Archive for the ‘Artist Talk’ Category

I was re-reading some old posts and was surprised that my initial reaction to Arziyan (from the soundtrack of Delhi 6) wasn’t exactly jumping-off-the-walls enthusiastic. I had forgotten that for some strange reason it took time for me to warm up to it. Perhaps because it feels like I’ve always been enamored with this song, with the depth and beauty of its lyrics, with its lovely melody, with the sense of peace and calm it endows me with each time I listen to it. Arziyan has now firmly become a part of those select songs that I listen to in difficult times, the songs that give me strength and hope, that heal my heart and nurse my troubled mind. Each time I listen to it, its lyrics make a stronger and stronger impact on me, and they transport me to a different place. I’ve posted a particularly favorite stanza on my desk, and a friend who asked about it asked me to translate the song for him. I’m going to do my best, because as always, its not easy to properly translate the feelings behind the lyrics, and also I often stumble on the Urdu. And so, as always, anyone passing by is asked to help! 🙂

Arziyan (Supplications) is written by Prasoon Joshi, rendered by Kailash Kher and Javed Ali, to music set by the maestro A.R. Rahman.

Arziyan saari chehre pe likh ke laaya hoon/Tumse kya mangoon tum khud hi samajh lo

(All my supplications I bring to you written on my face/What shall I ask from You; You know it all)

Ya Maula/Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula (2)

(O God/God, God, God my God)

Ch: Daraare daraare hai maathe pe Maula/Marammat muqaddar ki kardo Maula

(There are creases* on my forehead, God/Help me restore my destiny/fate, God)

*creases: worry or frown lines

Tere dar pe jhuka hoon, mita hoon, bana hoon (2)/Marammat muqaddar ki kardo Maula (2)

(On Your doorstep I have kneeled, been destroyed, been made/Help me mend my destiny (or fate), God)

I: Jo bhi tere dar aaya, jhukne jo sar aaya/Mastiyan piye sabkon jhoomta nazar aaya

(He who came to Your doorstep, he who bowed his head to You/Appears to be intoxicated and dancing with pleasure)

*This is not a great translation! Mastiyan is better translated as something intoxicating. Here, we are told that those who have been given God’s grace appear intoxicated with their love for Him, and they are dancing in pleasure. Dancing and being mesmerized in prayer and devotion is a feature of Sufi practices and beliefs.

Pyaas le ke aaya tha, dariya woh bhar laaya/Noor ki baarish mein bheeghta sa tar aaya 

(He who came with thirst, has a river in front of him/Is drenched in the downpour of Divine Light)

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula…


II: Ek khushboo aati thi (2), main bhatakta jaata tha/Reshmi si maya thi, aur main takta jaata tha

(A perfume would come, and I would go stumbling after it/Wealth (material goods) were like velvet, and I followed greedily)

Jab teri gali aaya, sach tabhi nazar aaya/Mujh mein hi woh khushboo hai, jisse tune milwaya

(When I came Your way, only then did I see the Truth/That the perfume I seeked lies within me, and You helped me recognize it)

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula…


III: Toot ke bikharna mujhko zaroor aata hai/Varna ibadatwala saroor aata hai

(I know too well how to break, be shattered/And I am also aware of how to worship)

Sajde mein rehne do, ab kaheen na jaoonga/Ab jo tumne thukhraya tho savar na paoonga)

(Let me be prostrated in Your presence, I will not go anywhere else/Now if You forsake me, then I cannot be saved)

IV: Sar uthake maine tho kitni khwahishen ki thi/Kitne khwaab dekhe the, kitni koshishen ki thi

(I had raised my head and made so many wishes/I had dreamt of so much, had tried so much)

Jab Tu rubaroo aaya nazren na mila paaya/Sar jhukake ek pal mein maine kya nahin paaya

(But when You came near me, I couldn’t raise my eyes to meet Yours/In that one moment when I bowed my head to You, there was nothing I did not gain)

This stanza is my favorite, I am struck by it every time I listen to it, and this is the one I have taped to my desk so I can be reminded of it daily. I don’t know if the translation does it justice. It speaks of Man’s continuous quest, infinite desire, untiring ambition. Man wants more and more, asks for more and more, tries for more and more. This stanza summarizes this quest. I raised my head and I demanded so much from you: that my wishes may come true, that my efforts bear fruit, that my dreams all become reality. But when You appeared before me, God, and I had to bow my head against Your luminosity, in that one moment I realized I had gained everything I ever wanted.

