Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

Fusion or confusion?


coke1

A R Rahman and Suchi at the opening episode of Season 3 of Coke Studio @ MTV

NO, no, it’s not an original headline or thought, but a question that has been asked for many years, mainly by opponents of the genre. Is fusion music an innovative and creative genre, or is it just plain, thoughtless confusion? The truth is that both aspects may be true. Fusion music can be highly inventive and enjoyable, if created properly. If not, it can be a complete mess.

Though one has seen some excellent fusion concerts and heard some incredible recordings over the years, the question came to mind yet again, after watching the opening part of Season 3 of Coke Studio @ MTV over the weekend. The producers obviously had a coup, in that they roped in A R Rahman for this episode, creating the hype that he was singing with his sisters Rayhanah and Issrath, and also doing a number with classical maestro Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan.

At least twice in the show, one had the feeling that the word ‘fusion’ was misused, even abused. The first song ‘Zariya’ featured Jordanian singer Farah Siraj, Nepali Buddhist nun Ani Choying, percussionist Sivamani and a sweet-sounding choir singing a tune that Rahman’s been regularly rehashing since 1994. All of them performed well, but seemed to be going off in completely different tangents. The song seemed all over the place.

The second instance was the final number ‘Jagao mere des ko’, with singer Suchi sounding smooth and Rahman totally uncomfortable in Bengali — that too on lines written by the great Rabindranath Tagore. What messed it up was the climax, with Suchi singing Hindustani sargams, Blaaze prancing around and doing rap, and Sivamani jumping in with Carnatic konnakol (spoken percussion syllables)— all at the same time. Somewhere in between, guitarist Prasanna played a few fancy riffs that came in from nowhere. All the musicians were trying to prove that they were perfect at their art, and the end result was a jarring mess.

To be fair, ‘Naan Yen’, with sister Rayhanah, and ‘Aao balma’, with Ghulam Mustafa Khan and guitarist Prasanna, were more coherent. But the other songs seemed like a desperate attempt in creating some random, directionless fusion, or unworldly world music. Playing to the gallery, very obviously.

SADLY, that’s what a lot of fusion music is now turning out to be. Playing to the gallery. Whether it’s Coke Studio, a multi-artiste concert jam attended by the hip and happening, or a club gig aimed at the whisky-swigging hoity-toity, this whole genre is slowly turning out to be one of bizarre theatre. There are exceptions, no doubt, but those are few and far between.

To analyse what has led to this state of affairs, let’s see how the genre originated and developed in India.

In the global perspective, the word ‘fusion’ was first used for the amalgamation of jazz and rock in the 1960s. Jazz was waning in popularity, and the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Bob Dylan had taken the world by storm. To attract more audiences, jazz musicians like guitarist Larry Coryell, saxophonist Charles Lloyd, flautist Herbie Mann and vibraphonist Dave Pike started adding rock inflections in their music, but it was after the success of trumpeter Miles Davis’s 1970 album ‘Bitches Brew’, featuring an ensemble cast of musicians, that the term ‘jazz-rock’ became popular. Bands like guitarist John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, keyboardist Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, and the outstanding Weather Report were at the helm of the jazz-rock movement. Whenever the term fusion was used abroad, it meant a mix of jazz and rock.

Among Indians, though Ravi Shankar had collaborated with violinist Yehudi Menuhin on the album ‘West Meets East’ in 1966, it was more of a musical dialogue, with the musicians conversing with each other, rather than engaging in any fusion. ‘Raga Jazz Style’ by music directors Shankar-Jaikishen, and ‘Raga Rock’ by saxophonist Braz Gonsalves, keyboardist Louiz Banks and singer Pam Crain, broke new ground. Sitar player Ananda Shankar created waves abroad, blending Indian and western music.

The first popular instance of fusion was the mid-1970s group Shakti, featuring McLaughlin, violinist L Shankar, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and ghatam wizard Vikku Vinayakram. Both in studio albums like ‘Natural Elements’ and ‘A Handful of Beauty’, and at live shows, they fused Indian and western melodies with Hindustani and Carnatic rhythms to create some magical music. The term ‘Indo-jazz fusion’ was born.

