Tag Archives: AR Rahman

maxresdefault (1)

Mohenjo Daro Music Review

AR Rahman is generally at his best when in partnership with his friends.

His greatest works have come in collaborations with Mani Ratnam, Gautham Menon, Imtiaz Ali, Shankar and Ashutosh Gowariker. It’d be interesting to hypothesize about the success of these filmmakers without Rahman’s music, but that’s for another post.

Ashutosh Gowariker is back with his next film, and it looks like it took him six years to recover from the debacle of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se. He’d earlier taken a six year break after Baazi, coming back with Lagaan.

Gowariker’s earlier stints with Rahman were all major winners, and the two of them come back along with their third musketeer – Javed Akhtar. So does Mohenjo Daro live up to the filmmaker’s earlier collaborations with Rahman?

*

Track 1: Mohenjo Mohenjo

The first track in the album begins with Rahman’s tribal sounds, a set of gibberish accompanied by Shivamani’s thumping beats. In a few seconds, you’re looking forward to what’s coming. You see, listening to a Rahman album for the first time is almost a spiritual experience.

If the songs are good, that is. If they’re not, like Blue or Yuvvraj, you begin to question the purpose of life in the first place. It’s alright to listen to Anu Malik make bad music, but for Rahman to do it, is tragic.

The first track sounds familiar, a bit from Behne De, a bit from Ghanan Ghanan. Arijit Singh croons to Javed Akhtar’s rather simplistic lyrics, a problem I faced throughout the album. Lines like Chand aur Suraj donon ne dekha, Mohenjo Daro mein Rangon ka Mela just don’t cut it anymore. They were in vogue in the early 90s, but the analogies sound rather stale now.

Rahman manages to make Arijit sound the most un-Arijit-like, and that’s what keeps you interested through the track, which ends in a crescendo by Shivamani. All in all, the song feels like a performance in a reality shows, where Rahman seems to half-heartedly smile, like he’s itching to get back to his studio and call Hariharan about a new song idea.

Mohenjo Mohenjo leaves you gasping for more, just as the second track, titled Sindhu Ma takes off.

 

Track 2: Sindhu Ma

Undoubtedly the track of the album, Sindhu Ma begins with Sanah Moidutty’s sensuous overtones, and truly kicks off when Rahman comes into the picture. This is the song that plays in the trailer (though that doesn’t seem like a very bright idea in hindsight!).

Rahman makes even gibberish sound magical, and performs a ‘scat-aalap’ that only he could have. Every Rahman album has that one song that gives you goosebumps, Sindhu Ma is that track in Mohenjo Daro.  

The sound doesn’t sound completely original. There are shades of ‘Tum Ho’ (Rockstar) and ‘Kaise Mujhe’ (Ghajini). The track doesn’t bother with staying true to the time period the film is set in, using violins and synthesisers, but all that’s forgiven since it’s Rahman.

Javed Akhtar’s lyrics continue to disappoint, with lines like Paas aake bhi maun hai tu, Yeh toh bata kaun hai tu. The kind of lyrics Sameer used to churn out in the 90s – Tu hai jeevan mera, Tu hai jaaneman mera.     

The song ends in classic 90s boy-band love-track manner, opting to shift to a higher scale at the end. I felt a tinge of sadness as the song came to an end, perhaps as a premonition about the rest of the album.

 

Track 3: Sarsariya

Crooned by newcomers Shashwat Singh and Shashaa Tirupati, Sarsariya begins on exotic footing – gibberish, flute, and drums. And yet, it has the half-hearted feel of the tracks of Asoka. I have a feeling this track will be used as the heroine’s entry song. Javed Akhtar continues to dish out lazy lyrics with lines that go – Sab hai mere sapne, rang hai sab apne.

Shashwat Singh has an interesting voice, but the track switches tracks too quickly for you to invest in it. In fact, the track is quite annoying and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

 

Track 4: Tu Hai

This is a rehash of Sindhu Ma, but a more sanitised version of the song. It lacks the magical beginning of the Sindhu Ma, and if the trailers are anything to go by, will be sung by the leads when they find love in each other.

There are traces of Rahman’s beauty in the track, but having heard the earlier version, this seems like yesterday’s Chicken Biriyani that’s been refrigerated and reheated. It’s Rahman nonetheless, and I gave it a full listen out of respect for the man.

 

Tracks 5, 6, 7 : Whispers of the Wind, The Shimmer of Sindhu and Lakh Lakh Thora

What sets Rahman apart from his contemporaries are his stunning background tracks. While most music directors lazily employ pieces from songs in the film as background music, Rahman actually composes stunning pieces of music.

