August 26, 2016
Abida parveen, accordion, Ahmed jahanzeb, azhar hussain, Cokestudio, Cokestudio pakistan, cokestudio season 9 episode 3 review, dilruba na raazi, faakhir mehmood, hai dairyam kalandaram mastam, khakhi, khaki banda, maula, Maula e kull, mehewish hayat, shani arshad, shiraz uppal, shuja haidar, shuja haider, strings, Tanveer Hussain, Tanveer Tafu, Tanveer tau is GOD, Tu Hi Tu, Umair Jaswal, zeb, Zebunisha bangash
Khaki Banda – Apart from the fact that Ahmed Hussain’s portions appeared to be loosely composed (at times), there is absolutely nothing that disrupted the experience of listening to this power song. The ease with which Ahmed throws his voice in the bylanes of melody is quite a contrast to the way Umair explores variation. Here though, Umair is splendid and controlled. Shuja haider has composed the song very well and a special word for Strings for producing the song so well! There are a lot of dips in the composition but none break the tempo of the song. The dips actually set up the song for a superb encore..I just loved the strings and drums in the song! Kudos!
Dilruba na raazi – Zeb‘s voice has a calming effect on the soul. In dilruba na raazi, she opens the song and leads you to a tune that is rich and adorable. With murderous strings from Tanveer hussain and some excellent houseband participation, we get a cracker of a tune, something we always expect when a new season of Cokestudio Pakistan is announced. Granted that Faakhir Mehmood‘s voice is slightly underpowered to handle a composition like this, but one cannot take away anything for the way he has tried. Not to forget, he is the one who has composed the song as well. Absolutely loved the song and before I forget, a special salute to Azhar hussain for the excellent Accordion play. How can you not start dancing in that slow Afghani style when this is playing?? (Guess what? You don’t even need to know the form of dance I am referring to…you will automatically get it…the tune is just *So* good!)
Tu hi tu – The ‘light’ song of the episode, the one song you would probably like to play on a long drive. I absolutely loved the tune of the song although but arrangement was too heavy all throughout. The power vocals of Hayat and Shiraz could have done with a lighter arrangement and that is the reason the song didn’t hit me instantly. Perhaps it will grow on those who would like to give it a repeat listening. A good song, could have been superlative though.
Maula e kull – We all love Abida parveen and her powerful voice and style of singing. It is always a treat to hear her calling out to the powers that be. Trust Shani Arshad to give prominence to what we like about Abida Parveen, her voice. For first 5 mins, all we hear is the soulful voice of Abida Parveen with minimal arrangement at play. Just when you think this would be all, you are hit by a powerful yet understated music arrangement that throws you in the clouds and you feel the lightness of being…why? because you are floating on the voice of Abida who is busy calling the voice, the name, the power, the light that we are all destined to follow, even unknowingly at times. Experience your heart soar at ‘Hai dairyman kalandaram mastam’. I am soaring as I type this, Thank you Cokestudio Pakistan. Thank you Mahotarma Abida Parveen. I love you. All this and on top of it we see Tanveer hussain on a Sarod! Not enough words to praise the song!
We are 3 episodes old and I cannot help but feel the new composers are trying way too hard. They just don’t know where to keep it light and where to hit it hard. That said, this was easily the best episode so far and even though the occasional jarring arrangement breaks the cokestudio trance we are all used to, it seems to be getting back to the groove.
