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CokeStudio Pakistan Season 8, Episode 1 #CokeStudio8

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Aankharli Pharookai – A somewhat familiar ring of Mai dhai’s voice immediately transports you to a desert where a lover is singing and calling out to her beloved who is out somewhere on his camel and that camel advances with a rhythmic bustle. The song is just not about the commanding rendition by Mai Dhai. Karam abbas is just as good and so are Tanveer Tafu on Rubaab (oh that solo towards the end and a quiet presence all throughout) and Arsalan Rabbani on Harmonium. Rajasthani music – you beautiful beautilful thing!

Sayon – Finally Mekaal Hasan Band could make it to the insides of CokeStudio, not that they were missed. Sharmistha Chatterjee is a pleasure to listen to and kudos to the band for choosing the song they did. It is hard to not fall in love with the song barring few overproduced bits but by God does Sharmishtha cover those up or what! As with most of Mekaal Hasan’s work, there is a lot of noise and a constant sense of chaos. In this song, all of it works.

Nabeel Shaukat Ali – Bewajah – Trust CokeStudio Pakistan to give a wonderful pop twist to ghazal gayaki. Ghazal as a genre has been on constant decline post Jagjit Singh’s demise. Nabeel Shaukat ali gives a glorious touch to a ghazal that can be sung without all the accompaniments which are present in this version anyway. Sajid Ali brings the traditional stillness to the composition and it is a pleasure to watch his eyes look up while playing the flute. Not enough good things can be written about the beautiful singing and poignant lyrics. If you have loved someone and lost, keep the tissues nearby, this one will make you cry but you will not complain. Also, the correctness of Nabeel’s rendition tells us he is not a new singer. A pleasure to listen to.

Atif Aslam – Tajdar-e-Haram – Touching classics is always a big risk and kudos to producers to present Atif the way they have done in this timeless classic. With CokeStudio Pakistan, you can almost be certain that classics will not be spoiled (Except for that rare case of Komal trying ‘Lambi Judai’). Be it the humnavas Jamshed Ali Sabri, Naveed Ali Sabri, Mohammad Shan, Zahid Akhtar or that excellent Harmonium by Arsalan Rabbani or the master (Tanveer Tafu) himself on rubaab, there is hardly a note about which you can complain about in the song. Too soon to probably come out with this assumption, but this would remain my favorite for a long time to come and would go right up in the list of favorite songs from this season. CokeStudio Pakistan says this is a tribute to Sabri brothers. Sabri brothers would be proud. Jazak allah!

High point of the episode – Maikashon aao aao, madine chalein. Find it for yourself in one of the songs. When you hear something you have grown up listening to in the bylanes of Old Lucknow and that too done so well, you have no option but to go crazy. Take a bow CokeStudio Pakistan!

One couldn’t have asked a better first episode from Strings who appear to be getting in the groove of there being no groove at all…an ever evolving music wonder that is CokeStudio Pakistan.

The house band is top class and thank you strings for listening to us and stopping those distracting over the top theatrics by the supremely talented backup vocalists. Sara, Rachel, Momin – Kudos!

Thumbs up for Coke!

*Goes away singing – Aao madine chalein, isi mahine chalein aao madine chalein*

Kahun aur Kya – Ghazal album review

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Universal music

INR 150 on iTunes

Released – November 2013

Penned by Ameeta Parsuram ‘Meeta’

Vocals by Ustad Shafqat ali khan and Meeta

The album starts with the ghazal that lends its name to the album Kahu aur kya is a delicately composed and sung by Shafqat ali khan. The excellent tabla and sitar for most part keep the tempo stable and it’s a listeners delight to hear this old form of ghazal gayaki that is long gone. Shafqat ali has a Mehdi hassan style of rendition and that is again quite refreshing. Wafaa ki shaan is my personal favorite from the album for the simple reason that the poetry is quite nicely weaved in the music arrangement. Flute and sarangi is top class and takes you back to the good old days when ghazal represented more, much more than a music album. If my memory serves me right, Meeta has used her takhallus for the first time in this ghazal.

