Archive for the ‘Music review’ Category

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I have loved Zohaib Kazi’s work for a while now and that is why I was over the moon to hear that he is going to be on the driving seat for season 11. He has anyway been associated till season 6. The buzz started with CokeStudio Explorer that featured 4 songs with varied artists and barring the last song, everything felt nice, solid and quite trippy. After explorer ended, curtain was raised on the season opener song and in came Hum Dekhenge. I loved it then and I love it now. The artist line up was just way too tempting and too good to be true. Anyway, I won’t go on and on episode-wise as you can find it here. Our picks from this season are as under:

Baalkada The way this song started made me soar like an airplane. Naghma & Lucky were fantastic! Jimmy Khan’s presence works like a balm. The gamut of genres that CokeStudio Pakistan has touched should be a case study to those who ‘do music’ in our country as well. We need to just look at the arc of emotions CokeStudio Pakistan has chosen. Arey mujhse pooch lo yaar, I will make an excel sheet for you containing those details and I will lend my time for free to you. At least touch some other genres, Dear Indian music movements!?

Rap hai sara -. The way this song has been done, it has raised the swag factor of CokeStudio in multiples. All the boys ran a riot in the studio. I last smirked at someone’s entry when Bohemia entered the studio in ‘Kandyari dhal Geet’. Young desi has bettered it. If this song was a part of a concert in a big stadium, this song would have EVERYONE take their shirts off and throw them on the stage. Lyari underground is a revealation and I loved their part as well. Confession – I prefer watching this song that hearing it and trust me, I have watched it way too much, super super stuff! (ande waala burger reference here)

Rashamama – Zarsanga makes a dashing entry to the studio and aided with Khumariyaan and a superb Babar ali khanna, she holds your attention and makes you sway with the absolute magical track. Yet another song that widens the arc of the genres which CokeStudio Pakistan explores with every passing season. Zarsanga is plain brilliance on display and her woi allah! calls are a hoot! The song then pauses and what is possibly the best moment in asserting Cokestudio Pakistan’s swag (watch how the camera pans, the music that accompanies the angle from roughly at 3:07 mins to 3:14 mins to know what I mean), Gul Panra gives her interpretation of the song. Her part is more contemporary and filled with modern arrangement which doesn’t feel bad (or wrong) either.

Nami danamChand tara orchestra, under the guidance of Omran Shafique gave us this gem. There was too much happening in terms of lighting and not in a good way. Barring that, this song soared. They should have named the song Raqs-e-bismil. I have a positive bias to Chand tara orchestra because of their name and sound. Before this season, I didn’t know about them. It is very very good to see old cokestudio musicians take the lead in inducting new artists. Like Babar has done in last few songs and my heartthrob Omran has done here…What a fantastic, liberating song! Me raqsam Me raqsam…indeed

Jind mahiya – A slow, almost reggae like pace mixed with obvious habibi influence is what catches your attention from the first second in the song. Shuja Haider’s composition is as free flowing as his singing and even though in the BTS video, he insisted it is a chichora song, the song comes across as adorable and way too catchy. This is like ‘rockstar’ without self deprecating tone and peppered with innocence. This is exactly the kind of execution that I was waiting for since the season started. The houseband played up perfectly and there was nothing over the top and surprisingly, the song sounds very well produced. Lest I forget, the dholak play from Babar added just the right amount of nasha. Easily, the first song of the season that I loved without any ‘if’ or ‘but’. Thumbs up!

Ya QurbanKhumariyaan boys made me go mad. I absolutely loved what they have done here. The song, the dance, the vibe, the happiness that dripped from their soul via their song and instruments…this is vintage CokeStudio Pakistan, this is what we wait for when CokeStudio Pakistan announces a new season. You can make half talented musicians stand and ‘fuse’ their work like there is no tomorrow, but it takes a special khaalis presentation like this to blow your mind away. How about those maddening whistles? Everything, just about everything is top notch here. Not a note wrong, excellently done boys! Fun bit – check out the Game of Thrones opening credits done by the boys here – Game of Thrones Main Theme (Cover) by Khumariyaan

Balaghal ula Be Kamalihi – When she sings, Lord hears. Simple. These are Gulzar’s words but ring in true everytime I see (holding both ears as I say her name) Her Highness Abida Parveen. There is really nothing that comes to mind when I try to analyse this song because this here is not a track, it is devotion finding its way to our souls. A magnificent presentation. Please explore it.

Wah jo kalaam – Penned by Asrar and along with him, Shamu Bai and Vishnu played a riot of colors and beauty in what is one of the best songs in all of 11 years of the studio in Pakistan. I have always had a bit of a problem with Shamu’s pitch but here, Asrar has used that to the track’s advantage. With zero accompaniment from the studio houseband, this beautiful song hits your core being like a bolt of lighting. Talking of Zero accompainment from houseband, I suspect Shamu bai was using her own Harmonium and Vishnu was using his own Dholak. The melodious strum and humming from Asrar in the beginning reminds you of all the good things that music and all of us have lost over the years. There seems to be zero innocence of ‘being’ these days in anything. For a moment, let us all just remind ourselves of this powerhouse called Asrar who has a lot that is yet to be exploited by the popular scene. Don’t you love his ‘wah wah’ in the song? A pucca performer. Do check his ‘Gaddiye’ as well, if you have time. I get a strong feeling that Vishnu will, in the years to come, make more appearances in the studio. What a brilliant command this lad has…especially the way he picked up Hyder hyder part. This is the song that, everytime when it ends, leaves me weeping. Kudos to the producers for letting this song be.

Luddi hai jamaalo – The studio always has an ace up its sleeves when it comes to re-imagining old film songs. I can’t say the same about non film songs and yes I am still sore with the wounds of Hawa Hawa. In Luddi Hai Jamalo the studio has shown how the old songs are to be touched up. The way they have added violins and the opening la la la is exactly what they should have touched up Hawa Hawa. Here, Humaira Arshad and Ali Sethi have done a decent job of sticking to the song yet adding their touch. I absolutely loved the way the sound has been managed, it sounds so fresh yet vintage. The last minute or so where the song really accelerates doesn’t feel out of sync or mood. I didn’t feel anything outstanding about Humaira’s part but I was blown away by Ali Sethi. Can this man do any wrong? I really don’t think so. If I were a ruler with a kingdom, I would have relinquished all to this man just for his ‘Howaan tathon paray Kyon mera dil daray, Chad kay duniya saari, Teray tay kyon waray’ part in the song. I am not kidding.