August 20, 2016
#CokeStudio9, #CokeStudio9Review, 2016, Afreen afreen, ali azmat, bholay bhalay saiyyan, Cokestudio pakistan, Haroon Shahid, jaffer ali zaidi, javed akhtar, javed bashir, meesha, meesha shafi, momina musteshan, Music Review, nusrat fateh ali khan sahab, Quratulain Baloch, rahat fate ali khan, shani arshad, Tanveer Tafu
Bholay bhalay saiyya – starts with the autotuned (or whatever the hell it is called) voice of shani Arshad. It didn’t put me off because experiments are important aren’t they? I am quite keen to understand how the song was conceptualised. In a bid to sound a bit too ‘desi’, the nasal calls of ‘saiyyan’ look plain silly and we know Meesha Shafi can do much better than this. That said, I absolutely loved the crisp production of the song. Apart from a minor part when Sitar enters the composition, there isn’t an instance where the arrangement is over powering the designated sound in a song. Now coming to the video. Those who say ‘why are people concentrating on video?’ are probably unaware that Cokestudio is just NOT an audio property. Had it been the case, we wouldn’t have seen so many ‘red mushrooms of nescafe and what not’ try to copy the way Cokestudio videos are made. So yes, I found the video absolutely silly and repulsive and by GOD the heart called out for the subtle days of Rohail Hyatt. Did I like the song? Yes! Will I go looking for the song in a playlist? Absolutely not!
Afreen Afreen – has been re-imagined by Faakhir Mehmood and boy has he aced it! Rahat fateh ali khan is in top form as he lures you to sleep with his sugar dipped singing and what adds to the sing songy feel of the song is the beautiful singing by Momina Musteshan…I wish she sings another song in the season and I wish she had more sing time in this song. The arrangement of the song is delicate and God those strings! There is a strong sentiment of ‘how dare they change the song of the great NFAK’, I don’t subscribe to it. If we cannot play with classics, then what are we? Play, change, interpret, use, mix and open everything for being retold to the generation that ‘listens song on youtube’. Not everyone would come around to the soulful yet classically heavy grand compositions of our times. So take them, mix them with whatever is contemporary and leave others to explore the original gems…Trust me, you will do a big service to the classics which would otherwise remain un-heard and would be in a folder that would be named as ‘Maa-Papa ko pata nahi kya pasand hai iss type ke songs mein’. Loved it, loved it so much!
Baliye (Laung gawacha) – composed by Noori and sung by Haroon Shahid (HS) and Quratulain Baloch (QB) has infectious energy all throughout especially the first part of the song when Haroon plays with an interesting tune. I didn’t like QB and HS interplaying each other’s lines. It was almost comical to hear HS sing ‘mera laung gawacha’ and it was tiring to hear QB sing HS’s lines right before her solo part comes in. Nothing sexist intended, just that it diluted the attitude of the song and turned a supposedly rock song (the HS part) into a mushy romantic song which was awkward. QB’s part is the one that could make me explore the song again. I wonder when the hell will she get her solo song? I am yet to hear a more controlled song from her than ‘Ankhiyan nu rein de’. Some might find the Noori band’s sing-along as cute, I find it silly and just a failed attempt to hold the urge to hog the screen…alas! not everyone can see others taking a centerstage. Funny thing – Do we remember Rohail Hyatt? Could we see this on-screen circus when he was there? Think. Overall, a song high on energy (full points to the band and composers for that) and extremely dull on melody and content.
Mann Kunto Maula is composed by the talent powerhouse Jaffer ali zaidi and predictably, the song has a smooth start, a start that is perhaps too perfect. I loved the way Ali Amat has started the song in a pop mood. The way Bashir enters the song is plain calming to the soul. After that the song goes southwards in terms of energy. It is perhaps the most underwhelming Mann kunto maula you will hear thanks to the dip in the energy…but right about 7:16 mins in the song, the energy comes back and how! I wish they would have just made it a simple ‘mann kunto maula…aum tum ta na na na re’ tarana on repeat and it would have worked wonders. Liked it, didn’t love it.
Quite a depressing episode and thanks to the onscreen circus of what appears like lightsabers in the hands of a drunk chimpanzee, there is way too much distraction and subtlety has possibly been forcefully evicted from the studio.
