Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Deushi Bhailo Sing-Along Cheat Sheet

Right now the nights are filled with song, because it's Tihar, the festival of the goddess of wealth, and people are out there working to get some of it. Remember that line in "Here We Come A-Wassailing" about "give us some figgy pudding, we won't go until we get some"? Well, Tihar singers won't go until they get their money. And it has to be the amount they want. It's as if trick-or-treaters stood outside making ghost and princess and Elmo noises until you gave them the whole bag of candy.

Whatever Lord-of-Misrule edginess used to exist in caroling and wassailing and trick-or-treating has long been scrubbed in the West into good clean well-regulated fun, but here in Nepal the spirit survives with raucous and extortionary enthusiasm in the tradition of Deushi Bhailo, a house-to-house songfest by mobs of makeshift minstrels armed with drums, dance moves and loud voices.

Many groups also come armed with electric guitars and amplifiers and Bollywood-meets-Michael Jackson dance moves, which they perform to pop music blasting from sound systems. You can tell these groups because they're really big, and they're often raising money for A Cause, such as their picnic later on. But I'm glad to report that traditional a capella Bhailo is still going strong, and that so far this year, we've mostly been feted by Bhailo-ites who are singing, drumming and strumming their own guitars with out-of-tune zeal. It's neighborhood music, by ordinary people, and sometimes we can hear two or three groups at once and it's great. (I exempt from praise the wedding band that showed up at nearly midnight and went bleeting and blooping around the neighborhood. That wasn't Bhailo. That was torture.)

I'll write a bit about Tihar and what it's really about in another post, and how we celebrate it in the village, which we sadly are not doing this year thanks to a kid's camping trip (fun) and a last-minute car breakdown (not fun). But for the moment, here's something on Deushi Bhailo, complete with a cheat sheet for anyone in Nepal and who is getting assaulted in Sensurround by people singing what sounds like EH BABA WAWA DO-SHEE-RAY! Next time they come, you can sing along. Or if you're hiding inside so they can't see you, you can whisper along.

Oil lamps on our balcony during Tihar, Festival of Lights. They're
supposed to welcome Laxmi, goddess of abundance. They also draw
Bhailo singers like helicopter-sized moths to the flame.
In Deushi Bhailo, neither the repertoire nor the lyrics are set in stone (although you'd probably appreciate a handy stone if you're getting Bhailo'd by a group with a sound system and bad pop music. Actually I deal with this, in the village, by telling them that if they want money, they're going to have to make the music themselves, because if the music can be canned I'll bring out my music, and I'll dance to my music, and then I'll charge them to watch me dance to my music. Because, well, what's the difference? Thus I single-handedly champion the live music folk tradition and entertain them by being a crazy foreigner. Two good deeds at once.)

But at some point, if it's an a capella Bhailo, the singers generally launch into a mish-mash of disconnected traditional verses that praise and bless the homeowners, tell them how much trouble the singers had getting to the house, and can be stretched out as long as possible until the homeowners emerge from hiding and deliver the hush money.

Some of it can also be made up on the spot, like a folk rap. And there are regional variants; in our family's area (the midwest terai and adjacent hills), the refrain of "Bhailo" is sung by men and "Deushire" by women, while in Kathmandu, it seems to be the reverse. Since both genders do Bhailo but men tend to do it in greater and rowdier numbers, this means that what we hear all night, if we're in the village, is BHAI-EE-LO! while in Kathmandu we're hearing DEU-SHI-RE!

It's done as a call-and-response, with the main singer delivering the lines and the whole group answering with the refrain (which is largely meaningless or has lost its meaning as far as most people seem to be concerned.) Here's a transcription of the basic Deushire, complete with a Nepali version of we are not daily beggars who go from door to door. In practice, the verses are mix-and-match and can change on the spot, and are limited only by the Bhailo players' imaginations and how much time they have before the homeowners hand over the loot.


deushire bhana (deushire!)       देउशिरे   भन            देउशिरे !
ramrari bhana (deushire!)         राम्ररी  भन              देउशिरे !
yo ghara ka (deushire!)            यो  घरका                देउशिरे !
gharadhani (deushire!)             घरधनी                   देउशिरे !

Deushire, say Deushire! Say it well!
To the owner of the house, deushire!

dubo jhain (deushire!)              दूबो  झैँ                    देउशिरे !
gajai jaon (deushire!)               गजाइ  जाउन             देउशिरे !
santana le (deushire!)              सन्तानले                 देउशिरे !
danda kanda (deushire!)          डाँडा  काँडा                देउशिरे !
dhakuna hai (deushire!)           ढा कु न्   है               देउशिरे !