Aurangzeb – by Mughal-e-funk is quite an interesting track for the simple reason that it explores a genre within a genre. Presenting Aurangzeb‘s reign and conflicts via instrumental is totally a new way to present instrumental tracks. The houseband and especially Babar ali Khanna really came together to touch up Mughal-e-funk‘s exciting presentation in the studio. Excellent Sitar, Superlative Harmonium and a solid backup vocalist sound…what’s not to like? (I know, the lighting..! still…I liked this track)

Ko ko korina – I am from Lucknow and one of the reasons I love CokeStudio Pakistan is that they showcase the music from their region which I may not have come across earlier. Personally speaking, while growing up, I was more intrested in exploring Umar Sharif’s plays and swaying on Hawa Hawa than anything else. So when I saw CokeStudio reimagine what they have posted as ‘infamous’ Ko Ko Korina, I was hearing it for the first time. I know I will lose a lot of friends here but I didn’t find this song bad at all. I in fact liked how the studio, in a rare display of self control, conducted the song with the right amount of mischief and melody. No, I didn’t find Ahad Raza Mir or Momina Mustehsan out of tune. I would still say that Momina was struggling in Antras but largely lovely lovely song. I then went and checked the original song and well, I could still not get myself to dislike this re-imagination. I am just raving mad at the studio for what they did with Hawa Hawa. One might argue, that my grouse with Hawa Hawa‘s re-imagination is because unlike Ko Ko Korina, I have grown up with Hawa Hawa, so I am not as emotionally invested with Ko ko as I am with Hawa Hawa. I will disagree to that train of thought for the simple reason that Ko Ko Korina‘s re-imagination didn’t take any unneccesary turns and the pace and treatment was upbeat (what a lovely guitar – keyboard play by Rufus and Momo by the way!), Whereas the Hawa Hawa reimagination was half hearted, sounded dead on arrival and took that unnecessary tirbal turn which still haunts me at night. So there, that is my take. I liked Ko Ko Korina! Someone please join me and let us petition the studio to re-re-imagine Hawa Hawa?

In addition to the above:

  • Shikwa/Jawab e shikwa – was so good till Natasha baig’s part. To me she has been the find of the season. Still, the usually dependable Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad Qawwal put me off this time and I couldn’t bring myself to repeat the song just because of them and this applies to their self absorbed ‘piya ghar aaya’ as well. Sad.
  • Runaway – would have been much better with just Krewella.
  • I absolutely loved the first 3 mins of dil hai pakistani
  • I disliked the way Main iraada came together. That was cacophony and largely due to excessive artists and over the top audio mixing
  • I liked Dastan-e-moomal rano but couldn’t sit through the whole of it on repeated listening. I like the subtle presentation of the song.
  • Illallah was so good but was let down by poor lyrics and somehow ‘aaja piya tori yaad satave’ sounded like a mifit with the mood of the song. Hear the first 2 odd mins of the song though to see what this song could have been.
  • I disliked the uncertainity about ‘will this be a 3 song or 4 song episode’. Nope don’t play with that. Please.

Some of the best music memories that I have since the last 10 odd years are attributed to CokeStudio Pakistan. Some of the most aggressive views that have popped up in my head have been a result of poor imitation of CokeStudio 11 by other movements in and outside Pakistan, CokeStudio at MTV for one. What happens when the movement you have come to love starts showing signs of becoming a bad parody of itself? That is exactly what happened with the season 11 and it pains me to write this because in my books, even when CokeStudio Pakistan is bad, it is miles ahead of garbage that is masquerading as ‘music movement’ in and around the subcontinent. Make no mistake, it is not just Season 11 that has disappointed. The downward spiral has continued since Rohail has departed and the only exception to that has been the superbly Season 8. Though I would not write off Zohaib and Ali Hamza, I would like a little bit of ‘pause’ in the execution. Everything need not be over the top, extra experimental and please slow down those maddening lights. Lastly, please don’t play around with melody and defile it like you have done with Hawa Hawa this year. Ever.

Love from India

P.S. – Bhaga ke le jaunga Ali Sethi ko main ek din, dekhta reh jayea Pakistan aur dekhta reh jayega India. Yep.

P.S.2. – Please fire whoever has been in charge of audio mixing this season.

Image and video courtesy – CokeStudio.com.pk – You can download all songs for free from here.

Anurag Kashyap is back, this time with a love story, teaming up with Aanand L Rai as producer. Manmarziyaan is going to premiere at the TIFF 18. While we keep wondering about the actual release date (21, 14, or 7th September?), why don’t you read the review from Rohwit below, while listening to the official playlist?

Mast ali has a voice which sounds aptly familiar yet fresh, filmi punjabbbi songs wise. In Fyar he has been credited along with Vicky Kaushal and Sikandar Kahlon. I love the way song starts and credit to Amit Trivedi for smartly manipulating the pace of the song and even though the difference between ‘Pya’ and ‘Fya’ is not super easy to understand when you hear it, the song is just spot on. I didn’t care much about the rap part but it didn’t disturb my Foncentration.

Daryaa has ‘udaan types (Yes i am looking at you ‘hooo oo oo oo’) meeting Punjabi love’ sound which works like a charm. I have always been at pains to see Shahid Mallya not getting the kind of uptake that he deserves. He sounds madly in love and it sets the emotion of the song perfectly. Ammy Virk sounds powerful yet quite hurt and because of him, the song soars, pity his name doesn’t appear in the youtube song title credits till the time this was written. What a delight it is to hear Amit’s ‘hoo ooo oo’ template complimenting Virk’s passionate singing and spilling emotions like two glasses brimming with wine falling to the ground. There is also an unplugged version of this song sung by Deveshi Sahgal. It has a headstrong sound which I absolutely loved along with the super Guitar play of the always dependable Sanjoy Das. Deveshi’s singing is fearless and it would be silly to compare her version with the other version because, well the other version is not unplugged to begin with. In fact, with the ‘Udaan type hoo ooo oo’ missing from the song, this version sounds rather fresh! Super like!

