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Susheela raman is not a new voice thanks to her sticky voice that doesn’t leave you well after the song ends. Her recent offering is ‘Queen between’.

It’s an interesting potpourri of  her English songwriting with the Sufi Qawaali and Rajasthani music. Her collaborators on the album are: Pakistan’s Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwal  and Rajasthan Maestros Kutle Khan and Nathoo Solanki, as well as longstanding accomplices French Cellist Vincent Segal and Producer/Guitarist Sam Mills.

The album starts with the magnificent sharaabi that features foot tapping fusion between Susheela Raman and the qawwals of rizwan-muazzim troop who bring the house down with their bits. The recitation of the Urdu couplets in a ‘not so urdu’ style might put the purists off but it fits in the overall structure of the song very well. The use of Khartaals is wise and melodious. Corn maiden has Susheela all over. With ease, Susheela gives a song that has restlessness written all over it. The song towards the end is euphoric and mesmerizing, unlike anything we have heard in a long time in India. Riverside starts with a melancholic guitar and good amount of ‘nagara’ drums for company. The singing is top class and the backup vocals by Kutle khan add quite a rustic feel to the song. The lyrics by Mills/Susheela are deep throughout the album and demand your attention especially in this song. Sajana has the qawwal group coming back to offer us and Urdu-English offering. You cannot miss the exquisite claps throughout the song, a song that conveys longing for the beloved. Susheela compliments the qawwals ably and her calls of Sajana might actually surprise you! The qawwals in between recite couplets which lend the much expected pathos to the song. Northstar is a lightly composed song and gives you a feel of someone singing it on the roof of her house watching the sky. The song has a calming effect on senses and leaves you insightful. The Queen between has a theatrical sound to it with the arrangement (accentuated by excellent backup vocals at places) that is grand and execution that is spot on! Karunei is a tamil song that features morchang. The song is more like a recitation and keeps the soul of the traditional karunei intact. Taboo is an approx 12 min offering that features the qawwals along with good bass and cello arrangement. The stillness of the entire composition creates an eerie atmosphere. The structure of the song is different than anything we have heard in ‘non-filmi’ albums in a long time. The singing is top class by Susheela and watch out for the backup vocals!

Overall a brilliant album in terms of trying something new. We cannot recall anything similar being tried by any band in a long time and that’s why it is all the more important that more people listen to this. It’s a new sound with which we must be a bit patient to begin with and give due credit to Susheela raman, Rizwan and Muazzam troop, sam mills and everyone else who has come together to present us this album.

Thumbs Up!

Complete album credits

1. Sharabi.
susheela raman: vocals
rizwan-muazzam qawals: vocals, harmonium, handclaps
sam mills: guitar, bass, keyboards
nathoo solanki: nagara drums
kutle khan: kartal, backing vocals
aref durvesh: tabla
vincent segal: cello

2. Corn Maiden
susheela raman: vocals
sam mills: guitar, bass
nathoo solanki: nagara drums
kutle khan: morchang, kartal, drums, backing vocals
aref durvesh: tabla
rana ram bhil: vocal textures

3. Riverside
susheela raman: vocals
sam mills: guitar, bass, bebot
nathoo solanki: nagara drums
kutle khan: drums, backing vocals
rana ram bhil: vocal textures

4. Sajana
susheela raman: vocals
rizwan-muazzam qawals: vocals, harmonium, handclaps
sam mills: guitar, bass
nathoo solanki: nagara drums
kutle khan: kartal, backing vocals
aref durvesh: tabla

5. North Star
susheela raman: vocals
sam mills: guitar

6. Queen Between
susheela raman: vocals
sam mills: guitar, keyboards
nathoo solanki: nagara drums
kutle khan: bapang, drums, backing vocals
vincent segal: cello
rana ram bhil: vocal textures, narh flute

7. Karunei
susheela raman: vocals
sam mills: guitar
kutle khan: morchang
aref durvesh: tabla

8. Taboo
susheela raman: vocals
rizwan-muazzam qawals: vocals, harmonium, handclaps
sam mills: guitar
nathoo solanki: nagara drums
kutle khan: morchang, backing vocals
aref durvesh: tabla
vincent segal: cello
charlie jones: bass
rana ram bhil: vocal textures

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