What do the lyrics mean?

Here are some transliterations and translations of some of the texts, as well as some other background information.  (Please note that Shubha and Aneesh apologise for the English translations, but I have found them very helpful to get a sense of the meaning of the songs, and hope they will enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the music)

‘Arms of Imagination’, lyrics by Gauhar Raza

The poem is a tribute to differently-abled people.

Meray khayaal ki baahein athaah samundar hain (times 2)

ye saare gham ko jahaan kay samet sakti hain

Meray khayaal ki baahein athaah samundar hain (times 2)

naheen jo aankh to ehsaas ban gai hai nazar (times 2)

ye din ko, raat ko, taaron ko dekh sakti hai

Meray khayaal ki baahein athaah samundar hain

naheen jo haathon mein harkat to gham naheen hai mujhe (times 2)

mere khayaal to duniya sambhaal sakte hain

 Meray khayaal ki baahein athaah samundar hain

 naheen jo pairon mein harkat to gham naheen hai mujhe (times 2)

 mere khayaal to parbat ko naap sakte hain

mere khayaal ki duniya ki hadd naheen koi

mere khayaal mein saari zameen basti hai

kisi se zyaadaa naheen hai, to ye yaqeen bhi hai (times 2)

kisi se kam naheen mere khayaal ki duniya. (times 3)

The arms of my imagination are like an infinite ocean

Capable of holding within their comforting embrace every pain that the world has known

The arms of my imagination are like an infinite ocean

If blind, the ability to feel transforms into sight

and experiences the joy of day, night and the stars

The arms of my imagination are like an infinite ocean

If the hands are unable to move, I do not grieve

Confident that my imagination can rule the world

The arms of my imagination are like an infinite ocean

If the feet are unable to move, I do not grieve

Because my imagination permits me to scale the mountains

The world my imagination inhabits has no limits, no boundaries

My imagination covers every corner of the earth

If not more than others, I say with conviction and belief

That no less than others is this world of my imagination.

‘Dharti ke Darbar’ (trad)

Dharti ke darbaar naubat baaj rahi hai

In Mother Earth’s darbaar (court), the naubat drum plays on

Baaj rahi hai ghanghor

The sound of the naubat is mighty and intense

Phool rahi hai phulwaari

The garden bursts into bloom

Champa maur rahi hai

The champa (flower) is taking bloom

Maruwaro mehek rahyo hai

And the maruwa (flower) is fragrant

Mata ke darbaar naubat baaj rahi hai

In the court of the Mother, the naubat plays on

‘Joyous Rain’,  Lyrics by Upadhyaya Badri Narayan Chaudhari

‘Imagining and Longing’, Lyrics by Shubha Mudgal

Jaage se ujaale, uneende se andhere
A  light that is bright and awake, a darkness that is sleepy and yawning

jaage se ujaale, khwaabon se bhare ujaale
Light/radiance that is bright and awake, and full of dreams

khwaabon se bhare ujaale, ummeedon se bhare ujaale
Light/radiance that is replete with dreams and hopes

ujaalon ki chaadar pe jad kay khwaabon ki bootiyaan
On this sheet of light, I will add some motifs made of dreams

andheron pay chadhaa doon main ik ujali si chadariya
And over the darkness I will lay in offering my bright, ornamented sheet of light.

‘Ya Kareem’, Lyrics by Kabirdas

Ya Kareem, bal hikmat teri, khaak ek soorat bahuteri

O Kareem, the merciful, I bow to your wisdom. From the same dust you create countless faces.

Ardha gagan bich neer jamaaya, bahut bhaanti kar nooran paayaa

You are able to plant water in the middle of the skies, and find light/radiance in every direction.


Avaliya aadam pir mulaana, teri sifat kar bhaye divaanaa

The most wise and saintly of men, auliya, pir, maulana, lose themselves singing your praises.


Kahe Kabir ya het bichara, Ya Rab ! Ya Rab ! yaar hamara

Says Kabir as he contemplates, O Lord ! O Master ! you are the one I love. 

‘Aji Jaaiye’ Lyrics by Shubha Mudgal

‘Aji Jaaiye’ is written in a retro Hindi film song style (a bit tongue in cheek)

and arranged with both Cuban and klezmer influences. It’s a song about a lover’s argument. This argument is depicted musically between the clarinet and the trombone.

(Note from Shubha: We are cringing while we write this translation, because it sounds like a witness report filed at the police station.  Please note that the overall tenor of the song is mischievous and flirtatious)


Go on now, don’t give me any more of those silly old excuses

1st Antara

Why did you promise to meet

If all the while you only intended to go back on your promise?

Your promises are false, and your intentions suspect,

And so is your promise of romance

2nd Antara

What’s with your betrayal and your flirtation?

No longer do you enjoy any credibility with me

I too can play a clever hand at this old game

I’ve played my hand, now let’s see who emerges the victor

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‘Deepening of the Red Sun’

lyrics by Kabirdas

Baalam aavo hamare geha, tum bin dukhiya deha

Beloved, come to my dwelling, for without you, my body suffers and is in pain.

Note from Shubha: ‘Metaphorically, in Kabir’s poetry the human body is a dwelling made of the five elements (Earth, Fire, Water, Ether and Air) in which dwells the Truth.’

‘Deepening of the Red Sun’ is in a very slow 14 beat tala called Jhumra that Aneesh taught me. I wrote this melody one morning when I woke up in Mumbai after a very vivid dream about death. The image of death in my dream was very joyous and quite powerful, somewhat like a wedding. Just after I wrote the main melody that morning, I received an email from Tony (my husband) saying that the mother of a student of mine had passed away. I was very close to this family and knew that the mother had been battling cancer for many years. Tony went to the funeral while I was still overseas. That day I took the melody in to Shubha and Aneesh and Shubha seamlessly sung the lyrics by Kabirdas to the melody I had written.

‘Tabla Spiral’

The title for this piece, and some of the musical ideas came from a discussion between Aneesh and myself where Aneesh described the rhythmic approach in Indian music as being like a spiral. It struck me that this also described a lot of the cyclic aspects of jazz music.

Tabla solo compositions have a lot of structural and expressive elements, some of which are incorporated into this composition. One unusual feature of this project is that we have 2 tabla players playing together (Aneesh and his disciple, Bobby). Aneesh decided to tune the tablas a 5th apart for most pieces (one player in Ab, one in Eb). In ‘Tabla Spiral’ I created a chord sequence where Ab is always the top note of the chord, although it moves through different tonal centres. Harmonically I wanted to expand upon the simple harmonic language used in a lot of Indian-jazz collaborations. My idea was that the piano sequence would be a harmonic version of the nagma (a melodic line played repeatedly on an accompanying instrument such as harmonium)  used during tabla solo pieces. There are many other ways in which the tabla language is incorporated into the Big Band music in this piece.

‘Beam, Arch, Suspension’

I used drawings of 3 different bridges to create many aspects of this composition:

  • a suspension bridge: the Chakzam bridge south of Lhasa, a very beautiful bridge constructed in 1430with cables suspended between towers, and a planked footway below
  • a beam bridge: the Lake Pontchartrain causeway in Louisiana, the longest continuous bridge over water
  • an arch bridge: the Sydney Harbour Bridge of course!

I traced drawings of these bridges on to manuscript paper and used the drawings to guide various architectural, melodic and rhythmic elements of the piece, as well as decisions about register and orchestration. I was stuck by how incredible the feats of engineering are that go into making actual bridges. This has a parallel with the skill, knowledge, resources, effort and goodwill that go into making the kind of metaphorical bridge in this project!