Enchanted Imaginings of Impossible Journeys

Razia Aziz

Between Heaven and Earth Songs of Love and Devotion from India and Pakistan (Arc Music, 2008)

One of the marks of a good CD is the distance the listener can travel on the musical landscape. As luck would have it listeners have a pure pleasure excursion waiting for them with Razia Aziz’s Between Heaven and Earth Songs of Love and Devotion from India and Pakistan*. The combination of Razia Aziz’s distinctive vocals; Ustad Fida Hussain Khan’s rich compositions and accompaniment on the harmonium; master sitar, surbahar, dilruba, pakhavaj and tabla musician Baluji Shrivastav and Sanju Sahai, an internationally renown tabla player created on this CD promises an intricate, picturesque musical landscape, ripe with enchanted imaginings of impossible journeys.

Culling songs from her own musical memories of childhood and study of Hindustani music, Aziz, along with mentor Ustad Fida Khan, chose for this CD a collection of ghazals and sufi qalams, as well as some folk songs. If music is the splendid scenery, then Aziz’s vocal interpretation of the poetry of Hazrat Baba Bulle Shah, Qateel Shifai, Ahmed Faraz and Mirza Ghalib is the adventure. Aziz has also offered a translation of the lyrics and bit of the musical workings of each piece, richly enhancing the understanding the story of each composition.

 

Between Heaven and Earth opens with the sufi devotional poem "Tere Ishq Nachaya," bringing to life the exoticism of the story of the disciple Bulle Shah and his master Shah Inayat. The composition flows from raags to keherwa in spirited turns that fascinate. "Kisi Se Meri Manzil Ka Patha Paya Naheen Jata" is one of the ghazals on the CD. Aziz’s opening notes create a striking vocal expanse that sends the listener off into the outer reaches of a wondrous landscape accompanied by intricate rhythms.

Ghazals "Ketegi Yeh Ab Zindagi Rote Rote" and "Tumhari Anjuman Se Oot Ke Divaane Kahan Jate" are both powerful journeys, full of serpentine turns of Khan’s musical mastery and Aziz’s mellifluous vocals that seem to propel the listener off into a meditative space. "Bhavain Too Jaan Na Jaan," a kafi by the poet Hazrat Baba Bulle Shah, and "Mast Qalandar," a traditional song devoted to the 12th-century sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalander, are two more extraordinary journeys rooted in a musical spiritualism that both joyful and contemplative.

Between Heaven and Earth is a opulent musical journey, replete with all the pleasures for the mystical traveler.

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