Jazim Sharma and Harshdeep Kaur are heard in Grey wala shade, a song that revels in mischief. The tune is intimate and lyrics are delightfully naughty. Jazim‘s voice has a soothing effect and it is a pleasant change to hear Harshdeep in a simple song. Jazim and Harshdeep Kaur team up again in an Esraj rich Choch Ladhiyaan. I love what Amit has done with the tune of this song and to me, this could easily be the most layered composition of the album. The near classical arrangement is more essential than decorative. Being someone who understands ghazal gayaki closely, Jazim uses all the thehraav in his rendition and is a delight to the senses. Harshdeep Kaur is again in top form and sounds even more playful due to absolute crazy lyrics by the magician Shellee, Bande andar, paigambar…naache!

Dhayaanchand shines because of its lovely tune structure. Vijay Yamla, Nikhita Gandhi, Amit Trivedi & Suhas Sawant are pretty good in the song yet my favorite parts are those with Amit‘s voice. On a related dhinchak note – Tumbi, Tumba, Been, Dhadd & Bugdu by Vijay Yamla and Dhol by Kukki Jogi are composition’s heart and soul. A song that is definitely going in my dinchak 2018 playlist.

Omkar Dhumal has made several appearances in good and not so good songs this year so far. Here, his Shehnai is used brilliantly by Amit Trivedi. I was almost not looking forward to the song because of Jyoti Nooran’s name. Of late, her songs are one note, one character, unwelcoming and filled with unnecessary ‘See I can do so many alaaps’. I can confirm that she is super steady in this song. Along with Romy, she holds your attention in the serious Hallaa. Don’t miss the faint Shehnai and those lovely backup vocalists especially towards the end of the song…a brilliant touch by Amit Trivedi.

Shahid Mallya & Jonita Gandhi sing Sachchi Mohabbat very well, a song that bitterly regrets love that ‘could have been’, a love where they could have celebrated ‘Them being them?’. The wordplay in this song is deceptively simple and credit to Amit Trivedi for keeping the tune light in spite of two geniuses at play here. I am of course referring to Arshad Khan (On Israj) and Omkar Dhumal (On Shehnai).

Jaisi teri Marzee is a little ‘Tujhe yaad na meri aayi‘ in its character and it is not a bad thing. I liked the fact that rather than presenting a track as ‘title song’, they have used the said phrase to name it. Did I like the song? Yes. Would i listen to it again? No. Harshdip Kaur is pitch perfect and Bhanu Pratap Singh sounds fresh and promising. Still, I found this to be a ‘credit rolling’ song and not very ‘playlist durable’

Bijlee giregi has Devenderpal Singh, Babu Haabi, Sikander Kahlon & Vaishali Sardana in top form. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I absolutely love Shellee and what he has done here. There is not a comma (let alone a word) that feels force inserted. Bhasudi, durachari, cutie pie nahi kutti pie hai, Vayusena ka vimaan, missile waali…I can go on and on. The tune structure flirts with my other favorite song from the year – Teri pappi le lu from ‘Veere di wedding’. That said, I am already conflicted whether this song should go in the dinchak 2018 playlist from this album instead of Dhayanchand?* Anyway, I love the song and extra points for NOT using Badshaah for the rap portion in this (or any song for that matter). Fun fact – If you have a heart rate monitor, you will see your heartbeats take off like a rocket in this song. Trust me, I checked.

Meenal Jain, Yashita Sharma, Yashika Sikka, Rani Kaur, Anita Gandharva, Meghna Mishra & Vaishnavi Mishra are heard in Kundali. Predictably, the song is high tempo with a good thump. Yet again, Shellee’s lyrics shine (Sunnn pyari simran, jaa ji le apna jeevan!). I didn’t dislike the song but I would not go looking for this one in the playlist.

I don’t want to jinx it but this year has been relatively better than last couple of years in terms of film music. Still, I was yet to come across a devilishly delicious album. Last week I came across one that was truly 5 star stuff yet it didn’t ‘bite’ enough. May be because that is a pretty straight forward love story and because Mannmarziyaan is ‘complicated’ and handled by Anurag Kahsyap, the search ended with Manmarziyaan. I am confident that the album will outlast the film for years to come.

Of course it is Anurag Kashyap‘s collaboration with Amit Trivedi. Of course they have delivered, big time. Still, I think the most critical factor of this blockbuster album is Shellee. His lyrics truly walk in beauty. Not once do you feel the lyrics are dumbed down so that junta doesn’t dismiss the album as being ‘too punjabi’. I just hope the film is worthy of the lyrics and music it has got. Actually, I don’t care about the film at all. I am just happy Anurag and Amit have got back to their winning ways and given us an album that we can listen to in our little cocoons and forget the world.

How’s the album?

Filmi Hindustaan jaise…Chhaye Gurdass maan jaise

Rohwit

*Of course I will use Bijlee Giregi in the playlist. Hashtag Girl power.

There was a lot of buzz this year about Coke Studio 10, much before even the first teaser came out, and till then that was my only grouse. I will save my angry rants about the season as a whole here, and leave you with our favourite picks from 28 songs that were aired this season in 7 episodes. Click on the playlist embedded below to play the songs as you read the post.

You can read our Coke Studio Season 8 round up here and  Season 9 roundup here.

Ranjish hi sahi – Ali Sethi should sing all the old classics that we have come to love and live with. Even though this rendition was hurried at some places for ghazal purists, the velvet-ness of Ali’s vocals rubbed on the listener and reminded us of well paced out ghazals where lyrics and not hashtags were celebrated. That Ali Sethi is probably the best contemporary singer from across the border these days isn’t ‘overdoing’ it. It’s just a fact. Jaffer Zaidi is probably the only musician who is keeping Coke Studio Pakistan’s legacy of good music with subtle presentation and production alive post-season 6.

Cha rahi kali ghata – A beautiful song composed by Sahir Ali Bagga that gave us a flavour of old times when a raga based song would be melodiously rattled by a contemporary tune in between and touch our hearts. Hina Nasrullah and Amanat Ali were top class, and the moment that took my  breath away was at 4:04 mins when Amanat got into the skin of ghazal gayaki…what a beautiful beautiful song! Thanks to good people in Youtube comment section, I have come across some real good work by Hina Nasrullah. Do google her.

