If Paradise

Sunday 25th September, 7.30pm
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX
Buy tickets online from the Southbank Centre

If Paradise was originally commissioned by the Eastern Orchestral Board and toured widely across the whole of the UK for three years. A performance in Leeds was recorded live by the BBC, broadcast on Radio 3 and released as a CD. Excerpts from an earlier performance in Cambridge can be found on the Video page. The show has had enthusiastic full-length reviews by John Fordham and Chris May

The background

In the words of Tony Haynes:

"If Paradise is as relevant today as it ever was, but how to interpret the work in detail is very much up to the listener. I am not religious – in fact, I’m a devout non-believer – but I have always been fascinated by religion, and respect many of its traditions. Much of the beauty in our world has been created by artists inspired by religion; but religion has also been at the root of most of the world’s greatest atrocities; and what we call ‘spiritual experience’ often has a very sensual, physical expression – covering a broad band from love to hatred, sex to violence."

"If Paradise (and most religions subscribe to some notion of Paradise) does not take sides among followers of Islam or the Jewish-Christian tradition, but it does question the moral certainties of all politicians and generals who tolerate, condone and often stir up conflict created by religious dogma and fundamentalism; it also aims to celebrate the more noble instincts of humanity, regardless of religion. Music can express this ambiguity very eloquently - which is perhaps why, if I believe in anything, I believe in the transforming power of art and the inviolability of artistic truth."

The artists

  • Alison Crookendale (Caribbean English, voice)
  • Lucy Rahman (Bangladesh - voice)
  • Richard Scott (England - voice, tenor saxophone)
  • Akash Sultan (Bangladesh - voice)
  • Baluji Shrivastav (India - sitar, dilruba, naal)
  • Yousuf Ali Khan (Bangladesh - tabla, dholak)
  • Paul Jayasinha (Sri Lanka/Scotland - trumpet, flugelhorn, cello)
  • Claude Deppa (South Africa - trumpet, percussion)
  • Kevin Robinson (England - trumpet, flugelhorn)
  • Chris Biscoe (England - soprano & alto saxophones, alto clarinet)
  • Tony Kofi (Ghana - alto & baritone saxophones)#
  • Louise Elliott (Australia - tenor saxophone, flute)
  • Harry Brown (England - trombone)
  • Ros Davies (Wales - trombone, flute, voice)
  • Andy Grappy (England - tuba)
  • Tony Haynes (England - piano, trombone)
  • Gerry Hunt (England - guitar, clarinet, soprano saxophone)
  • Andres Lafone (Uruguay - bass guitar)
  • Brian Abrahams (South Africa - drums, voice)

Music by Tony Haynes
Lyrics by Sara Clifford, Masud Ahamed, David Bradford and traditional sources
Sound by Paul Sparrow
Lighting by Steve Fox

The music

If Paradise is rooted in events at the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st, particularly in the Middle East and its relationship with the West; and it reflects on relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews. It goes back in time to the common root their religions all share; but – although there is no formal narrative – also central to it is the story of an Asian couple caught up in events in the volatile world of today. The music therefore likewise bridges the traditions of East and West; it is continuous, falls into seven main sections and runs about an hour.

It begins with a kind of dream sequence, evoking the religious erotic world of the distant past with words from the Song of Solomon – a poem from the Old Testament, but common to all three world religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The dream fades, and a similar series of songs follows in which a young couple pledge their love, and look forward ecstatically to their future together. Then the mood switches abruptly: bloodthirsty verses from the Old Testament Book of Psalms introduce a different kind of religious fervour, with a leader recruiting people to his cause and inciting them to action; music doesn’t really do irony, but here it is deliberately ambiguous whether this leader is from the East or the West.

The next section interweaves different sets of lyrics – sung variously by a commentator from the war-zone, a woman praying for the safe return of her husband from the war, and civilians living through the destruction of their city – and ends with a soldier’s song of resistance and defiance. From here on, the drama is played out by the big band ensemble and various jazz soloists, until the music of the opening Song of Songs is reprised by the flugelhorn and flute, now forming a kind of lament. The elegiac ending brings back the incantation of perfumes with which the story began, turned into a kind of blues, with sitar having the last word.

