Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Naushad still lives

Album: Taj Mahal (2005)

Singers: Hariharan, Preeti Uttam, Kavita Subrahmanyam
Lyrics: Naqsh Lyallpuri, Syed Gulrez

I have no idea how they convinced the maestro to let Preeti Uttam sing for him. Her deadpan style, reminescent of the drab "light music" shows on Doordarshan, succeeds in only one thing - reminding us that Mumtaz is dead. Of course, Hariharan more than makes up for her."Apni Zulfein", "Dilruba Dilruba" and "Mumtaz Tujhe Dekha" are in my opinion the pick of the album (see optional tracks below).

"Apni Zulfein" is a ghazal in the truest sense, with simple, gentle and subtle lyrics, and a leisurely, masterful rendering by Hariharan (except when he says "ghumaan" with a strong G). The track leading to it is also simple and beautiful (the symphonic aspects of which the more qualified members of this blog can elaborate on), and the song carries all the majesty of a past era.

"Dilruba" is (unfortunately) a duet. Preeti Uttam shows up like somebody shanghaied out of a disco to sing sweet ballads. But the background score is the saving grace of this track. The "Allah, Allah" chant gives one goose-bumps, and the supporting instruments effortlessly create the imagery of long camel-back caravans in the desert. The lyrics are otherwise pedestrian.

"Mumtaz Tujhe" again belongs to Hariharan. Composed in the Hindustani equivalent of Kaamavardhini (I think, please correct me if I'm wrong), it begins where "Dilruba" ends, with a simple avarohana. Haunting (despite Preeti Uttam) and, once again, leisurely in its stately exploration of a bereaved romantic's heart, it effectively makes a statement for the listener trying to re-capture the glory of a bygone time:
"Phir aaj ki aankhon se guzra huaa kal dekha."

Optional tracks:
"Tareef-e-Meena Baazar" is somewhat interesting, especially for a lovely saarangi piece.
"Taj Mahal": Theme for the movie, borrows from "Dilruba" and "Mumtaz". Feels kind of reduntant.
"Yeh Kaun": Ajoy Chakraborty's very laborious attempt at reviving something of what Ustad Bade did for Mughale-Azam. Features more heavy breathing than music.
"Ishq ki Daastaan": A very lack-lustre qawwali. Preeti Uttam sounds like a dancing troupe lead and Mrs. Subrahmanyam like she'd rather be somewhere else.

Naushad's command over music still seeps through, though a little anachronistic, which I believe is expressed in the sentiment of "Mumtaz tujhe". In all, the album is worth a visit, if just to pay a tribute to the legend that is Naushad; just to think about a man who directed the likes of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan; whose ethereal tunes make jokers of today's Ismail Durbars and others with delusions of grandeur.


Aakarsh said...

when i bought this cd and heard "apni zulfein" for the 1st time, i wondered how a 90 year old man, on wheel-chair could do this.i liked the fervour in "dilruba"..ithas got excellent counter-melodies..especially towards the end.
nice review chandhu..

by the way, wanted to share with you: Naushad released a private album (ghazals)in 1998 named "Aathwaan sur"(the eighth note"). singers are hariharan & preeti uttam. and Lyrics are by Naushad himself(trust me, he came up with fantatic urdu poetry).Every song he composed in this album is a wonderful one.try if u can find it anywhere..i am actually looking for the CD(coz its worth it)..to replace my Tape.
check it here : http://www.raaga.com/channels/hindi/movie/G0000160.html
i just love this album.

Gandaragolaka said...

ajoy da has a falir for commercialism these days...

he has made up a bandish in english in Miya ki Malhar:

"the cold winds are coming... thunder and lightening...
flashes after flashes...
the damsel is going down with a fever".

thats why I say.. vaLLa bondhe maataram!

Random Walker said...

There was a time when I heard apni zulfein for weeks. Amazing track. Great post.

SVR said...

Hey folks,

I stumbled on your blog while I was surfing, and I've enjoyed reading it for a bit -- especially the previous post & the song (if you wondered who was using up all the bandwidth, you have your answer :) A couple of thoughts, if you don't mind my intrusion :)

The reference to Kamavardhini caught my eye -- I agree (for the most part) but it seemed to me like he's playing more with the scale rather than Puriya Dhanashri -- unless there's another Hindustani raag that's also the equivalent of Kamavardhini? (But I've not learnt Hindustani music, so take it with a grain of salt :)

And, I kind of felt Hariharan is kind of ... "lumbering" his way through the songs... A little more voice modulation would have significantly helped both Apni Zulfein and Mumtaz Tujhe Dekha, wouldn't it? :)

(BTW, in case you're wondering, my coordinates. But warning :) it's more of a personal journal!)

Sketchy Self said...

Thanks for the link! I'll even tolerate preeti uttam while i listen.

That is so cheesy. But i guess one can't blame him for trying to get on the fusion bandwagon. "flashes after flashes" anta...

i had no idea you guys had already turned this album inside out. Like in everyting else about music, bear with the latecomer!

Thanks for stopping by (again)! I didn't learn any classical music, so that was just a shot in the dark about Kaamavardhini. I agree that Hariharan may not have been the best choice for those songs ("lumbering" is i guess, just his style of singing), but i felt he made a sincere effort - especially when compared to his counterpart. Also, I haven't listened to this kind of music in a long time, so i may have waxed a little.

Gandaragolaka said...

"unless there's another Hindustani raag that's also the equivalent of Kamavardhini?"

there is! It is called Raga Shri.

But the song in question is not exactly kamavardhini scale...

1)there is shuddh madhyam (m1) interpsersed everywhere through the phrase "p m2 g1 m1 g".. a la Bihag.

Also, in charanam, there is komal gandhar (g2) rather... "r1 g2 r1 g2" gamaka which is a signature of Todi (carnatic Shubhapanthuvarali).

For Shri raga, check out rajan parrikar's:

Gandaragolaka said...


1) the phrase is "p m2 g3 m1 g3".. a la Bihag.

Random Walker said...

I do have a small comment on the rendition of apni zulfein and categorizing it under "all the majesty of the past era". The lyrics are rendered like "apni zulfein.... mere shaanon...pe bikhar jaanedo" with gaps in between...very uncharacteristic of old music which had flowing lyrics. This is like a ghazal rendition as Sketchy rightly said. Although I have a doubt if some of the beginning pieces are arranged as naushad exactly wanted (contrast this to the pieces that precede pyar kiya to darna kya--you will know what I mean). Does anyone know who arranged and mixed this album?

SVR said...

Eh, I tend to wax all the time :). It's just that I'd been listening to a *lot* of Shreya Ghoshal's (better) songs in the last few days, and it hit me rather strongly what she might have made of it. (Of course, my imagination of how she might have sung it might be way off from the truth ;)

Awesome, thanks, re: Raag Shri!!
Re: Kamavardhini, I'm not very good at recognizing swaras (sadly enough), so I can pick up "near approximations" at best. I'll listen more closely again :)

SVR said...

Oh, and unrelated administrivia question I forgot to put in previous comment: -- if I leave comments on previous (perhaps very old :) posts, will it email or something? That's how my LiveJournal is set up, but I'm not sure how Blogger works...

Sorry for the off-topic comment, not sure how else to ask it. Thanks! :)

Random Walker said...

Aks: Could you change the settings to allow e-mail notification if a comment is posted on Mavericks.