Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai

NusratTo my mind, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was one of the greatest voices of the 20th century. Absolutely. Knowledgeable people may talk of his range, the tonal quality, his enunciation, his energy, his spirituality, his rapid-fire sargams, his musicality. What do I care for all that? Mine is a blind adoration. I became intoxicated the first time I heard him. Thirty years have passed but अब भी  नशा उतरा नहीं I remain on a high.

The thing is, his music is so much removed from the Carnatic Music that I normally  write about. If Carnatic Music is steeped in Hindu thought and has deep Brahminical roots, which are my own beliefs and roots, Qawwalis are outpourings of Muslim and Sufi thought.  If Carnatic Music focuses more on raga and improvisation, Qawwalis stress meaning and emotion. If Carnatic Music takes you into a state of quietness and deep meditation, Qawwalis make your heart throb in synchronicity and sends you into an ecstatic trance. My head nods to Carnatic Music while my hand keeps the beat; my feet jump to dance for Qawwalis and my whole body twirls and swirls. If Carnatic Music is contemplation; a Qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is intoxication. I can resist neither.

The song I have chosen today talks of intoxication as well, the intoxication of God’s love. In the oft-used metaphor of Sufi poetry, God is a wine-seller (saqi), who entraps her customers with her intoxicating wine and her even more potent eyes. This intoxication is so well sung by Nusrat that we get intoxicated with him. You must excuse me if I refer to the Ustad by his first name; his music has been my love for so long that I feel I have the right to take liberties.

As is customary, the qawwal incorporates verses from different poets and poetry to the song. I shall weave the story for you using a selected few verses. See footnote for the full lyrics and translation.

The poet talks of his love for the wine-seller, whom he blames for his addiction.

ये जो हल्का हल्का सुरूर है
ये तेरी नज़र का कसूर है
के शराब पीना सिखा दिया

This mild intoxication
is the fault of your gaze

which taught me how to drink.

Is it the wine or the gaze which makes him drunk?

तेरी बहकी बहकी निगाह ने
मुझे इक शराबी बना दिया

Your flirtatious looks
have made me a drunkard!

And what a high he is on! In his intoxication, all the world looks exhilarating. How well the poet describes his trance! Ah to love like that!

सारा जहान मस्त जहान का निज़ाम मस्त
दिन मस्त रात मस्त सहर मस्त शाम मस्त
दिल मस्त शीशा मस्त सुबू मस्त जाम मस्त
है तेरी चश्म-ए-मस्त से हर ख़ास-ओ-आम मस्त

The world is exhilarating, the rules of the world are exhilarating
the day is exhilarating, the night, the dawn, the evening is exhilarating,
the heart is exhilarating, the glass, the goblet, the wine itself is exhilarating
your intoxicating eyes have made everything exhilarating!

The wine-seller offers all kind of wine in the bar, but the poet knows that it is not the wine which makes him intoxicated but the eyes which sell him the wine.

सब समझता हूँ तेरी इशवा-करी ऐ साकी
काम करती है नज़र नाम है पैमाने का.. बस!

I understand well your cleverness, O Wine-Seller!
The work is done by your eyes, and the credit goes to the wine – that’s all!

And so addicted, the poet lies in the wine-bar, searching for one glimpse of his beloved. He has forsaken prayer and religion, he has forsaken the rules of society.

मैं अज़ल से बन्दा-ए-इश्क हूँ
मुझे ज़ोह्द-ओ-कुफ्र का ग़म नहीं
मेरे सर को दर तेरा मिल गया
मुझे अब तलाश-ए-हरम  नहीं

From the beginning of time, I am but a man of love
I worry neither about piety nor blasphemy
Now that my head has found your door
I search no more for the sacred.

But does he not need God? Ah, but he has a new God now!

तेरा नाम लूँ ज़ुबान से, तेरे आगे सर झुका दूँ
मेरा इश्क कह रहा है, मैं तुझे खुदा बना दूँ

Let me take your name on my tongue, let me bow down before you
my ardour tells me that let me make you my God

He goes to no mosque or temple. He says

यह मेरे जुनून का है मोजिज़ा
जहाँ अपने सर को झुका दिया
वहाँ मैंने काबा बना दिया

This is is the miracle of my passion
that wherever I bow my head
that becomes the most scared mosque, the Kaaba.