Other musicians started getting into the fray. Louiz Banks and singer Rama Mani released a path-breaking album ‘City Life’, under the band name Sangam. In 1984, Carnatic violinist L Subramaniam did the brilliant album ‘Conversations’ with the legendary violinist Stephane Grappelli. In 1985, L Shankar did ‘Song for Everyone’ with Zakir Hussain, saxophonist Jan Garbarek and percussionist Trilok Gurtu, and the following year, Zakir Hussain teamed up with McLaughlin, Garbarek and flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia on ‘Making Music’. Tunes from these albums were played stylishly at concerts, and the ‘collective improvisation’ concept used in jazz was put to good use in Indian fusion as well.

The good fusion albums kept coming in at regular intervals. Mohan veena exponent Vishwa Mohan Bhatt did ‘A Meeting by The River’ with American guitarist Ry Cooder, and mandolin wizard U Srinivas made the phenomenal ‘Dream’ with Canadian producer Michael Brook. Ilayaraja released ‘How to Name It’ and ‘Nothing But Wind’. Flautist Ronu Majumdar recorded ‘Moonlight Whispers’ with guitarist Larry Coryell, and ‘Ekatman’ with Louiz Banks. Trilok Gurtu released many great albums fusing global sounds with Indian rhythms, and the Indo-Swedish group Mynta, featuring tabla maestro Fazal Qureshi, released some magical stuff. More recently, santoor player Rahul Sharma has released a string of albums blending classical music with western sounds,

Till the mid-1990s, most fusion was instrumental. There were, of course, attempts to have vocal forms of fusion music, with Delhi band Indian Ocean blending Indian folk sounds with rock and jazz. However it was only in 1996 when Colonial Cousins Hariharan and Leslie Lewis released their debut album, that the style of ‘vocal fusion’ became popular. In Pakistan, Junoon, Mekaal Hasan Band and Fuzon blended western elements with traditional styles.

Indian Ocean moved from underground to mainstream, and Shakti returned as Remember Shakti, this time making sure it also had a vocalist in Shankar Mahadevan. Many subsequent bands like Advaita, Swarathma and more recently Agam took Indo-fusion to newer levels.

Though the purists mostly opposed any fusion exercise, the genre found a market in the younger crowd, which had grown up on western music, and yet wanted something Indian about the sound. These people would attend shows by Remember Shakti and Indian Ocean, and come out dazed. At the same time, they would not be enthralled by a purely classical concert, mainly because they never understood or bothered about the nuances.

AS long as the art and purity of playing were given prominence, fusion sounded like music to the ears. But somewhere down the line, the gimmickry and cacophony began coming in.

This happened mostly at concerts. Very often, musicians would see the crowd going ga-ga over some energetic phrase, and in order to keep them happier, they would get involved in more musical calisthenics. Worse, some musicians actually began thinking they were rock stars, and started behaving like them on stage, just to attract attention. They had their online fan clubs too, who would support them no matter what they did, and tear down anyone who opposed them.

Soon, the sound of fusion changed. Traditional Indian instruments were upgraded in electronic avatars, the once-romantic sitar would be played at ear-shattering volume, drummers started banging on suitcases, and singers would randomly rattle off breathless sargams to impress their gullible followers. Concert organisers started using different permutations and combinations of the same 10 or 12 ‘star performers’. It became a ‘tamasha’.

Even as all this was happening, ‘world music’ began influencing Indian musicians. Many of them thought it would be fashionable to mix various forms of music, even though the basic techniques used in them were vastly different. Event organisers, corporate sponsors and television honchos came up with the idea of fusing music from different regions of India, whether or not the styles matched. Top artistes were paid grand fees, and since records were selling lower quantities anyway, they would agree to do anything. And since television provided the maximum reach, the whole fusion jamboree moved to this new platform.

This is not to say that all fusion created over the past few years has been gimmicky or senseless. In fact, some excellent albums have been released. To take just three examples, we have had drummer Ranjit Barot’s ‘Bada Boom’, sitar player Ravi Chari’s ‘Crossing’ and guitarist Ravi Iyer’s ‘VRavi Guitar Fusion’. In each of them, different styles were blended subtly and artistically.

