Shahbaaz apparently also goes with another legend associated with him that he once turned into a falcon and saved his friend from the gallows. Qalander a word of Persian origin is a title given to wandering sufi dervishes, he is also referred to as Qalandar as he was from the Qalandria order of Sufism. Hazrat Lal Sahbaaz Qalandar is also referred to by his followers as “Jhule Laal”. He hailed from Marwand in Afghanistan and finally settled in Sehwan in Sindh, Pakistan, the places which are invoked in this song. “Pat(t)” while used in different connotations at different places, here loosely refers to ‘honor’.
Dam;'breath in' & Adam;'breath out' colloquially sung as Dama-Dum, refers to a person who has mastered the control of his breath thus taking control over self and knowing the secrets to remains happy forever. Ali called here is to incite Ali though Hazrat.
“Chaar charaag tere baran hamesha, Panjwa mein baaran aayi bala jhoole laalan … O panjwa mein baaran aayi bala jhoole laalan, Sindri da Sehvan da, sakhi Shabaaz Qalandar,”
Loosely translated as; “Your shrine is always lighted with four lamps, And here I come to light a fifth lamp in your honor.”
“Hindh sindh peera teri naubat vaaje,, Naal vaje ghadiyaal bala jhoole laalan … O Naal vaje ghadiyaal bala jhoole laalan, Sindri da Sehvan da, sakhi Shabaaz Qalandar,”
Loosely translated as; “Your heroic name ring out across (Naubat khanas) in Hind & Sindh (or lets the gongs bell loud ), Let the gong ring loud for your glory day and night by the people.”
The word ‘Naubat' originated from the Persian word 'Naubat' which means a traditional ensemble of nine musical instruments. Among other the main instruments comprising the Naubat as we know them now are Shehnai, Tabla, Drum, Nafiri (long clarinet), Flute and a Gong. In fact Naubat Khana or Naqqar khanas are a distinct feature of Mughal Architechture. Found in royal palaces these were the drum houses or orchestra pits during ceremonies. In India Ustad Bismillah Khan’s family has played shehnai for generations in the Naubatkhana at Red Fort, Delhi, which overlooked palaces and temples, and enabled their music to be heard across the countryside.
Some also sing this as Ghanan ghanan teri Naubat vaaje.
“Har dam peera teri khair hove, Naam-e-ali beda paar laga jhoole laalan … O Naam-e-ali beda paar laga jhoole laalan, Sindri da Sehvan da, sakhi Shabaaz Qalandar,”
Loosely translated as; “O Lord, may you prevail every time, everywhere, I pray of your well being, In the name of Ali, I pray to you to help my boat cross the river of life in safety”
Search ‘Lal Meri pat Rakhiyo’ on You Tube and a score of versions would pop up. Here’s one of my personal favorite by none other than the master himself – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Also sitting in the group (if you noticed), a young boy then, is another legend on the making Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. If you hear some of the original records (Akhiyan Udeek Diyan for example) from Nusrat saab you can recognize a unmistakable alaap by Rahat. In most qawwalis its just a alaap, but you sure cant miss to recognize the distinct voice and the commendable attempt trying to measure up to the God of voice. Interesting if you like this kind of music …