This, to me, is most central to the meaning of this song. This is the call of Sufism and its passionate, ecstatic love of God. In the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, it wrings my heart.

Now there are so many versions of this wonderful song that I have difficulty in suggestion a version for you. Not only are there variations in what is sung, but the supporting musicians change as well. What I really recommend is this stupendous, one-hour+ live performance here. But in this time-strapped world, I know many of you will not be able to listen to such a long version so here is a shorter (23 min!) audio version for you to enjoy.

 


Footnote (Lyrics)

Language : Urdu

As I do not know the Urdu script, so I have transcribed in devanagari and transliterated in English. As the poetry is long, I have done it in sections. Though much of it is a language I understand, I struggled with dictionaries and existing online translations for the rest. I excuse myself in advance for my errors.

I am unsure about the name of the poet. Websites mention the names  Mohammad Iqbal Naqibi, Anwar and Jigar Moradabadi with this work. As qawwals use poetry from different sources to make up a song, it is quite possible that the song is by multiple poets.

साक़ी की हर निगाह पे बलखा के पी गया
लहरों से खेलता हुआ लहरा के पी गया
ऐ रहमत-ए-तमाम  मेरी हर ख़ता मुआफ़
मैं इन्तहा-ए-शौक़ से घबरा के पी गया
पीता बग़ैर इज़्न ये कब थी मेरी मजाल
दर-पर्दाह चश्म-ए-यार की शह पा के पी गया

sAki kI har nigAh pE balkhA kE pI gayA
lehrOn sE khEltA hu-A lehrA kE pI gayA
ai rehmatE tamAm mErI har khatA muAf
mai.n inteha-E-shauk sE ghabrA kE pI gayA
pIta ba.gair izn yE kab thI mErI majAl
dar-pardAh chashm-E-yAr kI shah pA kE pI gayA

Weaving drunkenly with every glance of hers, I kept drinking
playing with waves of joy, swaying, I kept drinking,
O All merciful Lord, forgive all my mistakes
Confounded, I still drank with limitless pleasure
How would I ever dare to drink without permission?
Seeing the acquiescence in my love’s veiled eyes, I kept drinking

पास रहता है दूर रहता है
कोई दिल में ज़रूर रहता है
जब से देखा है उन की आंखों को
हल्का हल्का सुरूर रहता है
ऐसे रहते हैं वोह मेरे दिल में
जैसे ज़ुल्मत में नूर रहता है
अब अदम का ये हाल है हर वक्त
मस्त रहता है चूर रहता है

pAs rehtA hai dUr rehtA hai
koI dil me.n zarUr rehtA hai
jab se dEkhA hai un kI AnkhO.n kO
halkA halkA surUr rehtA hai
aisE rehtE hai.n wOh mErE dil mE.n
jaisE zulmat mE.n nUr rehtA hai
ab adam kA yE hAl hai
mast rehtA hai chUr rehtA hai

Close to me, or far from me
Someone surely lives in my heart
From when I have seen her eyes
I remain exhilerated

She lives in my heart
just like light lives in darkness
Now the state of this Adam is such that
he remains elated, he remains besotted

(Note: Thanks to a comment from a reader, I understand that ‘Adam’ is the signature of the poet Abdul Hameed)

ये जो हल्का हल्का सुरूर है
ये तेरी नज़र का कसूर है
के शराब पीना सिखा दिया
तेरे प्यार ने, तेरी चाह ने
तेरी बहकी बहकी निगाह ने
मुझे इक शराबी बना दिया
शराब कैसी खुमार कैसा
ये सब तुम्हारी नवाज़िशें  हैं
पिलाई है किस नज़र से तू ने
के मुझको अपनी ख़बर नही है

yE jO halkA halkA surUr hai
yE tErI nazar kA kasUr hai
kE sharAb pInA sikhA diyA
tErE pyAr nE, tErI chAh nE
tEri behkI behkI nigAh nE
mujhe ik sharAbI banA diyA
sharAb kaisI khumAr kaisA
yE sab tumhAri navAzishE.n hai.n
pilaI hai kis nazar se tU nE
kE mujhkO apnI khabar nahI.n hai