Listen to Slumdog Millionaire’s Latika’s Theme, or the haunting Bombay theme, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Which is why I wanted to listen to the three tracks that come with the album.

However, these are mere rehashes of the songs on the album, and nothing to write home about. You might enjoy Whispers of the Wind if you’re smoking a joint alone in the night. The Shimmer of Sindhu is a rehash of Tu Hai, and Lakh Lakh Thora is the last track of the album.

 

VERDICT:

Mohenjo Daro fails to stir up the kind of emotions that Rahman is used to when collaborating with Ashutosh Gowariker.

If my theory – Rahman Knows – is anything to go by, the album and the impending film might be headed for a disaster. But one can never be sure about these things. The soundtrack of Mohenjo Daro is strictly ordinary, and only for die-hard Rahman fans (which is probably half the nation anyway!).

***

(If you’re a Rahman fan, you should check out other articles on the man – Rahman on Coke Studio, and How I Knew Jab Tak Hai Jaan Would Be Crap)

Rahman on Coke Studio

It was inevitable that Indians would love Coke Studio.

The concept that began in Brazil, attempted to bring musicians of two genres together, as a fusion. It then moved to Pakistan, and thanks to YouTube, millions of Indians watched the Coke Studio productions.

Why would Indians lap up Coke Studio?

Because saar, we have no music industry only. Indipop is dead, and classical music and rock belong to very small segments. Most of the music we listen to is film music. In fact, everything is film music.

And till a few years back, all our film music would be the same set – lead singers, drums, some synthesiser, and chorus. Of course, the last few years have been slightly better, but essentially all the music we listen to is made for films. Which means that there is an image we have in mind, there is a context in which the songs appear. Which doesn’t make it music in the true sense. There is nothing to interpret or make out of it. It’s an accompaniment to some moronic film.

Coke Studio Pakistan, under the guidance of Rohail Hyatt as Producer, churned out one beauty after another. Whether it was the stranglehold on your senses by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in Garaj Baras, or the rustic sound of Jugnoo, every song had it’s own personality. It told a story.

Also, I think, when something is nice in Pakistan, Indians immediately feel a certain connect. I mean, the guys look like us, we use the same words in our songs, and even the instruments are the same. They have Wasim Akram, and we have Sanjay Manjrekar. They are our brothers, only.

And when it was announced that MTV and Coca Cola were bringing Coke Studio to India, I was anticipating it eagerly.

**************************************

The first trailers of the Indian series appeared one evening on MTV. It had Kailash Kher and a woman singing together.

Even though it was a Friday, I sat in front of the TV at 7 PM to watch it. I was watching it for Kailash Kher, and the whole novelty of it. But after the song was over, it actually felt calm. The song was more noise than anything else.

One after the other, every Friday, MTV spat out one disappointing episode after another. The main problem was that we had heard all the artists earlier. And half of them were singing film songs. Film songs, for fuck’s sake!

In the Pakistan version, relatively unknown artists became heroes – Aik Alif, Alif Lohar, Noori to some extent. Here, the singers were KK, Shaan, Kailash Kher, Shankar Mahadevan.

And then, I realised who the producer was. Leslie Lewis.

Leslie Lewis: Hariharan's Worse Half

Leslie Lewis: Hariharan’s Worse Half

I liked his work in Colonial Cousins, and this time there wasn’t even Hariharan with his honey voice. Leslie Lewis was the guy who had started the Remix trend, ruining my teenage years, and in a way causing the death of Indipop.

Most of the songs were remakes of Hindi films songs. Some of them simply atrocious – like ‘Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho’, where you start frantically looking for a chainsaw after the first two minutes. Why would you do that?

Why would you show us these guys who we have been listening to for decades? And how was this fusion of any sort?

I stopped watching after the first three episodes, I guess. The guys at Coke Studio even invited Shafqat Amanat Ali to sing for one of the episodes. Things must have been really bad.

The worst wars, of course, were fought on YouTube.

While earlier Indians would comment – “I’m frm India bt I luv Pakistani muziq. You guys rawks!’ on their videos, you now had Pakistani guys replying with “Hey, I’m from Pakistan. This is a good attempt, it is not so bad. I am sure in a few seasons, things will good. Love from Pakistan.”

It was humiliating, in a way. Stale music that should have been called Campa Cola Studio.

