I *heart* Bombay (and well..Boston)

I'm urban..in the way other people are mountain-people or tunafish junkies. I love city life...something about dreary concrete blocks and grumpy people totally gets my juices flowing. Ergo, this will be a blog about me, my two favourite cities (Bombay and Boston), my addiction to Vietnamese coffee and my views on Gregorian chant and it's efficacy in curing some types of tympannic membrane rupture. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Habibi, ya nour el-ain!

So what kind of music do you like? A question I'm constantly asked. And one for which I have no answer. Well, no "definite" answer anyway.

Telling people I have a wide range of music I enjoy just has them telling me yeah, they like rock from 1972 to 1995 too...that's how wide their range is. Well, no. When I say wide, I mean WIDE. From African tribal chants to Basque pop. From Peruvian slave lullabies to Polynesian war songs. From Afrikaaner anthems to Turkish religious music.
It's not that I just listen once and claim I've heard it. I actually enjoy the wide varieties in music style. I can confidently say there's only two kinds of music that I, as a genre, dislike. Country-Western and IndiPop (Indian pop for the Firangs reading this...).

I suppose my first foray into world music was at Embassy, the club on Lansdowne Street in Boston where I heard "Habibi, ya nour el-ain" by Amr Diab for the first time and realized what a huge world of music there was outside the English pop and Bollywood orbits. Slowly, I began building up my collection of Arabic music. Starting with Amr Diab and his Egyptian pop and moving onto Fairuz (Lebanese diva type music..Ya Tayr being my favourite song)..and ending where it should have all begun..Umm Kulthoum and her throaty romantic music. Starting as a Q'uran reader, she became to Egypt and the Arab world what Lata Mangeshkar is to India. To hear her sing "El hob kolloh" became my nightly ritual for months.

I moved on through recommendations form other Arab music lovers, reviews online and just curiousity till I discovered *rai*. Originally protest music from Algeria, it's now metamorphed into pop thanks to Sting's liberal use of Cheb Mami in "Desert Rose". Rai is now my favourite brand of Arab music. Cheb Kahled, Cheb Mami, Salah, Fadel and Sahrawi..too many to list! And my guilty pleasure..Cheikha Rimmitti - a 75 year old Algerian woman who grew up in the slums of the Casbah and worked as a bar-waitress and part-time prostitute. Her use of the name "Cheikha" meaning "respected woman" was a way to thumb her nose at her conservative critics. And "Rimmitti" from "remettez" or "Give us another"...the cry she heard in bars in Algiers asking for more beer. To listen to her sing "Anta Rabhi Ou Ras Mali " is simply an experience transporting you to a smoky back room in the Casbah in the 1950's with revolution in the air.

Honourable mentions go to Malouma Mint Maideh's "Ya Habibi" and DjurDjura's "Derya u Mazir" both incredible songs but whos CDs I've been unable to find.

I'd recommend any if not all of these singers and songs to anyone who reads this post. So go out and enjoy a world full of awesome beats and a beautiful language - Arabic.

In other news, I'm super excited about organizing a Bombay scavenger hunt with some fellow Orkutkars. So many ideas, so little brain to hold them in. I'm literally writing on scraps of paper as the ideas flow. Updates follow.

Current music:
Walkin' after midnight - Patsy Cline


  • At 8:59 AM, Blogger livinghigh said…

    mmm.. now write me a CD, babe. ;-)

  • At 1:54 AM, Blogger AB said…

    After reading your post I was propelled back in time to a Turkish Airlines flight I was once travelling by...
    I chose the Turkish audio channel over the movie "Sur", much to the shock and discern of the neighbouring aunty who clearly disapproved of my taste in inflight entertainment.
    Anyway I had no mentor/benefactor (till now) to guide me with Arabic music so I ended up downloading a bunch of lousy songs (Karabiberim- have you heard it?) from Kaazalite on my return to Delhi. After which I lost all interest in Arabic music.

  • At 2:01 AM, Blogger AB said…

    Btw nice blog. I like it all the more because it sounds so much like I *fart* Bombay (and well..Boston)!

    Though my patronage and loyalties are reserved unambiguously for Delhi, I have also *heart*ed Bombay on my three visits to the city.

    Bombay is classy, but WE are the capital :P

  • At 1:26 PM, Blogger AB said…

    To be very frank, I do not have any real experience of what gay life in India is like. Meaning I have never met a gay man, and my first contact with one was only a month back, on phone.
    But whatever little idea I have gathered from the net DOES appall me, in fact saddens me. (A), why do most seem sex maniacs to me? why do most gay relationships seem like masti? Or is it I who is asexual? (B), it seems very few are genuinely comfortable and confident about their identity. I haven't seen many Indian gay bloggers whose blogs are not 60% devoted to their views on homosexuality.
    On a recent trip to Paris, I saw in one day what I haven't seen in all my nineteen years in India. On the banks of the Seine, I saw two young men, about the same age as me (who were obviously gay), one white and one black, walk hand in hand. They looked so happy, that scene has been imprinted on my mind.

  • At 1:45 PM, Blogger AB said…

    Although I think my life is back on track after a considerable period of adjustment, and I am happy being gay and all that.. there ARE some times when I wish I were straight, like the rest of 'em. But that's because my universe is currently built entirely around straight people. And it saddens me to think that they probably will never understand the way I feel, while some will probably not even get beyond thinking that I have a mental ailment.
    The other day, my sister (who I came out to about half a year back) asked me "(blah blah) ..but don't be so DEAD sure of it. maybe you'll be attracted to a girl one day.. (blah blah)". Similar comments from other friends who otherwise agree I am extremely sane and balanced. How do I explain to them how sure I am of what I am. :((
    P.S.- I am sorry to have converted what you so innocently meant to be a comment box into a graffiti board. Will not repeat it, hopefully.

  • At 12:10 PM, Anonymous aparna said…

    if ur writin a cd for living high then make it 2 which will be for me. nice blog.btw my knowledge of arabic music begins and ends wit KHALED.

  • At 12:19 AM, Blogger roswitha said…

    Hi! The Dobby Also Known As Kate pointed me to your blog and I just thought I'd comment and let you know how much I enjoyed reading your posts, especially this one.

    I first heard of rai in Salman Rushdie's "The Ground Beneath Her Feet," in which he has a character called Rai - and he did talk at one point about how rai musicians were being murdered because their art was also protest, et cetera. I've been interested in the form ever since, but always a bit leery about getting stuff at random off the net. I'm going to take your advice and look for these songs now. Thanks muchly!

    Also, Tarkan is totally a guilty pleasure of mine. :)

  • At 1:29 AM, Blogger Selma Mirza said…

    You must listen to Tarkan if you would enjoy Turkish pop... Hi music is very good!

    Sezen Aksu is the Queen of Hearts, and her music is noteworthy... if you understand the words, nothing could be better. Turkish is a fun language to learn by the way....

  • At 1:32 AM, Blogger Vikster said…

    I have a bunch of Tarkan and Mustafa Sandal..and I love the song Ashk by Sezen Aksu..

    Merhaba Evenstar..and Guley Guley!!


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