Music Review: Miles… From India (Various Artists)

Information about the Album: here

Cross-posted on EpicIndia

The beauty of this album (earlier reviewed by Richard Marcus on EpicIndia) does not lie just in its adherence to Miles’ definition of jazz, but in the effortless blending with Indian Classical. And that’s why- first things first – It comes highly recommended.

I would not waste a lot breath over talking about the ensemble quality of the artists on the disc. Each of them a true master of music, adding to the mix a certain versatility that probably them themselves forget while adhering to the rules, MFI is unique in the way that several critiques would find it difficult to call it fusion. Many others would find it difficult to call it jazz. And barely a few would even venture to suggest that its Indian Classical Music. The interesting thing to note here is that this union of two musical definitions does not require either of them to be the dominant one.

The idea of the album came about as Bob Belden thought about blending two pure music genres while paying a tribute to Miles Davis, one of the finest exponents of Jazz in the previous century. Lets consider for a moment the origins of jazz itself, the influences of so many countries and so many eras, and the fact that it has survived. The evolution of gospel and ragtime into jazz, and later swing, bebop, etc. being a fascinating story for jazz lovers all the same, this album pays homage to the post-depression era jazz.

Moving to the album, it’s a set of 2 discs that I previewed in the MP3 format with due permissions through EpicIndia. Both the discs have 6 compositions uniquely different from each other.

Instead of getting into a track by track review of whats in store for the listeners, it suffices to say that almost all the compositions blend between Indian classical and jazz using a mix of multiple instruments (Sitar, Tabla, Saxophone, Drums, Bass, Electric Guitar, Violin) with each instrument being used not just for the genre where it comes from, but also to do something that its usually not expected to do. Imagine the chaotic harmony of jazz on a sitar and the aaroh-avaroh of Indian classical on electric guitar. That’s what this album is all about, as it recreates Milesian magic through his compositions.
Accroding to me, the pick of the lot are Ife, Spanish Key and All Blues from disc 1, and Blue in Green, and Miles from India from Disc 2. This by no way implies anything negative against the other tracks, all of which are wonderful in their own rendition.

While Spanish Key starts in a standard Milesian way with rich use of saxophone and piano, involving tabla, Hindustani vocals to reach its crescendo, In a silent way is a short composition based solely on Sarod.

All Blues starts with the sitar and can be a perfect appetizer for someone who hasn’t listened to a lot of jazz before this, but is an avid Hindustani Classical follower, as this composition shows how the language of music can be moulded to accommodate everyone. It’s a great composition to learn from, if you are a learner of music, because it does complete justice to the subtleties of sounds from all the instruments used.

In a silent way is a very small jazz rendition on Sarod. Its slow, deliberate and so blended with Indian classical, that for the undiscerning listener, it just comes across as a sweet simple symphony, devoid of borders created by those who love definitions.

Ife (both fast and slow) was recorded in two versions keeping in mind that only one of the versions will be incorporated in the final CD. However, once you hear the discs, you realize why the team was not able to let go of any of the two versions. My personal choice would be the faster version given the heady mix it creates.

Jean Pierre is a composition that starts off with a haunting flute arrangement, but soon evolves into a melody that may get copied by a bollywood music director quite soon.

So-what breaks the trend, and starts in a Carnatic music style and blends itself into jazz. It uses the blend o f organ with Ghatam.

Miles runs the voodoo down cannot be categorized in any way. It’s a sound that’s closer to the ragtime era, but such was the genius of Miles. However, this song is the only one in the entire collection, where at times the blending does seem a little off.

Blues in Green has a great use of backing vocals from Shankar Mahadevan. I might sound a little biased with this, but in this album, the use of vocals enriches the sound of the same music to my ears.. The composition keeps at the molten level, flowing with the moment. An additional reinforcement in this song comes through the use of Sarangi by Pt. Ram Narayan.

Great Expectations is a vintage jazz composition which uses both traditional and Indian instruments to create the required effect. Watch out for the slowed tempo and melody towards the middle section of the song which further accentuates the beauty of this composition.

Finally, Miles from India, starts off as a piano based harmony using backing vocals rich in Hindustani, and is another slow and deliberate composition from the composer Bob Belden. A very Indian way of ending a musical concert, where the raags are gradually built over a period of time through subtle variations, and as the music reaches its crescendo, it’s the point where the musician is connected to the good. Finally, to conclude the concert, the musician detaches himself/herself from the divinity yet pleasing the gods through a simple and modest harmony, to come back to the lower world.

One of the biggest things about this compilation is that despite the use of multiple instruments and platforms, and this being an arrangement of performances across several recordings, which were finally molded together in a composition, there is not a point where you can feel that an instrument or a genre is trying to dominate another. This is MUSIC – a perfectly harmonious ensemble of sounds that lets you isolate yourself from the surrounding. From my side, it gets a thumbs-up with strong recommendations.
Technorati Tags: , ,

Advertisements

Movie Review: Aaja Nachle…. Madhuri is back!

