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Cokestudio 9, Episode 3

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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 raaziZeb‘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.

CokeStudio Season 9, Episode 1

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Sasu MangayNaseebo 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 Ali Khan himself,  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

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.

Highway – Music review

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This review appeared first here – http://www.timeoutmumbai.net/music/cd-review/album-review-highway

Unabridged version of the review is here – http://moifightclub.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/highway-music-nashe-mein-ud-jaaye-re-haaye-re/

After Rockstar Imtiaz Ali is back with his latest romance-drama Highway starring Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt. With the genius of AR Rahman, Ali presents the film’s nine-track soundtrack.

The first and probably most popular song of the album is “Patakha Guddi”, an electronic track with the electric duo of Sultana and Jyoti Nooran who have given us one of the best sufi-sque film songs in a long time. It’s a typical Rahman song, one that is devoid of any hook and flows boldly and confidently throughout. Watch out, party people, DJs have a new song to ensure everyone attacks the dance floor. There is incidentally a male version of “Patakha Guddi” too and even though Rahman has rendered the Punjabi language with zest, his version has more layers than the Nooran could evoke. The excellent near shred guitar play along with lyrical twist makes his rendition a blast! Next up is “Maahi Ve”  that perfect tune for a long drive. Its excellent back-up vocals, however subtle, truly uplift the track. Jonita Gandhi makes “Kahaan Hoon Main” sound irresistibly exotic despite its serious lyrics. Thanks to a generous dose of keyboards and violins, the song has a lot of character and depth which might not suit the film’s premise of a truck driver and rural Indian roads. The next one will surely surprise everyone. Don’t be surprised if you see “Wanna Mash Up?”  borrowed by a Hollywood producer for a Fast and the Furious-esque film. Kash, Krissy and Suvi Suresh (with the former two penning lyrics) literally bring the house down with this top class composition. This is Rahman at his experimental best with no inhibitions. We can understand why Irshad kamil who has worked on most of rest of the album, didn’t provide the words for “Wanna…”

An adorable hum by Alia Bhatt herself kickstarts “Sooha Saha” which has Zeb croon about the folk music of the hills. Zeb lends the solidity to the song whereas the young actress provides cute innocence, making it a perfect balance. The second track of the album by wordsmiths Kash and Krissy is “Implosive Silence” performed by Gandhi. With a hauntingly simple arrangement, the track’s lyrics are extremely difficult to decipher. However, you actually don’t need to find the meaning of the words here. It is all about the feeling and the atmosphere that the song creates. After this is “Tu Kuja” a traditional song sung by Sunidhi Chauhan that envelops you in its trance. It’s actually an old composition in which Kamil has added Hindi words for a contemporary effect. We honestly felt the track was a bit cluttered and would have been better off with Rahman’s voice. Finally, “Heera” ends the album. Rahman ceremoniously presents saint and poet Kabir’s writing in his  trademark fashion with enough Violins to make anyone cry with pleasure.

The lyrics are top class and the music is superlative. After long, we’ve come across an album where we’re not reaching for the fast forward button.

CokeStudio Pakistan, Season 6, Thoughts on Episode 1 to 3

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The yearly ritual of waiting for the new season of CokeStudio ‘Original wala’ was rewarded by the entire team of CokeStudio Pakistan. While most musicians are still struggling with ‘fusion’, Rohail has upped the ante and has moved the entire CokeStudio Pakistan to the next level of fusion this time round. You can read more about it on their official website – cokestudio.com.pk

Will everyone like it? No! Good food isn’t easily acceptable to many if they are mostly fed sub-par food.

The two ‘singles’ so far

Jogi* – starts with  Fariha Pervez crooning out the all too familiar traditional lyrics that Pakistan has over used in almost every album that has ever come out.  Still, this version has a lyrical twist in between for a bit which is refreshing. Add to that the taraana by Muazzam ali khan.  Along with the supremely talented dholis in the studio and International musicians, the song becomes hummable for sure but lacks an overall playlist punch.

Laili jaan* – Zeb-Haniya bring the house down with this simply worded old song. A lot of people went down to Youtube to discredit the cokestudio team for any effort (because you know, for them it’s ‘copied’). Still, hear it once and tell me if you don’t smile everytime the insane drummer is shown having fun! The arrangement is top class, the overall extended house band tears the screen apart with this fantastic song!

Episode 1

Without a doubt, the last year belonged to Charkha Nolakha amongst other songs and the chief reason was Umair Jaswal with this husky calls and energetic singing. So it wasn’t a surprise to see him start the season with ‘Khayaal’. It’s an out an out ‘long drive’ song with some good variations by Umair. Clearly, those who hate Atif (because he is ‘besura’ in their own head), have another name to hate now! Superb song!