There have been some great concerts too, like the one at this year’s Abbaji tribute organised in memory of tabla legend Ustad Allarakha. Here, Zakir Hussain, banjo expert Bela Fleck and bassist Edgar Meyer were joined by some talented percussionists, in one of the better fusion performances of recent times. A couple of years ago in Chennai, flautist Chaurasia, saxophonist George Brooks and harp player Gwyneth Wentink gave a memorable concert.

But as we said, such concerts have become more of an exception. To take one classic example, when Remember Shakti got in mandolin player U Srinivas and kanjira exponent Selvaganesh around 1999-2000, in place of violinist Shankar and ghatam player Vinayakram, audiences got to hear a new sound. With Shankar Mahadevan eventually joining in on vocals, a new dimension was added. Though old-timers preferred the old Shakti, the new avatar played to packed galleries. Sadly, the gimmickry soon came in, and so did the repetition. At later shows, the musicians seemed more interested in showing their individual virtuosity, than in creating some evolving music. The earlier finesse was definitely missing.

What one can say from all this is that there has been good fusion, and there has been terrible fusion. Unfortunately, there seems to be more of the latter of late. And the only people who can control that are the musicians themselves. They should know where to draw the line between the artistic and the absurd. Yes, on many occasions, their decisions are guided by public tastes and the demands of organisers and sponsors, but at the end of the day, they should take the ownership and responsibility for what they create.

At the moment, one doesn’t know what the rest of Coke Studio Season 3 will sound like, except that they will have different musicians like Ram Sampath, Salim-Sulaiman, Amit Trivedi, Clinton Cerejo and Hitesh Sonik. But since the series is known to try and randomly blend various styles, often in the name of musical ‘unity in diversity’, one only hopes one sees more subtle and stylish fusion over the next few episodes.

Blend, by all means, but use the right ingredients in the right quantities, and with the right flavours. And don’t go about murdering great traditional music in the name of fusion, innovation and broadmindedness.

(NOTE: Two months after I wrote this piece, I heard an absolutely brilliant Indo-fusion album ‘Cosmic Chant’ by Rajeev Raja Combine, featuring flautist Rajeev Raja. Have reviewed that separately on October 18, 2013)

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Comments on: "Fusion or confusion?" (45)

  1. i agree TOTALLY…..

  2. akshat taneja said:

    Totally rubbish !
    Both the songs are really progressive in nature and have superb arrangements.
    Open your mind and ears a bit man.
    I would’ve said you are deaf but that would be a little too rude.
    Cheers!

  3. Music critic said:

    Fuck u ….u dont have sense of music..
    A.R.Rahman RoXxX in coke studio.
    All songs are awesome.

  4. First I need to say that I am card carrying member of Illayaraja fan club so you can accordingly temper my statement when I say that I was also impressed with music put out by Rahman in Coke Studio 3.

    The showmanship was high but musically not very much was done. The Tamil song ‘naan yen’ was more like Rahman taking the style of his ‘kizhakku seemaiyile’ and mixing it with some standard stuff. The production values were great, background singers good looking and Sivamani his usual showman self but musically nothing interesting happened I would say.

    Nice intro to the fusion world and its evolution. I haven’t followed fusion too closely but yes, this was no where near the fusion which a band like Shakthi was able to get in their early albums.

    The other type of fusion is what Illayaraja does. The fusion is so good that you don’t think there is any fusion at all !!! That Illayaraja never figures when fusion is spoken about is his success.

    • Dear Suresh
      Thanks for your mail. Honestly, even I am a fan of Ilayaraja, though I have heard only limited number of ssongs in Tamil and Telugu (I am a Kannadiga, so whatever he’s done in Kannada is also brilliant). If I were to mention, the Ilayaraja fusion, I would also have to talk of RD Burman, Shankar Jaikishen, a whole lot of others. That’s a completely different area. But there’s no doubt that Ilayaraja created some of the most breathtaking music ever.
      Thanks
      Naren

    • RajaSirTheGreat said:

      Yes a path breaking brand new 2013 illaiyaraja fusion right here –

  5. Make that “I was also not impressed”

  6. I have seen a lot of people stuck with the old style of fusion and who cannot accept anything new , or criticise anything new attempted….are u sure you are not one among them ??? Some times music is beyond what u can understand and at times people like me enjoy those tracks coz the attempt taken can be appreciated coz the track hasn’t appealed to u bcoz the composition is too much to understand, not bcoz its bad.
    Forget A.R.Rahman has an oscar , you can still criticise his tracks regardless of that….but to be frank i could feel a little bit of racism/hate in your words. Correct me if I’m wrong.
    Your taste seems to be on subtle tracks ,where everything is put forward clearly and in a simple way, but i hope there will be few ppl like me who likes heaviness and to search for new elements in each and every track !!!