 

This mild intoxication
is the fault of your gaze

which taught me how to drink.
My love for you, my longing,

and your intoxicating glances
have made me a drunkard.
What a drink! What a high!
These are all your gifts
What glances did you make me drink with
that I have lost awareness of myself !

सारा जहान मस्त जहान का निज़ाम मस्त
दिन मस्त रात मस्त सहर मस्त शाम मस्त
दिल मस्त शीशा मस्त सुबू मस्त जाम मस्त
है तेरी चश्म-ए-मस्त से हर ख़ास-ओ-आम मस्त

यूँ तो साकी हर तरह की तेरे मैखाने में है
वो भी थोडी सी जो इन आँखों के पैमाने में है
सब समझता हूँ तेरी इशवा-करी ऐ साकी
काम करती है नज़र नाम है पैमाने का.. बस!

sArA jahA.n mast jahA.n kA nizAm mast
din mast rAt mast sahar mast shAm mast
dil mast shIshA mast subU mast jAm mast
hai tEri chashm-E-mast sE har khAs-O-Am mast

yUn tO sAki har tarah kI tErE maikhAnE mE.n hai
wOh bhI thODI sI jO in AnkhO.n kE paimAnE mE.n hai
sab samajhtA hU.n tErI ishvA karI ai sAkI
kAm kartI hai nazar nAm hai paimAnE kA..bas!

The world is exhilarating, the rules of the world are exhilarating
the day is exhilarating, the night, the dawn, the evening is exhilarating,
the heart is exhilarating, the glass, the goblet, the wine itself is exhilarating
your intoxicating eyes have made everything exhilarating.

As it is, O wine-seller, you have every kind of wine in your wine-cellar
Why not serve me a bit from the measure of your eyes as well?
I understand well your coquetry, O wine-seller!
(My intoxication is) the work of your gaze, the blame is put on the goblet, that’s all!

तेरा प्यार है मेरी जिंदगी, तेरा प्यार है मेरी बंदगी

ना नमाज़ आती है मुझको, न वजू आता है
सजदा कर लेता हूँ, जब सामने तू आता है

मैं अज़ल से बन्दा-ए-इश्क हूँ
मुझे ज़ोह्द-ओ-कुफ्र का ग़म नहीं
मेरे सर को दर तेरा मिल गया
मुझे अब तलाश-ए-हरम  नहीं
मेरी बंदगी है वो बंदगी
जो बा-कैद-ए-दैर-ओ-हरम नहीं
मेरा इक नज़र तुम्हें देखना
बा खुदा नमाज़ से कम नहीं

tErA pyAr hai merI zindagI, tEra pyAr hai mErI bandagI

nA namAz AtI hai mujhkO, na wajU AtA hai
sajdA kar lEtA hoo.n, jab sAmnE tU AtA hai

mai.n azal sE bandA-E-ishk hU.n
mujhE zOhad-O-kufr kA .gam nahI.n
mErE sar ko dar tErA mil gayA
mujhE ab talAsh-E-haram nahI.n
mErI bandagI hai woh bandagI
jo bA-kaid-E-dair-O-haram nahI.n
mErA ik nazar tErA dEkhnA
bA khudA namAz sE kam nahI.n

Your love is my life, your love is my bondage

I do not know any prayers, nor ablutions
My prayers are done when you come before me
From the beginning of time, I am but a man of love
I worry neither about piety nor blasphemy
Now that my head has found your door
I search no more for the sacred
My bondage is such a bondage
that it is not bound to any sacred place of worship,

Catching just a glimpse of you,
by God, is no less than a prayer!