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula


Mora piya ghar aaya, mora piya ghar aaya (multiple times)

(My beloved has come home, my beloved has come home)

God is the Beloved, and this is a phrase in many Sufi bhajans, celebrating, in my interpretation, God’s entry to your heart, mind, and soul.


Arziyan speaks to me on a deep, spiritual level. It has a special appeal to me because I find that it traverses all religions and faiths; it does not speak of any single faith or denomination or describes any particular flavor of the Holy. It supplicates to a universal God, a God for anyone who chooses to believe in Him/Her. It is a piece about faith in a greater power, and the hope and the strength that faith can bring to you, when you need it most.


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I loved the Oscars. I love the new structure…with previous winners congratulating each nominee and announcing the winner. I think that’s such a nice touch and it clearly means a lot to everyone nominated. I’m a devout Oscar-watcher but it was getting really tiring last year so it was good to mix it up. Hugh Jackman was great, but I’d have liked more funny bits. Some things I didn’t love this year was the shorter original songs (and wtf with the mix with John Legend and Rahman?) and also the absence of clips. Overall, this was the first year where I really agreed with almost all the wins. I though Lance Black’s speech was beautiful and the highlight, next to Sean Penn’s. Loved Rahman’s grace and eloquence, and everyone knows that Pookutty’s speech was great too. I jumped up and down when Rahman won! For me, SM is far from his best work, but just to see him recognized on an international stage and something that clearly means a lot to him was great. I was glad that the whole team came up on stage for the Best Picture win: the kids looked adorable! Overall, it was definitely India night and I felt proud. I don’t care what people will say about SM: you can have all kinds of arguments against it, but you can’t deny that this movie has made waves unparalleled to anything else on an international scale. Its very impressive, and you must laud them for at least the swear, toil and dedication it took to make this movie.

And as for “its a foreign movie, so why is India celebrating so much?” and all the arguments being made by certain bitchy, envious populations : that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Firstly, isn’t the fact that one of the best music directors in India and the world is being recognized very important and worth celebrating? Or the deserving Pookutty? Or the lyricist Gulzar? You know why people are whining? Because the people who’ve dominated the industry are not associated with it. Big B is completely comfortable in roles centering around the underworld (because, of course, that isn’t the underbelly at all is it? Underworld must be a misnomer!), but suddenly a movie comes out which has Anil Kapoor reprising him on Kaun Banega Crorepati and its creating international waves and he’s not associated with it? Well, something has to be freaking wrong with it! Mukesh Bhatt isn’t giving the music for a movie that has the spirit of Bollywood? Oh no! It can’t be good! We can’t celebrate an Oscar for that now can we?! Disgusting. Secondly, dude, this country for once is celebrating instead of rioting against a movie which involves a Muslim boy falling in love and eventually getting a Hindu girl. That alone is a whole new cause for celebration. Even if its a shallow reason, people aren’t burning down theatres and screaming murder, and to me that’s a miracle. And, lastly, um, why bitch at a celebration at all? In times like the ones we live in, does it matter why you’re happy as long as you’re happy? Just quit whining already.

I thought it might be fun to make a post highlighting my favorite Rahman songs through the 16 years that I have followed him loyally. I haven’t had time yet but hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to sift through my giant Rahman library and make some difficult choices 🙂

On a completely different note, here’s a great reason to love a whole different celebrity who is thankfully the true King of Bollywood and who supported SM (or at least didn’t go around criticizing anything about it, and presented at Golden Globes), and who despite having a lot and being proud of it (some say arrogant, I say self-assured) never forgets who he owes it all to. The great Shah Rukh Khan. The reason I’m driven to post this video: this man just flew in into Mumbai Int’l Airport to the usual crowds. He’s due for major surgery in a few hours and hasn’t seen his family yet. He’s probably in great pain from his numerous problems and especially the shoulder injury he’s getting surgery for. Lest you forget, he is the biggest star in the country with a devoted (understatement), humongous (understatement) fan following. And the dude stands their answering dumb questions from reporters, genially and with good humor and patience, for a several minutes till he finally gently says he should get going for his surgery. And he asks for blessings and prayers and thanks them all, and even says that he takes his bodily breakdown as a payment for all the love he recieves for his work. I mean, how awesome is that. Few celebrities bother to stand for the paparazzi even for a few pictures, and he makes an effort to actually NOT be rude and give them time, and give eloquent answers. I remember him saying once that he doesn’t mind the media because they’re doing their job just like he does his, and the media makes him or breaks him, just like his fans. Clearly, he meant that.