    • Dear Harish
      Thanks for your response. I guess it’s a sensitive and controversial topic, so each of us will have our own views. I respect your opinion, and your effort in writing a honest mail.
      To answer your queries, I too like experimental music, as long as it’s done properly (though there again what I feel improper may be different from what others feel). That’s why I have specially mentioned albums by Ranjit Barot, Ravi Chari and Ravi Iyer, and also bands like Advaita, Swarathma and Agam. Changing for the sake of changing is what I am not in favour of. In fact, a couple of Bengalis who read my views were totally aghast at what was done to a Tagore song which had a completely different flavour.
      Regarding your point of racism/ hate, let me assure you that there is none of that. I’ve loved some of Rahman’s work – his early stuff, his Tamil songs, Lagaan, Swades, to an extent even Raanjhanaa, so many others, Warriors of Heaven and Earth etc etc. If you read my reviews of Jab Tak Jai Jaan and Raanjhana, it’s pretty obvious that I have nothing against him. I also came in his defence when someone tried to accuse him of lifting an English song to create ‘Challa’, which I wrote in my blog about Amit Trivedi.
      Hope that answers your queries. Music, like all art forms, is very subjective, and each person has a different view. There have been people who have loved my article, and there have been others you have said I have no music sense at all. Either way, I welcome healthy discussion, and thanks for writing.
      Naren

  7. It takes courage and determination to take up a stand.Indians have a herd mentality and will never stand up against what may not seem right. In today’s world ARR is almost god and what you have written may seem like blasphemy.
    But it is true-and I agree with you totally.

    • Thanks Indira. I agree with you on the herd mentality bit. But I guess it’s important that such opinions be voiced too. There have obviously been very diverging reactions to the article. But the good thing is that there are many people who think on similar lines
      Naren

  8. This Music totally transports me into heavenly abode. If u dint like like the music fair enough.. maybe you are not bound to enjoy music…God Bless you!

  9. Chandra Sekar said:

    Really useful information on the evolution of ‘fusion’. Thanks for that.

    I am surprised to see that Ilaiyaraaja’s “How to Name It?” and “Nothing but Wind” are not mentioned in the list of fusion albums. I think both are landmark albums in the history of Indian non film music. Talking about Ilaiyaraaja, in this context, will not require talking about RDB and S-J as I don’t think they have done any non-film album that is comparable with this one. Correct me If I am wrong.

    Few other albums that warrant a mention here (I could think of while writing this down) are Raga Saga by the Chennai String Quartet, Confluence by Richard Clayderman and Rahul Sharma and Madhirakshi by Anil Srinivasan (Piano) and Sikkil Gurucharan (Classical Vocal).

    I partly agree on your opinion of the Coke Studio Episode of ARR. Personally felt it lacked depth. No complaints on the his Bengali rendition, as the effort showed. I expected a much wider role for Prasanna. Sadly, he was just another member of the band except for a few riffs here and there.

    Zariya ‘sounded’ good. But again lacked soul. Ennile Maha Oliyo and Soz O Salaam were better in terms of content and Aao Balma to an extent. But nothing mind blowing or path breaking.

    Jagao Mere Des Ko was probably better than the rest and the pick of the episode, but for the forced, just for the sake of it, rap and konnakol.

    Nevertheless, I do look forward to Ram Sampath’s episode (based on the snippets they showed towards the end) and would love to see how the collaboration with Aruna Sairam (featuring in 2 tracks, I guess) and wife Sona Mohapatra (I love ‘Jiya Laagena’ from Talaash!).

