While I devote this post to one song in particular, I hope we can discuss other songs from the soundtrack in the comments section, as well.
As I start writing this post, I have yet to listen to the soundtrack to the upcoming film Rockstar (releasing 11/11/11) in its entirety, but if I have ever enjoyed a soundtrack enough after consuming only a small sample of tracks to conclude that I'd recommend it highly, this has to be it.
A question this leads to is whether this has as much to do with the state of the Hindi film music overall, as it does with the greatness of A. R. Rahman. (Rahman is, as any objective comparison of the last 10, maybe 15 years of Hindi film soundtracks would indicate, simply way ahead of his peers in Hindi cinema.) Like most things, it's probably a combination of both. But I digress. Rather than dwell on the question, aren't we just better off enjoying the talent Rahman is blessed with? What's wrong with just appreciating divinity at work? (Assuming we believe in some divine force.)
Appreciation of divinity at work and its universality is the essence of a 'qawwali' (this Wikipedia entry has notes on the style of poetry/song/music), and Rahman has long established himself as a leader in infusing Hindi film music with the spirit of his qawwalis. He tends to meet conventions of the song, retaining the structure of a proper qawwali, while adding the unmistakable quality of his songs -- growth over time, and the innovation in music we have long associated with only his style. Kun Faaya Kun is only the latest such example of his fine work in the genre, no doubt inspired by his faith. (This is a good place to link to the Tehelka Piece, "The Mystic Master", initially shared in this Delhi-6 post.) Here is a promo of good length:
I'd be kidding if I termed this as merely another Rahman qawwali. Truth is, this has as much depth as any qawwali that's been released for a very long time, regardless of whether for a Hindi film. The source of the depth? We'll have to wait to know if it's the film as much, but we already know it's at least the lyrics, the subject of this post. To those who e-mailed me requesting a translation to this song: I hope this post adds to your listening pleasure (at the very least). :)
Among the several references to the Arabic 'Kun Faaya Kun' (Kun pronounced 'koon', rhyming with 'soon') in the Quran, is this, from Ya-Seen (Chapter 36, Verse 82):
Verily, when He intends a thing, His command is, “Be,” and it is!
Now, I'll gladly ignore that the title, 'Kun Faaya Kun', is repeatedly mispronounced throughout the song. It's a song in Hindustani or Urdu, depending on how one wants to consume it. While the scripts to at least two of these are similar, the vast difference lies in practice of how the same letters of the alphabet are pronounced. That's just the way it is.
Like any work of art, this song will mean different things to different people. This specific qawwali adds more layers of complexity to its comprehension given the forces involved, which include:
- The Self (body, soul, and shadow)
- The Addressed (by the self, when not the self)
- Allah (or God)
- Muhammad, God's Messenger
- Nizamuddin Auliya, a renowned saint (Wikipedia entry here; predecessors include Moinuddin Chishti, invoked in another popular Rahman qawwali, 'Khwaaja Mere Khwaaja' in the film Jodhaa Akbar (2008))
The layers of complexity mentioned above are added with the several overlaying dialogues within the lyrics. Who says what to whom (recursion included)? What to make of the hints at existentialism? I'll leave that to your interpretation. (The punctuation in my translation offers some idea of what mine is.) We won't know the context in the film until its release, anyway. I must say that it's more complex than it initially seems even to those familiar with the core themes of the chapter(s) from the Quran these lyrics are adapted from (there are several more, a true analysis of which would belong in a more formal dissertation).
Here are the lyrics and my translation (click to enlarge):
|Click to Enlarge|
The complexity is hardly restricted to the lyrics or the theme. How about some fabulous, fun, soul-stirring interludes involving the guitar? Guitar in a qawwali, you ask? Absolutely! The hallmarks of a Rahmanized qawwali are all present, all working in harmony. Does that Ranbir Kapoor entranced gaze skyward remind anyone of Hrithik Roshan in the Rahman qawwali in Jodhaa Akbar, one finger upward and seeking divine help, the other pointing downward to transfer that help to his subjects?
By now, I've listened to the soundtrack in its entirety. It's trademark Rahman, and one can only imagine singer Mohit Chauhan smiling his way through the album. My only hope is the movie it's for does it some justice. It surely has an excellent ecosystem of music to work with.
Your thoughts on the song, and on the soundtrack?
For further reading, here's an excellent Mumbai Mirror article on Director Imtiaz Ali and A. R. Rahman. (Thank you Dunkdaft for sharing!)
This YouTube link has the making of the song.
Official film website: rockstarthefilm.com
Translating Kun Faaya Kun reminded me of this from from the book 'An Aetheist with (Mahatma) Gandhi' by Gora:
"I used to say 'God is Truth.' That did not completely satisfy me. So I said 'Truth is God.' He and His law are not different. God's law is God Himself. To interpret it man has to resort to intense prayer and merge himself in God. Each one will interpret the same in his or her own way. As for the relationship between man and God, man does not become man by virtue of having two hands. He becomes man by becoming a tabernacle of God." -- M. K. Gandhi
It's a complete coincidence that we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti this weekend (October 2), and I figured this might be a good time to share these pictures taken by yours truly last year at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat in India. Enlarge the photos and you might just find a few of Gandhi's other ideas of God. ;)
The God in me welcomes the God in you.