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Archive for the ‘Amazing Musicians’ 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…

Ch.

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…

Ch.

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

Ch.

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.

Afterthoughts:

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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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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Happy New Year y’all!

happy 2009

Wow…another year takes its bow and leaves. Good riddance, I say. Though on a personal level this year has been a mixture of both good and bad, it definitely hasn’t been a good one for the world in general. I’m looking forward to a new year that will hopefully bring it with it brighter days, more clarity, more strength, greater hope…that will just be better than the year that has gone. Wishing you all joy, peace, and health in the new year!

I’ve just seen my parents off at the airport and it has sunk in that the holidays are truly over…always a difficult pill to swallow. This is my favorite season (the most wonderful time of they year!). I hate to see it go. I have a lot to look forward to this year, but currently my body and my mind are loathe to show much activity and movement. We just wants to lies arounds and do nada. Ennui sets in. I’m in danger of simply becoming a zombie, so I thought that some writing would kind of push my body and brain into circulating some thought and action. Or, yunno, I’m just procrastinating more.

Anyway, I present to you my list of favorites in music and some other miscellaneous categories :)) These opinions are just passing thoughts and just personal opinions, and probably valid to change hour by hour. If you’re a regular reader, you probably know my love of adjectives is never ending, so please to keep in mind the use of hyperbole, kthx.

🙂

Best Bollywood Soundtrack: I think that in comparison to 2007, 2008 showed more innovation and experimentation, but still came short of impressive work. There weren’t that many albums that stood out to me this year, and I barely added any to my library. But even if I didn’t exactly love them, I will say that there was definitely a greater variety in the music out there…more directors, more singers, more styles being played around with. That’s a big step up, and it makes me look forward to the future of Bollywood music.

That said, for me the best album of the year was Yuvvraaj. Apart from my obvious bias towards Rahman as a long term loyal fan, I pick Yuvvraaj because it was so amazingly refreshing for me. And it was a very experimental album for him, this third one this year. I haven’t seen the movie and will never see it (eww to what I’ve heard about it), but that isn’t necessary with Rahman, and especially with Yuvvraaj. From Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, to Ada, to Yuvvraaj, Rahman has taken impressive steps to revolutionize his music and change the flavor each time, and do it with the same magnificence. His music is alive, pulsating with life and rhythm and personality and character. And so, yes, it takes time to get used to each new album, but once you do, you absorb it completely and just revel in it (or atleast, I do). Tu Meri Dost was simply lovely…with its high peaks and its low softness, its fantasy-like quality…Mastam Mastam had a quality of freedom, of rebellion, of carnivals and of tolis set out to celebrate…Shano Shano was downright club music with twists and turns that baffled initially but drew you in soon enough…Zindagi was rich in emotion and ached with pain and angst. New voices appeared throughout, and familiar voices showed new talents and capability. Each time I listen to the album, I discover new nuances, new feelings, new emotions, and understand new aspects of the lyrics that actually makes it an experience each time. That’s a golden album for me.

Best Non-Bollywood Album: If you’ve been to this blog even two times you can guess it. Avengi Ja Nahin was miles ahead of anything else this year, anywhere. In fact, I feel it could be miles ahead of its time and its generation. I don’t know how much it was appreciated in India, but Rabbi is an undisputed genius. I’m literally left breathless by how amazing this album is, and how I discover new things in it each time. Read in depth reviews here and here.

(And don’t take just my word for it…see Deepak Iyer’s list for the year gone by here for further corroboration)

Best Filmi Song (Lyrically and Melodically): This was a tie for me between Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Ek Lau. Amit Trivedi’s lyrics for Ek Lau are undoubtedly amazing: they are simple, beautiful, touching. In a few lines, he says so much of such great importance. He conveys the dilemma of the human being, the pain and angst of our world as it stands today, and the confusion of the normal human caught up in all this conflict. Shilpa Rao’s voice is delicate, soft, trembling with emotion, and adds as much to the song as the lyrics and the music do. It is a masterpiece.

