Raag Darbari and rock make for a great combo, this is a fact that has been proven more than once in the past. Here is another proof point from Strings, as they pick up Abbas Ali Khan’s (who sang that stunner called Phool Banro in Ep 2) rendition of Hazrat Baba Gulzar Sabri’s qalaam from his album Tamaam Alam Mast (partly based in darbari) and give it a spiffy makeover. With excellent support from the strings section and Shallum Xavier in particular. Abbas doesn’t sound as awesome as he did in Phool but that’s probably my bias towards the song; he does have his wow moments here too, that improvisation segment in the last two minutes being right up there.
Best thing about the song was to know that Jimmy Khan isn’t a one trick pony (was surprised actually to find a 2012 version of this song, I had found nothing apart from Nadiya when I googled Jimmy up around the time that song came out). This one too is a simple song like Nadiya, but lacking on that old worldly charm the latter had. Pleasant listen nevertheless, Strings do well to introduce Sajid Ali’s flute into the equation.
Kheriyaan De Naal
Marriage is a theme that has appeared often this season. Or maybe a large chunk of folk songs have been inspired by that occasion. In this case it happens to be the legendary Heer’s lament about getting married off to a groom from the Kher tribe. The Niazi Brothers adapt their own father’s rendition of the folk piece, for the episode. I haven’t heard the original version, or any other adaptation of this song, but it is hard to imagine a rendition that could convey the pain in the lines in a more accurate fashion. Niazi brothers are spotless on their part – brilliantly nuanced, yet soulful – Jaffer Ali Zaidi’s piano and Sajid Ali’s flute providing the right support in augmenting that feel. And in the last two minutes the singers stand back, allowing the flute to take centre-stage while the other instruments go on an overdrive; some fab work from Aahad Nayani on the drums there.
Mitti Da Pehlwaan
Jawad Ahmed, a name Bollywood followers would be familiar with for the song Main Tenu Samjhawan. This song is pretty much on the other end of the energy spectrum though, albeit based again on a Punjabi template. The familiarity in the tune is a bit of a dampener, but the rich arrangement – that features, aside of the house band, some lovely strings and guitar solos from Omran Shafique, with the occasional clarinet cameo by Jaffer Hussain –kind of makes up for that. Good use of the backing vocalists too.
Episode 6 starts with Abida Parveen making a third appearance on the season, this time with another powerhouse quite familiar to Indians, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. They pick up Amir Khusro’s famous qalaam here (based in raag yaman) – and it is delivered as beautifully as you would expect it to be. There is Jaffer Ali Zaidi starting off the proceedings with a Coldplay-esque refrain on his piano, joined later by the guitarists and the choral group Humnawa chipping in around the title refrain, and then there’s Abida and Rahat towering above others, engaged in an ethereal duel of alaaps and sargams. You always know that it is building up towards a crescendo, but that does not make it any less enjoyable – at close to 9 minutes it still doesn’t feel long, as has been the case with most Abida songs on the show.
Descent to the Ocean Floor
The man who dazzled with his guitar play in episode 4, Usman Riaz, returns to the show with a piano, presenting a movement from his 3-movement neoclassical piece (need to dig up the complete composition). The man proves to be a dab hand at the piano as well, starting off with an impressive, blitz-y solo before settling into a relaxed pace. As a composition I found this more impactful than Bone Shaker, the tune is more haunting and the piece as such is more coherent in its entirety. And Usman structures it well, adding layers progressively – first the cello and then the chorus, all of which go very well with the song.
There is much delight in hearing a harmonium well-utilised in a song. And Strings achieve that well with Arsalan Ali in this song, even as Javed Basheer delivers Karamat Ali Azad’s poem in his typically flawless fashion, accompanied of course with the usual fireworks around the sargams. Humnawa gives excellent support here too, and the other star of the song is Tanweer Tafu with his mandolin.
You probably had to have grown up with Zoheb Hassan’s songs with Nadia to be able to connect to them. I base this on how I connect with a lot of 90s Indipop songs which may not seem like great compositions now. And this has been my problem with the songs Zoheb has sung on Coke Studio so far. Jaana too. It is a nice, feel-good song to be sure, and treated quite well by the composers too. But by Coke Studio standards, I would not rate it very high. Zoe Viccaji sings Nazia’s portions well by the way.
Barring Jawad Ahmed, two episodes entirely devoid of new faces. The musical quality continues to be impressive nevertheless, and that is what matters at the end!
Top Recos: Kheriyaan De Naal, Mujhe Baar Baar, Chaap Tilak, Descent to the Ocean Floor