Abul Fazul on the imperial musicians

" I cannot sufficiently describe the wonderful power of this talisman of knowledge [music]. It sometimes causes the beautiful creatures of the harem of the heart to shine forth on the tongue, and sometimes appears in solemn strains by means of the hand and the chord. The melodies then enter through the window of the ear and return to their former seat, the heart, bringing with them thousands of presents. The hearers, according to their insight, are moved to sorrow or to joy. Music is thus of use to those who have renounced the world and to such as still cling to it.

His Majesty pays much attention to music, and is the patron of all who practise this enchanting art. There are numerous musicians at court, Hindús, I´ránís, Túránís, Kashmírís, both men and women. The court musicians are arranged in seven divisions, one for each day in the week. When his Majesty gives the order, they let the wine of harmony flow, and thus increase intoxication in some, and sobriety in others." - ABUL FAZL ALLÁMI

From the AÍN I AKBARI, the administrative report of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s empire (completed between 1596 and 1604).


MonksDream said...

Just listening to the radio, and Salman Rushdie's latest novel is about Akbar's court. He was talking about how interesting that period of history was since, if you were in love with someone, you'd try and feed them a love potion, and if you really hated someone, you'd get a lock of hair and have a wizard put a curse on them. That's just what they did those days.

cheers, Bill

David Carlos Valdez said...

Rushdie's new book is based on the supposition that Akbar had a wife that really didn't exist, and everyone thought that she was real. I don't buy his theory one bit.

I've actually read most of the first hand accounts from this period of Mughal history. It was pretty mind-blowing what was going on back there. Unimaginable wealth was being used on epic projects of art, music, and architecture.

It would be like if Bill Gates was a Jazz fan and paid the greatest cats in the world to play for him, a band for each day of the week. He would also say, "let's spend billions of dollars on building the baddest library the world has ever seen".

Gates would also be like,"Bring me the holiest dudes in the world from every religion, I want to hear them debate each other."

The emperor's tent city when he was out hunting was bigger the London at the time. There were two of them so when they arrived at the new camp each night the entire place was already set up already.

Every detail of Akbar's empire is was recorded in Fazul's Ain-i-Akbari
and the Akbar-nama. These translations are now available online:



Utterly fascinating shit.

Unknown said...


It doesn't really matter whether you buy a NOVELIST's supposition as they are writing FICTION. This is not a THEORY at all unless you're writing history. If you don't enjoy his writing or fiction, that's one thing, but the beauty of fiction, like improvisation, is that it is irrefutable.

David Carlos Valdez said...


He did a lot of research for the book and was quite serious about his theory about the imaginary wife. I heard a radio interview where he talked about it. I never said he was a bad writer.

MonksDream said...

Oh no! Puleeeeeeeze! I listened to that same interview, and I thought that Rushdie was just using that as a premise for his fictional extemporaneiazations. He also said that people put curses on each other during this period, and fed each other love potions. I just think that it wasn't really a theory in so much as a flight of fancy used to write his book.

David Carlos Valdez said...

All I said was that that I didn't agree with his theory about the imaginary wife. Rushdie has given many different interviews promoting the book, which are easily Googled, and he has definitely asserted that he believed that there was an imaginary wife. This is always after he has told the interviewer how much painstaking research he did for the book.

He's welcome to his flights of fancy, which is all it really is. I may even his book read myself.

The more Mughal fiction, the better I say. Just don't claim that the fiction is based in historical fact and not expect to get some slack. The guy has certainly proven that he's willing to step on a few toes in order to sell a few books. This time the toes are of the academics, instead of the ulema.

MonksDream said...

Rushdie is highly opinionated, no matter how you look at it. As we all know, I don't think that he cares too much what anyone thinks of his opinions, to the point that he's suffered fatwahs from the mullahs. Anyway, as he is a novelist, it's kind of like arguing about someone's choice to play modally, rather than diatonically, or Ornette vs. Charlie Parker.

Kontakt said...

...isn't Rushdie's book Midnight's Children based on the same kind of historical fiction? I think he likes using this technique...

MonksDream said...

Actually, David and I's pointless argument on here is probably part of Rushdie's method of getting lots of, at least quasi-intelligent readers. He comes up with some provocative theory of history that only a novelist who doesn't even need to smoke crack would think of. Then a bunch of people all over the place argue about it, and at some point, curiosity kills the cat and they have to read the book.

I read some of "Midnight's Children," but to be honest with you, I think that a lot of Rushdie's books, with the exception, maybe of "Fury" (if that title exists,) require at least some background knowledge of the subject.

In fact, I would argue that someone like Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a "better" or more effective novelist, in the sense that his books are self-contained and don't require much study of other texts, or knowing anything about either the Mughals, the Koran, or even the partition of India.

Kontakt said...

...definitely, Marquez is more universal - it's just a matter of method. And he comes from different generation of writers (and writing)...check out Ernesto Sabato, maybe you would like his work too :-)...

MonksDream said...

Thanks for the tip. I checked out some reviews, etc. of Sabato's book El Tunel, and he sounds like a fascinating writer. I've been into Portland's very own graphic journalist, Joe Sacco, who's accounts of the Bosnian war in "Gorazde," and "The Fixer," are fairly timely with the recent arrest of Radovan Karadcic.

I guess we should probably get back to Jazz ???