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Rahman does it yet again.

Delhi 6 is a movie I have been awaiting with some excitement because of the interesting storyline (well, I have said that about so many movies this year and never got around to actually watching them…thus is life) and acting credits, but now the music is out and it has officially made my day. I mean, it has literally cheered me up, which I very much needed, simply because yet again I am baffled that Rahman’s genius just keeps stretching out. The maestro had just won some very well deserved awards internationally, including the Golden Globe, for his music of Slumdog Millionaire, and that is followed by yet another proof of how great he is. I really won’t be surprised if he wins the Oscar this year. To be honest I don’t care what he wins, but this whole process brings him into the light and visible to the world, and I think that’s the best part. He deserves the accolades, but the recognition means much more I think. He deserves to go down in international history, not just Indian history. I still remember my excitement when the Theme of Bombay started playing in a pivotal scene in Lord of War…or more recently, as a background to a nightly show in Singapore’s Night Safari. I’m proud of him like no other artist from the motherland. Kudos!

Back to the subject: Delhi 6 is now available for listening on Bollywood Hungama (www.indiafm.com) and his latest offering brings to you both awe-inspiring tracks and tracks that are not so easy to take in. For those who’ve been uncomfortable with his newer work, Delhi 6 is not as eccentric and experimental. For those who like his mixtures and innovation, there is plenty of that too, which might or might not be unpleasant to you. It has a slew of new singers like Sujata Majumdar and Kishori Gowariker, and some of those voices which I said I would love to hear more (Javed Ali, Benny Dayal, Rekha Bharadwaj, Mohit Chauhan!). The lyrics are actually pretty great (thank God, because lately I was worrying about the kinds of lyrics Rahman had been composing to), by Prasoon Joshi, and based on what I know of the story I think they’re aptly powerful and, in true Rahman-style, sometimes complex to explicate.

A word of warning…at times the album brings out the unexpected with a flair, and that might not gel with everyone. For example, if you expected Mohit Chauhan to sing the kind of lovely smooth ballad that he has been singing in the last year…well, Masakali is nothing like that at all. If you’re willing to take the risk, you’ll be amazed at how sleazy and rebellious and bold he manages to sound in this number. Similarly, the title track is a little wild, not in the least because of the singers and the free use of digitalization, but its also very characteristic of Rahman (think Paathshaala). The religious tracks are, as expected, melodious and wonderful, but they lack the power of Khwaja, Piya Haji Ali, or even Al Maddath Maula. Those are a bit of a disappointment, to be honest, because I always look forward to the Rahman touch on this genre, because he does magic with both Hindi and Muslim tracks (this album has both an Aarti and Arziyan, which is reminiscent to Piya Haji Ali).

Let’s start with Aarti. Very solemn, sober, but it immediately reminded me of Ishwar Allah from 1947 Earth and its too similar (apart from the lyrics) to stand out. Its like Rahman didn’t feel like making the effort to differentiate this aarti. Possibly the weakest song in the album.

Arziyan. Javed Ali is divine and holds his own with Kailash Kher, who usually succeeds with songs of this type. Apart from that, like I said already, it is very reminiscent of past efforts in this genre, and it doesn’t particularly stand out, apart from the different singers. The lyrics are quite good, however, and understandable, which will be appreciated by those who thought Khwaja was too pretentious in its language.

Bhor Bhaye. Tracks are being blended in this…and very obviously…one an old, old track of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali and one of Shreya Ghosal singing the same raag. Initially it is disconcerting, but it won me over soon after, because Ghosal’s voice is simply amazing. Her classical training (of which she is so proud) shines out and you can tell this is her area (once Kavita Krishnamurthy used to stand grandly where classical in movies was concerned…but I’m not sure whats been going on with her choices). I’m still unsure, though, about how I feel about Bade Ghulam Ali’s recording being used such, but I think this is a situational song that will have to be seen to justified.

Delhi 6. Delhi 6 is an ode to Delhi, and its quite a celebration. I can’t pinpoint which singer it is, I believe its Vivienne Pocha, whose voice can only be well utilized by Rahman. For anything else she would be too raw, too sharp, too coarse, but in songs like this (and Shano from Yuvvraaj), she really pulls an effect. Overall this is not my type of track but I enjoyed it.