Khwaja Mere Khwaja is complex, not easy to grasp, but from start to end it is seeped in devotion, faith, in deep emotion and religious love that is quite powerful to listen to. The Sufi touch envelops you and the lyrics, once understood, mesmerize you. The call touches you, the desire of the devotee to reach his Khwaja is touching, and it involves you, it raises you. If you close your eyes, you may find yourself at Ajmer Sharif… (but please, with none of the terrible actors in the scene from the movie: I almost walked out in frustration at those expressionless zombies).

Best Non-Filmi Song (Lyrically and Melodically): Without hesitation: Ballo, from Rabbi’s Avengi Ja Nahin. Possibly the best song written and composed in recent times. The best song all year in any category. It has made my list of life time favorites, and I think it is a rare gem, as is Rabbi. I possibly don’t need to say more than I’ve already said here.

Most Melodious Song with Disappointing Lyrics: This is a unique category, but I find some gems every year where the music is just outstanding but the lyrics fall far behind. It is my belief that a great song is made up by just the right combination of lyrics and melody and the right voices (I don’t mean lyrics must always be super meaningful or symbolic, but they should hold substance of some sort, even if its mushy substance). But, I must admit, a large part of my library is made up of songs that sound oh-so-good but mean so little if actually thought about. Of course, the trick is not to think about them. 😉 In this category, the prize goes to Hawa Sun Hawa, in Rahman’s Ada (lyrics and translation here). I can’t bother myself to look up who wrote them, but homeboy sure lives on cliches and over used mushy lines. Seriously, hasn’t the woh kaun hai bit been done to death? Raaz, yaad, uske bina, aaja re aaja…aiyiya, seriously, how can a song be so cliched and overly lovey? Haven’t we moved past that by this point? Not to mention the many lines where the song simply goes to into random words to fill in space (aaja re aaja re aare…!!), and I don’t know if Rahman isn’t a little bit involved there. Lyrically, the songs he’s been choosing haven’t all been very good in recent times, which is slightly disappointing to me (Shantanu Moitra, for instance, always seems to give music to songs with substance, such as the recent Sajjanpur and the older Ab Ke Sawan). Also, don’t tell me you can’t have a love song without 100% cliches…Ek Meetha Marz De is a fine example. I love romance as much as the next woman, but, seriously, lets have less of this and more of that. But the music of the song…aah…SPELLBINDING. That’s how I still manage to listen to it.

My Favorite Male Playback Singer in 2008: Mohit Chauhan. I used to love Silk Route when I was a child, and when he came back as a playback singer, I was delighted. It means I get to hear his voice more. Tum Se Hi in 2007 from Jab We Met was arguably a pop gem (if only I didn’t harbor deep suspicions about where Pritam got that tune from, I would love it even more)…so was Guncha a few years ago, and this year he sang Kahin Na Laage (from Kismat Konnection…another Pritam…aiyah), and then the beautiful Moitra song, Ek Meetha Marz, which sealed it for me. Sure, I’d love to see him add some more variety to his portfolio in the year to come, but I can’t deny that I love those songs mostly because he sings them so well. Sonu Nigam in Hawa Sun Hawa almost took this spot, but then I had had too much of the drawing out of words…

My Favorite Female Playback Singer in 2008: Shreya Ghosal. I’m generally someone who doesn’t really love super sweet voices (honestly, they grate on my nerves at times), but Ghosal is different. From her debut a few years ago, girlfriend has grown and grown and just become better and better. On one of the music competition shows for children, Pritam or some other idiot told one of the little girls she sang better than Ghosal had for a particular song…I think I gaped for about a minute and then said something unladylike, before switching channels. Ghosal is one of the most promising singers of my generation, not just because her voice is so lovely and melodious, but because she makes an effort to expand her styles and pick up varied songs, and because it really seems like she works hard. She packs feeling and emotion into her work, and that is what a great singer maketh. From the most recent Kaise Mujhe from Ghajini, to her bit in Tu Meri Dost Hain, to her small but memorable part in Khabar Nahin…this has been a Ghosal year, and she deserves to be lauded for her work.

Singers I’d like to Hear More From: Vishal Dadlani makes great music with Shekhar, and they both sure do sing well. So please to sing more! Dostana was a fun, light album, but definitely exposed how much potential Vishal has as a singer. Benny Dayal is a new discovery…by Rahman…and I don’t know who this dude is but I would definitely like to hear him more. His voice on Yuvvraaj is full of promise: please don’t disappear! We don’t get to hear Shilpa Rao enough, and the same goes for Srinivas.

