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Discernment. Online

















The Colonial Cousins are too old to get by with words of this sort --their songs will perhaps mature and acquire the bitter dash of life sometime


Cousins still doing
a teen act

Sony Music

Colonial Cousins Hariharan and Lezz return with Aatma, an album that's got fine musicians and great technical values, but that's not enough for a band like this

Sundar balma is the last song on this album. It shows the strongest experimental streak among nine tracks on Aatma. There's Hariharan singing chota khayal-style lines (composed by Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, his guru), a disappointed lover whispering to her beloved and trying to find out why he is distracted, and Lezz singing his English lines. On the whole it achieves a cinematic montage effect.

In fact Aatma picks up styles from East and West, quite fittingly for a group that underlines its internal "colonial" polarity. Mata pita is a ballad in praise of parents, added for variety one surmises, for all the other songs are love songs written to girlfriends or dream girls.

Dil mera kahe dheem dheem dhirena is interesting because it picks up its syllables from the classical tarana form, throws in Mumbai movie-style words and some heavy rock-style drumming. Also thrown in are a chorus and a sitar.

"Dance with me pretty angel woman/Dance with me till the night is over" can hardly qualify as great poetry, and most of the time, the words on this album are adolescent articulations of romantic love.

In the next track, "Dil mein tu" rhymes with "can it be me and you", and has additional lyrics in Hindi by Dev Kohli. Vishwamohan Bhatt begins the track with an alap in Bhim Palas -- and then Hariharan sings some pleasant flourishes. Again, the immature college style comes back: "
Hit me like a shot of cocaine/Dil mein tu/Can it be me an' you".

Side B opens with Sri Rama. A salsa rhythm leads into Lezz's voice, which is then followed by Hariharan singing traditional Karnatak-style lines in praise of god Rama. The next track Kai zhala pastes Marathi words on to a raucous expression of love with words like "crazy about you/hazy without you" and all that.

While not denying their talent and their capacity for energetic music, one must say that the Colonial Cousins are too old to get by with words of this sort. The inputs are first class -- great studios and fine musicians, expert mixing and mastering... yet you look for more from a band like this.

With Hariharan's long years of struggle and learning under classical masters like Ghulam Mustafa Khan, and Leslie Lewis's decades of dealing with the world of advertising and selling, you would expect their songs to carry the truth of experience. What you see instead is just the froth of sentimentality. Their songs will perhaps mature and acquire the bitter dash of life sometime, but right now they are only reaching out -- don't know how successfully -- to a teen audience.

Smriti Ananth

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