It is 1984. My husband and I are at our friend Shankar’s place. He puts on this CD and the rooms fills with this amazing Voice. The conversation goes on around me but it seems to fade; I am surrounded by a buffer of stillness where only the Voice exists..and me. It is gravelly in places, smooth in others. Singing from low notes to incredibly high ones in a swoop of ecstasy. I fall in love..no I fall in passion. The passing of years doesn’t reduce this passion, but just deepens it.
The day he dies, I am furious with him. I haven’t yet heard him live and now I never would. I am SO furious. Even more so because just over a year before he dies, he plays at Womad at Adelaide and even though my husband suggests we go, I hesitate and decide against as we are cash strapped. I kick myself even now. What an idiot I was!! I should have hocked the house…
Many years pass. It is 2005. My birthday. We are in Prague for a holiday, the whole family. We’ve had a deeply disturbing day. Our car has been stolen. We’ve spent a stressful day ‘talking’ to the police in a language we don’t speak. I fall asleep tired and sad. And I have this vivid dream, this lucid dream. NFAK comes to me with a Qawwali troupe. He says ‘I didn’t know you loved me so much! Let me sing you something to make you feel better’. And I listen enthralled to the musical outpourings of this genius. Now the memory of that stolen car only makes me smile secretly, for its the day when I at last heard my idol ‘live’. A wonderful birthday present for me.
So how do I choose one song from the hundred odd songs I listen to regularly? Too many fit the criteria of being personally meaningful. There was the one that Anish kicked to in my womb. The other that I cried to when my mum died. The one which gave me my first mystical experience. The one for which I wept tears of gratitude. The one he sang to me in my dream. The one in which this particular note…oh! what a note..makes me gasp. Can a universe be contained in this gap between one note and the next? It can..it does. Finally I am choosing one purely based on a availability of a good quality recording online. When it is all so well loved, making a choice becomes meaningless.
Album : Shahen Shah (1989)
Label : Real World
Song : Kali Kali Zulfon Ke Phande na Dalo
Lyrics : Farrukh Ali Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Singer : Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948 – 1997)