May its offspring sprawl like dubo grass,
Covering every hill

[note: dubo grass has an extensive and sprawling root system, hence the reference]

yo ghara ka (deushire!)           यो  घरका               देउशिरे !
gharadhani (deushire!)            घरधनी                  देउशिरे !
bansa jhai (deushire!)             बाँस  झैँ                  देउशिरे !
nuhi jaun (deushire!)              नुही  जाउन              देउशिरे !

May the owners of this house 
Live to be ancient, 
Stooped like bamboo

raato maato (deushire!)        रातो  माटो                देउशिरे !
chiplo baato (deushire!)       चिप्लो  बाटो              देउशिरे !
lardai pardai (deushire!)       लड्दै  पड्दै                देउशिरे !
aeka hami (deushire!)         आएका  हामी             देउशिरे !

Red mud, slippery road 
Slipping and falling, we have come

tessai hami (deushire!)        तेसै  हामी                  देउशिरे !
magna aeka  (deushire!)      माग्न  आएका             देउशिरे !
hoinaun hai  (deushire!)       होइनौ  है                    देउशिरे !
Balirajale  (deushire!)          बलिराजाले                  देउशिरे !
pathaera   (deushire!)          पठाएर                       देउशिरे !
aeka haun (deushire!)         आएका  हौँ                  देउशिरे !

We haven't come just to beg,
We came because Baliraja sent us 

[Baliraja is a character said to have been so insanely generous and proud of his wealth that Vishnu eventually had to concoct a clever plan to kick him out of heaven and down to the underworld, where he visits him every month of Karthik. Which is now. So FYI, Vishnu is currently on holiday. If Baliraja sent the Bhailo players ... well, that's "good" like a white elephant is good. The homeowner had better ante up.]

yo ghar katro (deushire!)                 यो घर कत्रो              देउशिरे !
Singha Durbar jatro (deushire!)        सिंहदरबार  जत्रो        देउशिरे !
agan katro (deushire!)                     आँगन  कत्रो             देउशिरे !
Tundikhel jatro (deushire!)               टुंडिखेल  जत्रो            देउशिरे !

How big is this house?
As big as Singha Durbar!
How big is its courtyard?
As big as Tundikhel!

[This version may be specific to Kathmandu, with the local references to Singha Durbar, a vast old palace and seat of government, and the Tundihkel parade ground at the center of town, a kind of flat, scruffy Central Park. In our family's village the house would be simply "as big as a palace" and the courtyard as big as some local landmark.]

jhilimili kati (deushire!)           झिलिमिली  कति                देउशिरे !
keko jhilimili (deushire!)         केको झिलिमिली                 देउशिरे !
bhatti ko jhilimili (deushire!)    बत्तीको  झिलिमिली            देउशिरे !
phul ko jhilimili (deushire!)      फूलको  झिलिमिली              देउशिरे !

So very glittery!
What makes it glittery?
It's glittery with lights,
It's glittery with flowers

[It's also glittery, of course, because Tihar is The Festival of Lights, and houses are covered with lights and doors garlanded with flowers.]

And then there are some great ones, like this one we heard last night:

syau ko rukh ma (deushire!)        स्याउको  रूखमा                  देउशिरे !
amba ni phaldaina (deushire!)      अम्बा  नि  फल्दैन               देउशिरे !
saya ko note le (deushire!)          सयको  नोटले                     देउशिरे !
hami lai chaldaina (deushire!)      हामीलाई  चल्दैन                  देउशिरे !

You can't get guavas from an apple tree, 
And a hundred-rupee note won't work for us!

With a note of thanks to my long-suffering husband who helped me wade through the lyrics and did his best to make sure the Nepali spelling is correct. 

For anyone who has never had the joy of getting Bhailo'd (and maybe some who have), I've been looking for video of real, ordinary, door-to-door Deushi Bhailo to show what I'm talking about.

Update: I was just sent this YouTube video, which isn't exactly traditional, but it's great stuff from Jazzmandu 2013. Enjoy the Nepali reggae Deushire from about 3' 35", and on into a blazing hot Cuban version. Taste the sel roti global special! Very musically jhilimili.

Global Groovin' with a Fusion Deushi Bhailo at Jazzmandu:

Update No. 2: Late last night, three guys and a drum came by the house in a straggling effort to wring the last rupee out of the holidays, and I recorded this (audio only. Well, it was late. It DID look that dark.). It's a traditional Deushire with the lyrics above, more or less. Sadly I stopped recording just before our neighbor started yelling at them.  

Traditional-Style Kathmandu Deushire by 3 Guys and a Drum:

No comments: