A celeberation of the life of a Sufi soldier

Poetic Medley

Rang-e-Khusro, a two-day musical concert concluded at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre on a high note with the audience getting a glimpse not only into the works of Sufi poet Amir Khusro, but also into the life of someone who is often regarded as the “father of qawwali”.

The first day of the programme of poetry and music showcased a jugalbandi - Ashaar and Sitar, where renowned sitar maestro, Dr Sudeep Rai was accompanied by Ustad Rashid Zafar Khan on the tabla.

The second day featured Kalaam-E-Khusro - a mesmerising Sufi vocal by Ustad Shakeel Ahmed and Vaishali Rai accompanied by Ustad Salim Ahmed Khan (tabla), Ustad Syed Rehman Khan (sarangi) and Anees Ahmed (keyboard). The beautiful Sufi song Piya ghar aaye, melodiously sung by Vaishali Rai opened the evening followed by a virtual feast of Sufi kalaams in Shakeel Ahmed’s solo and duet act.

Ahmed presented mesmerising Sufi songs in his unique style which included songs like Chhaap Tilak and Dama dum mast kalandar amongst others. He treated the audience to the delectable Persian song Amadabaqatl-e -man as also the khadi boli song Kahe ko byahi bides, exhibiting Amir Khusro’s ease and mastery over these languages.

Born in 1253, Ab’ul Hasan Yamin al-Din Khusro is often attributed with introducing the ghazal style of song into South Asia. He is also credited with introducing Persian, Arabic and Turkish elements into Indian classical music and as inventor of musical instruments like tabla and sitar. But Khusro’s usage of ‘Hindavi’ or ‘Hindustani’ language, according to many, differentiates him from other sufi poets and singers of his time. In fact poetry in Hindavi language, the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan now, had rarely been seen before Khusro’s work began to emerge in the 13th century.

Bugra Khan, son of Ghiyas-ud-din Balban (the ninth sultan of the Mamluk dynasty of Delhi), was a known patron of Khusro who had joined as a soldier in the army of Malik Chajju, a nephew of Sultan Balban. It was the Turk soldier Jalal-ud-din Firuz Khilji, who became the Sultan of Delhi, who gave Khusro the title of Amir, which means the ‘one who will never die’ in Persian.

“The event was organised to reacquaint the public with the towering persona of Hazrat Amir Khusro who was a scholar, poet, inventor, musician, humanist and much more than words are able to convey. His great body of work, indeed his whole life, is a wonderful example of our Ganga Jamni Tehzeeb,” said Dr Mridula Satish Tandon head of Sakshi, an NGO which organised the concert.

According to Tandon, the event also tries to bring out the life of Khusro into public domain.
“He was a soldier and also a Sufi poet. This goes on to show how those who chose to be soldiers cannot and must not separate their poetic side from themselves,” said Tandon.

According to some historians, even though Khusro earned the patronage of many kings, he had the courage to speak before the king of the values of equality.

“Though my value may be a little less than that of yours yet, if your veins were to be cut open, our blood will come out of the same colour”, is one of Khusro’s many verses.

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