**That ends the Hindi music side. I can’t comment much on movies, actors, actresses etc because honestly nothing really caught my eye this year. I will say that Bollywood is finally growing up and I’m very proud of it for doing so. Provocative, mature, sensible and slick cinema is now being produced, which is excellent. I didn’t catch enough of this yet to really name any ones that stood out, but I do have great hope now for the film industry.

And now onto the other half of my music library…my favorite Korean pieces this year. My handicap here is that I don’t always understand all the lyrics (a lot of other times, I’m not that bad in getting the gist, or I look em up :)). But that just means the music has to prove itself more. There was some great music this year, but definitely not at par with the year before in my opinion. Going through my library I realized I really haven’t added much to it since 2007, at least not to the same level. Hoping 2009 will bring more great music from an industry, especially from the Indie and Rock scene…

Best Drama Soundtrack: If there weren’t that many great dramas this year, there also weren’t that many great OSTs. Unlike past years, from which I have quite a few favorites added to my collection, 2008 was seriously lacking. Who Are You wins simply because I enjoyed it so much while the drama was going on, and that had to do a lot with the placement of the songs/instrumentals and the way they fit into the story. Thinking deeper, I think Gourmet has greater quality, and more substance, and some very impressive pieces (especially Gyung Hab, with its Arabic twists…wow, what an instrumental).

Best Album: Alex’s My Vintage Romance. Yep, even I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I do like Clazziquai and have always loved Alex’s voice, but I didn’t have humongous expectations when I started listening to it. But many of the tracks have become favorites and his voice just has this quality…it can really fit into the mood of the song, it can smile, it can express pain, it can be flirty, it can be romantic, it can be calm and sober. He really plays with many different styles in this album, and does quite well. Highlights are Lets Clasp Our Hands Together (깍지껴요 ft Gaeko) and Love (사랑하오), and Daisy.

Favorite Song: Umbrella, by Epik High, and ft. Younha. I’ll tell you a secret. This year, I had to loosen up on my Epik High fanaticism. My respect and admiration for them is still as great as ever, but neither of their two albums really did much for me this year, except for bright spots here and there. I’m not sure why. All of their other work has spoken to me, so I’m not sure what happened here. Maybe I should go back and re-listen and re-absorb. However, Umbrella was still impressive…dark, gloomy, full of angst and lyrics that made you ache…in other words, completely Epik High.

Song I Didn’t Expect to Like: But did. Mirotic. Definitely not a DBSK fan, and probably never will be, but this song was very…mirotic. Also, their dancing in the MV and on their on-stage performances is excellent and always supremely polished (with many “how the…what the…huh?” complex steps), and that makes the song even more attractive. But, seriously, are these boys actually real or programmed, too good looking robots? (Shuts up and won’t tag for fear of fan wrath ;))

Disappointed in…: Clazziquai’s most recent album, Metrotronix. I mean, it is just too much techno and electro for me. And it just doesn’t have…the it quality that their other work has had. Of course, I have the one song featuring Yi Sung Yol. That’s a given, ain’t it?

Year End Bang: My Aunt Mary’s Circle. I haven’t given it too many listens yet but what I have heard, I’ve loved. And how good to have them back on the scene. Thomas Cook’s voice never gets old, I tell ya.

My Wish for 2009: 이승열 (Yi Sung Yol), won’t you please release another album? We’ve been waiting patiently! Hearing you twice a year on OSTs or featured on other singer’s albums is simply not enough. I’ve worn out volume 1 and volume 2, and a new volume would be the perfect present this year. Nothing in the world quite like his voice…

****

Its midnight and time for me to turn into a pumpkin! Or maybe just time to eat a guava. Don’t ask me why. Go grab your own midnight snack.

Happy 2009!

