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Archive for the ‘CD reviews – ghazal’ Category

CD review/ Zikr Tera — Roopkumar & Sunali Rathod


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Zikr Tera/ Roopkumar and Sunali Rathod

Genre: Ghazal

Label: Copyright Roopkumar Rathod; published by Turnkey Music & Publishing

Price: Rs 200

Rating: *** 1/2

OVER the past two decades or so, the ghazal duo of Roopkumar and Sunali Rathod has released some popular albums like ‘Ishaara’, ‘Mohabbat Ho Gayi’, ‘Mitwa’, ‘Khushboo’ and ‘Bazm-e-Meer’. To mark their 25th wedding anniversary, they have now come out with ‘Zikr tera’, which is also a tribute to the late Jagjit Singh.

Featuring eight ghazals, a highlight of the album is the choice of simple yet effective poetry, mostly penned by newer names. Each ghazal contains only three or four shers, which help the songs attain a certain compactness. The arrangements by Deepak Pandit are melodic, with some neat solos and interludes.

The collection has five solo songs by Roopkumar, two by Sunali and one duet in the opening song ‘Haathon mein haath’. Penned by Shakeel Azmi, it impresses with the matla “Kuchh is tarah se milein hum ki baat reh jaaye, Bichad bhi jaaye toh haathon mein haath reh jaaye”. The poet also writes Sunali’s ‘Aur kuchh din’, which begins, “Aur kuchh din yahaan rukne ka bahaana milta, Is naye shahar mein koi toh puraana milta.”

The young poet Saani Aslam contributes with ‘Zaroorat uski’, which goes, “Rukh badalte hue mausam si hai fitrat uski, kuchh dinon ke liye main bhi tha zaroorat uski” and the veteran Madan Pal writes ‘Sawaal sabne kiya’. Both songs are sung by Roopkumar.

A highlight of the album is Parveen Kumar Ashhk, who writes the last three ghazals. On Sunali’s ‘Abr guzra’, he shows a distinct influence of Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz in the opening sher “Abr guzra hai bekhabar kitna, zard hai aaska shajar kitna”. Both ‘Meri chaadar tha’ and ‘Zamin ko aye khuda’ have been sung by Roopkumar, with the latter having the wonderful lines, “Mohabbat mein badal jaaye siyaasat, Khuda Lahore Dilli se mila de.”

The rendition of the poetry is assisted by the clear diction of the singers. Among the musicians, Deepak Pandit shines on the violin, with Ashvin Srinivasan and Rakesh Chaurasia chipping in on flute, Sunil Das playing sitar, Heera Pandit handling tabla and percussion, and Sanjay Jaipurwale contributing on guitar.

On the whole, it’s a well-produced album, though one wishes there were a couple of duets more. That would have created a perfect balance.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding

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CD review/ Khamoshi Ki Aawaz — Pankaj Udhas


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Khamoshi Ki Aawaz/ Pankaj Udhas

Genre: Ghazal

Velvet Voices/ Rs 250

Rating: ****

EARLY last year, ghazal maestro Pankaj Udhas had released ‘Dastkhat’, an album containing the poetry of the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz. On his latest collection ‘Khamoshi Ki Aawaz’, he continues with the mood of good poetry, but instead of focusing on one writer, he chooses a mix of both traditional and modern names.

If Faiz’s style uses complex Urdu words and metaphors, and is normally followed by only those with a deep knowledge of the language, the poetry on the new album is much simpler, and thus easier to relate to among the masses. With a blend of inter-related thoughts and contrasting concepts, the seven-track CD has poetry of the highest calibre. Besides ghazals by Jigar Moradabadi, Mirza Ghalib, Parveen Shakir and Ahmed Faraaz, ‘Khamoshi Ki Aawaz’ has one charming nazm by Ajay Pandey ‘Sahab’.

The songs have an easy listening feel, dominated by pleasant keyboards, violin, sarangi and bansuri. Though one initially feels there isn’t much variety in the structure of the compositions, the tunes take their time to grow on you. Once they do, you feel like hearing them repeatedly.

The album begins with Moradabadi’s popular ‘Saqi ki har nigaah bal kha ke pee gaya’, once rendered by Mohammed Rafi. The lines ‘Sarmasti-e-azal mujhe jab yaad aa gayi, duniya-e-aitbaar ko thukra ke pee gaya’ are truly impressive.

Ghalib’s ‘Koi umeed bar nahin aati’ runs into almost nine minutes, and is one of the album’s highlights. If Udhas sings ‘Maut ka ek din mo-ayeeyan hai, neend kyon raat bhar nahin aati’ on this ghazal, Faraaz’s ‘Kuchh na kisise bolenge’ has a related concept with ‘Neend toh kya aayegi Faraaz, maut aati toh so lenge’.