I forgot about the entire season till I saw the trailers for the second season on MTV again. I was as excited as a Kaurava soldier going to battle on the seventeenth day of war.

****************************************

The first trailer was a clip of Vishal Dadlani singing with a girl.

The guys at MTV must have realised what a shitfest they had created the last time, so the trailers clearly mentioned that the producers were different for every episode – from Clinton Cerejo to Hitesh Sonik.

I watched the first episode cursorily. But boy, was I pleased!

Clinton Cerejo brought his years of experience in Bollywood and thankfully used none of it on the episode. The episode contained a mix of genres. Nothing was epic, but it sounded good on the ears.

The second episode had Amit Trivedi. Having acquired a cult status for his films, I was a little skeptical. But Trivedi saab managed to surprise me all over again.

There was something different about this season. For one, the musicians seemed to be having fun doing what they were doing. I know all that is just camera work, but the sound was new, and fresh. It managed to surprise me in small, little ways.

I know this is a little late in the day, but I present below my Top 5 songs from the second season:

5. Nimohiya (Amit Trivedi feat. Devender Singh, Harshdeep Kaur)

Punjabi meets jazz in this number that packs a neat little surprise with Shankar Tucker blowing away on his clarinet. Easy tunes accompanied by Trivedi’s trademark backing vocals and sublime interludes. This one was a surprise after Harshdeep Kaur fucked up Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho last year.

4. Mauje Naina Laage (Clinton Cerejo feat. Bianca Gomes, Shadab and Altamash)

This one is dark and brooding. The slicing voice of the female lead only made the cuts, and when Shadab sprinkled some vintage Indian angst into the song, it was a frothing, bubbling song of anger. This one made the list for the mood it creates on the listener.

3. Chaudhary (Amit Trivedi feat. Meme Khan)

The last time I heard the two collaborate, it was on ‘Aitbaar‘ on ‘No one Killed Jessica’, with explosive results. This time, Meme Khan sings to words written by Shelley. A song that talks about a hapless middle aged zamindar of the village who is smitten by a young girl. I could imagine Khap Panchayats enjoying this song a lot.

But that tasteless joke aside, this song leaves a sweet aftertaste long after it is over.

 

 

2. Madari (Clinton Cerejo feat. Vishal Dadlani and Neha Kakkar)

This was the first song I heard of the season and it remains my favourite. Vishal Dadlani would be the last person I would approach to sing a song that has classical touches in it, but the gamble paid off, and how!

Along with Dadlani, was this diminutive singer I had never seen, but definitely heard. A Google search led me to her page. It’s sad that someone as gifted as her should be known as the singer of ‘Babuji Zara Dheere Chalo’.

The song shifts gears when you least expect it, reaching a crescendo in the final lap, a song that is not brazenly clear in the mood it is creating. You could make whatever you wanted of it, and it is this aspect that makes this my favourite among the songs of the second season.

1. Husna (Hitesh Sonik feat. Piyush Mishra)

Having worked under Vishal Bharadwaj for years, Hitesh Sonik is the guy who has produced the music for films like No Smoking, Gulaal, and Omkara. Apart from composing fantastic background scores, Hitesh Sonik also happens to be married to Sunidhi Chauhan.

In this song, the sublime Piyush Mishra – actor, singer, composer, sidekick to Sardar Khan in the GoW movies – performs Husna, a heart-wrenching song about partition. His magical vocals, combined with the subtle but powerful music of the house band, ranks on top of my favourites of the season.

Interestingly,  all these guys – Trivedi, Cerejo, Sonik, were all people who had worked in Bollywood for years. And yet, nothing of what they made sounded like it was from a film. For once, I felt happy that there was Indian music that I could listen to when I was high.

Ghar ki murgi tasted better than pardesi daal.

******************************************

But the good things didn’t just end there.

A few days back, Rahman’s first song for Coke Studio Season 3 premiered on YouTube.

If his MTV Unplugged episode was anything to go by, Rahman established that he could give goosebumps to the average Indian once every five minutes. Even better, while the concept of Unplugged is not to use electric instruments, Coke Studio is a compilation of original scores.

I can’t wait for the third season, but I have only one worry.

I have written earlier about my theory – ‘Rahman Knows‘. He always does.

He knows if what you are producing is sincere and from the heart, or you’re just whoring out and signing him for his fame. Anu Malik fusion. Himesh Nose. Rahman Knows.

And I sincerely hope he watched the Second Season of Coke Studio India, and not the first.

Else, we are all doomed!