Tightly hugging a crate of fresh green vegetables across his chest, Marcos merrily sang a Bollywood number “Piya O Re Piya” (Beloved, Oh My Beloved). Working at an Indian grocery store in the suburbs of Atlanta, he hails from Honduras. The fellow does not know a word of Hindi, but since the song played so often around him, its tune must have appealed to him to such an extent that he picked it up spontaneously.
Music has such impelling power that it can strike a chord between people across borders. A student from India once narrated how when the melodious tunes of an Urdu song rent the air in a gathering in the United States, he found himself joining hands and singing with two others from Pakistan and Bangladesh who he had just met. Despite the clash of their cultures way back home, far away in a distant land, it was music that bonded them while they enjoyed the ghazal by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
The fact that singers perform across continents before jam-packed audiences that do not always speak their words is a clear testimony to the fact that music has no language. India can pride herself for having a talented galaxy of artistes rendering their beautiful voices to songs in languages besides their mother tongue. The product is impeccable, and it is hard to believe how someone not speaking that particular language can sing it so flawlessly.
Our close friends the Waykul family hosted a dinner for us last Saturday to welcome my niece Naini to Atlanta. After a delicious meal, we all sat down to enjoy some enlivening music that ended the evening on a joyful note. Not long ago, I discovered a band of singers that has been creating a wave in India, and I suggested we watch some of their videos.
Founded in 2010, the group called Havas Guruhi (White Envy) is from Uzbekistan. Winners of several international contests, four musical siblings rock the stage with their melodies. Bollywood Hindi songs are their forte, and their range is incredibly diverse. Evergreen melodies from the 1950s are sung with the same finesse and perfection as the hit numbers of present times. Their tryst with Bollywood is rather interesting. The lead singer of the group, Gulomjonov Khakhraman, shares how his parents enjoyed listening to songs of legendary actor Raj Kapoor and how the effect filtered on to the children. He explains how his initial attempts to sing Hindi songs were not successful because he did not know the language. Seeking the help of the Internet, he translated the lyrics into Uzbek, and once he understood the meaning behind those words, he achieved his goal with continued practice.
The Havas Guruhi band has performed in the Indian cities of Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, Pune, and Coimbatore and has earned wide appreciation from their audiences. They also had their first Bollywood concert in Uzbekistan to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations between India and Uzbekistan, and it was a grand success. There is no stopping to their musical journey as they are expanding their horizons by exploring songs in other Indian languages and trying to sing in Marathi, Tamil, Telegu, Punjabi, and Malayalam.
Such is the power of music that transcends time and space. The magic nurtures the soul of mankind. In the words of Plato: “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” At times, when words do not move us, it is music that appeals to our emotions.
In the same flow as I talk about music spreading across geographical territories, I would like to conclude by sharing my experiences of a mesmerizing evening last night. I had the golden opportunity to witness the live performance of Oscar Award winner A.R Rahman. As the musical genius and his extremely gifted band of singers and musicians kept the audience spellbound for hours, the message that came forth loud and clear was that music has its unbelievable capacity to unite. Besides the Hindi numbers from Bollywood that I had a striking familiarity with, artists sang songs in South Indian languages too that I am totally unacquainted with. Yet in total honesty, I claim that the soulful melodies touched my heart and reinforced my earlier belief that music can surmount all barriers, that it knows no language, and that it can certainly transport one to a blissful state.