Babu bhai* – Ali Azmat is back! And this time, expectedly, he is back with songs that ooze out messages. Good or bad? You decide. In this episode Ali Azmat takes  a direct aim at those suck ups who would do anything to reach the top by any means (Koun yahan sochay hai, haram hai ya halaal hai). The pace is peppy and the arrangement just right. A song that is just over 4 minute, it packs a lot of punch. Don’t be fooled by the light tune of the song, it might just unsettle you!

Rabba ho* Oud starts the next song with Hazrat Saieen Zahoor for company. Now it’s no surprise that Zahoor snores more melodiously than many wannabe singers of India and Pakistan sing. So it comes as no surprise when we hear Zahoor sitting on a chair and just going about it. What we disliked slightly was the reverb his voice was subjected to at some places in the song. Let Zahoor be! Reverb doesn’t need him. Sanam Marvi on the other hand can very quickly confuse you whether it is really her or Mahotarma Abida Parveen who is singing the song.  Clearly, the best song of the episode.

 Episode 2

Laage re nain* – Sarangi by Anil starts this song and remains a character of it’s own throughout this breathtaking song. Ayesha Omar hits it and boy does it stay hit! Zoe and Rachel add sweetness to the song and the Serbian house band keeps it mellow. The song also introduces us to a west African instrument called Kora. The arrangement sounds exotic and neat. What a delight to hear the girls sing in poorbi language. Top class!

Tori chab – Kalenin Burcu Muyam – Rustam fateh ali khan takes up the hitherto less tried Indian (credit on the website as such, by theway) raga Abhogi Kangra  and presents us with an earthy composition. The singing is free flowing and the overall structure of the song sounds surreal. Turkish Singer Sumru Ağıryürüyen weaves her song (Kalenin Burcu Muyam) within this. Although it’s a good enough collaboration, at times I felt Sumru went slightly off key and that stalled the flow of the song.

Abrar ul haq did his bit with Ishq di booti and has a terrific house-band to fall back to. Special mention of the brass section that lifted the song. The song has a message of love and peaceful coexistence and it’s delivered alright! Towards the end of the song, we are introduced to ‘Tar’. The bass section is in fact so good that by the end of the song, I won’t blame you if you forget that it is infact keyboards that start the song!

Episode 3

Neer bharan* – (Zara Madani, featuring Muazzam Ali Khan) We are all human. So I blame my ‘preset’ notion that led me into believing this song will sound exactly like Rohail Hyatt’s presentation of the same in ‘Khuda ke liye’. Still, Zara madani does an able job to sing the entire song on a difficult and near whispering scale. Accompanied ably by Muazzam Ali khan, the song doesn’t ruffle any feathers and quietly ends.

Channa* – And in comes Atif! This time not taking long ‘taans’ but whispering Channa. Brass elevates the song higher. At times playful, at times yodeling, Atif mixes it up very well. The Punjabi lyrics are penned very well and inspite of being an out and out love song with what the ‘youth’ calls ‘mush’, you can totally workout with this song in the background. I would pay a million bucks to hear something similar by this collaboration just for the way the song builds up and ends. Top class Top class top class!

Yaar Vekho – Sanam Marvi brings a good amount of ‘stillness’ with this insightful composition (in raga bhopali). The setting is lifted by the excellent use of Violins. The song is pretty much flat with no flamboyance, beat wise. The interim calls and recitations by Sanam Marvi are bound to make even Mahotarma Abida Parveen Smile. If you cannot understand Punjabi, switch on the subtitles and watch the video and  get addicted. Special mention of Asad Ahmed on guitar and the atmosphere he creates. Mashallah!

Raat gaey* – Zoe viccaji delivers an urdu song with a total jazzed up treatment. The song lightens you up and gives out that foot tapping vibe. Brass (Expectedly) play a superb role along with drums and don’t be surprised if you are transported to an old club with a good singer lighting it up with her singing. A clever song that is delightful to watch (thanks to the violin gang) *toothy smile*

Notice the *mark? These are all the songs in which backup girls (mostly Zoe and Rachel Viccaji) appear and it won’t be wrong to say that they lend a finishing touch to the overall song.

It could have been very easy to continue the same fusion template that Rohail has followed with the present houseband over the years. Still, to disrupt it all and involve musicians from across the world (using technology in a way that logistics don’t hinder the creative process), Rohail Hyatt and the Team CokeStudio Pakistan have raised the bar very high.

Who is willing to catch up?

Episode 5 premieres tonight, do not miss it!

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