Dil Gira Dafatan. Ash King is new (I think?) and he does all sorts of things with his voice here, and I like it. He goes high, he goes soft, his breath comes in deep and goes out…The melody is inconsistent on purpose (like he’s just singing and not really following any music) and there’s a constant tone running in the background…the effect is something that builds up and builds up in anticipation…Chinmayee comes in and adds her own sweet effect. Rahman mixes a lot in this song…at times it sounds Western, at times Asian, at times it sounds like something European…but for some reason it works (for me). Its a risky song because there is a lot going on, and I don’t think everyone will fall for it. Its also very dreamy and flows like something…not quite real.

Genda Phool. For some reason there’s very little wedding/marriage songs being made nowadays, and I miss them. I miss the Main To Chod Chali Saajan Ka Desh kind of songs! Genda Phool brings back that genre with a twist, and for that reason may be one of my favorite songs here. The lyrics and the voice of Rekha Bharadwaj and the use of the sangeet chorus makes it very earthy, very shaadi and mehndi suitable, teasing and playing with the relationships to come…but the music defies that. The rhythm and beats fused in are very modern (with only a jhanak of payal in the background) and the whole effect is very fusion. I like it.

Hey Kaala Bandar. Three singers I really dig–Karthik, Naresh, Srinivas–and Bony Chakravarthy do new things with their voices. Its hip hop but not, its British-Indo rap but not really. Its lyrics are confused, going deep but then stepping out. Its youthful. It tries to be Khalbali in its spirit but doesn’t really get to that level. Its music doesn’t hit the spot, but you feel your head start bobbing. Its going through a serious identity crisis. Yeah, that’s all I can say right now.

Masakali. Remember my post on the music of 2008 where I gave Mohit Chauhan my best playback award and I said I’d love to hear more variety in his portfolio (and I also mentioned the singers I’d love to hear more of)?? Well, I should have also wished for Himesh Reshammiya to stop acting/singing in that post because apparently my wishes are all coming true. Chauhan OWNS this song, and its like nothing I’ve heard from him before. At times he’s bold and almost sleazy in his rebelliousness…he inserts laughter and wildness and youth into his voice with ease, and in the parts where his voice freely yodels he reminds you how smooth and dynamic his voice really is. I can’t really describe it well, so just listen.

Noor. Amitabh Bachchan speaks. I’m not a fan. So I have nothing to say. Words are okayish.

Rehna Tu. The songs which Rahman chooses to grace with his voice will always be the best of the album. I remember my mom once was shocked that Khwaja and Ay Hairathe Tere Bina (I’m sorry, I got the names all mixed up…which is stupid…thanks Ashish for pointing it out…Ay Hairathe was sung beautifully by Hariharan) were both sung by him, because he sounds so different in each. His voice doesn’t change, but his emotion does, his persona does…something happens as a result of which he does not sound the same on any two songs. It can go without saying that Rehna Tu will come to be my favorite song from this album 🙂 I love what Rahman does with it. I love its almost-R&B beat that switches into something more eclectic as the song progresses. I love what he does with his voice to really add passion and emotion and longing to the song. And I really like the lyrics. Just like I loved the strange but simple associations of Meherbaan, I love the lyrics of this love song which seem steeped in desire and not entirely conventional.

“Rehna Tu/Hai Jaisa Tu/Dheema Dheema Jhokha/Ya Junoon”

(Stay/The way you are/A soft slow breeze/Or a passion)

“Tujhe Badalna Na Chahoon/Radhi Bhar Bhi Sanam/Bina Sajawat, Milawat/Na Zyada Na Kum”

(I don’t want to change you/Even a little bit/[you are] Without decoration, without any impurity/Not too much nor little)

This is the slightly weird but sort of sweet stanza:

“Haath Thaam Chalna Ho/To Dono Ke Daayen Haath Sang Kaise?

Ek Daayan Hoga/Ek Baayan Hoga/Thaam Le…Haath Yeh Thaam Le…/Chalna Hai Sang Thaam Le”

(If we want to walk holding hands, how can both our left hands be together? One will be left, one will be right, lets hold, hold my hand, we have to walk together)*

(Um, I have forever been handicapped in being able to differentiate rightly between daayen and baayen in Hindi (i.e., which is left and which is right). So quite possibly I have them the wrong way, in which case, please point out kindly :))

The song ends with a flute-like piece that is very traditional…a very nice touch.

