Mitti: A Sufi Reminder of Death

Left to right: Salman Ahmad, Ali Azmat, and Brian O'Connell. Photo courtesy of @junoonmusic on Instagram.

About the Song

ArtistJunoon
AlbumParvaaz
Year1999 CE
LyricistsSalman Ahmad and Sabir Zafar
LanguageUrdu
TypeSufi rock

Introduction

A soulful reminder of human mortality, “Mitti” is an amazing, underrated song by the Pakistani band Junoon. Founded in 1990 and comprising Salman Ahmad, Ali Azmat, and Brian O’Connell, Junoon introduced the genre of “Sufi rock” to the world. Sufi rock takes modern musical compositions featuring the electric guitar, bass guitar, and drums, and infuses them with poetry written or inspired by spiritual masters such as Bulleh Shah and Allama Iqbal. It is an appealing combination, particularly for those dissatisfied by the vacuous lyrics of a lot of modern music.

“Mitti” was released in 1999 on Junoon’s fifth album, Parvaaz. The band dedicated the album to Bulleh Shah (1680-1757), a renowned Punjabi mystic and poet. Some of the songs on Parvaaz, including “Bulleya” and Aleph”, directly feature Bulleh Shah’s poetry, while others were inspired by his work. The lyrics of “Mitti” were co-written by Salman Ahmad (1963-present), the lead guitarist and main founder of Junoon, and Sabir Zafar (1949-present), a Pakistani poet. Zafar wrote several songs for Junoon and other Pakistani artists, such as Nazia Hassan and Sajjad Ali.

Through Ali Azmat’s powerful vocals, “Mitti” serves as an auditory memento mori, or reminder of death. The key Urdu idiom used in the song is “miTTi meN mil jaana” (مٹّی میں مِل جانا) – which literally means “to mix/blend into the soil of the earth”, referring to the decomposition of corpses. Figuratively, the phrase also means “to turn to dust” or “to be ruined”. Perhaps the songwriters were inspired by the following Punjabi lines attributed to Bulleh Shah:

نہ کر بندیا میری میری نہ تیری نہ میری
چار دناں دا میلا دنیا فیر مٹی دی ڈھیری

न कर बंदेया मेरी मेरी न तेरी न मेरी
चार दिनां दा मेला दुनया फ़ेर मिट्टी दी ढेरी

na kar bandiya meri meri na teri na meri
chaar dinaaN da mela dunya fer miTTi di DHeri

O mankind, quit saying “Mine, mine!” Let there be no more “Yours!” and “Mine!”
The carnival of this world lasts but four days, then we’re just a pile of dirt!

Such is the circle of life. Let it serve as motivation for us to make the most with the time that we have.

Featured Rendition

Original studio recording from the 1999 album Parvaaz

Text, Transliteration, and Translation

مٹّی میں مِل جائیں گے بھولو نہ

मिट्टी में मिल जाएंगे भूलो न
miTTi meN mil jaa’eN ge bHoolo na
We will all turn to dust – do not forget!

جائیں گے تو پھر ہم لَوٹ کے نہ آئیں گے بھولو نہ

जाएंगे तो फिर हम लौट के न आएंगे
jaa’eN ge to pHir ham lauT ke na aa’eN ge bHoolo na
Once we depart, we shall never return – do not forget!

خواب ہیں جو تیری میری آنکھوں میں

ख़्वाब हैं जो तेरी मेरी आंखों में
khwaab haiN jo teri meri aankHoN meN
The dreams you and I carry in our eyes:

سارے مٹّی میں مِل جائیں گے

सारे मिट्टी में मिल जाएंगे
saare miTTi meN mil jaa’eN ge
They will all turn to dust!

مٹّی میں مِل جائیں گے بھولو نہ

मिट्टी में मिल जाएंगे भूलो न
miTTi meN mil jaa’eN ge bHoolo na
We will all turn to dust – do not forget!

جائیں گے تو پھر ہم لَوٹ کے نہ آئیں گے بھولو نہ

जाएंगे तो फिर हम लौट के न आएंगे
jaa’eN ge to pHir ham lauT ke na aa’eN ge bHoolo na
Once we depart, we shall never return – do not forget!

گیت ہیں جو تیری میری سانسوں میں

गीत हैं जो तेरी मेरी सांसों में
geet haiN jo teri meri saansoN meN
The songs you and I have in our breaths:

سارے مٹّی میں مِل جائیں گے

सारे मिट्टी में मिल जाएंगे
saare miTTi meN mil jaa’eN ge
They will all turn to dust!

مٹّی میں مِل جائیں گے بھولو نہ

मिट्टी में मिल जाएंगे भूलो न
miTTi meN mil jaa’eN ge bHoolo na
We will all turn to dust – do not forget!

جائیں گے تو پھر ہم لَوٹ کے نہ آئیں گے بھولو نہ

जाएंगे तो फिर हम लौट के न आएंगे
jaa’eN ge to pHir ham lauT ke na aa’eN ge bHoolo na
Once we depart, we shall never return – do not forget!

راز ہیں جو تیری میری باتوں میں

राज़ हैं जो तेरी मेरी बातों में
raaz haiN jo teri meri baatoN meN
The secrets you and I hold in our conversations:

سارے مٹّی میں مِل جائیں گے

सारे मिट्टी में मिल जाएंगे
saare miTTi meN mil jaa’eN ge
They will all turn to dust!

مٹّی میں مِل جائیں گے بھولو نہ

मिट्टी में मिल जाएंगे भूलो न
miTTi meN mil jaa’eN ge bHoolo na
We will all turn to dust – do not forget!

جائیں گے تو پھر ہم لَوٹ کے نہ آئیں گے بھولو نہ

जाएंगे तो फिर हम लौट के न आएंगे
jaa’eN ge to pHir ham lauT ke na aa’eN ge bHoolo na
Once we depart, we shall never return – do not forget!

Further Reading and References

  • On Discogs, you can find basic information and metadata about the album Parvaaz. [link]
  • Ansari, Hasan. “How Junoon Took Parvaaz.” The Express Tribune. 4 March 2015. This article describes the making of the album Parvaaz. [link]
  • Kazmi, Laila. “Where Islam Meets Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Colorlines. 20 March 2008. This article provides an overview on the band Junoon. [link]

Further Listening

  • Live performance by Junoon at the UN General Assembly in New York in 2001 [link]
  • Cover by the Pakistani band Aag, starting with a brief interview of Salman Ahmad [link]