It’s impossible to have imagined someone growing up in India without having heard a devotional song as a child. For most infants this is the first sound of music they would have ever heard in their fresh and constantly fascinating world. Most devotional music of India are composed either entirely in Indian classical – with it’s many flavours – or at the very least with a heavy foundation of classical. Qawallis and a few other types of devotional songs are the exceptions where their appeal lies more in their lyrics and rendition than it’s musical composition.
The singular devotional song that caught my attention at an early age and continues to permeate tranquillity all around whenever played is a particular one in Marathi, ‘Ughad daar deva’, quite literally meaning, open the door dear God.
The composition of this song, as mentioned, is set in Bhoop raaga. It manages to retain it’s melody throughout, not loosing it even for a breather. The lyrics are precise in it’s proportions of philosophy, logic, faith and of course rhyme.
But the most impressive aspect of this song to me lies in it’s vocal rendition.
Most devotional songs, perhaps because the origin of this genre lay in the tradition of unorganized public choirs, utilize substantial lung power to sing. Even master vocalists of Indian classical, whenever they sing a devotional song attempt to match the high notes of the raaga with the power of their vocal chords. Could they be misguided into thinking that such attempts actually have a better chance of falling on God’s ears far away in heaven? Now, even though offspring of the technological age like speakers and amplifiers have made such vocal renditions redundant, the practice still flourishes. Even the popular perception is that a fervent rendition is the best one.
‘Ughad daar deva’ was perhaps the first devotional song I heard where the vocalist captures a humble pleading innocence throughout the song. There are no extravagant and self-indulgent flourishes to end verses. Everything is low key.
The tabla and cymbals picks up tempo briefly towards the end of the song but attenuates it just in time to end the song on it’s predominant theme.
Even the appeal of the lyrics lies in it’s innocent pleading, employing logic in it’s entreaties which even a toddler can’t deny. And if a toddler can’t defy them, what chance do the Gods have then?
A few verses translated below:
Drinks milk with it’s eyes closed, the race of cats
Why in the minds of thieves, does the moonlight intimidate?
Even practised hands, why do they spread a tremble?
Open your door now dear God, open your door dear God.
Please listen to this song. I promise you it won’t be a waste of time even if you can’t understand a word.
13th August, 2010, Mumbai.