That’s my thoughts! Heavily biased, but atleast I didn’t go out right crazy saying the album had no faults! It does, but it is still magnificent and stands glorious evidence that Rahman’s genius will continue on and on and on and on and on…

And on.

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The Indian music industry went through a reformation in my personal opinion in the last few years, and going back to it after a small break I was able to appreciate a lot of the new work. The opportunities for new talent has proven to be a great thing, and I for one have really enjoyed it and taken it as a new movement towards the better. Starting with Naresh Iyer doing a tremendous job with Rubaroo and for a change being lauded highly for it, there have been new voices, new faces, and new music on the scene. I especially like the fact that established music directors are willing to take chances…I mean, I loved Shankar even before he began experimenting widely, but I love him even more for that. Rahman has always been an experimenter, and he has the talent to do it well. The new atmosphere I think gives him even more room, and his new albums have all been proof to that. Ada had tunes that were very Rahman, and some that were very different, that you needed to give time to sink in. Same with Jaane Tu, which some die-hard Rahmaniacs still choose to look over and avoid talking about 😉 I am as loyal to him as ever, but I’ve opened up and am more welcome to the latest work by directors like the young Vishal-Shekhar duo (thank you for beginning to sing yourself too in your tracks, btw). The pop/folk scene has changed to, and begun to accept that it can only go so far in false clothes: Hindi cannot and should not be a rap language. It just doesn’t work. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other realms we can expand into, right? Rabbi’s been popularizing a new type of modern rock, and Kailash Kher has been taking us back to the earthy, folksy, rich tones, but with a twist each time. Me likes.

Anyway, after all my re-appreciation I kind of got diverted (blame the new Epik High releases and Alex’s solo album) and only just got back to exploring, based on a recommendation. I checked out Dostana, was somewhat pleased, and then excitedly checked out Rahman’s new Yuvvraaj, a Subhash Ghai offering. Most of the tracks I’m still getting used to, but one or two have already gotten stuck in my head, which is what happens when a Rahman song is destined to become a favorite. He gives, again, the reigns of many songs to new singers: great move 🙂

Most of Dostana I’m quite pleased with. I’m sure the majority loves Desi Girl which is a fun enough track (and reminds me of Shankar’s music, not just because he’s singing), but I’ve built quite a liking to the other tracks.

Anyway, here’s what’s playing a lot on my ITunes this week…

Dostana: Khabhar Nahin**, Jaane Kyun**, Kuch Kum*

*Shaan does a sad song? Shaan’s voice is always smiling, so Kuch Kum has this feeling to it…like someone is trying to smile through pain. Lovely touch.

**Um, Vishal Dadlani, can you tell me why you weren’t singing happy-bubblegum-upbeat-falling in love songs before? And also, can you please tell Shekhar to start singing to some of his compositions too? As long as you don’t take it too far like a certain nasal music director turned singer, I’d really like to hear more of those voices. Please to oblige. Thanks.

Yuvvraaj: Tu Meri Dost Hain*, Zindagi**

*Firstly, the lyrics really attracted me, and then the touch with which Benny Dayal goes “Tu hi to meri dost hai…” Its a very unorthodox song, unpredictable on the twists it takes. I really love the idea behind using the word dost.

**Feels like ages since I’ve heard Srinivas.

Also heard repeatedly: Alex’s Saranghaeyo, highly because of the instrumental parts, and Epik High’s One Minute One Second. Is there any limit to Tablo’s genius? I hope not.

Oldies I’m going back to: Naina Barse Rhimjhim, for its eerie beauty, and Baat Niklegi because you can never have enough of a good ghazal.

Procrastinated enough? 🙂

PS: While we’re on it: any recommendations?

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I was happy to read this news piece, confirming my own thoughts on his songs, in his own words. Rabbi is indeed a female sympathetic song writer, and chooses to write about the crucial topics facing India right now: female foeticide and the rights of the girl child. His beautiful songs speak out to me, and to many women, for these reasons.

I must go back and look at Avengi Ja Nahin in this new light now. Which is always the greatest thing about Rabbi: you discover new qualities, new meaning, new aspects each time you listen.

Singer Rabbi Shergill, the voice behind popular songs like Bulla Ki Jaana and Tere Bin, says his latest album Avengi Ja Nahin focuses on social issues like female foeticide, rights of the girl child and racism.