Koi dharkan has Meeta bringing in the ghazal and Shafqat delivering yet another ghazal that is composed with so much old world charm that it shows. Meeta, which is now her style I reckon brings in all the antraas. Owing to the pace of the ghazal it doesn’t sound invasive but too much of this might put off the listener. Not in this case though. Mere mehboob is a nazm that Meeta has already sung in Irshaad sometime back. This time music arrangement is slightly more intimate and the rendition a tad slow. I would still root for the irshaad version though. There is a lot more emotion in this nevertheless.

Zindagi apna safar features rich music arrangement of traditional instruments like Sarod and Sarangi. This might take a bit of time to grow because the composition is not uniform and to give the benefit of doubt to us listeners, we haven’t heard something like this since last few years. Definitely worth a listen. Main behr-e-ishq  starts with Sarangi that will break your heart, it’s so beautiful. This is how a nazm is ideally done. Just by the sarangi and powerful words. It reminded me for some reason of the old Bahadur shah zafar’s nazm that was sung brilliantly by Mohd. Rafi and was featured in Lal qilla na kisi ki aankh ka noor hu. I would have liked this nazm to be longer. In Wahi ishq hai Shafqat ali goes on high notes comfortably and then scales down. Yet again, along with his mellifluous singing what will arrest your attention is the superlative music setting. It is beyond beautiful! Be it the Guitar that surprises us or the excellent tabla or the evergreen Sarangi, all of it comes together with such ease that it might fool you into believing this ghazal to be an easy ghazal to sing.

Thanks to the ever so declining numbers of ghazal albums, most of the people who buy music are oblivious of ghazals but this could be a good beginning if you like ghazals. It will involve time because a ghazal always needs space, to grow.

Go and buy this album to hear how old world charm sounds like, you shall not be disappointed.

You can listen to the album here

Ishq Lamhe Feat. Ustad Rashid Khan – Music review

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Ghazal as a genre has been on a decline since last few years. Blame it on high decibel promotions that other ‘non ghazal’ albums get or the general lack of interest from the music companies, but it is not far from reality to assume that ghazal albums are way too few.

I dug up some old releases and came across this album that tries hard to keep the genre alive

Ghazals are penned by  Ameeta Parsuram “Meeta”

INR 150 on iTunes

Vocals are by none other than Ustad Rashid Khan, his daughter (who makes a debut) Suha khan and Ameeta Parsuram “Meeta”

The entire album has an element of stillness which is well paced out musically and lyrically. Take for example Mujhe irshaad sung by Ustad Rashid Khan, the excellent music arrangement and well spaced out treatment ensures that it becomes easier to listen to Ustad Rashid Khan when he is not taking long taans. Poetry is top class and even though the ghazal is nearly 10 minutes long, you do not feel the weight of the duration and that is a big plus, given that so many ‘items’ camouflaging as ‘ghazals’ these days make you wish they get over with as soon as possible. Pyaar karu ya na karu is a nazm/recitation in the voice of Meeta and is actually a rejoinder to one of her nazms which was featured in the album Irshaad. You can read about it here.

It’s a breath of fresh air (albeit the lyrics are too painful) to hear real poetry that conveys pathos the way only a nazm can convey.  Haan wohi lamhe introduces Suha Khan and you will be pardoned to think that she starts the ghazal in a very shreya ghosal-ish fashion. The music arrangement is contemporary yet spaced out, which is a relief. The tune is easy on the ears and you are sure to like this debut by Suha. Kambhakht dil ne is sung by Ustad Rashid Khan. The use of Sarangi all throughout the album is top class but it is sweeter in this ghazal. The wordplay again is delicious. I would have liked a bit more emotion from Ustad ji because to me he sounded slightly flat in this one. Nevertheless, this is a brilliant ghazal.

