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A tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a fine idea. But the orchestra reminds you of run-of-the-mill Hindi films, overrich in violins and a boring 4/4 pattern on the dholak


A drab adaab

Adaab Nusrat Saab

Rs 65

Adaab Nusrat Saab, 
meant as a salute to the genius of the sufi master, comes across as a thoughtlessly orchestrated project

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan died in 1997 after a spectacularly successful musical life. Born in 1948, the year after India and Pakistan were partitioned, he sang the poetry of the sufis for several years before he came on to the Indian popular music scene. The qawwali proved the best medium for his passionate style.

In India Nusrat sang for several films, made the music for one, and cut albums with Indian music industry stars like Javed. Many of these attempts were musically undistinguished. The idea seemed to be to take this great singer to an audience that was addicted to the populist style of the Mumbai film orchestra. With albums like Sangam, where he sang Javed's poetry, Nusrat was co-opted into the world of the music video. Some of his songs hit the market after he died, including one with A R Rahman in the album Vande Mataram.

Now, four years after his death, comes  Adaab Nusrat Saab from HMV. This is a compilation of his tunes -- three sung by him, and the rest sung by Shazia Manzoor (of  Aaja soniya, which is said to have 'inspired' Anu Malik's Aaja mahiya from Fiza), Shabnam Majeed, Humaira Channa and Rahat Ali Khan. The music has been "rearranged" by Jayant Pathak. Looks like it means he just kept the voice tracks and did his own thing with the background and the interludes.

Pal do pal hain pyar ke has some great singing from Nusrat. The characteristic swings from low to electrifying highs and his intense alaaps punctuate this tune. Only the orchestration is reminiscent of run-of-the-mill Hindi films, overrich in violins and a boring 4/4 pattern on the dholak. Personally speaking, this Shivranjani tune could have been treated differently and allowed some poignant silences -- it is, after all, a contemplation on the fleeting nature of love. The lyrics are by Khwaja Pervaiz.

Ishq da rutba, is about the season of love and has chirping flutes and a happy note, spoiled only by the almost criminal use of violins. Why should violin phrases be so predictable? I love violins, but you shouldn't find cliched phrases on new songs. It is frustrating. They must have asked a violin ensemble working for films to write up the score. 

Shazia Mansoor has a metallic, true voice, like Salma Agha's, and sings Dhol Mahiya well. The santoor, flute and drums catch up on the violins in the cliche competition. The song does not reach out for creative distinction and is boring in its progressions and predictable stanzas. Shazia also sings Dil par war hota hai. The tune wavers between being tender and sloppy. Eminently forgettable.

Woh raat phir aai nahin by Shabnam Majeed begins with an interesting beat, and lapses into the mundane with the trombone phrases. Remembrance of a lovely night which did not return. The beat attempts to keep itself going but generally the less said about the orchestration the better. It will remind you of 1980 films like Taraana, Yaraana, Love Story etc. Shabnam's voice is thin but holds together.

Sun aai mere sajna sounds like three different styles in as many seconds. The fast pace makes you breathless. The violins here change colour and go Arabian. Yet bad habits die hard and in between they quietly sing like Satte pe satta re-recording music. The flautist must have been told to fill in anyhow as long as he filled so many bars of the interlude. Humaira Channa and Rahat Ali Khan sing competently though.

Dil dharke ga is an interesting tune, beginning low and packed with intensity. Humaira's petulant expression suits this song about the inevitability of falling in love. The lyrics don't rise above the usual duniya being the dushman of lovers.

Nusrat happily reappears in Tainu Takda rawan . The orchestration could strongly remind you of Chaiyya chaiyya from A R Rahman's Dil se .

If only the orhcestra could have risen above the average, this could have been a real adaab to Nusrat. This is a drab and uninteresting tribute, except that you get a chance to listen to three of the last tracks of the sufi master. The album seems to be more of a commercial gesture, aimed at his fan market.

The inlay card is nice and simple in black and gold (Sameer Varma Design Studio).

S Suchitra Lata

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