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MJ: Part II

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

The credit for all the images used in this blog goes to N, Founder, Jashn-e-Mansa.

In the depth of winter, I learnt that within me lay an invincible summer – Albert Camus

MJ: The singer of covers, the unveiler of hidden treasures, and the keeper of keys to the kingdom of poetic lyrics

What do you do when an artist croons some of your favourite songs? The ones you go to for comfort, for reassurance even when you know that this too shall pass. You have gone to those songs - to just stand and absorb the words, the lyrics, the music, the beauty - for a brief reprieve from reality, for an unknown comfort; and here she is singing them just the way you felt them?

What do you do when the artist picks those exact lyrics from those songs you love, adore, and perhaps have a piece of your spirit living in, and sings it so magically that you can’t hear the original singer anymore? She owns them. You are mesmerized. At times, you are perhaps just a lucky traveller who got to witness a few magical moments unravel.

What happens when you realise those lyrics reserved for those dark times that caused you to weep, grieve, and carry the heaviness, and reminded you of those times every time you listened to them suddenly make you smile when you hear her sing. I mean that smile when you still enjoy the song, experience the depth of the lyrics, and love the symphony- but now you admire the richness and are acutely aware of the unknown strength it bestows.

You know you have journeyed through those times, healed, and forged of diamonds, steel, and titanium! Your mind quotes Sabaa Tahir :).

“It will get better. You'll never forget them, not even after years. But one day, you'll go a whole minute without feeling the pain. Then an hour. A day. That's all you can ask for, really.” His voice drops. “You'll heal, I promise.”

You also know that this girl who is singing them, in whose voice you hear the same sorrow, pathos, grief, pain, and angst that you felt, is someone you will always root for.

You want to reach out and ask What has life done to you that you hurt so much?

You see her enjoy the music, the lyrics, the beauty, and is in her zone-a trance? You don’t want to be yet another creepy fan.

Yet, your mind always hears her sing the other joyful songs- the height and expanse of joy and delight which can be reached only by someone who has plunged and unearthed new depths as she (has?).

So when she croons Jaaney who kaisey log they jinkey pyaar ko pyaar mila”, you also wish to hear Jaaney kya tuney kahi?” When she goes Yesterday once more, your mind sings “Am on the top of the world looking down on creation”. Your mind goes further. You hear the joyous Lalgudi Jayaraman’s Thillana in Kadanakuthuhalam. You hear Andre Rieu’s Hava Nagila and Second Waltz. You hear Spring. You get reminded of Malaysia Vasudevan: the voice that dripped with melancholia but when he sang this songa 10,000 splendid yellow suns seemed faded in comparison!

MJ: The poet, the creator, the musician

I recently read somewhere about how Entrepreneurs are fearless. It takes a lot of guts and gumption to take the risk- your livelihood is at stake. The person added that Artists are even more fearless. It is life and livelihood at stake.

MJ’s covers, her poetry, and her writing give a peek into the artist’s spirit, soul, and journey. I am covering some of her original songs here.

a. Kuch Baat karni thi: This is the first original of MJ’s that I have heard. It always makes me wistfully smile- for all the times I had reached for the Cadbury Ads and wished they said more- this is what I wanted them to say perhaps?

Seeney mein Padi, Nasoor Badhi, Azaad karni thi is my favourite line from this song. Well, what is love, if not set free?

I love this video of this song a lot-leaves you asking for more.

b. Tu na aaya along with Elroy: The way the song opens always gives me goose bumps. As someone who truly, madly, deeply loves the sounds emanating from any violin, I loved the song’s arrangement. For me, violins make everything beautiful- love, happiness, pain, longing, waiting.

Tu na aaya does it too- even more beautifully as the words, and the singers (all of them) are brilliant. The poetry and the play of words are lively to catch. The pangs of waiting for a loved one who did not come back- took me to that day when I first experienced the finality of a goodbye. You look up expectantly, you hope. But yeh, you know.

I loved the golden hues and lighting that splayed around in this video. Also at that one spot about 90 seconds into the song where there is a pause and the Cajon changes the pace and feel of the song.

I come from Kollywood land. This song was Ilayaraja-esque for me! Elroy is the genius behind the arrangement of this song. Looking forward to more of his magic!

Maey kaisey jiya, aae subah tu bataa/hey har subah ko pataah- These lyrics came inexplicably floating to me recently when I was reading Fredrick Beckman’s Bear Town series, and one of the protagonists says this about her friend What do people without an Ana in their life do?

c. Taa’biir (The journey of a Dream) along with Elroy: This is a song that is personal to everyone on earth- as it is about the dreams one has. Pick one that has not got fulfilled. What happens to it?

The picturization is beautiful, the video really flows with the music. The kids, the beach, and small elements such as a kite with the main artists at the start, and the ones the kids are making afterward, made it enjoyable for me to watch. (Audio over video, descriptions/words over visuals any day for me, otherwise!).

My personal favorite lines are girwi rakhi thi woh aangan ki khusbu ki yaadein, and apney mujhe tere sapney lagey in the voices of the kids.

I loved how the song and video ended, and also the music arrangement. However, the most favourite part of the video for me was that of the kids gambolling/flying the kite by the sea and the sun rays splattering through with golden and pinkish hues.

I was reminded of these words (not the exact words) from Stranger in a Strange Land: “Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist--a master-- can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is . . . and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be . . . and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive…”

d. Goodbye Dylan: I love when MJ sings songs in English or shares her poetry in English. So, when I found one, she wrote, sang, and made a short video/movie of it: it was like an early birthday present!

Your idols from yesteryears, They don’t mean shit anymore. You wear their name, oh what a shame. Right from the start, their your way from the dark. But they’re as phony as the friends you and me never had.

This one made me think of my reluctance to have idols and not knowing what to call them. It felt like MJ wrote, strummed, and hummed out all of my trepidation into a song.

e. The Hymn of Dharma and Naye Arman: For the first one she has written the lyrics and for the second, she has sung. They are anthems of sorts if you need one to get through a rough day or some tough times or you know just connect with something deeper than the mundane. I am not writing more because if I wrote everything here, then I am stopping your imagination from drawing what it wants!

f. Mera Mann (At 1:24 the twang and the laugh of a happy creator is heartwarming): Lyrics created for the movie James.

I found the lyrics tender, sweet, and romantic. My favourite is Saanj teri, mei bas tara. I found these beautiful as in my head it’s like telling your loved one, Hey the evening and the expanse of it is yours, I am just a star. Now this star can be bright and large, or a speck, depending on where your evening is and what the star is. From Manasulu, for example, you can almost touch and catch a falling star (and yes put it in your pocket).

Summing up…

Her classical roots, the depth of the person that she is, and romance/love/I don’t know what to call it she has, shine through :). Sometimes you also get a glimpse of the fun almost impish person, beyond the art and the artist. Check this out. IYKYK.

I think I am just a lucky bystander to have access to some parts of MJ’s world/music, soak in it, and sometimes, enjoy the intersections made and bask in it. For me the biggest gift has been to just be mesmerized: looking at her grin at the convergence of soulful music, heartrending lyrics, and deep emotions while singing a song like Kardey koi nawazishein karam mehrbaniyan.

Side note: Uff for the note she hits, a double uff for the chord strings she tugs in my heart. (Heck, Shuja Hyder was my faithful companion for every heartbreak of the last decade. Now she came along, sang just two lines from that song, and pbbbft said delight to my stupid heart!).

It is said that one of the things that the Tarahumara tribe, the tribe of ultra-marathon runners had/has was that they truly enjoyed running long distances.

100 miles? Pbbft a breeze. 150 miles- sure, no problem. Run for a week, all day- Sounds fun!

When they run it feels like they have wind on their feet and that they float on the clouds. A child-like delight in running. No fancy shoes, no cushions for the heel. Just running- rooted in how humans run naturally and honed to perfection. Watching them is a symphony, that fills you with innocent joy, and a depth that is pure and untouched.

MJ, for me, is a Tarahumara runner. A delight, and an experience that is personal and pristine.

Okay one last side note before summing it up

Interestingly, like the Tarahumaras, MJ also has a group of fans who adore her for what she is and root for her, and celebrate her- literally as the group is called Jashn-e-Mansa. Just pure unconditional love.

This was from N, my Insta friend and Founder of the group (through which we became friends). Seeing her posts on MJ and the reaction from other folks is enough to leave you grinning widely. In a world, which puts any and every artist on a pedestal and is as quick to judge and remove the pedestal violently, here is an artist who has impacted so many folks and their lives. She is adored for it.

She indulges her fans too. Folks send in myriads of song requests and some with promises of quitting smoking or hitting the gym. I guess these words echo what she feels about what she is able to bring into the lives of other folks:

One of the best things about being an artist to me is that you are permitted by a total stranger to linger in the secret spaces of their heart, of their routine etc where they might not allow anyone else to even knock. How precious is this gift.

Okay, finally summing up

One of the descriptions on her Insta profile says, “Lost Romantic”. My mind always rakes up the image of a Gypsy Caravaner, driving whichever vehicle catches her fancy at that point, strumming on her Ukele, and singing Alviddaa, Aaradhikey (the original is mind-blowing as well), and Mere pehron mein bhangda saanson mein tappey tappey, with sweetness, freedom, and aplomb.

This is an artist I will follow all my life and hope that she sings those joyous songs too -

one of my favourites is Chowdary. When she posted that video, I fist-pumped and said, Yesss! MJ does groovy.

Going back to my question in Part I.

What happens when Maryam Mirzakhani meets Asha Bhonsle meets Emily Dickinson meets Amy Lee meets Rekha Bharadwaj meets Kishore Kumar meets Metallica meets Nirvana meets Jorge Luis Borges meet Saba Tahir meets Hermoine Granger meets Luna Lovegood meets Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (in a sunny yellow shade) under a Starry night?

(I had said that I have two answers, a long and a short one. Part I was the long one :D).

Time for my short answer: I groove, dance, and sing Jhoom Jhoom e Jhumba Jhoom!

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