Talaash starts with delicious mix of flute, violin and guitar only to be complemented by Meeta’s voice and Suha Khan takes it on from there. Fluid tune and simple singing has kept this ghazal quite hummable and that is just about it. Dastak and Jawab-e-dastak are both nazms which are voiced by Meeta and it’s quite an interesting experiment to feature two tracks that complement each other. Although I must add that the recitation and it’s tone is quite similar to the ones featured in Irshaad. That said, the words hit you hard with their weight and it’s a pleasure to hear such Nazms. Ye kya sochna has brilliant Sarod and violin starting it and Ustad Rashid Khan lending his voice. He sounds much more comfortable in this ghazal and the feel of the ghazal is intact, undiluted. The ghazal touches upon the loss of a beloved and how everything feels incomplete as a result of that. Labon pe ishq concludes the album. Meeta brings in the ghazal and Ustad ji tries his best to accommodate ghazal gayaki to his already perfect self. The only thing off-putting to me was the music arrangement which came off as cluttered to me at times. The lead up to the first line of antra is done by Meeta.

All and all a must have album not only to listen to Ustad Rashid khan singing ghazals but for the simple reason that this one tries to stay close to the genre of Ghazal that is fast dying. You need an example of that? This album was released in April, 2013.

You can listen to the album here

 

Humnasheen – Ghazals by Shreya Ghosal

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Shreya Ghosal has teamed up with Deepak Pandit to give us a ghazal album Humnasheen.

The album starts with Ye Aasman. With rich music arrangement (that remains so throughout the album), this ghazal is treated like a typical ghazal and that’s a relief. The ghazal has just the right amount of ‘thehraav’ that you come to associate with ghazals, real ghazals. The use of violin in between reminds us of those Jagjit Singh Ghazals during the golden period of ghazal gayaki. Shreya is predictably at ease in higher or lower notes and her neat singing takes the ghazal higher. The use of Mohan veena is exemplary as well.

Naam likh kar has a soothing start thanks to a delicate tête-à-tête between Sitar and Guitar. The tête-à-tête continues well throughout the ghazal. The ghazal is slow and treads well. With good amount of pauses, this ghazal is reserved for those long evenings when you have memories as your companion.

Ye dil jo has a flute beginning. It’s refreshing to hear a ghazal composed like this in 2014 because such efforts are on their way southwards. The use of tabla and the overall feel of the song (and tarana in between) will enthrall you if you are one of those who like ghazal and not a techno fest with ‘slow’ singing.

Raaton ko The ghazal starts with Shreya’s tarana. This is a pure romantic ghazal and the able use of Sitar and Tabla among other things paints a perfect picture of the same. I somehow didn’t like the use of violin in this ghazal though.

Maahi rok na has a delightful beginning, almost thumri like. It’s a delight to hear Shreya reciting those lines in old fashion gayaki. Sarangi finally makes an entry in this geet. Keeping the overall pace of the album, this one falls flat to my ears. (The sarangi riff in between does remind you of ‘maine to tere tere ve chareya doriyan’ part of Patakha guddi!). The digital claps in the background worsen the effect. Passable track.

Meri Talaash starts like one those old songs which were sung by talented singers in big halls. Even though the irritating claps do make a continuous appearance in this song as well, the classy singing by Shreya along with a splendid Sarangi saves this ghazal.

Shamma jalti rahi starts with Shreya again melodiously reciting lines in good old style of gayaki. The treatment of this ghazal appeared a tad filmi to me but there is decent amount of stillness (mainly due to the structure of the tune) to make up for that. Will I listen to this again? No. Is it good? Yes.

Kuch rishtey will hold your attention due to it’s lyrics and sitar. The flute and singing of Shreya Ghosal is, as expected brilliant.

After the 2011 released Irshaad, I couldn’t find a single ghazal album that I would be happy to put my money on. Finally, Humnasheen breaks that jinx and everyone associated with the album should be proud of this effort which sticks to the brief (of ghazals) more often than not and doesn’t miss a note.

Highly recommended for ghazal lovers and lovers of ‘slow’ songs yo bro! 🙂

Lyrics credit

Ye aasmaan – Manoj Muntashir

Naam likh kar – Vaibhav modi

Ye jo dil pyar ka – Manoj Muntashir

Raaton ko – Ahmed Anees

Maahi rokna aaj (geet) – Manoj Muntashir

Teri Talash – Manoj Muntashir

Shamma jalti rahi – Manoj Muntashir

Kuch rishtey – Ajay jhingran

In Search…Of Jagjit Singh

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Whenever I travel for work, I cannot NOT listen to GhazalJit Singh. While listening to one of the albums today, I wondered why some of the best albums of Jagjit Singh aren’t present in most of the playlists (which normally start with ‘Tumko dekha to ya khayal aaya’ and stop at ‘Hoshwalon ko khabar kya’ or at max ‘Koi fariyaad’).