Ballo, one of the nine songs of the album, talks about the issue of pre-natal sex determination, Rabbi explained. “Female liberation is guided by the patriarch and women are still manipulated,” said the singer, who is known for the Sufi influence on his music.

While the album’s title song Avengi Ja Nahin is dedicated to the girl child, Ballo will suggest gender selection”, said Rabbi.

Credit: http://sify.com/movies/fullstory.php?id=14701943&?VSV=SMM

Another exciting piece of news: The video for Challa is now out. Maybe now I’ll be able to understand the meaning behind the song better. Interesting MV, though I wish the quality was a tad better.

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Lyrically, Avengi Ja Nahin has several songs that seem singularly female-sympathetic, an attitude that is refreshing in a young male singer, and important in our generation. While the first album had songs that chose a woman as their heroine, like the girl wandering around the country searching for answers and finding more questions in Jugni, or Ishtihaar, a song which describes an advertisement for a lost woman, a lost love, this second album is more feminist in its approach. I’m not sure how purposeful that is; perhaps as a woman I read too much into them. But whatever the reason behind it, I find that especially attractive in his lyrics, because I can relate to them more and understand them more.

Avengi Ja Nahin discusses more about love than Rabbi did, and is more ‘direct’ in a way. By that I mean this: in the first album, the songs discussed love but with a certain tragic quality (like the lost woman in Ishtihaar or the story of Heer-Ranjha, or even the sudden change in the lovely Tere Bin where the hero makes a significant realization about the woman who left (‘giving up’ or losing love). In this new album, the love songs are more direct, more open, and more flirtatious in a sense, as the lyrics proclaim confidence in the hero’s love and lust. Therein lies an irony that confuses me about Rabbi’s lyrics. The woman in his love songs (self-written or chosen) is always leaving, or teasing, or out of his reach while the words claim the pain and loss he has felt from her. Yet, other songs are on her side, proclaiming her beauty, her strength, or even giving her encouragement. Why the difference between his love stories and social narrations?

The title song, Avengi Ja Nahin (Will you come or not), is not my favorite by any means, but it has good music. Its almost a straight talk kind of song, where the lover demands his beloved if she will come or not, if she will return his love or not, or will she just leave him with empty promises?(A new article leads me to reconsider my thoughts on this song: Must go back and reanalyze.) Challa is confusing to me, and I’m waiting for more clarification on its lyrics in which the challa (ring) becomes different things that hold meaning (there was an original version sung by Gurdas Mann, which I must also check out). Maen Bolia (I said), is one of the songs I mean when I talk about a confident love…it is a defiant, bold proclamation from a lover that says that he knows she loves him, she has the fever, and she will come to him. Another love song is dedicated to the mysterious girl from Karachi, who is beyond his reach, who he can never have because of many obstacles, yet who he knows yearns for him too.

That’s it for the love songs, and while they are all quite good and Challa is gorgeous in its music, none of them caught me with as much force as the simple Tere Bin did from Rabbi. The others songs are my real favorites, and not just because of their larger meanings and greater symbolism, but because their lyrics are simple and the music is just right, complementing each word. This is kind of a talent that Rabbi has that ends up bringing the most out of the lyrics (thus creating the sensation by his working of a 16th century poem, Bulla).

Bilqis, or Jinhen Naaz Nahin, will stand out for everyone who is a fan of Rabbi’s social commentary. It is a narrative that is based on the shocking true story of Bilqis Bano, the woman who was gangraped in the 2002 Gujarat riots and lost 14 members of her family (and still awaits justice from the courts in India, and goes on to describe other incidents of innocents wronged by the society we live in. And Rabbi demands through their voices that the people who have such pride in India, who like to boast and claim all is well in this nation and there is only growth and no problems, who are so nationalistic and jump at any criticism: where were you? Where were you and where are you when such horrendous crimes against humanity take place?

