(Written by Nagina Bains)
IN this conundrum of screams, protests and caterwauls, imagine a Sufi ascetic rendering Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri’s (popularly known as Baba Bulleh Shah) kalams sitting under the canopy of trees where the wind and birds are the other two accompaniments he has for the background music score. A breath of fresh air (literally) is what it feels like when one meets these two young men who have chosen the hills as their abode and music as their pursuit in life, giving birth to The Rising Mallang, with the group performing in Chandigarh at Sudharma Studio, Sector 16.
A creation of Prabhu (Prabhjot Singh) and Aman (Amandeep Kaushal) — the musicians describe The Rising Mallang as a project which strives to revive the musical traditions of mystics, yogis, mahasiddhas and the Bhakti movement of northern India and the Himalayan regions. “That’s because these traditions are rapidly disappearing among the mainstream media and popular culture, and there is a general disinterest towards the mystical oral tradition of ancient India,” says Prabhu, a writer, poet, composer and sound engineer, who has been trained in Indian classical, folk, Sufi, Gurbani, Bhakti tradition of Nirgun and Buddhist songs of realisation.
“I write my own lyrics. That’s the beauty of the hills and music — the inspiration is there, the canvas is there — all I have to do is paint with my imagination and music is produced,” says Prabhu, who lives in Dharamshala, where he teaches music to young monks.
Aman adds, “The passion of revving our lost traditions is the catalyst for all our performances and also creating awareness amidst the youth for traditional music of this region.”
It takes a kind of magic to renounce the comfort of city life and devote your life to music. Prabhu started his musical journey when he was in Class XI in Ludhiana in 1999 under the guidance of Prof Manmohan Singh. There was no motive behind becoming a good singer or performer, rather it was just love and passion for music that it remained an integral part of his life.
“That’s why we are never tired of doing it,” adds Prabhu.
Aman’s tryst with the transition from the worldly to the self is similar. A traveller and writer, he had been trained in Indian classical music, including folk, Sufi, bhajan, Gurbani and contemporary music. “Before coming to the Himalayas, I was in Delhi and Chandigarh trying to learn studio recording work and other things connected to music, but something wasn’t settled within me, so in 2009, I came to Dharamshala for a vacation and have been here ever since. This is home now, as we travel across the country performing for different people, who love what we do. We are spreading our wings with music,” shares Aman.
And what does mallang signify? “A few years back, Aman was discussing the kind of music which we do, to give a name to it. He came upon the name mallang, as our music is never in a graph and is always flowing. The word ‘mallang’, which probably comes from Persia can be found in mystical poetry in many different languages. Here it refers to a wandering fakir and a mystic in his own merry,” says Aman, as Bulleh Shah’s Akhan vich dil jani piyari rendered by the two plays in the background, with Prabhu announcing in Punjabi his version of mallang, “jehra mai nu lang giya, oh mallang”.