Allow me to write a bit about the album that was released when I was in class 12 (1997) and was a companion in tackling many issues (including solving those tough mock CBSE Accounting papers)

  • Apne hothon par sajana chahta hu, aa tujhe main gungunana chahta hu – Penned by Qateel Shifai, the simplicity of singing and easy composition ensured that a noob of class 12th understood everything without having to consult any intellectual on the meaning of a Ghazal. Santoor was prominent throughout this entire album and this ghazal was no different. Towards the end you can hear Jagjit Singh humming and that was back then (and till now) so soothing. A quiet Ghazal about love and nothing else. If only such gems were released in the days of Youtube, twitter…
  • Dosti Jab kisise ki jaaye, Dushmano ki bhi raai li jaaye – Penned by Rahat Indoree, this ghazal speaks without mincing words about life that continues to bleed. The slow tabla throughout the ghazal with layers of Santoor, violins and other instruments brings in a stillness about things when one wants to sit and take stock of life. I remember going all ‘Waaaaaaaah’ when I heard this antraa for the first time that went ‘बोतलें खोल के तो पी बरसों, आज दिल खोल कर भी पी जाए’. I have lost count on the number of occassions I have used this line and gained appreciation at the expense of Jagjit Singh and Rahat Indoree..
  • Kahin Aisa na ho daaman jala lo, hamarey aansuon par khaak daalo – Penned by Liyaqat ali Azm – A ghazal with such a beautiful style of request and persuasion that will make you wonder if such arguments (To win back the beloved) exist today?  मनाना ही ज़रूरी है तो फिर तुम, हमें सबसे खफा हो कर मना लो….(उस अंदाज़ पे गौर करियेगा जिसमें जगजीत सिंह ‘हमारे’ कहते हैं…4:59 mins के समय)
  • Ya to mit jaaiy Ya mita dijiye, kijiye jab bhi sauda, khara kijiye – Penned by Wajida Tabassum, this is a ghazal for the hopeless romantic (No wonder Sitar makes the first appearance in this album via this ghazal). Good amount of keyboards were used by Jagjit singh to compliment the feel of the ghazal that remains top class throughout the ghazal. अब जफा कीजिए या वफ़ा कीजिए, आखिरी वक्त है, बस दुआ कीजिए…)
  • Kaise Kaise haadsey sehtey rahey, fir bhi hum jeetey rahey hanstey rahey – If she made us fall in love with ‘Ya to mit jaiye’, Wajida Tabassum makes our heart ache with this soulful ghazal. Pain was jagjit singh’s middle name so he is quite easily at his best, composition wise, arrangement wise and singing wise. The deliberate high pitch in the mukhda of the ghazal constructs a feel of pain just so beautifully…वक्त तो गुज़रा मगर कुछ इस तरह, हम चरागों की तरह जलते रहे…
  • Khaamoshi khud apni sada ho aisa bhi ho sakta hai, sannata hee goonj raha ho aisa bhi ho sakta hai – Penned by Zaqa Siddiqui, this ghazal makes up for the ‘sadness’ in the album. Composed in low notes especially in the Mukhda of the ghazal, this is not an easy ghazal to sing. A ghazal filled with insight and self reflection.
  • Bebasi Jurm hai hauslaa jurm hai, zindagi teri ek-ek adaa Jurm hai –  Ayaz Jhansvi pens this ghazal with good amount of ‘शिकायत’ quotient and Jagjit Singh sang it with consummate ease. Poetry at it’s fluid best, composition at it’s melodious best, there is hardly a thing that is wrong with this ghazal. याद रखना तुझे मेरा इक जुर्म था, भूल जाना तुझे दूसरा जुर्म है…
  • Jab kisi se koi gila rakhnaa, saamne apne aaina rakhnaNida fazli gives the voice of Jagjit singh the right amount of pathos with an insightful ghazal. Asking us to look at our reality before finding faults with others, the ghazal is slow, melancholic and thought provoking without getting preachy or loud. मिलना जुलना जहाँ ज़रूरी हो, मिलने जुलने का हौसला रखना….

Jagjit singh is rightly credited with taking ghazals to the masses. Prior to his arrival on the scene, this genre was reserved mostly for some singers who took pride in using tough words and putting their Epiglottis out for display. This album is as simple as it can get. Listen to it once and I will leave you to make your opinion on the same. What most of the people forgot when they talked about Jagjit Singh was his ability and willingness to find new poets and showcase their work. Have a look at the lyricists of this album and you will know what is the point I am trying to make.

Don’t miss this album if you are a ghazal listener.

If you feel there is something wrong with the album it is purely because of the overexcited writing in this post and the fault is mine.

Meanwhile, ये रहा मेरा कसेट

GhazalJit Singh

Phir Bhi…Sudeep (1995)

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I got into Ghazals fairly soon thanks to the ‘born old’ head and a low tolerance towards most songs in the 1990s. At that time (and forever) Ghazals meant/will mean Jagjit Singh to me. Trying out a ghazal from anyone who is not Jagjit singh used to be a self declared ‘Gunaah’ for me.

In 1995, I was in Class X and in came a ghazal album titled ‘Phir bhi’ and as with Magnasounds philosophy of promoting the new album, my favorite shop, (Shiv electronics, Indira nagar lucknow) had a huge poster of the album right outside the shop. To this day I dont know what was it that made me buy the cassette for a princely sum of INR 40 in those days (Papa’s money)?

May be it was just begining of the first ghazal, titled Ye dil jaata hai. The way the electric flute makes an appearance and leads us to the wonderful voice of Sudeep. A ghazal composed with a lot of love. Excellent use of guitar, non intrusive backup singers and good amount of violin. The pace is non-ghazal like whereas the words are just too ghazal like. An entire ghazal wherein the lover is waiting in anticipation of what gives in first..heart or courage.

May be it was the second ghazal Fakira na aaye . Guitar start the ghazal at a leisurely pace. A ghazal with a lot of thehraav. Singing remains top class. The pronounciation of words, the excellent music arrangement and a simple tune, the focus is purely on singing and nothing else. The ghazal has a sinking feel to it and if you feel the same, it just means that you like the ghazal.

May be it was this ghazal titled Kahein kya hum pe jo sadme guzartey hain, guzartey hain. The pace is slightly ‘geet’ like but the overall feel remains closely hugged to the sensibilities of ghazal. Excellent use of Sitar and tabla, coupled with really powerful lyrics, this ghazal is pure delight.

May be it was this old classic that has been sung by so many people that it made me curious to see how has Sudeep, a debutant treated this ghazal. Wo jo hum mein tum mein qaraar tha, tumhein yaad ho ke na yaad ho. Very subtle guitars, good backup vocal support and piano make up this ghazal so beautiful that you are inclined to think it’s not a debutant’s work. Delicately sung, hopelessly in love reminders of old days…(don’t miss the excellent violin play just before the second antraa). This will bring back a lot of memories, in a good way.

May be it was the excellent bass play with Sarod and slight drum play before this ghazal Kabhi saaya kabhi dhoop. A ghazal that Sudeep starts with a soulful hum. Powerful lyrics again. For a debutant to choose a ghazal like this and that too in 1995 is just splendid! The tune treatment is slow and marked with constant guitar throughout.

May be it was the excellent sarangi play that starts this wonderful ghazal, Bheegi hui aankhon ka ye manzar na milega, ghar chorh ke na jao, kahin ghar na milega. A very ‘By the tabla’ ghazal. There is a good amount of Santoor as well that multiplies the ‘pleasing to the ears’ factor of this ghazal. This used to be the favorite ghazal from this album of a lot of people I knew back then. It still is, I think.