तेरा नाम लूँ ज़ुबान से, तेरे आगे सर झुका दूँ
मेरा इश्क कह रहा है, मैं तुझे खुदा बना दूँ
तेरा नाम मेरे लब पर, मेरा तज़करा है दर दर
मुझे भूल जाए दुनिया, मैं अगर तुझे भुला दूँ
मेरे दिल में बस रहे हैं, तेरे बेपनाह जलवे
न हो जिस में नूर तेरा, वो चराग ही बुझा दूँ

tErA nAm lU.n zubA.n sE, tErE AgE sar jhukA dU.n
mErA ishk keh rahA hai, mai.n tujhE khudA banA dU.n
tErA nAm mErE lab par, mErA tazkarA hai dar dar
mujhE bhUl jAyE, mai.n agar tujhE bhulA dU.n
mErE dil mE.n bas rahE hai.n, tErE bEpanAh jalvE
na hO jis mE.n nUr tErA, vO charAg hI bujhA dU.n

Let me take your name on my tongue, let me bow down before you
my ardour tells me, let me make you my God
With your name on my lips, my memoirs are written from door to door
The world will forget me, if I forget you
In my heart lives your boundless splendour
In which there is no light of yours, let me put off that lamp

(following in some versions only)
तेरी दिल्लगी के सदके तेरे संग्दली के कुर्बान
मेरे ग़म पे हसने वाले तुम्हे कौन सी दुआ दूँ

क़यामत में तेरा दाग-ए-मोहब्बत लेके उठूंगा
तेरी तस्वीर उस दम भी कलेजे से लगी होगी
क्यूँकि
तेरा प्यार है मेरी ज़िन्दगी, तेरी याद है मेरी बंदगी
जो तेरी ख़ुशी वो मेरी ख़ुशी
यह मेरे जुनून का है मोजिज़ा
जहाँ अपने सर को झुका दिया
वहाँ मैंने काबा बना दिया

tEri dillagI kE sadkE terI sangdalI kE kurbAn
mErE .gam pE hasnE wAlE tujhE kaun sI duA dU.n

kayAmat mai.n tErA dAgh-E-mohabbat lE kE uTHU.ngA
tErI tasvIr us dam bhI kalEjE sE lagI hOgI

kyUnkI
tErA pyAr hai merI zindagI, terI yAd hai merI bandagI
jo tErI khushI woh mErI khushI
yE mErE junUn kA hai mOjizA
jahA.n apnE sar kO jhukA diyA
waha.n mainE kAbA banA diyA

For the sake of your love, I sacrifice to your mercilessness
O those who laugh at my grief, what wishes should I give you?
On the day of judgement I shall rise with the wound of your love
your image will still be on my heart
because
your love is my life, your memory is my bondage, your joy is my joy
This is is the miracle of my passion
that wherever I bow my head
that becomes the most scared mosque (Kaaba).

(following in some versions only)
मेरे बाद किसको सताओगे

मैंने उन के सामने अव्वल का ख़ंजर रख दिया
फिर कलेजा रख दिया दिल रख दिया सर रख दिया
और अर्ज़ किया

मेरे बाद किसको सताओगे

दिल जलों से दिल्लगी अच्छी नहीं
रोने वालों से हँसी अच्छी नहीं
दिल्लगी ही दिल्लगी में दिल गया
दिल लगाने का नतीजा मिल गया
तुम क्यों हस्ते हो तुम्हे क्या मिल गया
मैं तो रोता हूँ के मेरा दिल गया

मेरे बाद किसको सताओगे

merE bAd kiskO sataOgE
mainE un kE sAmnE avval kA khanjar rakh diya
phir kalEjA rakh diyA dil rakh diyA sar rakh diyA
aur arz kiyA

mErE bAd kiskO sataOgE

dil jalOn sE dillagI achCHI nahI.n
ronE walO.n sE ha.nsI achCHI nahI.n
dillagI hI dillagI mE.n dil gayA
dil lagAnE kA natIjA mil gayA
tum kyO.n hastE hO tumhE kyA mil gayA
mai.n tO rOtA hU.n mErA dil gayA

Whom will you torment after me?