I have to write this post. Came back home a little while back after having watched Aaja Nachle. And have a flight to catch in an hour or so. So, best use of this one hour would have been to sleep. But then, I claim to be different!

Aaja Nachle re-establishes one of my firmest beliefs about Bollywood – Madhuri Dixit can beat the shit out of all current actresses with both her hands tied behind her back. She just rules the screen from the first shot. Its a Madhuri movie all along with good support from the other well cast actors. I think its a true entertainer of a movie.

A few of the high points of the movie –
1. Choreography – Boo to all those who tried to blast the choreography/music/dances of the movie. This is the best choreography I’ve seen after Devdas. Examples in context – 1. the choregraphy of O Re Pia sung by Rahat. First, its a beautiful song sung amazingly well by Rahat (thats hardly a surprise). Second, the song has beautifully used Ghunghroos in the background. The dancers seem to match the ghungroo ki jhanak perfectly. Madhuri has flawless movements and expressions in the song. The choreography has a classical base, which makes it a delight. Need more reasons? 2. Choreo of the title song – again, a phenomenal use of a talent like Madhuri. 3. Choreo of the long “nritya natika” towards the climax. I think that particular sequence just revives everything that a nritya natika (or, as the refined people would like to think about it – a broadway musical) should be. perfect use of props, individual positions, stage movements, and dance forms. I think the nritya natika on Laila Majnu is the high point of a movie which is all about dance.
2. Performances – Madhuri, undoubtedly, is the queen! But then, there are some refreshing performances by Vinay Pathak, Akshaye Khanna, Ranvir Shorey, Raghuvir Yadav, Yashpal Sharma, Konkona Sen, Kunal Kapoor, Irfan Khan et al. I think the beauty of this movie with a fairly average storyline lies in the characterization as well. The weakest characters in the fold are those of Konkona and Kunal, even though I think they have sleepwalked through their roles with consummate ease.
3. Music – Whatever people say, I think O Re Pia, Ishq Hua, Aaja Nachle, Show me your Jalwa.. all these songs will catch on very soon. Some have already, and some will now!

The enlightened will tell you that the story is weak, and there is an overdose of fantasy. Where does this dilapidated set get all the money and resources to set up such extravagant dances. I dont know. I dont care. The movie entertains. And the elite can go take a skywalk for all I care!

And yeah, just in case I havent given you enough reasons to watch the movie … My final.. nail in the coffin.. last straw to break the camel’s back… aakhiri hichki.. etc etc. argument is ….
GO WATCH IT FOR MADHURI!

Bollywood Gossip – Peeping Tom saw a certain Sonam Kapoor and a certain Ranbir Kapoor at Taj Lands End last night (Dec 3rd) having a noodly and dimsumy hot dinner at Ming Yang. Both were smoking. Since it was Tom Peeping, Sonam was looking extremely ravishing in a black tank top with her mid-riff well exposed with navel piercings and all. Tom wonders – is something brewing? er.. coffee?

Comment of the night – “Having seen her like this, I don’t think Bhansali was able to exploit Sonam completely during Saawariya!”

Powered by ScribeFire.

Roundup…. No Title

Haven’t been blogging for a while, as the seasonal lethargy takes over. I can’t really blame it on anything else. Anyway, just a roundup of things/people/songs of note –

1. Television – I am in love with the 2 singing competitions on telly these days, Zee Saregamapa 2007 Challenge – Sangeet ka Pratham Vishwayud and Amul Star Voice of India. SVOI is going through a dramatic phase with Gajendra Chauhan ( the pioneer of such singing talent hunt shows) getting confused with his self created frankenstein. However, the singers to watch out for are Toshi Sabri (brought back into SVOI by popular demand, after being ejected on the basis of public voting), Harshit (SVOI), Amaanat Ali (SRGMP, an amazing voice from Pakistan) and Raja Hassan(SRGMP). Raja has the rusticness and purity in his voice, Toshi is probably the best trained and a sufi-genre singer. Harshit will make an awesome playback singer while Amanat probably is the most versatile of the lot, and will surely make a great ghazal singer if given a chance. His rendition of “Tujhse Naaraz Nahi Zindagi” yesterday (6th Oct) was plain simple awesome. The idea behind this long para on these people is to remind you guys that for every Dhoni who came out of Jharkhand, there are several who join Tata Steel on a small stipend! Please support, encourage and look out for these raw talents in the years to come. You can see the videos online here – SRGMP, SVOI