    • Dear Praveen
      Thanks for your feedback. I guess while mentioning so many albums, some got left out, including landmark ones. Unfortunately, have never seen the Ilayaraja albums in Mumbai stores, or even in Bangalore. Guess they were released in the late 80s, and were not i stock later. Yes, Aruna Sairam should be worth watching. Saw her at a show in Mumbai some months ago.. she was amazing
      Regards
      Naren

      • Chandra Sekar said:

        I see that you have updated your post with ‘How to Name It’ and ‘Nothing but Wind’..Did you get a chance to listen to them? Just curious..

      • Hi A friend sent me one YouTube link and one audio file. He has a.large collection of Ilayaraja. Just two tracks but loved them. One.lesser known album.is A.Symphonic Fable by.Vijay Raghav Rao. Have u heard it?

      • Chandra Sekar said:

        Thats nice..coincidentally I am picking up both those albums for a friend over the weekend. It has been re-released under a different label. Let me know if you need a set I can get them sent over. Another crossover album that you may want to try is Ilaiyaraaja’s Thiruvasagam, Its a selected set of Tamil hymns written by a Saint-poet Manickavasagar, set to tune and backed by a symphonic orchestra. Its a wonderful listen too.

        I have not tried A Symphonic Fable. Any links from where I can buy/listen?

      • Hello Good to hear from you. Hope all well. Yes it would be great if you could send the two albums. Will transfer the amount into your bank account. Shall send my address.through a separate mail. Also request you to go through the rest of my blog and let me know ur feedback and areas for improvement. This was a sensitive topic and hence there were extreme reactions, ranging from the very positive to the very negative. Happens. However, the idea of this blog is to talk of various types of music in an honest manner. Would be great if you keep in touch Naren

  10. Firstly, AR Rahman never said that he was doing “fusion”. So fusion as a topic is digression. Even the likes of Shakti etc never called themselves as Fusion music makers… Fusion I feel is the most abused word amongst music connoisseurs. A jazz interlude or a Carnatic progression in a film song is also theoretically fusion. Being coherent, communicating through different genres, exchanges etc are very subjective. All I can take back is that u didn’t like stuff, while a lot of folks including me loved it!! And boy, don’t bring another “fusion” discussion. Even the likes of Zakir or LS or a Nusrat or even a Menuhin would hate it to brand it so…. They like Rahman did make music from heart. Period.

    • Thanks for your feedback. I respect your opinion, but only wish to clarify that I am in no way biased against ARR. My earlier reviews in this blog have been fair, and I also came out against those who said he copied an Eagle Eye Cherry song to make ‘Challa’. I have admired him for the good things he has done, but in this case, it didn’t work for me. Likewise, I know people who loved the Coke Studio songs, and I know many who didn’t.
      Regarding fusion, again it’s a controversial subject. Essentially, fusion is the blending of two or more diverse genres. Some call it crossover, some call it innovative music, some call it experimenting. I have just stuck to the broader sense..

      • The issue is not about you being appreciative of Rahman’s earlier works or not, being supportive and all… It is just about this opinion of yours and the way you have put up bringing this whole ‘fusion’ aspect. You don’t like and that’s the way.. it is just as simple. I respect it. The whole article of abusing ‘fusion music’, rehashing his own stuff is like so lame. Anyways, I loved Soz o salaam and Ennilo Maha Oliyo…. The former being beautifully arranged, the aura he creates with the ambience and chord progressions. The latter being so deep into Hemavathi Raaga with brilliant support by Prasanna. Anyways, its subjective… My only advice is, be a bit responsible before you write your opinions. As people like Rahman are rare, they seldom talk or rather their work does the talking.

      • Dear Sriram
        Thanks again for your mail. Once again, let me clarify that I respect your opinion. Would also like to say that I have received both kinds of responses. There have been many people who have appreciated what I said, and there have been many who haven’t. So obviously I don’t stand alone, and I have received support from many people who happen to think like me. It’s a subjective issue, after all, and just like I may not be necessarily right, I may not be necessarily wrong either.
        I have been writing on music for over 18 years now, and have gained a reputation of being blunt yet honest about my views. There have been many, including some of the senior musicians, who have appreciated this, and there have been many who have disagreed with me. So obviously, I write with a responsibility that is my own, and the last thing I’d want is to be called irresponsible or biased.
        Am sure you too, being passionate and knowledgable about music, will stand by your views, and you are absolutely justified in thinking the way you think. It’ll be interesting to debate other issues regarding music as well – in some places we may agree, and in some we may not. But it’s important for people like us to talk, and learn from each other.
        regards
        Naren

  11. And dude, ZariyA chorus… Rehashed?? Seriously?? There is a strong bias that I felt by the tone of your sentence. I felt it had beautiful chords, arrangements and sounded ethereal. The great thing about these guys is that they care a damn… They are not scared at any levels to create such an amalgamation. U didn’t like it… I am ok with it, but bringing in a lame “fusion rules” and some baseless words just don’t help the pains of your writing this biased article.

