Madan Gopal Singh on the Jugni debate
Guest post by MADAN GOPAL SINGH
Arif Lohar sining a Jugni with multiple beat instruments – dholak, dhol and bongo and chimta. Even the alghoza – two short and narrow reed flute like instruments – used to keep fast rhythm between three to four notes.
With extreme reluctance, I am trying my hand at English even though my command of this language remains highly suspect. After a recent discussion on Kafila, I felt encouraged to contribute my two-penny bit to the lively debate about Jugni…
Indu ji’s thesis about Jugni, though interesting from an altogether different perspective, sounds to me somewhat credulous from historical and linguistic points of view. This is not to deny that the story is useful. Two village folks – a Muslim (Manda) and a Sikh (Bishna) getting together to sing Jugni on the occasion of the Jubilee flame celebration outside the Red Fort as possibly a sign of protest against the British imperialism – indeed it has its utility. However, not everything attributed to oral history can be accepted as factually verifiable. That much is certain. We need to be doubly cautious while dealing with such instances and impulses to narrativise a pure imaginary as a credible historical fact. Indu ji would have done well to first ascertain the ‘authenticity’ of such a visibly underdeveloped ‘qissa’. It is a different story, though, that someone in Punjab has made academic capital out of this fiction and actually earned an M.Phil degree in folklore.
To the best of my knowledge, we have little or no reference to Jugni being sung in Punjab before the latter half of the 19th century. To me it seems possible to accept that the origins of this genre – like Shori miyaaN’s Tappas – are relatively recent in history. We need to go into the historical reason why this has happened the way it has. As of now, there is very little research work done on either of these forms from a historical or sociological perspective. It is also interesting to note that both these poetic / musical genres are about movement. Whereas Tappas are essentially about the beloved going away and about the woman’s anxiety on being left behind, Jugni is about the voluntary travels of the feminine spirit staged as aggressive subterfuge. Whereas the former, the Tappa, is invariably in the ‘voice’ of a woman, the latter, Jugni, is almost always in the male voice. The woman is always sad and longing for unity in the Tappa, the man in Jugni is always wonder-struck by this constantly traveling, critiquing feminine spirit.
Arif Lohar sings a strident, nationalist and religious Jugni on stage with Benazir Bhutto (?) and a team of indifferent Bhangra dancers and electronic sounds replacing the earlier folk instruments.
As such, I identify three main attributes of Jugni and there may be many more sub-clauses to these three. Jugni must
2) be seen to be traveling
3) either forcibly or furtively enter the space of (limited and not always direct) polemic.
Having said that, there are further three levels at which the poetic genre of Jugni is supposed to function: There is first of all a scene (as description) that may be part of a larger social formation; secondly, this description is supposed to be what the Jugni sees and observes herself as part of her journeys, first hand. This makes the Jugni herself as the primary gaze of the witness as a commentator. Thirdly, there is the reporting authorial voice of the poet/singer – who, at best, seems to function as only a secondary gaze. Thus, we have the scene, the primary observant gaze of Jugni and the secondary gaze of the poet/singer who observes Jugni observing the scene and commenting.
All this, of course, has changed in recent times. The popular film song has completely dislodged Jugni from her enviable position as the primary gaze. Instead, she has now been reduced to a mere spectacle embodying feminine sexuality under a leering/jeering male gaze that might now and then lapse into mock admiration of a fiercely combative Jugni. The author of Jugni has become not only the primary subject of gaze but also, in effect, the virtual or ironic possessor of Jugni herself. Jugni, no longer, travels willfully and without a clearly identifiable cause. She has lost her ability to comment. With Arif Lohar (and, to a large extent, also with his father Alam Lohar) she is seen to be in a mode of quasi-spiritual or, more realistically, religious surrender. The only exception – and an extraordinary exception at that – to this incapacitation of the traditional Jugni is the one that Rabbi wrote and sang for his first album. Here Jugni travels in a state of sadness and reflection all across India accompanied by at times ironic (eg., Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ranting), at times poignant (political deaths and communal carnage) sound bytes from TV channels.
Rabbi’s Jugni in daring slow beat. Video once again by Gurvinder. Arranger-friend of Rabbi, KJ, could be seen in the video.
Having said that I would like to go a step further and propose somewhat controversially that Jugni to me does not seem to be as major a form of collective cultural resistance as, for instance, the poetic genre of Kavishari which is the quintessential folk form of the Malwa region and of which Babu Rajab Ali was a revolutionary exponent. Jugni also does not quite compare in its impact and revolutionary fervor with the energy and intransigence of the Punjabi balladic mode. Even Bhagat Singh’s ghoRiyaan had, for a while, a far deeper impact at the emotional level than any of the Jugnis that we may have heard in our childhood in the post-partition India.
Coming back to the origin of the word, my friend Shama Zaidi suggested to me the day she forwarded this posting on the blog to me that there might be an affinity of sorts between ‘Jugni’ and the Sanskrit word ‘agni’. Even though I have used the word ‘agan’ – and in my reckless moments of self-indulgence I keep doing the impossible – in a Jugni I wrote for the pop-icon Jasbir Jassi of ‘LauNg da lishkara’ fame, I must mention that the word ‘agni’ is not used in the Punjabi language. Moreover, the conjunction of J+agni (etymologically, ‘J’ signifying ‘born of’ and ‘agni’, signifying ‘fire’) will need either a particle in between or an additional vowel sound. In either case the production of the word ‘Jugni’ does not seem phonologically possible through such a mediation in the Punjabi language. I may also mention that when the word ‘agni’ is not used in the urban or pedagogic Punjabi space, it is highly unlikely that it would ever have been used in the rural context.