Pick – Afreen afreen
August 19, 2016
#Cokestudio7, abbas ali khan, Abida parveen, Akhtar chanal zahiri, Cokestudio Season 7, Goodbye SUBTLE, Humera Channa, Komal Rizvi, meesha shafi, nadiya ke paar, Niazi brothers, Omran Shafique, string theory, strings, Ustad Raees Khan
This post first appeared in The Asian age sometime in December 2014. I couldn’t find it anywhere so publishing it on my blog because some kind souls asked me about my thoughts on this season off late.
CokeStudio Pakistan doesn’t get the credit it deserves for throwing open a lot of subcontinent’s sound for experimentation and allowing everyone a peek in the same without having to pay for the music. Couple that with the more or less regularity with which the program appears yearly and you get a feast that is eagerly awaited by the lovers of music all across the globe. CokeStudio Pakistan has just finished its 7th season and there is a lot to talk about it. Beginning from a badly managed departure of Rohail Hyatt, who started CokeStudio Pakistan and made it what it is till season 6, there was a lot of catching up to do by the new producers, ‘Strings’. Here are some of our favorite moments from this season
Abida Parveen and Ustad Raees Khan appeared together to present us ‘Main sufi hoon’ and right from the time the first promo aired, we knew we were in for a treat. You really need special skills to go wrong with the music when artists of such caliber are at the helm, so it wasn’t a surprise that the song was done up nicely. Still, one could feel that the songs were over produced and to make matters worse, Ustad’s Sitar had a tough time cutting the noisy overalls in the presentation.
There was a certain rustic brilliance when we heard Niazi brothers perform Lai Beqadraan Naal Yaari and it was ably complemented by the backup vocals in the studio, who missed the mark quite often this season. In comparison, Kheriyaan was quieter and reasonably well produced.
Akhtar chanal Zahiri enthralled us in Season 4 with his powerful voice along with an efficient Komal Rizvi and this time this duo was joined by the talented Momin durrani for Washmallay. Essentially a song of celebration, the song had everything right for it except those over the top theatrics by everyone in the studio. CokeStudio Pakistan is just not an audio property. There is much anticipation for the videos as well given the fact that a lot of effort goes into recording the audio-video.
Till Season 6, videos had a quiet elegance about them but in the season 7, it felt prey to over enthusiasm. It doesn’t mean that fun songs weren’t fun in the studio pre-season 7. Look up ‘dannah pa dannah’ from season 4 to understand what we mean. That said, Washmallay was quite nice and Momin durrani is an excellent addition to the Studio’s artist line up.
The Studio has always looked up for folk and traditional inspiration to present them with contemporary music changes and it has nearly always worked. With Phool banro, we got a taste of what CokeStudio really used to be in good old days. Humeira channa and Abbas Ali Khan mesmerized the senses with this song that was originally sung by Reshma.
Recreating old film songs with a touch of rock/pop isn’t something new for CokeStudio but when the producers recreated an old gem from Noorjehan, they took things to an altogether different orbit. Meesha Shafi’s Sun Ve balori was definitely a high point of the season with ample help from Omran Shafique on the guitars.
Recording a version of his original song ‘Nadiya par par’, Jimmy khan paired with Rahma ali to present us with an adorable 1950s sound filled with innocence and melody.
In ‘Mitti da pahlwan’ Jawad Ahmed showed us the mirror and made us reflect on the false pride most of us are filled with, when all we actually are vulnerable creature made of clay. The song didn’t sound overproduced and remains one of the best from the season.
The producers had Ustad Raees Khan to their disposal to extract a solo and all they could do was present us with a barely 4 minute long hans dhuni which left us craving for more.
Pashto is always interesting as it is or fused. Naseer and Shahab presented us Za Sta Pashan na Yam with such ease that we didn’t miss a ‘typical’ rabaab from the setting and that is precisely what this duo aims to achieve, to open the definition of Pashto fusion that doesn’t have rabaab playing a prominent (or any) role.
In what is a commendable step by the new producers, the instrumental pieces (Bone shaker and Descent to the floor), were a good step and it was nice to hear the innovative jugalbandi in both the pieces.