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Jagjit Singh is probably one of my most favorite singers (and my absolute favorite ghazal artiste). “Baat Niklegi To Phir Door Talak Jayegi” has always been one of my favorites but for some reason its been stuck in my head last few days. I thought I’d try to post a translation because I think its just such wonderful, poignant, lovely poetry. I love when my brother sings this one…

Because this is difficult Urdu for me, a lot will be lost in translation, and there are certain words that even I had to hunt. But hopefully some one out there will still appreciate it, because a lot of people stumble here looking for Jagjit Singh’s translations (I’ve posted some ghazals before, organized under categories). Please let me know if you have any alternate suggestions/thoughts about my translation or just about the ghazal itself. Its just so beautiful…short, but quite, quite lovely, especially in Jagjit Singh’s wonderful voice.

The translation itself may not make as much sense if you don’t get the gist of the song or the feeling behind it, or understand the voice of the writer. The wonderful thing about ghazals is that they may be interpreted so many different ways. My own analysis of this piece is as follows…it is a poem of admonition, where a lover warns his beloved about how the world will never understand their love. When the word (baat) goes out (niklegi) it will spread like wildfire (door talak jayegi), rumors and gossip about their relationship will be tossed around, it will be the talk of the town, but no one will understand. We learn that she is seperated from him, that this separation is painful, visible by the way she has stopped to take care of herself, stopped to do her hair, wash her face, visible by how she has aged, by the bangles she wears. And people, they notice all this, they conjecture on it, they gossip about her and her condition and the reason behind it, they may taunt her, be cruel to her by noticing all these faults and asking her persistently. They may bring up his name in conversation just to see her reaction for their own entertainment. But, he warns, don’t be dragged into it…don’t answer back, or question, or argue, or let it show on your face how much you love me. If you say anything, the expression on your face will give it all away, so be quiet, and bear it, and don’t talk about me with anyone. Because once the word gets out…it will go too far.

Feel free to post elswhere, but credit moi.

Baat Niklegi To Phir, by Jagjit Singh. Written by Kafeel Azar.

Baat Niklegi To Phir…Door Talak Jayegi

(If word goes out, it will spread too far)

Log Bewajah, Udasi Ka Sabab Poochenge

(People will, without reason, probe at the cause behind your sorrow)

Yeh Bhi Poochenge, Ki Tum Itni Pareshan Kyun Ho

(They will also ask about why you are so troubled)

Ungliyan Uthengi, Sookhe Baalon Ki Taraf

(Fingers will be raised to your dry [unwashed] hair)

Ek Nazar Dekhenge, Guzreh Huye Saalon Ki Taraf

(There will glance suspiciously at the years gone by)

Chudiyon Pe Bhi, Kayi Tanz Kiye Jayenge

(Even your bangles will become the subject of jokes/wisecracks)

Kaapten Haathon Pe Bhi, Fikre Kase Jayenge

(Even the old and the aged, whose hands tremble, will not hesitate to taunt you…)*

*fikre, I think, means understanding or comprehension, and I think this line means that people will even make something out of nothing, just to talk about it. Even if your hand shakes, people will say it means something. That’s my take. Edited per Bhuwan’s comments: fikre means teasing or taunting

Log Zaalim Hai, Harek Baat Ka Taana Denge

(People are cruel, they will taunt you for every single thing)

Baaton Baaton Mein, Mera Zikr Bhi Le Aayenge (2)

(Somewhere in the conversation, they’ll mention me too)

Unki Baaton Ka Zara Sa Bhi Asar Mat Lena…

(Don’t give their words any significance [attention] at all…)

Warna Chehre Ke Tasur Se Samajh Jayenge

(Or the expression on your face will give it all away)

Chahe Kuch Bhi Ho, Sawaalat Na Karna Unse (2)

(No matter what happens, don’t question/argue with them)

Mere Baare Mein Koi Baat Na Karna Unse

(Don’t talk about me with them)

Baat Niklegi To Phir…Door Talak Jayegi

(If word goes out…it will spread too far)

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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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Whoa…people are sure interested in Avengi Ja Nahin…the blog hit a record number of posts since I made my post on its lyrics! Great! 🙂 I’m beginning to consider adding some ads to help my broke, penniless pockets a bit. Especially since the other night I dreamt I’d reached HK safe and sound and happy and then realized I had absolutely no money. That’s not technically possible, but it was a weird and scary dream.