Faasle – A simple heartbreaking duet that played within its zone and didn’t let too many instruments get in the way of expressing hurt. Kaavish and Quratulain Balouch gave us too many reasons to play this on repeat. Jaffer Zaidi has a voice that is a balm on the senses and when he wished well to his beloved with devastatingly helpless yet beautiful words (penned by him incidentally), it was a delight. Quratulain Balouch, who finally got  a lot of real estate this season to display her brilliance, was equally melancholic and melodious. Easily, the most underrated and under appreciated song of this season. Watch how they ended this song…jaa haha hu main…jaa rahi hu main...c’est magnifique!

Tinak din na – I am penning this post on 22 September and I still cannot understand what did Waqar ehsin  bring to the song. Ali Hamza got the solid anchor role whereas Ali Sethi glided the way only he can. Waqar was more a spanner in the works than anything else. Perhaps Ali Noor would have been a better choice. Watch Waqar lose the sense of tune at  4:11 in the song. Still, the sheer energy of Ali Hamza and Ali Sethi is enough to hear this song on repeat. I have never disliked them but there was absolutely no need for the backup vocals in the song as well. A good song that is good in spite of the back up vocals, pointless detours in the composition in between and Waqar.

Laal Meri pat A song that took me back to Rohail Hyatt days barely a second in the song. Akbar Ali (with his alaaps to die for) and the voice of God Arieb Azhar introduced the song. Quratulain Balouch’s voice provided the perfect rooting to the song. This is what old Coke Studio Pakistan fanatics would call psychedelic-meets-traditional, a brilliant brilliant song. I love the way Strings structured the song with terrific humnavas. Leaving the predictable, famous hook of the song and creating a new high point is a job that is too difficult and risky when you are tackling a generation defining song. They got it right, alright!

Naina moray –  Years ago, I came across this timeless composition for the first time in the voice of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali khan sahab. Akbar ali is the discovery of the season for me and unsurprisingly here as well he shapes the entire song around his powerful gayaki. Yes, there is a terrific Zaki with axe in the song as well. I am somehow getting a bit tired of excessive murki filled gayaki of Javed Bashir though. It kills the mood and creates unnecessary intensity in song that don’t need it. Still, a powerful song.

Ghoom taanaSalman ahmed along with kick-ass Irteassh and talented Momina re-created the magic of this song and it sounded pretty good. Unlike the horrible Sayonee this season, Salman got the singer selection right this time round and apart from the ‘rattle and creaking’ production sound that is signature Strings, the song stood tall and made a smashing statement of hope. We could do with hope in these times.

Katay na katay – Ali Hamza gave us this cracker of the song with loads of help from Aima Baig, Rachel Viccaji and Humera arshad. I loved the energy and the melody this fusion oozed. Let’s try and think one Indian song we heard in unplugged, Coke Studio@MTV, blah-blu studios etc that comes close to the experiment of  3 super talented girls bringing the house down like this? Lastly, the tarana by Ali Hamza towards the end…stunning!

Tera naam – There is a saying in Pakistan music circle that loosely goes like – ‘Whatever you think is possible in music, Sajjad ali has already sung it’. With this song, Sajjad quietly re-affirms that position. In Coke Studio itself, barring few songs which I haven’t mentioned here, we have seen Sajjad ali give us a magnificent rang lagaa soulful Tum naraaz hoa tongue in cheek kir kir kiran insanely enjoyable suth  gana and all that was remaining was a beautiful love song…and here it is! The tune, the presentation, the sound and those lovely humnavas, everything just perfect.

That’s it for season 10 of Coke Studio Pakistan. If you want to read episode by episode review, you can click the link on the contributor’s name below. Do share with us your favourites.

– Rohit

So the film releases on 4th August and there is still no clarity on how many songs are there, and when will they release, just like what happened with Aye Dil Hai Mushkil music last year. My review went live on the day the film released if I am right. One of the things (call it old world ridiculousness) that I personally believe is that the music review shouldn’t go online on the day the film releases. That is the reason I pushed the editors of fightclub to make this review go live. I have also been off all social media platforms so I may have missed the tweets or systematic leaking of info about songs. After I posted the review, a kind soul pointed out that there are few more songs in the album for sure. But nobody knows when it will be out. As and when, and if at all they release, I will update the post accordingly.

One of the things you have to do when you review film music is to review almost every film album, and when you summarize the year, you get a real picture of the music scene – which is presently a device for caller tunes, among other things. Singers are called hot and auto-tune equipment is probably going to be credited as a valid artist sooner than all of us expect. It has become a routine to hear the ‘once-popular’ songs remixed and served usually to us in disgusting and shrill avatar. Not every routine is good. This particular routine reminds me of the uncle who used to punch me on my back really hard. It was as if he liked to hear me yelp – every time he used to come home. Every. Time.

Since last 3 years that I have been reviewing music for BBC, I have never witnessed such scarcity of fresh, not-a-remix-of-an-old-song, foot tapping madcap craziness in Hindi film albums. Radha arrives and breaks this unfortunate spell. Shahid Mallaya and Sunidhi Chauhan – a delicious combination on their good days make it impossible for us to not break into a dance (in metro, washrooms, during meetings, at dinner table, on dining table, during a corporate/personal dinner/lunch, to name few of real life situations where all this has already happened with the writer). Irshad Kamil, when not under pressure to invite bulla to come to his house and give him a hug kass ke, kicks ass with his pen (what a site to imagine, right?). Say what you will about the man, Pritam doesn’t try to turn the sound of a film album based on the compulsions of his ‘unused tunes’ folder. You hear radha and you couldn’t care less who has composed the music, because you are busy with the song and when that happens, music director has already won. There are way too many high points in one song here. Be it the moment you hear both singers together go ‘main bani teri/tu bani meri radha’, or that magnificent change of scale towards the end, this is way too much crazy tapped in one song. A monsoon shower of a song. Hello Pritam! Mwaaah! (This is a chumma).