2. Music – 1. Main Agar Kahoon (Om Shanti Om) – beautiful romantic song with a very simple melody and another proof of how good Sonu Nigam is. Especially, when it comes to romantic songs, there are few who are as good. His voice has a certain yearning that others don’t
b. Yoon Shabnami from Saawariya  sung by Parthiv Gohil. A lot of you won’t even know who Parthiv Gohil is. Parthiv is the lost find of 1998 Saregama MegaFinal (youtube videos) (the year Sonu was still hosting the show,  Sanjeevani – another finalist, got a few movies as playback singers (such as Kareeb), and there were some truly amazing singers like Mohd. Vakil, Bela, Mukund and Sudeshna). An year or two after 1998 Shreya Ghoshal became the winner of Saregama. Anyway, Paarthiv had a very strong classical learning background and his rendition of songs like Ketak Gulab Juhi, and Dhanyabhaag Seva ka Awsar Paaya back in 1998 were wonderful. So, Bhansali has given Parthiv a break, along with Monty (the music director, who played some part in the background score of Devdas)
c. Songs from Manorama – 6 feet under.  From a collection of 4 songs (excluding remixes and versions), 3 belong to the category of very good to excellent. Woh Bheege Pal, Dhundhla jo sama bandha, Tere Sawalon Ke.. Try them out.

3. Movie – Johnny Gaddar is definitely my pick from bollywood. Bourne Ultimatum would be the hollywood pick. Johnny G is a wonderful movie which takes you back to the 70s thrillers where things just kept happening all through the movie. Director’s tribute to Vijay Anand and James Hadley Chase is visible throughout the movie. The movie could have been shortened by 15 minutes or so. But, but… its a wonderful movie to see on a weekend.

4. Books – Reading “Of Love and Other Demons” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez right now. Seems good so far, while being standard Marquez narration. Will update later.

However, just in case you got a feeling that this is what is keeping me busy.. Naah!  How many of you out there have lived out of a suitcase to get a house renovated. Working your butt off five days a week to reach home on a weekend (travelling usually in the middle of night both ways) to deal with tiles, cement, paints, designs and woodwork! Ugh.. its not easy!

Btw.. quick emotional outburst – Raikonnen has taken the pole. Hamilton has to wait. Vettel seems a driver to keep an eye on. The last couple of races are going to be amazingly interesting! 😀

Gul Hui Jaati Hai : Faiz

This is one of the most beautiful Faiz compositions that I have heard. With Abida Parveen’s voice adding soul to these beautiful words, its the perfect setting for a nice quiet evening. I have seen a lot of people wondering about what the ghazal means. Thats when I thought I should just write this bit out. Listen it here

गुल हुई जाती है अफ़सुर्दा सुलगती हुई शाम
धुल के िनक्लेगी अभी चश्म-ए-माहताब से रात
और मुश्ताक िनगाहों की सुिन जाएगी
और उन हाथों से मस होंगे ये तरसे हुए हाथ

Gul hui jaati hai afsurda sulagti hui shaam
Dhul ke niklay gi abhi chashma-e-mahtab se raat
Aur mushtaaq nigaahon ki suni jaaye gi
Aur un hathon se mas hongay yeh tarse huay haath….

The morose evening is lost in the silhouette of a fading sun
But soon, it will come out bathed in the moonlit night
And those eager eyes will be heard to, one more time
and these longing fingers will be entwined with those fingers again

उन का आंचल है िक रुखसार िक पैराहन है
कुछ तो है िजस से हुई जाती है िचलमन रंगीन
जाने उस ज़ुल्फ़ िक मौहूम घनी छावं में
िटमिटमाता है वो आवेज़ा अभी तक के नही

Un ka aanchal hai ke rukhsaar keh payrahan hai…
Kuch to hai jis se hui jaati hai chilman rangeen…
Jaanay us zulf ki mauhoom ghani chaaoon mein…
Timtimataa hai woh aawayzah abhi tak keh nahi…

Is this the decorated end of your sari, or the colors on your face, or the way you’ve dressed
There has to be something, that has made the curtains (that hide you) so colorful
I wonder, if in the thick dark tresses of her long hair,
does it(the moon) still twinkle, hanging, suspended, still yearning for thee?