Jassi’s Jugni in which I used alliterative non-Punjabi expressions such as incantations ‘agan-agantar’ and ‘jugan-jagantar’. Video by Gurvinder. I requested Jassi to use Pakhawaj in Jugni and he readily agreed.
I may also express here my sense of utter bewilderment at Indu ji translating the Punjabi word ‘rann’ as ‘pimp’. In the Punjabi language, the word ‘rann’ is used colloquially for ‘woman’. For ‘pimp’, there are many words but certainly not ‘rann’. Such instances seriously detract from the credibility of a scholar who is proffering to work especially in the field of folk-forms.
In his comments to the posting by Indu ji, Shivam Vij quoted Rahul Roy hinting at a possible affinity between the word ‘Jugni’ and ‘Yogini’. In my humble opinion, this association is seriously flawed. In the Punjabi language, the word for ‘Yogi’ is ‘Jogi’. The feminine gender of ‘Jogi’ is ‘Jugiaani’ (listen, for instance, to Pathane Khan’s “raaNjha jogi meiN jugiaani”). We might also come across frequent references to ‘Jogan’ but ‘Jugni’ as a feminine gender of ‘Jogi’ is unheard of. Even, a word like ‘jogni’ is lexically possible by way of a feminine extension of Jogi but Jugni seems well-nigh impossible. I must point out, however, that in Guru Gobind Singh’s ‘Charitropaakhyaan’ in ‘Dasm Granth’, the word ‘jugni’ – without the acute vowel ‘i’ or what I call the de-stressed ‘i’ – occurs to stand in for the feminine of ‘jogi’ [ref: mahārudra ke jugnì han’é aayhauN, 146]. I may hasten to add, though, that the language of the Guru’s Chritropaakhyaan is not Punjabi.
Amongst the comments in the debate following Indu ji’s article on Jugni is one particularly interesting one by a lady who tries to seek a connection between the ‘siharfis’ [each ‘siharfi’ – normally a poetic unit comprising 4 lines but also very rarely 6 lines as well – opens with one letter from the Arabic alphabets] of Hazrat Sultan Baahu (a 17th century Punjabi Sufi poet) and ‘Jugni’. I think the confusion here is caused by Coke Studio’s highly popular ‘Dam GuTkuN’ sung by Arif Lohar and Meesha Shafi which has been passed off as ‘Jugni’.
I would like to submit that this offering by the Coke Studio is a mix of at least three different genres. It opens with a peculiarly truncated and transformed siharfi of Sultan Baahu where his four lines stand not only frustratingly reduced to three but marginally changed as well. It then goes on to attempt the Jugni genre by adding the refrain ‘dam guTkuN’ at the end. The addition of this refrain is something that defies logic. We possibly need the genius of a Sukumar Ray to explain the inclusion of this ‘aabol taabol’ at the end. It has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘Jugni’.
The third part where the singers go onto ‘vaNgaaN chaRha lo kuRiyo Daata de darbaar diyaaN’ (literally, ‘get the bangles, o girls, from the court of Data [Ganj Baksh of Lahore] around your arms) is more like a street vendor’s imploring melody and quite unconnected with the genre of Jugni.
Arif Lohar sings his Coke Studio composition in a concert which includes electronic instruments such as a keyboard and octo-pad. Chimta has been dropped as indeed are the alghoza.
But most importantly, this melodic mélange, almost completely, lacks in offering a critique of any sort. It is in a mode of total surrender. If indeed it is a Jugni, I must say it is a very strange one. I may also underline here another feature that may credibly distinguish a Jugni from a siharfi. Whereas a Jugni is always mercurial (Rabbi’s Jugni is perhaps the only exception), siharfis have to be more reposeful and attentive to the basic sounds – especially the vowel and nasal sounds.
And finally, I may also make a few humble suggestions with regard to the text of Rabbi’s Jugni and its translation from another blog which Shivam Vij has adduced in his comments. The correct text and perhaps the correct translation are as follows:
Jugni jaa vaRi Kashmir
Jiththe roz maran* dass vee(h)
So(h)n*iyaaN bhain*aaN de so(h)n*e veer
O(h) ro ro puchchhan*
Ki ai jhagRaa taayiNoN mukkan*a e
jadoN jhe(h)lam paan*I mukkan*a ai
o(h) veer mereya
o(h) veer mereya ve Jugni kehNdi aa
o neer naveN ik vehNdi aa
Jugni (not ‘the girl’) barged (it is not any other ‘going’. It is either a forcible and aggressive entry or a stealthy one) into Kashmir
Where close to 10-20 lose their lives each day
Handsome brothers all of beautiful sisters
Crying non-stop, they (the sisters?) ask
That this conflict will end only
When the water in Jhelum dries up?
O my brother
O my brother says Jugni
She swims / flows (in) a new water
I sincerely hope that my comments are not offensive and that they may be of some use in this ongoing debate.
Addendum: Though I am not totally sure but I will like to ponder if the word Jugni could in fact not have been conjured out of the root word ‘jug’+a suffix ‘ni’ – ‘jug’ signifying an epoch and the suffix standing in for ‘of the’. I also find Shivam’s re-gendering of ‘jugnu’ (is it fire-fly or glow worm?) as ‘jugni’ poetically moving. The well-known London-based Punjabi poet, Amarjit Chandan, wrote to me today drawing a parallel between a possible Punjabi word ‘Jaagni’ and ‘Jugni’. In any case, we have in Punjab an all-women musical form, Jaago, which is staged as a moving spectacle at the time of weddings.