There is a remix of Radha by DJ Shilpi Sharma and it even has variation in lyrics and structure (like almost all the remixes in the  album). Oh and by the way, do hear the Arabic, Telugu and Tamil versions of this as well to know exactly why Sunidhi Chauhan is a Goddess. No One can match her. Period.

Beech beech mein has a uniform disco mood that doesn’t bother me much and that’s my only problem with an otherwise decent song. I might not forward the song when it comes on screen but I won’t go looking for it. May be because it is a bit too decently arranged and composed. On the other hand, the remix of this by Lady Bee is the one that does it for me. Loved it!

Safar is a song that has a ‘Gulzar-Vishal-sque-evening-song-meets-raabta-night-in-motel vibe’. A disheveled character, walking, with no aim, no destination, and one who is not particularly remorseful for that. In my books, this would be one of the best songs by Arijit ever. Pay attention to a ghazal like repeat of ‘Jaana-maaine…’ in between, a first for me in a film song. It seems like Pritam saves his best songs for Arijit. Yet again, Irshad Kamil shines using simple words but what a context! Beautiful!

Butterfly is a regular Punjabi song and for some reason, Nooran sisters sound too hurried and excessive-soulful-per-square-feet. I missed Sonu Nigam in the song, I don’t know why. Aaman Trikha, Dev Negi and Sunidhi Chauhan are good. I LOVE the double flute in the song. Is it a good song? May be. Will I listen to this again? Nope!

There is a charm in Hawayein that we all like in a film song, be it Arijit Singh who suddenly becomes very present in the song or those blessed aching words by Irshad Kamil.  There is a drama loving, bollywood romantic in everyone. Karan Johar and his team brought that part out in the open with channa mereya, and with Hawayein, Team Imtiaz makes that part of us weep inconsolably. I doubt if visuals can match the beautiful sadness of this lovely composition. The tune is almost instructive in what to expect – Bring on the slow motions and quietly reach out for those tissues people, all while humming – hawaayein hawaayein…Yes, we are all mad. Also, Arijit singh, never stop please. There is a film version of hawayeiṅ and it sounds more spaced out and intimate – arrangement wise but it gets in Arijit’s way. He is more devastating in the first version and that’s why  my heart beats for the previous version more rhythmically. 

ParindaPradeep Sran is a star to put it mildly and Pritam-Irshad Kamil have given a perfect platform to Sran where he could soar, and soar he does. I am still confused who is a winner in the song. Jeene na ab degi, mahi di laparawahi. That fantastic drum set and guitar combo is breathtaking. A song for broken hearts with tonnes of Pizzaz. The search version of this song has Tochi Raina crooning in his familiar zone effortlessly and may be that’s why he ticks the ‘heard before’ box but I would pick Pradeep Sran’s earthy voice over Tochi’s voice for this song. That said, Nikhil D’Souza’s portion is plain superb! 

Gharkhali hai jo tere bina, main wo ghar hu tera ghoomey phire tu chaahe sab sheher, tu hai mera. Nikita gandhi gives this song so much pain, its infectious and will make you sad. It will mock the void in your soul and some of you would be amazed thinking how did the metaphor of your life get into a song? I love how Nikita is prominent yet always in background even when she is the only one singing. Imtiaz loves Mohit and we don’t dislike him either but here, the song belongs to Nikita. Hear her ‘intercept’ Mohit right before the song ends (at 3:12 mins), as if opening her hitherto unopened wounds, as if to make a point. It would take a long long time for to recover from this song. Art imitates life, did someone just say that?

Yaadoṅ meiṅJonita Gandhi is powerful and arrests your attention with her range barely seconds into the song. Mohammed  irfan attempts a pitch which is clearly new for him and even though I feel he is the most undervalued singer we have today, he seems more at ease on low notes which isn’t a crime. This is an intense song that gets ‘intensity’ right, perhaps that’s why I wont play it again. Mad props to Pritam for structuring the song the way he has. 

RaulaPagḍi ka rang bhi pink ho gaya. Diljit Dosanjh and Neeti mohan go through some interesting lyrics without much to take home to. The tune lacks sincerity and verve that you expect from an Imtiaz Ali brand punjabi song. It makes AṚ Rahman’s embarrassing Punjabi effort in highway sound like gold and that’s just awful. 

Jee ve SohaneyaNooran sisters scare me off late. You can almost imagine high notes and uncalled for aggression in simple songs. Thankfully, barring some mid antra alaaps, Nooran sisters don’t bother your senses much by clouding lyrics with excessive vocal circus. A song that aimed for Lambi Judai pathos, but doesn’t get close enough. Still, a good effort.

PhurrCringeworthy lyrics sung by a somewhat studio-sque Mohit Chauhan aside, the vibe of phurr is pretty dubstep-ey and breezy. The song is clearly a way to place the song in the minds of Amreekan/bidesi junta so that they can throng theatres. It ends too soon and to me, it sounds more like a strategic afterthought than anything else. There is a lot of forced pizaaaz with Bollywood tukbandi which doesn’t work whenever you hear Mohit’s part.  Being touted as the first song in hindi cinema to be put behind a paywall, I would buy the rest of the album twice than buying this once,  but then, we did buy the entire album all songs as ‘singles’ so that’s that! The film version sounds much better than the music video version because Tushar Joshi gets a larger play at things and honestly does a kickass job at it. 

In spite of having few ‘normal’ songs in Raula, jee ve sohneya, butterfly and beech beech mein, the album is a cracker because of the goodness of all the other songs including remixes! When 99% of film remixes these days are just ‘play-the-original-track-with-triple-jhankar-beats-and-add-few-scratches’, there is a clear effort in remixes of JHMS, and a big wolf whistle to Lady Bee and DJ Shilpi for that. Go ladies! I still cannot believe they took so MUCH time to release the songs and as I type this, album is still not available on iTunes. 

There is never a dull moment and the best part is it isn’t overwhelming either. You can stomp your feet and clap your hands in all the songs, with varied pace and trust me, it won’t feel awkward. Albums like JHMS are a ray of hope that all is not lost when a typical commercial film decides to include music for melody and not just for caller tunes and shitty tribute videos. Irshad Kamil, Pritam and the entire team is on fire, and this man Arijit Singh is raising the bar, one good song at a time. Dear Arijit, you are allowed a million ‘mohabbat barsa dena‘ for songs like Safar and Hawayeiṅ

In the world of mainstream Hindi films of 2017 so far, JHMS has a sound and rhythm that is like a distinctive click of a top class stiletto on a eerily quiet subway. Imtiaz Ali knows what he is doing with music, and there cannot be a more solid testimonial to this fact than this wonderful, wonderful album. If only this blogpost could scream how much I love this album! 