The music is based largely on two classical Indian ragas, Aheer Bhairav and Ahiri Todi, which dominate the opening sections; the bhangra section uses a ‘minor key’ variant, the basic form of Rag Bhairvi. An angular melody with an important bass line is introduced for the much more dissonant chromatic central sections, together with a further variant of the Indian material (now Rag Todi), culminating in a dialogue between alto sax and trumpet, and then duets between pairs of trumpets and saxophones. These two basic, contrasted elements are then combined, until the final blues section, where the material is derived entirely from the opening ragas.

More details about the music for If Paradise (and other Grand Union Orchestra shows) and how it is constructed can be found at www.tonyhaynesmusic.wordpress.com.

The lyrics

Song of the Song of Solomon

I am black but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem
Like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon
I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

While my Lord was on his couch
my perfume gave forth its fragrance
My love is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts
My love is a clutch of henna blossoms
in the vineyards of Engedi.

O that you would kiss me, O daughter of Babylon
With the kisses of your mouth,
for your love is sweeter than wine
Your anointing oils are fragrant, your name is oil poured out.

Arise my love, my fair one, arise and come away
For Lo! - the winter is past, the rain is over and gone
Flowers appear on the earth
The vines are in blossom, they give forth fragrance.
Arise my love, my fair one, arise and come away.

Amar Ghorer Anginaya

In the courtyard within the house
The fountain trickles like the sweat on our skin
The air is motionless.

Amar ghorer anginaya, jhornar dhara jeno jhare
Tomar tanur surobhimakha sei bari
Sakha amon pagol kora, uthal pathal kora
Tomar tanur mohua polash, tomar kesher kuhaki subas
Amare je shudhu tane, kache tane, kache tane

Your skin, your hair, the air itself is heavy with perfume
I drink the scent of your perfumed skin.

Ami obala nari, ghare rohite na pari
Miloner alapane, duti ankhi hoye ase bhari

Come away with me now, arise and come away

Tomar Basane

Tomar basane golaper gandho jeno
Kalo keshe kusumer surobhi keno
Chandan charchito dehballori
Mohua phuler matal haoay
Ami tare kore nite
Chai aponari, chai aponari, chai aponari
(There is the smell of roses in your attire, and the perfume of flower buds in your black hair; I want you as my own.)

Hinar sourave dole amar hridoy
Bhalobasa kane kane duti katha koy
Amar swapno jeno chanpa phuler
Anamika surobhi hoye
Alakhe aloke jay go boye
(My heart is intoxicated with the perfume of hina, love whispers in my ears. My dream becomes the nameless perfume of chanpa and floats in eternity and in the air.)

Sei surobhi/The Notes of Perfume

Sei surobhi buke niye
Mor kachhey eso go priye
Bhalobese dujone dujoner pathe
Path bendhe dire pari

The notes of the head sing above and beyond
The notes of the heart, and below those
Are the notes of the soul: its spirit, its essence
The notes of perfume.

O Daughter of Babylon

O daughter of Babylon, who shall be destroyed
Yea happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou has served us
And blessed shall he be that taketh thy children
And throweth them against the stones

Paradise Awaits

God has spoken, his wishes are clear
God has spoken, we act in his name
God has spoken, his law we uphold
The might of Right is on our side
And Paradise awaits those who pursue a just and righteous cause.

You are the blessed ones, you are the chosen
Our army is glorious, our people are just
Their children speak our name with fear
The might of Right is on our side
And Paradise awaits those who pursue a just and righteous cause.

Look into the heart of the sacred rose
See paradise, where you will be led by the hand
To drink from waters whiter than milk,
Sweeter than honey, more perfumed than musk.
Come away with me now, rise up and come away

God has spoken, he promises paradise
God has spoken, he promises glory and death
God has spoken, he promises honour and pride
Come away with me now, rise up and come away
For Paradise awaits those who pursue a just and righteous cause.

The Song of Separation

We heard the bombers coming
The droning planes, the firecracker lights,
We saw the sparklers of fear, the terrible rain of fire.
Burn the incense, cover your head,
Cover the stench of blood and the rotting dead.

Behind them the ruined towers lie breached and broken
Small careful lives gone beneath the rubble
No matter that they lay within their labyrinth
Quiet and unambitious, shy with strangers
The enemy came and ate them like a spider.

Now round the smoking tents hysterical soldiers
Go at their casual pillage all the morning
Ignoring children’s bodies cut to fragments
Fathers of families do rape on corpses
While the blood dries slowly like a rusting blade.