आज िफर हुस्न-ए-िदल-अारा की वो ही धज होगी
वो ही ख्वाबीदा सी आंखें वो ही काज़ल की लकीर
रंग-ए-रुखसार पे हल्का सा वो गाज़े का गुबार
सन्द्ली हाथों पे धुन्धिल सी िहना की तहरीर

Aaj phir husn-e-dil aaraa ki wohi dhaj hogi…
Wohi khaabeedah si aankhein wohi kaajal ki lakeer…
Rang-e-rukhsaar pe halka sa woh gaazay ka ghubaar…
Sandali haathon pe dhundli si hina ki tehreer…

Tonite, the beauty of my beloved will show itself in the same resplendent glory
Those dreamy eyes, and those black eyelashes
the color of her cheeks flushed with the pink of roses (cosmetics/powder)
and those hands smelling of sandal, decorated with beautiful Hina designs

अपने अफ्कार के अशआर िक दुिनया है यही
जान-ए-मज़मून है ये शािहद-ए-माना है यही
अपन मौज़ू-ए-सुखन इन के िसवा और नही
तब्बा शायर का वतन इन कॆ िसवा और नही

Apnay afkaar ki ashaar ki duniya hai yehi…
Jaanay mazmoon hai yehi, shahid-e-ma’anaa hai yehi…
Apna mauzoo-e-sukhan inke siva aur nahi
Tabba shayar ka vatan inke siva aur nahin


This is the world of the couplets and my thoughts

Such is the essense of my writings, such is the fate of this doomed poet.
there is no other subject of my conversataions,
The mood of the poet wanders in no other kingdom but that of the beloved

ये खूं की महक है िक लब-ए-यार िक खुशबू
िकस राह की जािनब से सबा आती है देखो
गुलशन मे बहार आई के िज़न्दा हुआ आबाद
िकस संग से नगमों की सदा आती है देखो

Yeh Khoon Ki mahak hai ki labe yaar ki khushboo
Kis raah ki – Jaanib se saba aati hai dekho
Gulshan mein bahar bahaar aayi ki zinda hua abad
Kis sang se naghmon ki sada aati hai dekho


Is this the warm smell of blood, or the sweet fragrance of beloved’s lips

From which direction is this wind blowing, someone go and check
Can you feel, with the arrival of spring, that the estranged have come alive
You must go and check who is the stone-hearted that sings the song of serenade!

Its difficult to do justice to such a marvellous nazm given my limited vocab. But an attempt is always on! 🙂 Let me know if you can think of some better lines.

For The Love Of Thumri

I have been meaning to write this for some time. What prompted me today, was my success in finding a particular composition– Balam Tere Jhagde Mein Raiin Gayee (Sung by Shubha Mudgal – Album: The Versatile Shubha Mudgal).

And what I wanted to write about was my love of Thumri. I owe it to Mrs. Vidya Rao, a Classical/Thumri singer who was brought in for a guest lecture by Prof. Ramnath Narayanswamy for his “Tracking Creative Boundaries” course during the second year of my IIM – B stay.

I still remember a lot of that particular lecture (a series of 2 lectures devoted to the history, nuances of Thumri). The fact that I and another friend of mine were privileged enough to be invited for an up-close and personal meeting with the lady at the professor’s home later on where she did enthrall us with a couple of thumris just made me fall in love twice over.

Thumri, as a classical vocal form, originated in the Kothas of Benares. Unlike most of the other dance heavy forms originating at the Kothas, Thumri focused on the rendering of the lyrics, which can be intensely complicated. The theme of the song – the pivotal line – such as “Balam Tere Jhagde Mein Rain Gayee” can be interpreted in multiple ways depending upon the mood and the rendering (and technically speaking, depending upon where the emphasis is). A thumri singer traverses through the multiple interpretations with the help of additional lines around a theme. These additional lines can be shers from ghazal writers, or dohas from poets, or complete stanzas from some other poets.

Let me take a minute to explain the example of what the different interpretations can be, depending upon the point of emphasis –

  • Emphasis can be on “Balam” where the beloved is trying to blame the lover.
  • It can be on “Tere” where she might be complaining about the fight only because it concerns something/someone unworthy of being fought for.
  • Emphasis could as well be on “Jhagde” and the futility of a fight between lovers.
  • If the emphasis shifts to “Raiin”, the beloved suddenly seems to be complaining about the night that was wasted in a quarrel. Too short a night, too many things to fight on, and too many ways of fight. The same emphasis can be interpreted in a naughty/amorous way as well.
  • And finally, if the emphasis shifts on “Gayee”, then the interpretation could be of future action, of let the lost night be the lost night and focus our eyes on the morning!

The Thumri singers were exemplary in their diction and knowledge of languages. Extremely fluent with multiple languages (usually Urdu, Awadhi, Persian/Farsi, Khadi Boli, Sanskrit), these singers created and passed through generations a form of singing that is not just beautifully rendered but is also a poetic delight. Another factor not to be missed about Indian classical music is the love for the god (if it can be called Romantic Mysticism). In almost all vocal musical forms, the poet treats God as his/her lover and through love, one tries to achieve salvation.

Lucknow and Benares continued to be the two prime centers of Thumri, which in the later decades led to other singing forms as well.

If you wish to explore the complexities of Indian Classical Music through a seemingly lighter musical form, Thumri is prescribed! Transcend to another world of love, longing and devotion.

One of the finest renditions of our National Anthem

%d bloggers like this: