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Music review – Fitoor

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This review appeared first here – http://www.thequint.com/entertainment/2016/01/20/music-review-fitoor-sounds-above-average-at-best

You can listen to the music review here – http://www.bbc.com/hindi/multimedia/2016/01/160129_music_review_vm.shtml

Once the ‘it’ kid on the Bollywood music scene, Amit Trivedi has matured rather well, thanks to some soulful melodies and a refreshing presentation through varied genres. Every project of his is welcomed by music lovers almost the same way they used to wait for a new album by AR Rahman in the 1990s. In Fitoor, he teams up with Swanand Kirkire for lyrics and some of the finest musicians around.

The title song of a film is generally expected to make a strong point for the album as a whole but I am not sure what transpired into assigning a ‘predictable as ever’ tonal treatment to ‘Yeh Fitoor mera’. Arijit sings songs like these by the dozen and there is nothing new here except the use of ‘parvardigara’, which appears to be an attempt to sound ‘serious’ and pucca, because the album is devoid of any ghazal-like composition and the boring back-up vocals towards the end don’t help either. In the end, it sounds like a formularized Arijit song with elaborate arrangement.

With a rich rabaab running around like an excited kid all throughout the song,‘Haminastu’ is perhaps the best composition of the album. Zeb’s enthralling range is on ample display here. Her subtle throaty variations in the song are reminiscent of someone narrating a story with multiple characters and altering the voice for effect.

The contemporary percussion is subtle in ‘Hone do batiyaan’ and what envelops the composition is playful singing by Zeb and Nandini Srikar along with an unmistakeable Kashmiri charm, thanks to the excellent rabaab play. The sheer congruity between the singers is endearing to say the least and effective to put it mildly. Without doubt, the lyrics for both Haminastu and Hone do batiyaan are the best in the album.

In Pashmina, I don’t think Trivedi’s voice needed the polishing it was subjected to because the sensuous fragility of the song hits a speed bump every time one uses synthetic autotune, that too in a song that’s called Pashmina! Add to this the sameness of Triviedi’s singing and the song doesn’t leave the impact it could have because of its unique arrangement.

 What is possibly the weakest song in lyrical department, Tere liye never really touches your heart in spite of the grand presentation. Sunidhi and Jubin are let down by an excessive sanitised arrangement and weak lyrics which left me unaffected.

Just when you thought the song couldn’t get more laboured, Amit Trivedi joins Sunidhi Chauhan and makes Rangaa re (Hindi version) unbearable although it has few sparks of excellent arrangement. The English version of the same song sounds better largely because Caralisa Monteiro is more in sync with the mood in comparison to a near robotic Amit Trivedi.

The album has 3 songs that put the ‘it’ in Amit but the rest are plain, at times boring like grown-ups with no spark, now where is the fun in that? I give the soundtrack 3 Quints out of 5.

Music review – Hamari Adhuri Kahaani

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Like it or not, Mohit Suri gives out contemporary melodies which resonate long after the film leaves.

Hamari Adhuri Kahani music is no different. With a new talent ‘Ami mishra’ giving out the ‘teri galiyan-sque’ song for the film and Arijit in top form in the title song (Thanks to his collaboration with the soothing melody pied piper Jeet Ganguly), here is an album that will pick up with the fate of the film.

If you are a fan of new albums, you are likely to finish the album without much of an issue

My B.B.C. music review can be heard here – http://www.bbc.com/hindi/multimedia/2015/06/150605_bbc_music_review_vm

Piddly – Whaaaa? daaa?? faaaaaa?

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Yes, this is the kind of post that I would never do because it is not cool to give out ‘first reaction’
Anyway, this is about shamitabh. This is about a song that has ilayaraja at the helm and words are penned by Swanand kirkire.
When I write ‘piddly’ from my keyboard, it auto-corrects the same to ‘puddle’ and that is exactly what the song is. The song has 1980s feel to it.
1980s when the music cassette was invaded by ‘featuring dialogues’ (because the music is so bad!)
I am ok with the autotune because, well why not! But lyrics are embarrassing to say the least. The ‘stanza’ is embarrassing. No wonder the audio was released after with video because we have to depend on the video Y’all!
Why should English words stay behind in the times when we have a million urdu words around which a song has to be made no matter what happens!
Perhaps some people should stay in 1980s.
It is exactly that kind of a song which the ‘inner circle of the elites’ will praise but would bitch about later and publicly dismiss ‘masses’ for not understanding the ‘finer nuances’.
Sorry didn’t work!

Also – Boo!

Check out the song and feel free to disagree with me

BBC music reviews

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It’s been a while since I have put anything on this blog.

To those 2 people who read my posts here, happy to inform that I have been asked by BBC guys to do some audio music reviews for them. Have pasted the links below for some review which I have already done for them. Will keep updating the blog with BBC links (as long as BBC guys are able to tolerate me) 🙂

Ek villain – Music review http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/multimedia/2014/06/140606_music_review_sb.shtml
Humpty Sharma http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/multimedia/2014/06/140627_musicreview_vm.shtml
Hate Story 2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/multimedia/2014/07/140704_music_review_hate_story2_sb.shtml
Amit Sahni ki list http://m.bbc.co.uk/hindi/entertainment/2014/07/140711_bbcmusicreview_vm
Kick http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/multimedia/2014/07/140718_music_review_sb.shtml
Its entertainment http://m.bbc.co.uk/hindi/multimedia/2014/07/140725_music_review_sb
Dawat e ishq http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/multimedia/2014/08/140801_music_review_dawat_ssm.shtml
Raja Natwarlal http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/multimedia/2014/08/140808_music_review_raja_natwarlal_ssm.shtml
Singham returns http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/multimedia/2014/08/140814_bbc_music_review_singham_returns_ssm.shtml
BBC Azaadi – 2014 🙂 (a short feature on things from which Hindi film music still needs freedom) https://t.co/VSIB5eHb9Z

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

 

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.

Somrass – Pankaj Awasthi – Review…almost!

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Pankaj Awasthi is one of the strongest voices we have in our music scene. Some of his previous work can be found herehere and here. His characteristic shiver in the loud alaaps pierce right through your soul. Do try to catch up on some of his work if you have time.

You can listen to this album here

Be it the raw and almost crude ‘Ab ka huiye bhaiyya’ or a rusty ‘Dhadke jaa’, two songs very varied mood wise or be it the kabir inspired ‘Bulbula’, Pankaj awasthi exploits his naturally powerful voice with consummate ease. It’s actually a treat to hear his typical loud alaap in dhadke jaa. You do feel that he had a fun outing especially when singing ‘ab ka huiye bhaiyya’ though.

At first sounding a little out of sync ‘Guinyan’ will draw you into emptiness of the world thanks to extremely powerful lyrics and some intoxicating guitar play. The kid voices towards the end aren’t very clear but just enough to leave a mark on your senses, a good one that is.

Lafzon ke guldastey is a lightly arranged song with main focus on the voice. Very evening like, ‘by the balcony, with guitar and wine’ sort of arrangement. Heart breaking lyrics, sung beautifully. This is not leaving my playlist for a long time. Surely.

World tour pe ‘Makhi’ nikli! Heavy guitars and lyrics filled with irony (mixed with those alaaps of Pankaj that make you sit tight and take notice), this one packs a delicious take on a lot of us, ‘career’ and ‘padhaku’ types. Hear it to know more. (Don’t let the ‘le kar tujhko jaunga dulhan, anan fanan’ sort of tempo distract you)

Mere bhai ki ek kavita – The shortest piece of the album and my favorite. Don’t be surprised if you feel a sudden adrenaline rush when you hear this. The arrangement is top class. The impact, WONDERFUL!

Ruswaiyan – The beauty of this song is that it makes you want to gently sway to the tune and this new age singing style of Pankaj. Lyrics wise, the most ‘by the template of typical album’ sort of song. A little love, a little anger towards life and a lot of melody. Must hear.

Sabun – meaning ‘soap’. Another song that speaks of rinsing the world clean. The way the lines are weaved and spaced in the composition speaks of the genius of this man. The theme of the song will sound tiring to a lot of us but you will be surprised at how early the song ends.This song has the trademark ‘Shiver’ of Pankaj awasthi when he takes alaap, by the way. The video of this song can be found here

Somrass – The lightest (lyrics and treatment wise) song of the album. A catchy tune (yes, I am not able to recognise which tune is this, can you help?), bit of bollywood like sound actually. If publicised well, this could be a college anthem by the way. Yes, too cool. Must hear this, once.

Yada Yada hi dharmasya – Electronica! is it? It sure is digital sound at it’s loudest best! Add an element of finality in Pankaj awasthi’s voice and powerful words and you get this superb track! The moment you feel that the words are running out of tune you will again be arrested by the shivering voice of Pankaj conveying how the world will continue to suffer thanks to petty fights. The beauty of composition is that the song is titled ‘yada yada hi dharmasya’ but it is not used as a ‘hook’. This phrase comes towards the end of the song and leads the song towards finish.Not for everyone but those who will like the song, won’t let this song go off playlist. Word.

Zindagi Reit hai – Another song which is very ‘word heavy and instrument light’. The words are insightful, the arrangement very fragile and voice of Pankaj a tad softer than the rest of the songs of this album. Range is not a problem with him, quite evidently.

The pick of the album is the…entire album!

Pop/alternative/non-bollywood is a genre that hasn’t delivered much in the recent years, thanks to recycled tunes on auto pilot while the composers continued faking accents in public about how their work is so tough. Thank God for Pankaj! In a space filled with bollywood mix albums and wannabe sufis (who don’t understand ‘S’ of sufi, by the way), here is an unputdownable album that plays with electronica, kabir, veer rass, jazz and so many other variations!

It’s a well established fact that our neighbors have a far better and promising ‘pop’ scene and they keep churning out excellent talent. This album is what our neighbors would wish they had produced. This is the sound of Indi-pop that is different and will last. Should last.

100 out of 10 for this gem of an album!

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