Or may be it was this surreal ghazal Koi aarzoo nahi hai, koi mudda nahi hai, tera gham rahey salaamat mere dil mein kya nahi hai. There is Sarangi, Sarod and the velvet voice of Sudeep that keeps this ghazal constantly in the mind once you hear it. Tune wise, I believe this is the most innovative attempt in the album. The lyrics, the atmosphere, the guitar…I could go on and on about how madly I am in love with this ghazal since the time I heard it for the first time.

Sudeep has done some excellent work since the time this album came out. In fact, his album Irshad was reviewed on this blog in December 2011. Sudeep continues to work in his little ways for keeping ghazals alive when most of the ‘used to be legends’ are busy changing the frames of their goggles and basking in the glory of their work. If you want to get in touch with Sudeep, you can write to me. (before you think it’s a promotional post, let me tell you, he doesn’t even know of this blog)

To submit this review from the same room in my Lucknow home in which I used to hear it (inspite of the various music releases that included albums like Bombay, DDLJ, Rangeela, Barsaat and many more), is a high for me.

The album has stayed with me for 18 years and it continues to sound wonderful. To me, that means a lot and if you trust my word, do try the album out. It is available on iTunes for less than 100 Rupees.

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Jagjit Singh – The Master And His Magic (New album)

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Last year on October 10, music lost Jagjit Singh.

Sony has released this album to ensure some more ghazals reach out to us that were previously unheard by most of us.

The album starts with Tu Ambar ki Aankh ka taara and Jagjit Singh announces something that is impossible to put in here. This track is essentially treated like a ‘geet’ and is a live recording. Simply treated, easy lyrics. The second track Dekha jo aaena starts with a brief commentary by Chitra singh. This is a track that Jagjit Singh has sung many a times in other live concerts earlier. Still, this track starts with an alaap and instantly tugs at your heart. Brilliantly penned and as usual exquisitely executed by the maestro. The next ghazal jao ab subah honay waali hai also starts with an alaap by Jagjit Singh. A new ghazal and even though the context, treatment, lyrics and theme is not related to the ‘savere savere’ ghazal (featured in the album ‘Come alive with Jagjit singh’), I was instantly reminded of that ghazal. This ghazal however, is sad and heartbreaking, a genre that Jagjit Singh excelled throughout, without a doubt.

Ro lete to achcha hota sounds very familiar tune wise. Simple tabla and minimal guitars with the velvet voice of Jagjit Singh. The Santoor makes the setting even more familiar to the ears. The is the shortest ghazal (little over 4 minutes) of the album. Some might call it sad, some might call this soulful…decide for yourself when you listen to this beautiful composition. Aahon mein asar starts again with a brief commentary by Chitra singh. It is a crime for me to ‘pick a favorite’ from the album, but this ghazal is what we ‘devotees’ identify Jagjit Singh with. Liberal use of Violin, breathtaking words (light ghungroos in the background). If you are reminded of the ‘Mukhda’ from the ghazal ‘Aankhon mein jal raha hai kyun’ (From Marasim), listening to this ghazal, don’t be surprised.

Rone se ishq mein aur bebaak ho gaye  is quite easily an old (or not a recent) recording and you can identify it by the voice quality. Sitar is a bonus although I wish the recording was clearer. Stillness isn’t a plus point of this track. Slow, yet in a hurry…never losing the sense melody anyway. Tu jo aa jaaye has the typical ‘By the harmonium and violin’ beginning and then sounding mildly like ‘Dhoop mein niklo ghataon mein naha kar dekho’ (from Sajda), the ghazal just quietly captivates you. Insanely romantic and sung very intimately by Jagjit Singh.

The ever so golden Ghalib nazm Wo firaq aur wo visal kahan gets a different treatment (And a new set of lines which weren’t present in the Mirza ghalib album before). Composition is very by the strings. The atmosphere that Jagjit Singh creates with this one is melodiously pensive.

This is not a review. It can never be.

Just a celebration of another new set of pearls that we have come across from someone who kept on fooling us by making us believe that he is singing with his voice…whereas what we heard always was his heart that took over the microphone and mesmerised us, made us smile and made us weep…

A ‘must have’ album for those who know his body of work and a ‘should have’ album for the rest.

Sir Jagjit Singh, Thank you for the music.

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