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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

It is Divine

If you happen to wander into Nagore in southern Tamil Nadu,you will stop in your tracks at the sight of a dargah with a golden dome and a 131-ft-high tower.

Written by Debesh Banerjee |
May 10, 2009 10:27:55 pm

Their Sufi melodies are unusually in Tamil

If you happen to wander into Nagore in southern Tamil Nadu,you will stop in your tracks at the sight of a dargah with a golden dome and a 131-ft-high tower. But you will move forward,drawn by the splendid sight as well as the Sufi songs floating out of the building. These Sufi songs are,unusually,in Tamil. Abdul Ghani,Ajah Maideen and Saburmaideen Babha Sabeer,who were recently in Delhi,have been singing these melodies since childhood.

Now you don’t have to go wandering in Nagore to hear them sing. The trio have released their debut album,Nagore Sessions (Earth Sync),a set of seven devotional songs that have been set to Middle Eastern percussion,apart from Indian and western instruments. The monks of Tashi Lhunpo monastery play the horns and Murad Ali Khan plays the sarangi,among other musicians. The songs are at best pacy,with a few Arabic words scattered among Tamil verses.

Ghani,57,and Sabeer,65,write the lyrics — translating lines from the Koran or the verses of Rumi — and set the tunes,while Maideen helps decipher intricate passages. The three are not related to each other but are inextricably bound by their musical tradition. “Sufi singing has been a family tradition and we received training from our fathers as a means to earn our livelihood. We would accompany our fathers to the dargah everyday and learn by observing them. Slowly,we started singing along with them and have succeeded them to preserve this legacy. Apart from teaching us the songs,our fathers have instilled in us the importance of spreading the message of love,peace and the grace of God,” says Ghani.

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In 2005,they contributed a song,Ya Allah,to the album,Laya Project,which sought to represent the music and culture of the places affected by the tsunami of December 2004. “Since we had already sung a song for the album,we jumped at the opportunity of doing an entire album of our own,” says Sabeer,who also features in the video of The saint in Nagore Sessions.

They understand only Tamil and have not listened to their compatriots in north India. “Our fathers have been our role models and we have drawn inspiration only from them,” says Sabeer. But they are being heard — they recently performed at the Tel Aviv Film Festival,Israel,and the Perth International Arts Festival,Australia. The songs can’t be contained.

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