  12. Hey Naren. It’s so nice to hear a differing opinion especially when it comes to A.R.Rahman. A lot of folks believe just because it’s Rahman (Saar) like Sachin Tendulkar (Saar) or Rajni (Saar) nothing can go sour in their work. So often a “Jai Ho” is not necessarily a “Jai Ho” moment in music and people don’t get it. When a musician connects – it’s evident to all. Whether it be Mandolin Srinivasan, the Wadalis or Murra Lala Fafal! And a fruit salad works provided the fruits don’t work against each other by shouting out loud!

  13. Hi Narendra,

    Appreciate you putting your critical thoughts forward and ready to face the wrath of many ARR fans (like me) 🙂 I am not an expert but I follow music (all styles, all languages) and here’s my take. There are two types of listeners a) the musically conscious (you, the fans) & b) the ‘regulars’ (who appreciate a good hum-able song). For the latter, I can guarantee that none of the ARR Coke Studio songs would ever….ever resonate. For the first kind, there are two sub-types – the one who like to stick to traditional / ‘what has been heard’ / ‘it should change’ format of music and the other who of course like the traditional format but are also very eager to tickle their ears and experiment the musical senses with new formats/patterns. Now take this 2 perspectives and then evaluate the songs. It works for the latter, it doesn’t for the first types – and that’s fine! No harm done, nothing is to be proved here and no one is trying to. An opinion about a song or music is very personal and as per me the ratings should truly express that instead of penning with English words which eventually sound like a well-written intellectual blog. Consider rating based on these keywords/phrases – ‘Rubbish – what was the composer thinking??’ / ‘Didn’t work for me – but seems to be a talented composer’ / ‘Good – felt happy’ / ‘Oh my God!- I’m crying’ 🙂 I will be really keen to know your re-ratings (and be true to yourself) of the songs more than reading stanzas comparing ‘other great examples of fusion’. And just for my own curiosity I would like to know your rating (on the above lines) on ‘Bismillah’ (the Salim-Sulaiman composition).

    My conclusion, per me ARR is constantly trying to create new sounds and the sensibilities associated with those. Given his cali it should be damn easy for him to belt out your standard fusion numbers (also given that he has Sivamani, Prasanna with him)…..we have known ARR to tread the unknown – some don’t work, some really-really work while some open up ‘n’ number of opportunities for musicians to follow. I would tend to keep 4 of the 6 songs in this set of ARR CokeStudio Season 3 songs purely as ‘break from the normal routine’ category. Also the weakest composition in terms of my rating is ‘Jagaao mera desh’ – it gets a ‘Didn’t work for me – but seems to be a talented composer’.

    Regards,
    Gopal ‘the doosra’

    • Dear Gopal
      Thanks for the wonderful mail. I guess three of the songs were in the ‘Didn’t work for me’ category, and ‘Jagao mere desh’ in the ‘Rubbish – what was the composer thinking slot’. Naan yen and Aao balma made me feel good.
      Yes, most opinion on music is subjective, but have tried to look at the trend as a whole.
      And why do you call yourself Gopal ‘the doorsra”?? Anyway, thanks once again
      Naren

  14. Hi Mr. Kusnur,

    I am Ankit Duggal from Audio Aashram. We are a music company based in New Delhi. We really liked your article and I was wondering how I may get in touch with you.

    Please do let me know.

    Thank you.

  15. I am a bengali. I am hard core Rabindra Sangeet fan. But I have absolutely no complains with what Rahman has done with the poem. Of course there are bengalis who were against contemporarization / modernization of Rabindra Sangeet , they opposed to simple remake and remix . However there were bold musicians who decided to cross an extra mile and actually re work on tagore’s classic , add the modern flavor while keeping the essence same. If you may , refer to the works of Lopamudra , Ganner Oparey (a series based on this topic ) etc.

    What matters here , is perception. You have clearly made it understood that you don’t like this genre of music. But for most of us , we loved it. We simply loved the experimentation and we have been playing the songs in a loop since the day we got hold of it. Zariya was such a peaceful song. The bengali poem was remixed and re worked. Of course Rahman pronounciations could have better , but hey that poem is in pure Bengali. Colloquially bengali is very different today. As a Bengali , I dont think I could have pronounced those words with ease , but do you know , rahman did not make a single mistake in the language. His pronunciations was near perfect. Appreciate that man’s effort and respect for the language.

    you can and you are entitled to have your opinions. A.R. Rahman has his own share of experimentation and over experimentation. Some of his experiments have failed , but it is this spirit of experimentation that has kept Rahman so relevant even today. He cant give Roja every day.

    While I appreciate your calm responses to your audience , I do not agree to the over generalization you have made in your blog. A blogger has many responsibilities. While we do try to make a point or make our opinions knows , we should understand that many people are reading it. I personally would avoid over generalization and refrain from making frivolous statements.

    Regards
    Shouvik

    • Dear Shouvik
      Thanks for your mail, and for sharing your views. As you said, the matter is subjective. If you liked the version, I know a few modern-thinking Bengalis who felt he made a mess of the song. Again, everyone has their own opinion, and is entitled to them.
      Just wish to state that I have received divergent views for the article. There are many people who appreciated what I said, and many people who didn’t. And the people who appreciated it include some musicians and people who are deep into music. They have actually shared the blog and asked their friends to read it, and the response of their friends has been positive too. So it’s not that I am the only person ranting about the issue. And personally, I am all for experimentation as long as it’s done well. Guess I’ve made that clear enough in the article.
      You’re right about a blogger having many responsibilities. Having been a music journalist for over 18 years, I think one of the responsibilties of any writer/ blogger is to be honest and frank about one’s views, without getting personal against or being biased about anyone. No genuine writer will make frivolous statements just for the sake of it, specially when such statements may lead to his or her own condemnation. I have admired Rahman’s music in many cases, and there are times when I felt his has overdone things, or not done things right. I always believed he isn’t a great singer – getting the pronunciation right is one thing, and singing soulfully is another. He has a huge following no doubt, and my saying whatever won’t change anything. I too am a fan of many things he’s done.
      Just request you to respect my opinion, even if you think they are wrong. There are many who feel that someone had to say what I said, though I feel both sides are correct in their own ways.
      Yes, I bought some Lopamudra CDs on my last visit to Cal. She’s really good.
      Regards
      Naren

  16. Hey ,
    Nice article; came across it today!
    Came to know about Shakti group from this.

  17. Respectfully disagree boss..and listen to connections by AR.. such soulful music out of dramatic compulsions..

  18. Today Nearly after two years I came across this article. To tell you frankly I really don’t know Mr.Rahman when I was probably 10 or 12 years old in 1996. But,after that, the man with such long hair, playing synthesisers and the singers performing magical melodies in a concert telecasted on TV the then time I came to notice the man. from then, I became the fan of the melodies of Mr.Rahman. As I belong to a musical family from Kolkata, I came to appreciate the “New Sound” of. MR.rahman as I had never heard before such songs like Chhoti Si Asha, Roja Janeman, Kehna hi kya, Sunn Ri Sakhi, To Hi Re… IN 2015 now I am listening to his latest Kadhal Kanmani. remember the span of time from 1992 (when Roja came) to 2015 and going on. the only musician who deserved Oscar for Roja and knows naturally how to reign in the hearts of Millions and Billions… I think the world has given its verdict.He is the only one whom the legendary LATA MANGESHKAR defended from being criticised for Common Wealth Theme Song doesn’t need anyone like you as you are not musically enriched than the Goddess herself.If u want proof that Coke. STUDIO is an exceptional album please contact Shantanu Moitra or Amit Trivedi. they will definitely help you understand what Rahman had used on that very song. Please Pardon me if I am wrong.

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