Roast fish, sag paneer, and cornbread

BabulOf the many Black Ark productions which have mystified fans over the years, one stands out: the esoteric "Bird In Hand". Although credited to Lee Perry, this strange and ethereal tune is actually sung by Sam Carty, who also recorded the weird "Life Is A Flower" and "Nature Man" for Scratch. People have often puzzled over the lyrics to this song, and no wonder – they're in Hindi!

A Lee Perry fan from England, Jez Humble, finally put two and two together when he recognized that some of the words from "Bird In Hand" were Hindi. He played the song for his Indian girlfriend, and although Carty's Hindi is pretty shaky on the tune, before long they had figured out some of the words.

An internet search revealed that "Bird In Hand" is actually a cover of an Indian song named "Milte Hi Aankhe". It was featured in the 1950 film Babul, sung by Talat Mehmood and Shamshad Begum. The lyrics, translated, go something like this:

Milte hi aankhe dil huwa diwana kisika
Diwana meraa ban gaya diwana kisika
Puchho naa mohabbat kaa asar, hay naa puchho, hay naa puchho
Dam bhara me koyi ho gaya parwana kisika
Diwana meraa ban gaya diwana kisika

At first sight, we fell in love with each other
The saga of our romance had begun
Oh, the passion of love, how do I express it?
I took a breath and fell madly in love

Although this discovery was a complete revelation, something about the story rang a bell. The song is mentioned in a New Musical Express article by Neil Spencer from October, 1976:

"Today's sessions are the backing tracks for a young singer by the name of Sam Carter, who has a song named "Milit Y Ankee", which he informs me is Indian for 'The First Time I Saw You', a title which hardly fits the ferocious uptempo rocker the Upsetters are threshing through..."

The lazy "Bird In Hand" could hardly be described as "ferocious", but it's interesting that this rather obscure song was mentioned in the article, and that Scratch was recording it at the same time Spencer came to visit the Black Ark.

Thanks to Jez Humble for posting this story on the Blood & Fire message board and to Manali Jagtap for the translation.

August 2003