Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Andalusia Of Love

As I have often mentioned here, thanks to the rather prosaic schooling back in the old country, I never got educated about the role that poetry plays.  Well, ok, not really. It was school that failed in educating me about poetry.  Popular culture did that wonderfully.  Kannadasan's poetry, for instance, set to wonderful music, taught me a lot about emotions and the human condition.

Now, looking back, I find it rather strange that while the day-to-day cultural behavior discouraged public displays of sadness or love, the same culture actively sought out Kannadasan's thoughts on those emotions and more.

Much later in life, I did get acquainted with poetry.  I still remember an English literature professor-colleague talking about what poetry does that prose often does not, and how in a few verses, sometimes even in a few lines, a poem conveys the emotions that we feel, or want to feel.

Bob Dylan being the recipient of the Nobel prize in literature makes me wonder whether Kanndasan's body of work would easily surpass Dylan's contributions.  I am no Kannadasan expert, nor am I a Dylan expert, but ... Or, up in the Hindi belt, there is Gulzar.  Maybe it is time to retire the Nobel in literature and peace ... but, I digress.

Poets and poetry and emotions.  I was reminded of all these because I listened to two poetry/music related segments on my favorite radio station.  One was an interview with Phil Collins, whose concluding words in the interview says a lot about the human condition:
my life's the same as everybody else's, you know. You're making it up every day and you're just hoping you're making the right decisions.
That's all there is.  Maybe, as my grandmother often prefaced in her prayers, we hope to wake up.  And after we wake up, all we can do is to hope that we make the right decisions.

The other poetry/music segment was about a Lebanese composer/poet/musician/... Of course, I had no idea about him; I am amazed everyday at how much I do not know!
Marcel Khalife is a Lebanese composer, singer and innovator on his instrument, the oud. Khalife performed his first concerts amid the rubble of bombed-out buildings in Beirut during Lebanon's civil war. Now, decades later, he is one of the most prolific figures in Arabic music.
It was a review of his latest album, "Andalusia Of Love."  If you are like me, you perhaps wonder why a Lebanese is fascinated with Andalusia, which is all the way over in Spain.  Here's why:
Andalusia is the southern part of Spain where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together for centuries during medieval times. For Khalife, that history is an enduring reminder that peaceful cohabitation is possible for people of these faiths.
What a lovely fascination to have, right?  The coexistence before the expulsion of Jews and before Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition.  Despite his experiences of the brutal life in Lebanon during its atrocious civil war days, here is Khalife passionately believing that peaceful cohabitation is possible.

There's more:
Khalife himself is a Christian, but throughout his career he has set to music the words of a Muslim writer, Mahmoud Darwish, one of the most beloved Palestinian poets.
I spent a few minutes reading a few poems by Mahmoud Darwish.  I liked the poem that I have included at the end of this post, maybe because I could understand it the most.

Artists and poets, I envy them so!
Artists and poets, I thank them so.

I belong there
By Mahmoud Darwish

I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is born.
I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and a prison cell
with a chilly window! I have a wave snatched by seagulls, a panorama of my own.
I have a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have a moon,
a bird’s sustenance, and an immortal olive tree.
I have lived on the land long before swords turned man into prey.
I belong there. When heaven mourns for her mother, I return heaven to     her mother.
And I cry so that a returning cloud might carry my tears.
To break the rules, I have learned all the words needed for a trial by blood.
I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a  
single word: Home.


Anne in Salem said...

As you know, I am no lover of poetry, but I struggle to see poetry in this selection. Why is this not prose? There are full sentences strung together to create a picture. Is it poetry because it is so heavy in imagery?

Rain delay to start extra innings in Cleveland. I have enough gray hair already. Can the Cubbies just win it already??? Some think baseball is poetry in motion.

A friend attends a monthly poetry group and shares the theme with me. My first reactions to the themes are always songs. For example, October's theme was dawn and dusk so I recommended Morning Has Broken, made famous by Cat Stevens. Some music is absolutely poetry. While I'm not a fan of Bob Dylan, I applaud recognizing his talent with a Nobel.

Sriram Khé said...

I should have noted there that this is in translation. I suspect that the original Arabic has the rhythm and rhyme that this translated version does not. Further, most modern poetry does not look like the poems of Tennyson's, for instance, and maybe even this poem is along those lines even in the original Arabic ...

Ramesh said...

Going off on a tangent. The influence of Islam is all over to see in Southern Spain. The Alhambra, the Alcazar, the Mezquita - all beautiful examples of the congruence of Islam and Christianity. The Jews I thought were still subject to many restrictions even in that Golden Period and then subsequently expelled as you noted. But Islam and Christianity seemed to have coexisted better, certainly under the Moors.

Its a beautiful part of the world to visit.

Anne in Salem said...

Translation is an important point. I can imagine that even Tennyson doesn't sound as melodious in German, no matter the skill of the translator. Thanks.

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