No fire in hell, neither a garden in heaven: Singer Shahabaz Aman (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, Oct 5 (IANS) It’s rare that eccentricity, eclecticism and enigma merge to produce a melodious mix. Norms and traditions are no shackles for a renowned Kerala-based musician. If nomenclature is any parameter to understand persona, “KEF 1126″ is the name of his very popular Sufi music album and “Om Allah” the title of his book.

Aman, who performed for a packed house at India Habitat Centre earlier in the week, admits that his songs are both political and philosophical. One of the most popular numbers that got the audience in a trance was “Narakathil thee illa, swargathil thottam illa” (there is no fire in hell neither garden in heaven, everything is within you).

“Youngsters who were at the show were reacting to the narrative. Most of them have different aspirations, aesthetics and spirituality. It isn’t always welcomed when they hear someone sing that there is no fire in hell and there isn’t any garden in heaven. It was a wonderful sight that they lapped it up,” the 47-year-old Aman from Kerala’s Malappuram district told IANS.

Tugging at the heart strings and revving emotions was the number “Darwish” that followed.

“The song is a lament of a Palestinian mother to the skies when she buries her daughter. It is a wail over the futility of war and how her child has been snatched away by the bloody conflict,” said Aman, who has several music albums to his credit.

Probing the reason for naming his work “KEF 1126″, Aman exhibited the sharp intellect and philosophy behind the title.

“It’s the registration number of a jeep that I and my friends used to take as kids to play football. Many times we returned victorious and at other times as losers. Winning or losing never affected us; it was the love for the game that kept us going.

“We have to realise that life is a journey. With ‘KEF 1126′, it’s a journey and one has to travel in this crowded public transport to experience the joy of the journey and at the end of it, one realises that there is no winner or loser,” said Aman, who was cited as the best playback singer at the prestigious Vanita Film Awards in 2013.

With seven films under his belt and 16 songs as a playback singer, Aman’s 10 years in Mollywood may seem too little, but his influence in the field of music is irreplaceable.

His songs are a potent mix of spirituality, politics and human attitude all rolled into a heady mix of Sufi music.

“I give a lot of importance to the tune. My music is definitely influenced by Sufism. But I can’t be called a Sufi singer as it is a different state of existence physically and spiritually. The Sufi route is a journey,” the singer said.

As an author, in “Om Allah”, Aman breaks barriers, doing away with stereotypes and implores readers to go the distance to bridge differences.

“My wife hails from a Hindu Communist family and I from a Muslim family. I can pray even 10 times a day and share a joyful and loving relationship with her. For me, prayer isn’t religious, it’s something different. Hindus and Muslims have very little idea about each other. Everybody only has a vague perception of the other,” said Aman.

Pitching for a society that needs to be more receptive to each other, Aman believes that his book is a mix of psychology, social experimentation and music, besides others.

“What if a cleric invites Taslima Nasreen to stay at her place for a few days? After a couple of days, both may have dropped their misconceptions about each other and soon they wouldn’t have anything to hold against each other. My book is a mix of psychology, social experimentation and music, besides others,” said Aman.

Taking a pot-shot at rising levels of mistrust and hate, the singer warned that these notions need to be handled soon and with care.

“Our country may be leaping into the bandwagon of commerce and scientific development, but we fail to realize that we are too entrenched in our culture and mythology. Pujas, namaz and other beliefs will continue to exist. We can romanticise about a society where there are no such beliefs, but that’s impossible. We have to find peace in between all this cacophony,” he said.

For a singer firmly rooted to the pluralism of Islam and India, Aman’s initiation into the world of music was also at an early age.

“It was the Shahada Kalima that my mother sang as a lullaby that initiated me to music. May be it’s because of that I am only a melody singer. I was conditioned to be a singer that I am now by the lullaby she sang for me. What has been embedded in my sub-conscious keeps me going now,” said Aman, who plans to take his ‘KEF 1126′ to other parts of the country.

(Preetha Nair can be contacted at preetha.n@ians.in)

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