Music for the Soul

Despite being a self-proclaimed atheist I find my favorite genre of music to be Sufi devotional. It is not surprising considering the staple diet of such songs that I have grown up on. Though not strictly Sufi, here is a small list of Indian devotional/spiritual songs that are my favorites.

1. Madari (Coke Studio Season 1)
MTV has, over the years, produced several seasons of Roadies and Splitsvilla and depicted our generation as that of hormone-junkie dumber-than-thou individuals. However, Coke Studio (along with Sound Tripping) absolves MTV of some, if not all, of its crimes. This song, composed by Clinton Cerejo and sung by Vishal Dadlani & Sonu Kakkar, is arguably the best one to come out of Indian version of Coke Studio so far. It merges elements of rock with traditional Punabi devotional lyrics to produce one of the most addictive songs I have come across in a long time.

2. Ha Raham (Album: Amir)
A fusion of Sufi and Qawwali styles, this song is a prayer for safety and complete subjugation to God’s will. I find Ha Raham particularly interesting because of the irony of a man turning to God to escape from religious fanatics. Also, this song gave us the earliest glimpse of caliber of Amit Trivedi, who got the recognition he deserved only once the music of DevD and Udaan became popular.

3. Tumhi Se (Album: Sunoh, Artist: Lucky Ali)
Lucky Ali, for me, defines the beginning of an era of more versatile music than we traditionally had. But by the time his fourth album, Kabhi Aisa Lagta Hai, came out, he had already become a shallow and commercialized imitation of his earlier self (his last decent work being Sur). However, much before that he had produced two albums, Sunoh and Sifar, which showed us the genius artist that he was. His exceptionality lay not only in his husky voice but also in the simplicity of his songs which, unlike the other popular music of 90s, depended on their spiritual lyrics more than their soothing melody. Tumhi Se is one of the songs that exemplify this.

4. Kun Faya Kun(Rockstar)
This homage to Nizamuddin Auliya, the 13th Century Sufi saint, is third of its kind by Rahman. While the first one, Piya Haji Ali, was a bit rough the second one, Khwaja mere Khwaja, a dedication to Moinuddin Chishti, was too polished to be soulful. With Kun Faya Kun, as with the whole album of Rockstar, Rahman finds the right balance. Rockstar marked the comeback of a genius at his creative best and this song shows why.

5. Naiharwa (Album: Kailasa, Artist: Kailash Kher)
Largely overshadowed by other songs in the album, Naiharwa is Kailash Kher’s rendition of Kabir’s poem and was never a song meant to get large scale popularity. As in many other works by Kabir, God is described as a beloved and Kabir wishes to be united with Him, not out of fear or any purpose but as a natural tendency of lovers. Kailash Kher alone has the voice that could have done justice to this song and it has.


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