My picks – Hawayeiṅ, hawayeiṅ, safar, radha, ghar, parinda, all remixes and repeat!

– Rohwit

Best Of Coke Studio-9 : Round-Up + Playlist

Posted: September 28, 2016 by moifightclub in music, Music Recco, Music review
Tags: ,

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Coke Studio 9 has come to an end. The experiment of bringing six music directors (while Strings remained Producers) was presented a bit differently than the Indian version. Here, we bombard a music director’s entire set at one go. Pakistan version composed an episode with a single song from every composer. In the order in which the songs appeared, here goes the list of my favourite tracks from this season.

Scroll down to the end of the post for the youtube playlist. So this is the way we do it – start the playlist, listen to the songs and then start reading the post.

Jaanay na tu – To me, this remains one of the best songs I came across this year and not just in Coke Studio. There is not a single fault a nit picker like me could find. The sincerity of Ali Khan is matched by a tune that changes towards the end and with such subtlety that you would probably not notice it at all. It infects you nevertheless. I loved the texture of Ali’s voice and the range that he explored. Not every song needs to bring the house down, some can lull you to sleep with a smile on your lips. This one, does just that.

Aafreen aafreen – Re-imagining classics is something that CS-Pakistan does rather well. So when they picked up this song and turned the tune by its head, it didn’t please a lot of people.I have a theory that if you cannot play and manipulate ‘classics’, then they would never be explored by the current generation who is rightfully bent on better acoustics and ‘clear’ sound. So when Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Momina sat down with a soothing guitar by the side and an ethereal tune for company, it sounded good. The ganpati pandal right next to my apartment was playing this non-stop. Now, ask yourself, would they have played the original (which remains a classic and my absolute favorite) with such fervour? Oh, and too much respect for Javed Akhtar sahab. You listen to this alone and you blush, what a feat to achieve, sir. Thank you, for the song!

Maula-e-kullThe powerful voice of Abida Parveen is best left with minimal arrangement so that we can all connect with ourselves in her characteristic long taans and powerful rendition. That is exactly what Shani Arshad cleverly did here. With a running time of approx. 10 minutes, you are guaranteed to be transported in the space where only the supreme devotion exists, i swear I was in that space. I strongly urge you to explore this and wait till the song changes its pace, it will sit in you ‘run’ playlist, I bet. My pick of the season.

Khaki Banda –  This power packed song by Umair and Ahmed Jehanzeb pretty much did its job well. The lyrics were sharp, piercing and a commentary on the state of us humans that hasn’t changed since ages. Just listen to Ahmed towards the end (karda phirey part) and then quietly go and listen to this song which he sang long time back that pretty much besotted all of us. The man has got range and sur.

Dilruba na raziWhat’s a Coke Studio season without a good Pashtu fused song? While I did have issues with the arrangement, Zeb’s beautiful singing and Faakhir’s energy ensured I start swaying even though I was frowning. What can you do when Ustad Tanweer is hell bent on getting us all dance-y? Super effort!

Ala baali – Fantastic percussions are a given with CS-Pakistan. This season, however, it was a task to keep the sound from overpowering the vocals. Nirmal Roy and Jabar Abbas were clearly audible and were amazing to say the least. Doesn’t Jabbar sound like a soothing Sukhwinder? That ‘habibi’ vibe was tantalising and the Bulleh shah part grows on you as well, a pretty pretty song!

Aaya lariye – Granted that this song is quite distracting with lighting all over the place. Still, I picked this one up because it touches an oft ignored genre. Rufi was superlative and Meesha was naughty, and God those ‘jijja’ calls were infectious! The brass band (from M-Audio keyboard) played a key part in lending a celebratory character to the song.

Shamaan pai gaiyaan/kee dam da bharosa – Kashif, who is the runner up of Pakistani Idol  2013, has a voice that is soothing, and thankfully the song he was given exploits this trait very well. When he goes ‘haar ke baye gaiyyan’, he means it because it pinches your heart as well. That said, Rachel enters like a diva with a call that is measured, painful and malicious. Don’t miss the way Rachel swoops in at 5:24 in the song along with the electrical guitar and changes the mood of the song. Pain, Malice and Melody…perfectly mixed.

Main rastaThe only song of Noori in the list and the one that wasn’t trying too hard to be everything to everyone. I absolutely loved the funk of the song and the way entire house came around was a treat to see and hear. Junaid has a natural ‘chest’ voice and he uses it well and Momina, well she was quite good here as well.

Lagi bina/Chal mele nu chaliyeThere are artists that made us Indians sit up and take notice of Coke Studio Pakistan. Saein Zahoor and Sanam Marvi top that list. This soulful song saw both of them collaborate and boy did it work! We hear songs where they say Bulleh Shah danced, I think Bulleh Shah danced because he heard Zahoor sing. Do check this one out!

Nawazishein/Tera wo pyarWhen Shuja Haider fused his two songs (which you can hear here and here) asking Asim and Momina to do the honors, we got a soulful romantic song that might be accused of being too mushy, but hey! If we can hear a ‘typical one sided lover song from Bhatts’ filmed on Ranbir Kapoor and go all weak in the knees, this one deserves a listen and a repeat one at that. The string section of this song is where magic happens in addition to pretty much everything that contributed to the song.

Tu Kuja mann kujaIn this remarkable song, we saw Rafaqat Ali Khan sahab with Shiraz Uppal and lovely humnawas sway us the way only pure devotion can. I think this was Shiraz’s best composition of the season.

Nimma nimmaSabir Zafar’s words are matched by the vulnerable vocals of Shani Arshad, who has also composed this song. With Coke Studio-Pakistan, touching varied genres are a given and this one is a call to mother and a very melodious one at that.

Rang – Amjad Sabri’s last outing that was complimented exquisitely by Rahat Fateh ali khan and humnawas. The highlight would always remain the ‘allah’ call by Sabri that used to be a Sabri signature in their days.