I placed the best of daggers in front of him
then I placed my vitals, my heart, my head
and said

Whom will you torment after me?

It is not good to make fun of those whose heart burn
It is not good to laugh at those who cry
I lost mỳ heart just in play
I have received the consequences of my play
Why do you laugh, what did you get?
As for me, I cry because my heart is lost

जो पूछा के किस तरह होती है बारिश, जबीं से पसीने की बूँदें गिरा  दीं
जो पूछा के किस तरह गिरती है बिजली, निगाहें  मिलाईं मिला कर झुका दीं
जो पूछा शब्-ओ-रोज़ मिलते हैं कैसे, तो चहरे पे अपने वो जुल्फें  गिरा दीं
जो पूछा के नगमों में जादू है कैसा, तो मीठे तकल्लुम में बातें सुना दीं
जो अपनी तमन्नाओं का हाल पुछा , तो जलती हुई चंद शम्में बुझा दीं
मैं कहता रह गया खता-ए-मोहब्बत की अच्छी सज़ा दी
मेरे दिल की दुनिया बना कर मिटा दी, अच्छा !

jO pUchA kE kis tarah hOtI hai bArish, jabI.n sE pasInE kI bUndE.n girA dI.n
jO pUchA kE kis tarah girtI hai bijlI, nigAhE.n milAyI.n milA kar jhukA dI.n
jO pUchA shab-O-rOz miltE hai.n kaisE, tO chahrE pE apnE voh zulfE.n girA dI.n
jO pUchA kE nagmO.n mE.n jAdU hai kaisA, tO mIthE takallum mE.n bAtE.n sunA dI.n
jO apnI tamannaOn kA hAl pUchA, tO jaltI huI chand shammE.n bujhA dI.n
mai.n kehtA reh gayA khatA-E-mohabbat kI achCHI sazA dI
mErE dil kI duniyA banA kar miTA dI, achCHA!

When I asked ‘How does it rain?’ she let fall a few drops of sweat from her
forehead
When I asked ‘How does lightning strike?’ she met my eyes and then dropped hers
When I asked ‘How does night and day meet?’, she let her hair fall on her face
When I asked ‘What magic is there in music?’, she said a few sweet words to me
When I asked of the state of my aspirations, she snuffed out a few candles
And I was left saying, ‘Well I have been punished for daring to love!’
After making the world of my heart, now you destroy it! All right!

मेरे बाद किसको सताओगे, मुझे किस तरह से मिटाओगे, कहाँ जा के तीर चलाओगे
मेरी दोस्ती की बलायें लो, मुझे हाथ उठा कर दुआएं दो, तुम्हें एक कातिल बना दिया

मुझे देखो ख्वाहिश-ए-जान-ए-जाँ
मैं वही हूँ अनवर-ए-नीम जाँ
तुम्हें इतना होश था जब कहाँ
न चलाओ इस तरह तुम ज़बान
करो मेरा शुक्रिया मेहरबान
तुम्हें बात करना सिखा दिया…

mErE bAd kiskO sataOgE, mujhE kis tarah sE miTaOgE, kahA.n jA kE tIr chalaOgE
mErI dOstI kI balayE.n lO, mujhE hAth uTHA kar duAE.n dO, tumhE.n Ek kAtil banA diyA

mujhE dEkhO khwAhish-E jAn-E-jA.n
mai.n vahI hU.n anvar-E-nIm jA.n
tumhE.n itnA hOsh thA jab kahA.n
na chalaO is tarah tum zaban
karO mErA shukriyA meherbAn
tumhE.n bAt karnA sikhA diyA

Who will you torment after me? How will you destroy me? Where will you direct your arrows?

Remove any curse on my friendship (balaiyan lena=to draw hands over another and crack them on your forehead, to draw away any misfortune), raise your hands and bless me, I have made a killer of you!

Look at me, O desire of my life
I am that same Anwar (the poet)
You were not even in your senses!
Don’t argue with me thus!
Instead, thank me kindly
that I taught you how to speak!