The album has other interesting examples of lines on the same subject. If Faraaz has another ghazal ‘Is se pehle ke bewafa ho jaaye, kyon na ae-dost hum judaa ho jaaye’, Parveen Shakir’s ‘Teri khushboo ka pata karti hai’ has the sher ‘Dil ko us raah pe chalna hi nahin, jo mujhko tujhse judaa karti hai’.

The late Shakir, one of the popular female poets of Pakistan, also pens ‘Sundar komal sapnon ki baaraat guzar gayee janan’. Sung and arranged like a dreamy ballad, this number grows after a few replays.

The album concludes with Ajay Pandey’s ‘Sahab’s nazm ‘Ajab ek paagal si ladki hai’, which has lyrics that inspire the album’s title. While the poet initially writes ‘Tumhein khamoshiyon mein kya meri aawaaz aati hai, Andheron mein abhi tak kya mera chehra chamakta hai’, he later says, ‘Seher se shaam tak jeevan mein itna shor rehta hai, Na woh khamoshiyan baaki na ab woh aahatein baaki’.

Throughout the album, Udhas sticks to straightforward singing, keeping the feel light. Appropriate accompaniment is provided by arranger Sameer Nichani, violin/ swarleen player Rajendra Singh Sodha, flautist Rakesh Chaurasia, guitarist Ankur Mukherjee, sarangi exponents Sabir Khan and Dilshad Khan, and percussionist Nirmal Pawar. Everyone keeps things simple, and that’s the strength of ‘Khamoshi Ki Aawaz’.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding

CD review/ Naye Manzar — Anurag Sharma


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Naye Manzar/ Anurag Sharma

Genre: Ghazal

Label: Saregama HMV

Price: Rs 170

Rating: *** 1/2

I HAD heard ghazal singer Anurag Sharma at a private mehfil about 11 years ago, and then a year later at the Khazana festival organised by Pankaj Udhas. When I met him about a month ago, he mentioned that he had released his first album ‘Naye Manzar’ last year.

The collection has eight songs, six of which have been written by Anurag himself. Composed by him, most of the songs are in ‘chhoti behr’ (short metre), and the words are simple. Anurag has a pleasant voice and good enunciation, though one feels a few more classical nuances and a couple of songs with complex structures would have added depth. While one hears live presentation of the sitar, sarangi, bansuri, guitar and rabab, the percussion instruments have been programmed, and here too, a live rendition would have enhanced the feel and improvisation.

The highlight is the nazm ‘Tum mujhe yoon na pukaaro’, which concludes the album. Meant to be a tribute to the late Jagjit Singh and other departed legends, it echoes the feelings of a deceased artiste, especially on lines like “Main wahaan hoon jahaan sab kuchh nazar aata hai mujhe, roz hoti hai farishton se bhi baatein meri, aur bichde hue kuchh dost bhi mil jaate hain.”

Anurag also impresses on “Mujhko kaisi sazaayein detaa hai, zindagi ki duwaayein deta hai”, which has the sher “Husn toh khud hi ek qayaamat hai, husn ko kyon adaayein deta hai.” With its bansuri intro and melodic sarangi, ‘Bechaini ka aalam hai, tum aa jaao’ grows on repeated hearing.

‘Umr se lambi bojhal raatein sannata’, whose composition has been credited to Nirmal Daftary and lyrics to Mehshar Afridi, has been arranged subtly and sung with feel. ‘Is tarah se gham ka nasha aur badhaaya jaaye’, penned by Haider Najmi, has a Middle Eastern aura and makes effective use of Chintoo Singh’s rabab.

On a couple of songs, the Jagjit influence is obvious. The title track, for instance, has a starting similar to ‘Hoshwalon ko khabar kya’, and even the singing style seems inspired by the master. With the simple matla “Tumhe dekhe zamaane ho gaye hain, naye manzar puraane ho gaye hain” and some soothing sitar parts, this is the kind of song that would attract the masses more than purists.

The slightly uptempo, folk-influenced “Har pal chalta rehta hai, waqt bhi kaisa pagla hai” boasts of the words “Khamoshi ka barson se, dil ke shor se rishta hai.” It has an infectious tune, though here too, one notes a Jagjit inspiration. On the flip slide, one wonders why Anurag had to use a predictable alcohol song, that too with unimpressive lines like ‘Shaam ka waqt ho sharaab na ho, waqt itna kabhi kharaab na ho’.

