Listen: South Asian Beats Playlist: Karo Na Edition - Sheba Karim
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Listen: South Asian Beats Playlist: Karo Na Edition

South Asian Beats: Karo Na Edition

This is a curated playlist of songs of South Asian music, mostly by musicians of Indian/Pakistani descent.  I’ve included a variety of genres/styles, though given the rich musical diversity of both the subcontinent and its diaspora, it’s in no way comprehensive.  Enjoy!

Qawwali/Sufi Music

Haq Ali Ali Haq –  A qawwali from the incomparable Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  Sufi mystics frame themselves as lovers of Allah and refer to Allah as their beloved, and sometimes the Prophet Muhammad and the Prophet’s nephew Ali.  This qawwali song is in praise of Ali, invoking him as the lion of Allah, King of the brave, the sword of truth, the saint of saints.

Tajdar-e-Haram – Coke Studio is a Pakistani musical program (sponsored by Coke), which brings (mostly) Pakistani folk, classical and rock musicians together for recording sessions. 

This is a Sufi love song to the Prophet Muhammad.  The refrain, “Medina Chalay,” means Let’s Go to Medina.  (Not Mecca, where the Kaaba is, but Medina, where the Prophet is buried).

Here are some of the lyrics:

We will die at your threshold, crying your name.  No one has turned empty-handed from your door.  Come, devoted lovers, let’s go to Medina!  There’s no sorrow of life or fear of death in Medina.  We will perform the prayer of passionate love in Medina.  Remember, if he looks up but once, all the wine cups that are empty will be filled.

Aik Alif – Another Coke Studio produced song, sung by Sufi singer Saieen Zahoor.  This is a poem by the 17th century Punjabi Sufi saint Bulleh Shah, addressed to Allah Saiyaan (Allah my beloved).  Though not in this particular song, one of my favorite quotes is from Bulleh Shah:

Break the mosques, break the temples

Break everything in sight,

But don’t break anyone’s heart

Because that is where God resides.


Lahriyo – This is a type of Rajasthani folk music called Langa.  The Langa are a Muslim Rajasthani tribe who traditionally made their living performing their music for Muslim patrons.  

Dil Ki Doya – Sung by singer Paban Das Paul, a famous Baul singer.  Baul is a form of syncretic mystical music sung by the Bauls of Bengal.  This track is a collaboration between Paban Das Paul and producer Sam Mills.

Indian/Pakistani Rock

Ma Rewa – A song by Indian Ocean, one of the pioneers of Indian fusion rock.

Manwa Re – My favorite song by Pakistani rock band Noori.

Asian Underground

Asian Underground was a broad genre of music, popular in the 80s and 90s, associated with a variety of British-Asian and South Asian Canadian musicians, combining traditional South Asian musical genres with underground dance music.

Sea Breeze – Talvin Singh, an Asian Underground artist known for fusing Indian classical with drum and bass.

Ashima Becomes a Widow – A meditative song by British-Indian musician/composer Nitin Sawney

66 Meters – by Indian Ropeman, another Asian Underground electronic artist.


Jogi – My favorite song by Punjabi MC, who became world famous for Mundian To Bach Ke

Basement Bhangra –  A track by DJ Rekha, who helped popularize bhangra in NYC and beyond.


The next 9 songs, from Bhadi Deere Chali to Chaiyya Chaiyya, are Bollywood songs or remixes, a small sampling of the depth and breadth of Bollywood music.

Indian Classical/Classical Fusion

Rag Khammaj – A raga meant to be enjoyed at night, played here by sarod virtuoso Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.

Raga Nata Bhairav – A morning raga by Ravi Shankar.

Sarasa – Susheela Raman, a British-Indian musician, offers her modern take on a Telugu composition by Tyagaraja, a famed composer of South Indian Carnatic music.

Oceanic Part 2 – Anousha Shankar and Indian-American musician/producer Karsh Kale, featuring Ravi Shankar.