Bilqis (Jinhen Naaz Hai), Rabbi Shergill

Paghri Sambhal Jatta is a re-interpretation of a popular inspirational song for the Sikh youth, and I wouldn’t be able to say much and as well as is written here on The Langar Hall which I found very interesting. http://thelangarhall.com/archives/352

Return to Unity, Rabbi’s first full English song, I’m still chewing and pondering over, so thoughts on that will come at a later time. Tu Avin Bandra (You should come to Bandra) is a love song of sorts to Bandra, a part of busy, bustling Mumbai. I like the song for its music, its slow, laid back quality, and the almost smiling voice with which Rabbi sings “tainu idhar accha lagega (you’ll like it here).” Its a very different song, and it creates an image of a hustling, bustling, complicated Bandra, one that I’m sure I’d appreciate more if I had spent any time there. The song, for some reason, makes me think of a big city on a wet, rainy day. I really couldn’t tell you why, but its a nice image and makes me happy.

Tu Avin Bandra, Rabbi Shergill

Now to my hands down favorite: Ballo, a simply lovely, amazing piece giving empathy and encouragement to a woman. It is beautiful because it seems to know, to have a very eerie sense of what it is really like to have the pain only a woman can have. It could be directed to a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a distressed lover. Rabbi’s soothing voice begins the song with words that acknowledge pain without being arrogant or patronizing.

Ballo, Rabbi Shergill

Main janda, tainu aaj/Peer hundi/Dil tere uthdi ek/Cheez

(I know today you/have pain/in your heart rises/a pang)

And goes on to further accept the fact that this is difficult, that the time, the events, the circumstances, are akin to storms, raging across your word. The next two stanzas describe the betrayal and struggle a woman feels when one she treasured, loved, showered affection on, is the one that causes her this pain, this suffocation, this trauma (and Rabbi maintains the gentle tone of, “yes I know its hard”).

Main Janda Aunde/Din ‘ch tufan kei/Kuch Sujda Na/Uddi ey reit

(I know in the day/arrive many storms/you can think nothing/and there’s just sand)

Rakhdi ti jisne tu/Saambh Saambh/Ghut ghut seene naal/La

Kal jo si sohna/Sagna da haar tera/Ajj ban gia/Gall da o faah

(What you guarded/with great care/against your bosom/very close

What was yesterday/a lucky necklace/is today a noose/around the neck)

The chorus stanza comes next and is simply uplifting, and the music changes, complementing the tone, as it becomes encouraging, telling Ballo that all of this is karma, and this too will pass, as long she faces it with dignity and strength.

Ni Ballo/Ni Ballo/Gham khada/Ey tan lekha si/Karma da/Vekh lai jar lai/Ihnu khirhe mathhey/Beetaga sama/Hovange/Katthey

(O Ballo/O Ballo/Why this sadness/This is just cause/And effect/See it, feel it/Raise your chin/This time will pass/We shall be/Together)

The next stanzas couple stanzas hold the most meaning for me, and are quite powerful yet simple. Again, I am amazed by just the depth and feel, and how does one convey so much in such few words? And exactly what is needed to be said and heard?

Main janda dabbian tu/Kai yadan/Jo suttian na gaian/taithon

O aundian ne kandhan tapp/jadon meetein tun akhan/jadon laven foki mattan/maithon

(I know you buried/many memories/that you couldn’t/throw away

They come climbing walls/when you close your eyes/or when you listen to my/empty advices)

See what I mean? I may be getting too excited in my love for this song, but I personally have the impression that for a lot of women, this song is almost like what Killing Me Softly describes (for those who are fans of that song). In a song being played, you hear and feel like your own emotions have been stripped open. Except Ballo is not just empathic but aims to say “Its okay, and you can’t let this bring you down.” Yes, it is a struggle, and yes, it is a constant fight within you. As the next stanzas describe, you constantly judge yourself, debate yourself, accuse and sentence yourself. You try to find your faults one day, and another day blame the one who hurt you; one day you attack yourself and blame it all on your own doings, another day its not you…and yet, there is never a resolution, it is never over.

Kardi ein nitt tu/Mukadma/Kardi ein tikhian/Jirha

Kade akhein dokhi/Kade kar devein bari/Par hovey na/Koi faisla

(Everyday you/Litigate/Everyday a sharp/Debate

Sometimes its guilty/Sometimes its innocent/But never a/Resolution)

Again, the chorus comes in, and tells Ballo to lift her chin up and face the time, because this will pass.

And the last stanzas are both empowering and desolate. Rabbi ends with words that leave you both saddened, and also strangely stronger.