Overall, of course, this is a commendable debut whose biggest forte is its simplicity. The words are accessible, the tunes catchy and the arrangements simple. I hear from Anurag that he is preparing songs for his next album, and one looks forward to it.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding

CD review/ The Voice From… Beyond ― Jagjit Singh


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The Voice From… Beyond/ Jagjit Singh

Genre: Ghazals

Universal Music/ Rs 250 for CD, Rs 84 on iTunes

Rating: *****

GHAZAL maestro Jagjit Singh’s death on October 10, 2011, came as a huge shock to fans across the globe. Besides possessing one of the most soulful voices in Indian music, he had played a leading role in popularising the ghazal among the masses, using simpler and more accessible lyrics, and adding modern instrumental arrangements.

After his demise, a few albums were released in his memory. First, T-Series came out with ‘Alvida: The Final Journey’, a compilation of his later songs. Last year, Sony Music released ‘The Master & His Magic’, which contained nine rare compositions from the private collection of his fan and admirer Sanjay Tayal. Now, Universal Music has released ‘The Voice From… Beyond’, featuring seven previously unreleased ghazals, chosen by his wife Chitra Singh. An added attraction is a selection of some rare photo postcards of the genius, which fans can treasure.

For any Jagjit admirer, this collection is a gold mine. Each number here bears the Jagjit stamp. The quality of poetry, a crucial factor which defines the beauty of a ghazal, is first-rate, using only one traditional writer (Daagh Dehlvi) and focusing on the work of those who were prolific after the 1970s.

As these ghazals were recorded in different phases of Jagjit’s career, one finds on close listening a slight difference in his vocal texture on each song. What really lends strength to this album is the pure quality of the songs.

Two of the gems are in ‘chhoti behr’ (short meter), and their words are deserved to be published in their entirety. The first ‘Ek tere qareeb aane se’, credited to an unknown poet, goes:

Ek tere qareeb aane se, door hum ho gaye zamaane se

Jaane kyon bijliyon ko ranjish hai, sirf mere hi aashiyaane se

Aag dil ki sulaghti rehne do, aur bhadkegi yeh bujhaane se

Ishq hi ek raaz hai aisa, faash hota hai jo chupaane se

The second one, a live rendition of a song rendered by Noorjehan, Farida Khanum and Reshma, has the lines:

Aashiyaane ki baat karte ho, kis zamaane ki baat karte ho?

Saari duniya ke ranjh-o-gham dekar, muskuraane ki baat karte ho

Haadsaa tha guzar gaya hoga, kiske jaane ki baat karte ho

Hum ko apni khabar nahin kuchh bhi, tum zamaane ki baat karte ho

Humne apnon se zakhm khaaye hain, tum toh gairon ki baat karte ho

Aashiyaane ki baat karte ho, dil jalaane ki baat karte ho

Though the song has been credited to poet Nasir Kazmi, some have attributed it to Javed Qureshi,

The other songs have their own charm. Jagjit’s voice sounds divine on the lower notes of Nida Fazli’s ‘Dhadkan dhadkan dhadak raha hai bas ik tero naam’. While the guitars and violins are marvellously played, the lines “Jamuna-ji ke tat par goonje tere naam ki murali, Ganga-ji mein jhalak raha hai bas ik tero naam” lend a spiritual, bhajan-like feel.

Poet Shahryar excels on ‘Zindagi jaisi tamanna thi’, where he writes: “Ab jidhar dekhiye lagta hai ke is duniya mein, kahin kuch cheez jyaada hai, kahin kuch kam hai”.

Daagh Dehlvi’s ‘Rasm-e-ulfat sikha gaya koi’ has been rendered charmingly, and it’s worth checking out Jagjit’s expression on the lines “Dil ki duniya udaas si kyon hai. Kya yahaan se chala gaya koi”. Here, Jagjit changes some of the original poetry’s complex words into simpler ones while retaining the meter. The rabab gives this song a rustic feel. On ‘Dard halka hai’, composed and arranged by Deepak Pandit, Gulzar’s lines “Aapke baad har ghadi humne, aapke saath hi guzaari hai” have been sung with pathos.

Despite its somewhat raw live recording, probably done at an indoor ‘mehfil’, Sayeed Rahi’s ‘Khuda ke vaaste apna hisaab’ is an absolute beauty, with Jagjit showing traces of the Mehdi Hassan style. The lines “Khuda ke vaaste apna hisaab rehne do, subah talak mere aage sharaab rehne do” are sung with a hint of intoxication that makes it amazing, and the use of harmonium, tabla and guitar are outstanding.

The best thing about ‘A Voice From… Beyond’ is that it’s very reminiscent of the vintage Jagjit Singh of the 1980s. It’s a must for all his admirers, and one hopes more such unreleased gems are released at regular intervals.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding

See also: ‘Remembering Jagjit Singh’, posted in the section ‘Ghazals’ on November 30, 2011

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