Cokestudio Pakistan had already reached cult status when it was handed over to Strings and all they had to do was to keep doing the right thing. They have the resources and talent for it anyway. Sadly, with too many loose ends, the season didn’t come together as one would normally expect. Wasting 3 songs on Zoheb hassan didn’t impress many because the singer is way past his golden days. You can applaud his singing in a closed mehfil but certainly he wasn’t CokeStudio Pakistan worthy. We are yet to find the reason of neon lighting overdose on the sets and the logic behind overproducing every song. Subtlety is apparently out and that is worrying. Hope at least the music is produced better going forward.
There is less to thank Cokestudio Pakistan for and more to get worried, thanks to the Season 7.
August 13, 2016
#CokeStudio9, 2016, Aaja re moray saiyyan, aaqa, Abida parveen, Ali Khan, ali sethi, Cokestudio, Cokestudio pakistan, haider ali, Imran akhoond, IndiaPakistan, jaffer ali zaidi, Janay na tu, Naseebo lal, Nimra rafiq, noori, Omran Shafique, rachel viccaji, sasu mangay, Shahab hussain, strings, umair, Umair Jaswal, zeb, Zebunisha bangash
Sasu Mangay – Naseebo lal and Umair Jaswal are in their elements in Sasu Mangay. I for one was so relieved to see Umair focussing on singing and not his distracting theatrics, and I quite liked his part. While I absolutely loved the way Mahotarma Naseebo lends the colour of Rajasthan to the song, what stood out was the superb twist to the composition (structure wise) and the fantastic house band including Amir Azhar…what a delight to see him back! I might not hear this on repeat but surely won’t skip it when it comes on the playlist. Well done Shiraz uppal, (music director) for getting the scratchy vocals of Umair and the power throw of Mahotarma Naseebo lal’s together. I strongly feel that the potential and the possibilities that Naseebo lal’s voice brought to the table weren’t fully utilised here.
Janay na tu – sung by Ali khan and composed by Jaffer zaidi, the song has a delicate and adorable ‘nindiya re’ feel in the opening. Riding on the smooth and almost effortless singing of Ali Khan, the song is a treat! This is how a ‘soulful romantic song’ is done. What provides a melodious layer to a rather simple tune is the string section along with the new set of back up vocalists (except Rachel, she is a Cokestudio Veteran now!). Way to go Ali! It might not be ‘bewajah’ from the last season but wait till you see this one ‘inspiring’ a Bollywood song soon (not that it is a criteria).
Aaja re moray saiyyan – is composed by Noori and sung by Zebunisha bangash. The sound is over produced and at times it felt like Zeb’s voice is trying hard to be heard amidst cluttered arrangement. Having said that, even Zeb falters, especially towards the end (finally! she is human it means!). It is a happy song and while I am not one of those who think ‘Cokestudio should only do songs that make you go crazzzzzaaaaaaay and spread junoonnnniyat’, I would have liked a bit more fine tuning in the song. if you sing this song in a group, you will enjoy it because the tune is very nice. Here, it fails to deliver. Easily one of the weakest compositions to ever feature in CokeStudio post Rohail Hyatt. Royal has spoilt us rotten! He raised the expectations so much that we have all come to be believe – ‘Nothing can go wrong even by mistake in CokeStudio Pakistan. It is too important a platform to err, even by mistake.’
Aaqa – Whoever thought of getting Abida Parveen and Ali Sethi together deserves all the praises. Ali’s free flowing soft vocals with the powerful Abida Parveen sets it up nicely. The composition is rock solid and for that Shuja haider deserves a pat on the back. Ali Sethi and the humnavas are in top form. There is a free flowing quality to Ali Sethi’s voice and that is why it is a bold step for him to try a composition like this. A fabulous ode to the almighty that will resonate long after the season is over. I wish the ending was managed better, it gave me an ‘over produced’ feel. Simply put, you do NOT come in the way (even in the form of an over excited music arrangement) when Abida parveen is concluding a song.