Tera maseeha/Bane das kivein koi/Duniya sabh bhulli firdi

Khud varke tainu folne painu/Khud painde tainu chalne paine/Navein akhar gharne paine

(Who tell me/Can be your messiah/When all are as lost

You’ll have to turn the pages yourself/You’ll have to journey yourself/Shape your own script)

It is the truth, and it is delivered like a soft blow at the end of a motivational speech. Ballo, there is indeed only you. Only you can control your life, pick up the pieces, create your world and your journey, clean up the messes and answer your own questions. We are all lost beings, and we cannot guide each other, and while we feel pain and hurt by each other, we are all on an equal footing, just trying to make our way and live our life.

Rabbi Shergill has a way with words, and is one of the finest lyricists on the Indian music scene now. Listen to his songs, explore his music, and interpret and research his lyrics, and each song will become an experience in itself.

Avengi Ja Nahin is available on Amazon, on ITunes, and via Yash Raj Films. For lots more information on Rabbi and to stay updated on his works, visit Rabbism. For the story behind the album, downloads, and complete lyrics and translations (and to sample the tracks), visit http://ajn.co.in.

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Avengi Ja Nahin, Rabbi Shergill

I’m a little late catching up to Rabbi’s latest work, unfortunately, though he has been on my list of favorite singers ever since Jugni, Tere Bin and Ishtihaar reached my ears and their words (translated lyrics, because Rabbi usually sings in pure Punjabi) reached my mind. I caught a video of the title MV from his new album, Avengi Ja Nahin, and honestly wasn’t drawn in and avoided it to prevent being disappointed, but recently I thought I’d atleast go back and check out the rest of the album. And I was very glad I did. Undoubtedly, Rabbi, the self-titled first album, will be my favorite, and in my opinion is the better one, for several reasons: Rabbi Shergill is fresh, passionate, strong, and in a very unique, independent spirit in Rabbi. Those were the songs that swept millions across the world, because you can sense his “I sing for myself” and “I am passionate about my music and nothing else” spirit in each of his songs. And, his sound of rock mixed with the sufi style was so new to the stale Indipop scene (which I’d all but given up, save for Kailash Kher), that Bulla Ki Jaana was literally a movement.

BUT…that doesn’t mean Avengi Ja Nahin isn’t a great album. Rabbi has stayed true to his soul and his passion and has created something quite wonderful. Italian maestro Mauro Pagani has produced the album, which was mostly recorded in Italy. Perhaps there is where my personal tastes are affected: I enjoyed Rabbi’s initial effort because it seemed to come purely within him; it was, after all, self-composed and self-written for the most part (or self-interpreted with wonderful results). While this one is too, there has to be some influence by the producer, and that has both its advantages and disadvantages. But it is always great when artists venture into different territories, especially when that means actually going across borders. Avengi Ja Nahin, as a result, is a very unique album. The lyrics are, as expected, quite great for the most part (still prefer the first, Rabbi, for the lyrical power, too, though). I’ll discuss those further later. The music, because of the international influence is rich in its diversity. A variety of instruments have been used, and creatively and expertly mixed. Ballo has a simple, constant beat in the background, placing emphasis on Rabbi’s strong vocals, and it matches the spirit of the song. Bilqis is strong, heavy on the guitars, and Rabbi seems to narrate the song, appropriately. Challa has a laidback, acoustic feel to it, like its playing on some boat with a lonely man rowing it. You can listen to the songs, get the translated lyrics and read more about the story on its official site: http://ajn.co.in/

Yash Raj Films, who are distributing the album, have a wonderful review: http://www.yashrajfilms.com/News/NewsDetails.aspx?NewsID=fc087a10-8206-4144-b14d-d06898d3bf8c

I think its great that Rabbi provided these lyrics, appreciating the fact that the majority of his fan following is not that well-versed in Punjabi. Also interesting and fun to read: the one-line comments added by him as a footnote to the lyrics. They provide a very personal insight into the creation of these songs. I’d also have liked to hear a bit more on what lies behind his composing, i.e., what drives him to choose the subjects of his songs and what are his inspirations as he writes?

Avengi Ja Nahin is another great offering by a singer, rocker, composer and lyricist whose passion for music is transparent, and who knows how to use his gifts to reach the people. I admire Rabbi for his bold lyrics, his honesty and depth, as much as I love his songs for their powerful beats, rhythms, and the energy in every tone.

PS: If you are a Rabbi fan also, then you will find hordes of information and discussion on the unofficial Rabbi blog, http://rabbism.blogspot.com.

(I forgot and was late publishing this first post. Thus, discussion on the lyrics follows soon in a separate post)

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