The most demanded song ever on any channel, and that speaks for any medium of music and song over the past four decades, is still voted as that Led Zep composition that hit it off, without even their quite knowing it, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant creating rock history.

Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin


But that’s not what got me getting to press the good word this time. Just finished attending, Kaislash Kher performing  live in Chennai – there’s always a first time.

The critics would sidestep him, because his very earthiness struck an instant chord with the hoi polloi, who, unlike the cognoscenti who hesitated, could identify readily with his music, and even more, his voice,  spontaneously. He humbly said that he had come to Chennai several times, at the behest of AR Rehman and Harris Jeyaraj, and his sentiment to perform live in this city finally bore fruit today,  later than never.

To say that he is humility personified would be too trite. He interspersed his every hit, and less well known free-flow, with his own snippets. He said that till 2002, he was but a footloose vagabond unwanted,  dog of a tramp, still seeking his forte, and found it that year when he got to finally launch his career.

There is one more endearing comment he made – that FAME is an awful drug

( nasha, to be precise ) that claims and destroys the person much too fast, and he made a distinction between Fame and Popularity, of which the latter stood him in good stead. And he could not have  given a more earthier example: he cited an instance where an avid fan stalked him, cellphone camera live, right into the toilet, and he had to abjure that intrepid aficionado, to wait till they finished their business of nature’s call, and took the snaps for posterity subsequently, relieved.

The penultimate number was Allah ke Bandey has dey, to which the entire audience of 2000 was on their feet ( including yours truly ) singing in chorus.  Almost a good half were of Punjabi origin, settled in Chennai, and there’s the rub – his down – to – earth rusticity and effervescence, appeals spontaneously to the Punjabi ethos, irrespective of which side of the border of Punjab they hail, though Kailash ji himself is the first to admit, he is a failed businessman from Meerut, and as the stuff of folklore that is always built around legends,  has now begun to have it, is only twice-removed from being a bona-fide Kashmiri Pundit.

His aside to the galleries, was that he could never manage to satisfy every request for his vocal baritone to belt out their favourite – and the audience was ready to express that disappointment over Facebook the next day, and this pleased him anyway, for everyone likes to be liked, well, wanted. A young lady named Sujata romped on to the stage in a virtuoso dance, bang in the middle of his song.

So let me end by expressing my own mild disappointment – the original Amir Khusro beauty, Chhap Tilak sab chheni, missed the repertory for the evening.  Apart from the magical lyrics of the great Persian in India, of centuries ago, Kailash ji inflects it with a tinge, enlivens it with an incisive directness that leaves the listener floored.  Comparisons are odious, unforgivingly so, when make-believe critics like myself can hardly do justice to such poetry personally, but the brilliant and superlative Abida Parveen ji, whose rendition of the same lyrics I had the privilege of hearing live, here in Chennai, gave the mystic aura of wonder that permeates all Sufi verse, but did not quite knock me off my shoes, and so Kailash should take the floor for this one.

I would do justice neither to myself nor to anyone who gets to read this, without a final aside: if you ever do get to hear Abida ji’s rendition of  ‘ Har tarannum mei mili hai teri awaaz mujy, ek hi nagm sunata hai har ek saaz mujy‘ she too, you too will conclude, has captured the essence of the sense of sound and voice, that dares to inextricably mingle the Divine and the Mundane forever. But I would not do justice to my write-up if I end it blithely here. Abida ji had capped her evening programme with “Arrey Logon, tumhara kya, mei janun, mera Khuda jaaney” and did I mistake the divine glow on her visage, as a concomitant of the soft accoutrement and embellishment of lighting on the stage ?   I think not !  Alas, to give credence to my senses by hearing her again live, I have to get all the way to Pakistan; and till then, belong to the vast majority of lesser mortals to whom the great vocalist fires her salvo, Arrey Logon……

Abida Parveen

Now, to get the wires of my fingers and thought-process well and truly crossed, I duly got my my hair raised and soul stirred, with the lines “Khudi ko buland kar itna ke, har taqdeer pey,  Khuda bandey sey puchey bata teri raza kya hai ? “, to which I heard the blithe lines sung by Rahat Fateh ” Tu na jaaney aas-paas hai Khuda “, and of course, Rahat takes the cake for the year, maybe for the entire decade with the lines ” Is umr pey ab, khaogey dhoke, dar lagta hai…..dil to bachha hai ji ” .  There’s no disputing that, in any language, in any country, and you know, maybe in every religion ?

Despite it all, I would like to sign off with a pint like Ghalib, and his words too                           ” Na tha kuch to, Khuda tha, kuch na hota to, Khuda hota “