Overall an underwhelming start to the season 9, hope it gets better from here.
My picks – Jaanay na tu and Aaqa
August 3, 2016
ar rahman, Arijit singh, Bela Shende, bollywood music review, instrumentals are better than vocal tracks, naveen kumar, Sanah Moidutty, shashaa tirupati, shashwat singh, tapas roy, the shimmer of sindhu, whispers of the heart, whispers of the mind
This review first appeared here – http://www.thequint.com/entertainment/2016/07/08/review-music-mohenjo-daro-ar-rahman-hrithik-roshan-pooja-hegde-ashutosh-gowariker
You can listen to my music review on the B.B.C. website -http://www.bbc.com/hindi/multimedia/2016/07/160728_bbc_mr_vm
Ashutosh Gowariker and AR Rahman with a historical drama backdrop between them has all the makings of a delicious music album. This is purely because of the precedence this duo has set when we look at the music of Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar. Let’s dig in song by song to find what’s on offer in their latest – Mohejo Daro.
Mohenjo Mohenjo is a song that celebrates a lot of things including diversity and peace. Sung by Arijit Singh, Bela Shende and Sanah Moidutty, the song come across like a chronicler of sorts. I wasn’t too taken in by the weak lyrics, the ‘foreign’ sounds and the way the ladies of the song have sung their parts. As a result, to me the song sounds laboured and way too long.
In Sindhu Ma, the lyrics are dumbed down so much that they’ve lost the magic that you associate with a well-penned song. With the elaborate arrangement it enjoys, the song could have been so good but at a couple of places in the beginning itself, software comes in the way of continuity. The good part is, you hear Rahman mature as a singer a bit because the tune is not easy. The bad part, the rest of the song, processing and bad lyrics.
Sarsariya has a tune that is crisp and provides good real estate to both vocalists to play with and they do so very well. There is a great deal going on in terms of unfamiliar languages and strange sounds which didn’t completely unsettle me, to be honest. Having said that, the ordinary lyrics stuck out like a sore thumb here.
In what is a better version of Sindhu Ma, we get vintage AR Rahman, the singer, and a promising Sanah Moidutty without any distractions. The flute injects a lot of emotion in the song which is a relief because in a bid to catch the ‘sound of the times’, the placement of strange sounds have otherwise made it difficult to ‘feel’ other songs in the album.
Whispers of the Mind
Whispers of the Mind has some hidden Arabic turns in the tune. A film piece no doubt, the track feels solid thanks to the deep bass effect and not for a minute does the unfamiliar language unsettle the pace of the song.
Whispers of the Heart
Whispers of the Heart has added female back ups and some excellent albeit subtle variations vis a vis Whispers of the Mind. Don’t be harsh on yourself if you are unable to catch the percussions before they become quite prominent in the track. It ends with the sound of wood crackling in fire. Again, a beautiful atmospheric track.
Shimmer of Sindhu is an instrumental version of Sindhu Ma and it doesn’t miss a beat in sounding more intimate and beautiful. Compared to the fractured Sindhu Ma, this track is pure gold. That flute and those strings you hear, remind you of all the good songs you have ever heard because this track will place itself right next to them.
What happens when you let a magician like Tapas Roy explore a track? You get a wonderful track like this. What is clearly an instrumental version of Sarsariya, Lakh Kakh Thora sounds like a balm to the soul. Hear how cheekily Naveen’s flute calls out ‘sarsariya’ and concludes the track leaving you craving for more.
All in all, Mohenjo Daro is an album where instrumentals outlast ‘vocal’ attempts purely because the former sound more cohesive and simple, the latter however are obvious attempts at over simplifying everything with a lot of distractions and ordinary lyrics.
July 30, 2016
2016, aditi, Arijit singh, bollywood, bollywood music review, dishoom music review, dishoom review, Pritam, raftaar, rap
Forgot to post it here earlier. You can listen to my review of the music of Dishoom here