Jay jay din chale jay chale jay
Ami je kan pete base achhi
Tomari ashay
Tabu daruchini-elacher subas niye
Jafran hinar kichhu surobhi niye
Amra garbo notun jibon
Agami diner aloashate, bhalobasate
Se alor hatchhani ami
Dekhechhi pather banke
pather banke, pather banke.
(The days are slipping away, I am still waiting for you. Perhaps with the smell of cardamom and cinnamon, with the perfume of saffron and hina we can build a new life, in light and hope and in the love of days to come. I can see the hand of light beckon round the corner.)

Behind me they wander through these makeshift shelters
Numbed with grief and pain of grief’s remembrance
A bundle of rags, their eyes dark glazed and hollow
With hungry hope they pick among the ruins
Seeking some comfort, logic, explanation.
As winds from the south blow softly over the delta
From arm to arm the soldier shifts his rifle
Excited by its cool expensive glamour
A guard dog trembles with an abstract hatred
Slowly unhinging its long glittering jaw.

Jay jay din chale jay…..

We saw the planes coming
Set the rose of flame in the towers.
We saw the collapsing stones crush the faces of the dead.
Burn the incense, cover your head,
Cover the stench of blood and the rotting dead.

Chaeridike Aj

Chaeridike aj agun jalche agun
Kabare shaito bir shenanir lash, shenanir lash, shenanir lash
Taja rakter mehedi parano hate
Pataka niechhi shatrur chokhe jalche sharbonash
Jalche sharbonash, jalche sharbonash.
(It is burning everywhere and the bodies of brave solders fill the graves. We have picked up the flag with blood-stained hands and see doom glowing in the eyes of our enemies.)

Bhoyer gandho chhaya phelechhilo pathe
Dushman elo sei ganhoke shunke shunke
Ora elo shoniter holi khele, elo lucano guhay bandishalay
Palabar path nai jani tai. amra abar dariechhi rukhe rukhe
dariechhi rukhe rukhe. Chaeridike aj..... etc
(The smell of fear cast a shadow on our way and the enemy came following that smell. They came playing with blood, they came to the caves and to the prisons. We know that there is no way out, so we have grouped in defiance.)

Je chale gechhe ogo tari lagi, e duti ankhi rahe sararat jagi
Galito shaber maranotsabe jani na milan, habe kina habe
Atar makhano dehotanumon, tomar moner parash
Pabe kina ke jane, pabe kina ke jane.
(The two eyes remain awake the whole night for the one who has gone away. In this celebration of death amongst the rotten bodies, I do not know when we shall be reunited. I do not know whether my perfumed body will ever again feel the touch of your hand.)

They tracked our path by the scent of our fear
Smelt us like dogs, then followed us here
Here in this shelter, this prison, this cave
My song in the air rises over our grave.

I woke in the cold dawn and called his name
I heard my voice echo round the empty mountains
He is gone
And the mountains are scattered with the bones of soldiers.

Collateral Damage

We watched the flickering pictures
Grieving fathers, weeping mothers,
Bewildered children, no one to comfort them,
There is no comfort left.
Burn the incense, cover your head,
Cover the stench of blood and the rotting dead

Come away now, rise up and come away

Are all gods are harsh, all generals and kings?
Like spiders they sit, and weave their webs,
Across the borders, all across the world,
Over and over, and over and over.
Until our sticky feet tread and are caught
We must sit and wait for the fire-rain to begin.
Until their jealous plans move us on once more
And like tin soldiers, we and our children,
Must burn like incense at their shrine.

If the Perfumes of Paradise…

I can never forget the scent of your skin
Your braided hair was oiled with patchouli and musk
I can never forget how the silk of your robe
Was perfumed with saffron and henna, jasmine and rose
If the perfumes of Paradise could but ease
The pain of life torn apart, torn apart.

With spikenard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon,
Frankincense, patchouli, amyris, wild rose,
The flame of love, burning bright with sandalwood
Whose fragrance is of the soul
Myrrh and aloes, ambergris, camphor, sandalwood, musk,
Maringa, jasmine and rose
The flame of love, turning wood to ashes and dust
Can purify the soul
If Paradise and its perfumes could but sweeten the pain
Of a life torn apart, torn apart

Grand Union main image Quote from The Scotsman

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