August 3, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Amit Majmudar's Partitions is a well-wrought and moving personal account of the 1947 partitioning of India and Pakistan. The book was recently shortlisted for the inaugural Historical Writers Association/Goldsboro Prize for Best Debut Historical Novel.
Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:
"In his magnificent first novel, poet Majmudar embodies the terrible days following the partition of India and Pakistan in the stories of four refugees from sectarian violence."
This one dovetails with the idea in Partitions of love and kindness transcending religious divides. Music can do it, too. To understand why this track means so much to me, consider that Pandit Jasraj is probably the greatest Hindu musician alive...and here he is, singing a song about Allah and Husain. Talk about crossover moment: This is the metaphysical equivalent of Bach composing a qawwal.
2. Pretty much anything by Pandit Jasraj
See above. There is enough pathos in the man's voice to fuel several novels. Half the time he's singing in Sanskrit and I don't know what he's saying. It doesn't matter.
3. A. R. Rahman, "Theme Music (1947 Earth)"
Allah Rakha Rahman's music transcends the Bollywood film industry the way Mozart's transcended late 18th-century European opera (which was also, in those days, pop entertainment). The film options to Partitions have been sold, and I daydream about whoever ends up buying the rights getting Rahman on board. Incidental bit of inter-faith trivia, also apropos of Partitions: Rahman's late father was Hindu, his mother is Muslim; he was born A. S. Dileep Kumar and changed his name upon his 1989 conversion to Islam.
This is Simran's song (though the lyrics, about not getting a moment's rest without the beloved, don't actually apply to her story). There's something folk-sweet about it—which says a lot about the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's immense versatility as a singer. That voice of his, exploding from the chest, intense, textured but not rough, can blow you away in some of the more ecstatic qawwals. Here, though, there is tenderness.
5. U2, "One," from Achtung Baby
A little East-West (con)fusion for you, just to mix it up. Here, the lyrics do apply. If Partitions were a fable, the word one would be its moral. Bono gets it right, as usual. We are not the same. But we are one.
Amit Majmudar and Partitions links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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