I started noticing the annual depreciation in the music quality from 2007 I guess when some of us like minded people met on a review site. When I compare what I felt about the music of that period to what is masquerading as music today, I feel sad for the ‘not so good’ albums of 2007 and thereabouts. They are better than the ‘most viewed’ songs of today. Anyway, in between I came across CokeStudio Pakistan, sound cloud exploded and generally there was some hope floating around. Then I came across (thanks to Varun Grover), this play. At this point, I should tell you that somewhere in my google documents, I have a secret sheet that is titled ‘my cokestudio line up’. Since I don’t have any hopes of doing anything with that sheet, I thought let me spill some names from it here, may be someone with money/intern reporters/backing would take notice. The name of Namit das is on top of the sheet and the reason for the same is this play. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you should try and catch it whenever you can. Later, I came across Harpreet and his debut album and I was too affected by his musical reactions on Hindi poetry.
Cut to 2018.
In the month of February this year, I came across a music baithak at Studio Tamaasha. Harpreet and Anurag Shanker with Namit Das were to be the artists that evening. This short write up is aimed only at drawing your attention (or one incremental ‘eye ball’ to these lovely guys).
Harpreet touched upon an earthy Gagan ki that had a fakeer-sque undertone to it and his jog-sque singing made everyone sit up and take notice. Then Harpreet sang a song Raaton ko which is penned by Varun grover. This one is delicate and treated with calming notes on Guitar. Door chalein yaadon ko dhoondhein, raste mein kahin aag jalayein. The room, by now was completely hypnotised so much so that few people forgot they shouldn’t hum along, but it was all without intruding singer’s place. I know this sounds a bit clichéd to say about any artist but Harpreet looks like he is meditating when he holds his guitar and sings even if it is a soulful song like dekho dekho dekho kahan hain, a song that reminds us to collect every moment of life and not be sad about anything for life continues. Kabir’s na main dharmi na Adharmi was next. I have linked the music video link of it just in case you want to hear it. The live version obviously felt different, good different. By now everyone who was sitting laid back in the beginning of the concert was lunging forward in their posture and then Harpreet paid a tribute to Faiz Ahmed Faiz with his interpretation of Bol. The opening notes, those hypnotic guitar notes made people wolf whistle, may be they knew about the song. Harpreet also paid a tribute to Paash with his strong rendition of Ghaha. After that he wrapped up the evening with a lovely Baba bulleh shah qalaam Heer Ranjha and at the insistence of some ill behaved man in the crowd he sang ‘Sapne jeete hain marte hain’ penned by Shiv Bahadur singh Bhadauria. A personal favourite of mine (After Suryakant tripathi’s ‘Nirala’) in Harpreet’s voice, the first half of the evening reached a perfect crescendo and I can still hear those loud claps and cheers after the song ended. I distinctly remember the way a happy crowd of 35 or so sang ‘Sapne’ with Harpreet.
There was a break for 10 odd minutes in which I got up and went out to stretch my legs and probably that was a bad idea because when I came back in I was welcomed by alaap from Namit das. May be Namit was rehearsing or revving up his vocal chords but (and I kid you not), it has been 5 months and I can’t forget that haunted alaap of his. It turns out this was the starting of ‘Jethur chalio’ which Namit aced along with Anurag, who had a hypnotic grip on all of us throughout. He doesn’t play guitar, he plays your senses. Beware of this man! Namit’s gentle and massively ‘Riyaz-ed’ voice is a treat to all senses. I like the sound with which Anurag and Namit harvest their songs, be it a ghazal, nazm or an old Kabir Bhajan. Take for example hua jo unki khamoshi se by Jigar Moradabadi. Namit sang it as anyone would sing a ghazal, still the sound was contemporary and extremely addictive. Judai was probably closer to a lightly arranged Ghazal. It reminded me of that beautiful Ghazal by Hariharan 18 or so years ago titled ‘Kaash’. I wish this genre was invested in a bit more since then. Still, Namit has brought this back and am sure it is here to stay. Then Anurag set a groove on and Namit crooned Pi Bin aai and in his own ‘good boy’ style, he stole hearts, of everyone who was present there. If you have reached this far in the blogpost, I hope you could hear the harkats in Chandni raat which Namit took and how beautifully Anurag accompanied him. The moment this ended, Namit got us all hooked to Munir niazi’s Nazm ‘Sapna Aage jaata kaise’ In Mr. Niazi’s voice set to a groove and then Namit took over. Even though I have the audio recording of this, every time I play it, I get lost and am unable to take any notes. Let’s hope Namit & Anurag will put it out for everyone to relish it. Post this, it was a pleasure to hear Namit sing ‘jaise veerane mein chupke se Bahar aa jaaye’. Namit wove his lovely ‘Jigar mein dard’ along with jaise veerane mein so effortlessly that I forgot to notice where one ended and the other began.
I kept on wondering why we don’t appreciate his music more. I couldn’t get an answer because I was listening to him after 6 years and in between those 6 years, I didn’t bother to google his work even once. (Note to self – Just updating ‘my Cokestudio line up’ sheet is no good, Mister Rohit). Namit then gave his interpretation of tori Surat ke before which, if I remember correctly, Namit mentioned a funny story about his father’s reaction on this composition. I won’t mention it here, catch it when you sit down with Namit some day. Namit ended his part of concert with a magnificient take on Udd jayega Hans akela. His version lulls you into believing that this soft voiced, baby faced singer is quietly paying tribute to this evergreen bhajan and then – Namit soars. I can tell you that small room shook with the throw of Namit’s voice towards the end of this song.
Then just before the gathering was getting ready to restart their lives after stepping out of that hall, Harpreet, Anurag & Namit spoke to each other. Anurag and Namit presented naam usi ka, Harpreet wove Kaisi ajab hai Jodi dekho and it was sublime. Most of those who were present there (including someone who constantly filmed Namit das) came out as if they have just landed back on earth from a land of melodious pause.
We explored wilderness with Harpreet’s strong voice and Sufi like singing. Anurag and Namit spoiled us with their innovative sound. I still cannot get over the alaaps that Namit took throughout the concert and especially right before he started his part of concert. Harpreet is putting out songs almost every month on his youtube channel here Namit and Anurag Shanker are busy touring and doing a lot of work. I guess they have a concert this month on 21st in Mumbai. If you can, then do attend it.
Explore these artists, I beg you world! Meanwhile, some work from them found on youtube, below.