Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

Origin of the song 'Allah Megh de pani de'

The land is parched. Dry wind blows.Their throat as dry as the village well, they look to the cloudless sky and sing.


“Allah Megh de pani de …”
          O God Give us cloud Give us water

The sequence is from 1970s Hindi movie, Palkon Ki Chaon Mein. The song by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle is a classic.

When i was a kid, i could not tell whether that song was a sad or a happy song. It’s meant to be sad but it almost sounds like magical chanting, almost hypnotic begging for rain through prayer.
Various movies had the same lines as the song - “Allah Megh de..”. Dev Anand’s Guide had those lines, even Bappi Lahari used it for the film Amaanat (1994), a forgettable movie from 1990s with forgetful songs.

So What’s the origin of this wonderful song?

All these songs are the illegitimate children of a Bengali folk song. The song attributed to Bangladeshi vocalist Abbas Uddin Ahmed, is rooted in traditions of  Muslim peasantry of Bengal.



Allah megh de pani de chhaya de re tui
Allah megh de
          O God Give us cloud over our head.
          Give us water, bestow shade.

Gramophone Company of India first recorded the song in Calcutta in the 1940s and it was a big hit. Its popularity must not have diminished over the years due to India’s and sub-continents continued dependence on rains. Life must have revolved around rains. It was powerful enough to have survived until the 60s. Then came the film song from 1965s Guide and later the more haunting  song from Palkon Ki Chaon Mein. Folk went pop and seeped into the mainstream. Blasted from the radio and played on the tube, frightening young children and telling them tales of time gone by. Time when you had to pray for shower and not just turn the knob of the shower. The way things are going we would be praying all over again.
Allah megh de...

-0-
Acknowledgment : Found information about the folk song at arenaonline
Image: Check this post

9 comments:

  1. Its so nice to see someone discover Abbasuddin. I have heard his songs from before I can remember. Amazing songs...

    Just one small correction to your post. These are fishermen songs, called Bhatiyali in Bengali, and not really peasant songs. HMV (or is it Saregama now) used to sell audio cassettes of Abbasuddin till recently. I have both the cassette and my parents have the LP.

    Aniket...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, Aniket thanks to you, I had to do some more searching.
    Why would Fishermen sing for rain?
    The baramasi (song of twelve months) describes the joys and sorrows of village women through the twelve months of the Bangla year. The lives of boatmen and the world of rudders, rivers, boats, sails, waves, banks inspire the long-drawn bhatiyali (song of the river), while the vast expanses of the land, the distant horizon, the sun and clouds, tiring afternoons and days inform the bhawaiya (song of the land).
    http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/F_0123.htm
    But, at the same site bhawaiya is explained as
    Bhawaiya a genre of north Bengal folk song, believed to have originated in rangpur and Cooch Bihar, India. The name of this folk song, generally about love between man and woman, derives from bhava (emotion). Bhawaiya songs, however, may also be spiritual in theme as in 'fande pariya baga kande re' (The heron cries entrapped in a net), 'chhar re man bhaver khela' (O my mind, leave earthly games), etc.
    http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/B_0481.htm
    It says Abbasuddin made bhawaiya famous.
    But then, there is another type of folk song.
    Magan Songs a genre of folk song. The word 'magan' is derived from the Hindi word 'mangan' meaning 'to ask'. At times of natural disaster or before some festival, young village boys and girls go round houses asking for grain or money in the name of some pir or deity. At times of drought, young girls go around asking for water in pots while singing songs of Megharani or the cloud queen. Housewives sprinkle water on each other simulating rain. Young village boys carry sticks symbolising Manikpir or Sonapir and sing or recite rhymes while asking for grain to make a sweet dish.
    http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/M_0033.htm
    Now, I think Magan fits the bill.
    Then, I did some book search and found that the song is a “Jari” song.

    Page 295, East Pakistan Year Book
    http://books.google.com/books?id=rZ4BAAAAMAAJ&dq=
    editions%3A01VWDjmAtNvNWb-Hb7&q=allah+megh+de&pgis=1#search

    “Jari” gan are usually about Muhharam.
    But here, “Jari” is not a song of religious mourning but a prayer for rain.

    i think i would have to make this comment a new post. What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  3. .
    Well, this is really interesting. From what you have discovered, it does seem that this song is a Jari song; but my maternal grandfather, who knew quite a bit about music, always referred to Abbasuddin as a Bhatiyali singer.

    And rather than make your 'comment' a new post, I think you should rather integrate it into your main post on Abbasuddin itself.

    Anyway, should find out if anyone has come out with a CD of Abbasuddin songs; last time I checked I did not find them on limewire...

    .

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Aniket...will rework it.
    You can convert your LPs and cassettes into Mp3 but its a long process.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love this song ..specially the version in The Guide move, which was sang by SD Burman. The only thing which I regret is why there are only few lines in the movie.

    Sachal

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sachal,
    even though Indian movies tend to be long, yet it's interesting that we should often find them short at times. In order to keep the thing a bit less longer, their makers sometimes inexplainable tend to cut out the good parts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. the post entails abbasuddin as a bangladeshi vocalist....quite untrue....he lived in the bangladesh border region of west bengal...coochbehar...precisely in the region of tufanganj of coochbehar...his songs are still very popular among the local populace...and are part of an even popular local form of singing called "bhaoyaaiyaa"...coochbehar..and certain regions of north bengal (india) led to popularization of this song form and of abbasuddin as well....

    as far as i can recall one of his famous songs...(he wrote and composed them as well)...is "dariyaay aailo tufan"...(the storm has arrived in mid-ocean)...this song gained more popularity among the communist gono-sangeet (mass-song) regime in bengal popularised by many communist, marxist and leninist leaders and music pioneers like salil chaudhury....

    abbasuddin still lies in the minds and souls of bengalis in bengal and bangladesh...

    thanks for putting it up this article ....

    ReplyDelete
  8. kingshuk,
    thanks for the awesome comment. I guess you are right about the Bangladeshi vocalist thing. For a non-Bengali it can get a bit confusing.

    ReplyDelete

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