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Filed under Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Qawwali

8 responses to “Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai

  1. jay

    Wow, what a post Sujaji ! Must say your knowledge of urdu/hindi is pretty good. Thanks for all the effort with the lyrics, I will definitely download the songs from your links.
    Small doubt:
    “Sara jahan mast, Jahan ka nizam mast” might this translate as “The world is exhilarating, the ruler of the world is exhilarating/exhilarated”? as Nizam is ruler?

    Thanks again.

    • Thank you Jay, I am glad you liked the post. My knowledge of Hindi is very good, but my Urdu is not good – I had to consult the dictionary for many words, it took simply ages! :) But I am passionate about this music, so it is always worth the effort. And as for your doubt, I have translated nizam as ‘rules of the world’. This is the entry in the dictionary :

      نظام niz̤ām (inf. n. of نظم ‘to order, regulate, arrange,’ &c.), s.m. Order, disposition, arrangement (i.q. intiz̤ām);—a string (of pearls, or beads); composition (of verses);—custom, habit; mode, way (of life); institution;—foundation, basis, constitution;—governor.

      jahAn kA nizAm then would mean the rules governing the world, would it not?

      Cheers. Suja

  2. Ramesh

    Wow, what a post indeed. The effort, the meticulousness, the rigour all stand out . Not to mention sometimes, your words are more poetical than even the song lyrics. “If Carnatic Music is contemplation; a Qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is intoxication” – Wah Wah.

    I know nothing about qawalis, and as usual learn much about music from your posts. Makes me think as to how fundamentalists can ban such music – are they so hard of heart that Fateh Ali Khan can’t melt them ?

    This is a post that must be published in a scholarly journal.

    • Thank you Ramesh, for your very complimentary comment :) My husband commented yesterday on reading this that surely it would have taken me a very long time? Wasn’t it too long? I said that I remembered him spending 8 hrs on a cricket pitch under a hot sun every weekend, that too seems like very hard-work to me! But if one is passionate about something, it becomes play and not work, isn’t it? :)

      As to fundamentalists, I have no understanding of them! Banning music is like banning joy! Who can do that? And why should they do that? Outside my comprehension…

      Cheers. Suja

  3. AKM

    Excellent post. Your passion for the song comes across very nicely indeed. For what its worth, I would go for the meaning of Nizam as governor/ruler. Also, I don’t know how correct it is, but I always understood that the poet was Abdul Hameed “Adam”, as the takhallus is in these lines

    ab adam kA yE hAl hai
    mast rehtA hai chUr rehtA hai

    Where I would translate as

    “Now Adam is in a state
    where he remains intoxicated and entranced.”

    I have come across a version where one of the lyrics also includes

    Dekhkar unki ankhiyon ko “Adam”
    Maikadon ko hayaayen aati hain

    Seeing her eyes, Adam, even taverns are abashed

    : )

    • Thank you AKM, I really appreciate your comment especially the information about ‘Adam’. I have not heard the last couplet that you have quoted, but then this song has so many versions that I am not surprised. Indeed that couple seems to definitely point to Adam being the signature of the poet. I will edit the post by and by and add these alternate meaning as well, thank you. :)

  4. Ravi

    This is wonderful, Suja. I hope you write about “Tum Ek Gorakh Dhanda Ho,” another classic by NFAK, one of these days. I have the lyrics and meaning and all, but it’d be interesting to read your take on it.

    Perhaps you will get to Aziz Mian (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMDbACrPjSw) and Abida Parveen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwcnqqdXt7c) one of these days as well :-)

    • Thank you Ravi :) There are endless songs in this genre which fascinate me. Like your mentioned Aziz Mian and Abida Parveen make wonderful music, but there are so many others besides! It is all a bit overwhelming almost.. When I started the blog, I was not sure of my directions. I did a fair bit of Bollywood music too; that too is music I enjoy. But after 2 years of blogging I have focused more and more on Carnatic Music and for the moment I will hover around it, there is SO much to study and understand! But absolutely, I will flirt with other forms of music every now and then, I cannot really resist that :)
      Cheers. Suja

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