Observations  – Somehow, I got a feeling that everyone was trying too hard to give it all. Hire an exotic instrument, get a good singer, and let us all do this together. The cohesive sound was totally missing from this season and after a stellar season 8, it hurt a lot. That and those distracting lights. If you hire a group of chimpanzees and give them laser pointers, they would do a better job than what studio did this time round. It *is* important because Coke Studio is as much a video property as audio. So spare me ‘focus-on-music’ argument. Look at how the studio evolved from season 1 (where one could see cameraman running all over) and you would understand how the visual theatrics were never a part of the studio’s presentation. Subtlety has been forcefully evicted. Noori was probably overwhelmed by the opportunity and wanted to reinforce their presence in almost every song that was given to them. It was quite distracting and put me off. I loved paar channa de but the way Noori made a mess of the song towards the end put me off and it remained a song that you would love humming, but would just like to see it getting over when you hear the Coke Studio Version. Ali Sethi was given just one song, that is wrong on so many levels!

Applause – The biggest plus was the new backup vocalists and we saw them being put to good use. In fact, one of the reasons of picking nimma nimma was the way Shahab Hussain participated in the song, enveloping the feel so well. Hussain was one of the backup vocalists of the season. Also, I absolutely loved the house-band and guest musicians. It was so nice to see Amir Azhar make a return after we saw him in this song, years ago in the studio. Javed Iqbal sahib was the ‘head’ of string section, and boy, did he make his presence felt! We also liked the varied genres the studio touched, ranging from a  call to the mother, a lover taunting her innocent better half,  to a marriage dance song done just right. All the singers were top class, to say the least. 

Looking ahead – We don’t know what Rohail Hyatt is doing these days but he really needs to be engaged again because the overall vibe of the season wasn’t promising at all. Granted that Strings were splendid in season 8 but they have managed 3 seasons so far and all we remember is  just one out of that.  The cohesive sound, subtlety and experiments Rohail did are sorely missing.

Let us know your favourites!

– Rohwit 

(ps- you can find individual episode reviews on my blog – Almostareview.wordpress.com)

I heard about the tale of Saheba and Mirza for the first time, in my favorite song from Jab Tak Hai Haan – Heer. Guess who wrote that. Now, If the first name they splash on the screen is Gulzar’s, you know the makers are serious about their sh*t. The music of Mirzya is out and while I try hard to keep myself equanimous, pardon me if my feelings jump out of the keyboard and infect you with some enthusiasm and drunken stupor. Read on!

Mirzya

The album contains 15 songs and some are in the form of less than a minute of powerful recitations – composed and voiced by Daler Mehndi. What is clearly a storytelling technique, in these tracks, not only you understand the character, you get a feel of particular situations as well. Take the Yeh wadiyan for example,  the track is screaming ‘flashback flashback!’ But even then you would want to play it again. We get these lines in the title song as well.  In Mirza se darre and Mera mirza sher, the way Daler Mehndi soars, you will have goosebumps, the fearlessness of youth in two lines. What attitude! In Lahoo luhaan – Daler slightly errs in the beginning but paints the gory detail about a bloody fight that went on till the fighter started losing his ‘havaas’.  Even if Punjabi is not your language, fear not – it will make you soar nevertheless because Mehndi does NOT falter in Puchh na pende or Phaa paye nain fact, in the latter, hear how resigned is Daler when he says – Tu phir na jammi, Mirjiya. You feel the pain, you lose hope along with the singer. He has already won. Now, on to the songs of the album..

  • Mirzya – Sain Zahoor does what Sain Zahoor does. He sweeps you off your feet and S.E.L. bombard you with perhaps the most vibrant track of the album. There is a goosebumps gooseFOREST inducing Akhtar Chanal Zahiri as well and if this wasn’t enough, we get the ever so dependable Nooran Sisters and Daler mehndi jazzing things up and all this under 4 minutes. I kid you not, I couldn’t go beyond this track for a while. A bombastic start to the album!
  • Teen Gawaah Hain – Notwithstanding the earthy beginning of the song where we hear Sain Zahoor calling out, the tune of this love ballad reminded me of ‘mere mann ye bata de tu’ from KANK. Having said that, it’s what young love sounds like. A playful guitar stealing a glance while the constant pace eases your mind, making everything dreamy and slow. In antra, hear how Siddhartha leaves the last word of the first line, making you feel his passion. Listen to his ‘khol’ in the line ‘aasman khol ke dekhne do’ and you will know what I mean. A pretty pretty song! (I kept thinking the back up vocalists will break into ‘love will find a way’)
  • Chakora – God only knows why I wanted to talk to my dealer the moment this song started. It is comforting to see Bollywood waking up to Akhtar Chanal Zahiri, and not only that, using him well! Add some trippy beats to his recital or perhaps overlap him while someone is singing and you would probably want to make love to a joint near you. Mame Khan and Suchismita Das lend the ‘bollywood folk’ feel to the tune in their own cute style. Stunning song!
  • Aave re hichki – The opening 37 odd seconds of Esraj (or sarangi), is a class act by S.E.L., not to say that the song isn’t good otherwise. The song has fuses a bit of dervish-like sound on a simple free flowing tune. A minor grouse – You don’t go ‘hitchhh’ when you get ‘hichki’, you go ‘hikkk’. Clearly, Gulzar sahab wasn’t present in the recording.
  • Hota hai – I am sure it is just me but a ‘tun tuna’ start from Nooran Sisters put me off…and then I heard Sain Zahoor and Akhtar Chanal Zahiri (ACZ) together and it all made sense. The fantastic beat pattern of the song that stops to accommodate Sarangi and meets ACZ’s solid voice is to be heard to be believed. In addition to these powerhouses, I absolutely loved Shankar Mahadevan’s voice towards the end. For the uninitiated, please do check out Sain Zahoor and Akhtar Chanal Zahiri independently as well. They have brought studios down across the border. The brute force in the song makes you want to break the law, do the impossible and be weirdly proud of it all. A fantastic song by all means and well, I changed my mind. The ‘tun tuna’ is not all that bad afteral…..TRAAA!
  • Ek nadi thee – Thank God someone gave K. Mohan a tune that is not very ‘K Mohan’ if you know what I mean. All his songs have been sounding similar to me lately. This one is a glorious exception. Intimate claps and a bonfire like improv singing (of course with sexy strings) has made this quite a different song from the usual ‘unplugged and reprise’ like songs we come across.
  • Doli re doli – Who in their right mind would do a babul song with a slow jazz like treatment? S.E.L. did it here and boy, does it sound delicious. It has me conflicted whether I am supposed to be sad or happy, and I love the song for that. Clearly an example of what S.E.L. can achieve if the makers are willing to let them be.
  • Kaaga – It is a fine feeling when you see the artists you have been rooting for since long, go ‘mainstream’. I shrieked like a teenager when I heard Sain Zahoor and Akhtar Chanal Zahiri and here in kaaga, we hear the flawless Kaushiki Chakraborty with breathtaking strings and brass! The sound towards the end of the track can be so easily mistaken for a ‘superhero climax theme’. That said, I wish there is a longer version of this song hiding somewhere because it would be soul satisfying, just like this one is.
  • Mirziya theme – I might not reach out to the theme to play it again and again but I blame songs of the album for that. You are too consumed by the time you reach this track. It fills the album well, is no ‘Udaan theme’ by any measure, but is still good. Sarangi and flute. Enough said.