Anyway, coming to the topic…a couple of people reached this blog by searching for the translated lyrics for A.R. Rahman’s Hawa Sun Hawa (I always find those search terms interesting), and I thought for once I’d maybe go with that. I don’t like the lyrics that much (they are quite romantic and mushy and steeped in love and yearning, but I usually dig the simple but deep kinds, and not too much of the dramatic, metaphorical type), but I know what its like to search for the meaning behind a lovely song. And as I wrote here, this song is definitely lovely, a Rahman masterpiece and I adore its music. I just hesitate to translate Hindi/Urdu songs myself mainly because so much is often lost in translation with these languages. You can’t convey the same feel when you translate, regardless of how much you try to avoid losing its touch. But still, without further ado, here are translated lyrics. Feel free to use these anywhere, but it’d be good to credit moi.

Please note that no gender is specified for the most part in the song, so I’ve just inserted she or he based on if its Sonu or Alka singing. I’ve tried not to translate literally so its not too awkward, but also tried to keep as much of the original meaning as possible.

Hawa Sun Hawa, Ada. Composed by Rahman. Sung by Sonu Niigam and Alka Yagnik.

[Woh Kaun Hain/Woh Kahan Hai/Jise Dhoondhti Hain Nigahen/Woh Kaun Hai]

(Who is that/Where is she/The one my eyes are searching for/Who is that)

CHORUS: Hawa Sun Hawa/Usse Chooke Aa/Usse Chooke Aaja Zara/Kahan Hai Woh Itna Bata… (2)

(Wind, listen, wind/Go, touch that person/Just touch that person/Tell me where she is… )

STANZA ONE: Kaun Hai Yaad Jo Har Pal Aaye/Yaad Woh Aaye To Aake Na Jaaye, (2)

(Who is it that I think of in every moment/And when I do, I can’t stop,)

Raaz Yeh Dil Ab Kisko Bataaye/Saamne Hai Woh, Nazar Na Aaye…

(Who should my heart tell this secret to?/She is right before me, yet I can’t see her…)

Mujhko Kiski Aahaton Hai Chuya/Kaun Hai Woh Ey Hawa Tu Yeh Bata

(Whose movements have just touched me?/Who is this, can you tell me, Oh Wind?)

CHORUS: Hawa Sun Hawa….

STANZA TWO: Meri Sadaayen Tujhko Bulaye/Saamne Aaja/Oh Aaja Re Aaja Re… (2)

(My voice* calls out to you/Come before me/Come, come…)

*I don’t know if this is the best way to interpret sadaayen here, which essentially means evocation.*

Mere Yeh Baahen Tujhko Pukaaren/Aaja Re Aaja Re Aa

(My arms call out to you/Come, come, come…

CHORUS: Hawa Sun Hawa…

[Woh Kaun Hai, Woh Kahan Hai]

((Who is that/Where is she)

STANZA TWO: Tujhse Miloongi Toh Tujhse Kahoongi/Tere Bina Main Reh Na Sakoongi (2)

(When I meet you, I will tell you/I won’t be able live without you)

Chodo Udasi/Kyun Aankhen Nam Hai/Gaur Se Dekho To/Nazdeek Hum Hai

(Leave this sadness/Why are your eyes wet/If you ook carefully/You will find me near you)

Mujhko Kiski Aahaton Hai Chuya/Kaun Hai Woh Ey Hawa Tu Yeh Bata

(Whose movements have just touched me?/Who is this, can you tell me, Oh Wind?)

[Woh Kaun Hain/Woh Kahan Hai/Jise Dhoondhti Hain Nigahen…]

(Who is that/Where is she/The one my eyes are searching for…)

See what I mean (if you share my tastes)? Nothing that spectacular, and not very impressive on the lyrical front at all. But I guess that’s where the magic of the musician and the singers comes in. Rahman makes it sound like a legendary ode, and gives these weak words a grandeur, and Sonu and Alka infuse the song with so much feeling and love and emotion that the listener is left mesmerized, in a way (even if you can’t understand the lyrics, or so others have said). Anyway, I hope the people searching for the translation the other day come back to find this, and find it helpful!

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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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