Most of the film music albums this year have been remarkably impervious to the flow of creativity and freshness. If this album makes you want to stop everyone, and make them listen to this, don’t worry, You are not acting strange. Mirzya’s music is *the* real thing and not an oddity in template infested bollywood that requires quotes around it as if it was a strange thing. I don’t know how the film would be, I don’t care how the film would be. I am just celebrating what would easily be the film music album of the year. This is what fundamentally good things sound like. Hear Hear!!

I wish there was an option to buy an album twice on iTunes!

Rohwit

(PS – To give credit where it’s due, I absolutely love T-series for including the artist credits in the jukebox link. You can access it here)

Illustrated Book Cover - Plain

‘Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher’ is a Sci-fi comic by Zohaib Kazi. He has been associated with Pakistan’s Coke Studio for a long time. I have never come across a  music album that is cut for a comic, so it was obvious that I was too keen to explore it. What I found next has taken the shape of the write up below.

Have you ever heard the sound of faith when it tells you that you can fly? That is exactly the feeling you get when you hear Sara Haider’s alaap in the intro song of the album. It is hardly 2 minutes but be rest assured these 2 minutes would make your spirits soar.

Samra Khan doesn’t get lost in the  geek talk that introduces Wake up/Jaago. Partly in English, the song really didn’t affect me much singing wise. Of course the tracks of the album are meant largely to further the narrative, but I feel this composition would have been better without the Hindi/Urdu lyrics. Just the background radio would have been enough. In Awaaz/the last radiowave, Jaffer Zaidi and Samra khan try to merge with the sound and the effort is good in pieces. I did feel there was no need to ‘compose’ this into a song because just the music would have left a larger effect on the senses.

Black coffee starts with addictive keyboard notes that will play in your head long after the song is over. Sung by the solid Jaffar Zaidi, it has all the qualities of a ‘never-leaves-the-playlist’ song. Jaffar’s voice has a heavy vibe to it and this composition uses the same for good effect. The Santoor towards the end is smartly used! In the reprise version of this song, we hear Abbas Ali Khan teaming up with Sara Haider, and a bit more complex music arrangement at play. Sara is top class though she doesn’t get much to do in the song but like me, most probably you would also be indecisive to pick the favorite from the two versions. What competes with Jaffar’s rock solid singing is an overall celan rendition  and that alaap from Khan towards the end of his version.

Orange sung by Samara Khan has all ingredients of a 90s pop song and with the help of good back up vocals, the song breezes through. I might not go back to the song again but it has a likable quality to it, the way we (90s kids) remember Ace of base today.  In Mehr Jaan, you would hear Zoe Viccaji giving us one of those late night, ‘by-the-guitar’ songs that talk of longing,  and make you miss your loved one who has left you with a song on your lips. Like always, Zoe is superb. Kinara makes you forget the sadness of Mehr Jaan. With Sara Haider teasing her way along with an equally tantalizing guitar by Omran Shafique, it’s very easy to fall in love with the song. A simple, melodic song that is a perfect fit for slow dances as well as a long drive.

Listen to Nida Khurram in Raat Bazaar when she goes ‘saadey libaas mein, sawan naraaz hai kyu?‘ and you would wish this track was longer than 2 minutes. A track that is arranged light, but decorated with words so rich, you would hit ‘repeat’ more number of times than you would be able to count.

In Death Of Mehr-Un-Nisa, you would be greeted with complex music for about a minute and then Sara Haider soars. You would be excused to think that this track would probably be floating in a lot of music with nothing memorable to hum, yet by the time it ends, you would be humming along with Sara…’Tu rooth ke na jaa, meri jaan‘. There is an element of finality in the song that of course resonates with the serious track name, still, a good song.

With tune largely similar to Mehrjaan, Mehr-Un-Nisa Falls in love is a bit more spaced out composition and thereby sounds more insightful. Of course, the solid vocals of Jaffar Zaidi make it impossible to not sink in the song. I absolutely loved the way the song is set. It’s like someone is sitting right next to you with a Piano, letting his fingers wander on the keys the way his life has moved over the years. The sense of calm in the song is reassuring and has an abstract feel to it.

Butterfly In Space is a bit too techno for my liking but it didn’t hurt hearing faint samples of Rahat Ali and Zara Madani. The flute is the winner in this track, more like a glue that keeps the central tune soothing. Not a bad track if you like fusion. Back up vocals are good too. On a related note, I would never understand why Zara Madani is not doing more international projects?

Overall a fantastic set of songs which you must surely check. Don’t let iTunes fool you into believing that the music was released in December 2015. The album was available to Indian iTunes from May 2016.

(Disclaimer – Zohaib shared these songs (not the comic) with me in December 2015. Why is this a disclaimer? I don’t know, we felt like we must tell you. 🙂

Written, Composed, Arranged & Produced by Zohaib Kazi
Recorded by Zohaib Kazi

You can hear the album here

Complete artist credits here