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Ghazals you
can rock to

Janeman is an example of how exponents of the stately ghazal are moving towards rhythm-heavy music

Rs 75

Panjak Udhas began his playback singing career with a song composed by Usha Khanna for Kamna (1972). That film never made it to the theatres. Manhar, Pankaj's elder brother, took the dejected debutant to an Urdu teacher who was a great lover of Mehdi Hassan's singing. That's when Pankaj was drawn to the world of ghazals.

Pankaj spent some years learning Urdu, and when his ghazals won him appreciation, decided to travel to the US and Canada for live shows. He returned to India some years later, delighted with the encouragement he had received abroad. He continued singing ghazals, and came up with Chitti aayi hai, a nostalgic song that is known to bring aching sentiment to the hearts of Indians living away from home.

In Janeman, his 37th album, Pankaj sings a song that could remind you of that big hit.

Karvate badal badal
rat khat-ti dil mein
hai halchal
janeman, janeman

(I toss and turn/the nights pass/beloved, my heart's agitated).

The orchestra arrangment makes this an unusual love song. Heavy rock-style beats are reinforced by the dholak, and together they make the rhythm track a lively combination of electronic and acoustic sounds. Pankaj Udhas sings a simple melody in what can only be called a pleasant voice -- he doesn't attempt to match the subtlety of a Mehdi Hassan or the improvisational flights of a Ghulam Ali. I particularly liked the way the distortion guitar roars in and out of this song, and the qawwali-style alaap in raga Kiravani towards the end. Why is there no credit on the inlay card for that power-packed voice?

The second place goes to Sahiba, another pleasant number that has been on the music channels. Lalit, who makes the tunes for all the songs on the album, also writes the words for this track. Rangeen hua is also by Lalit, and the tune progresses predictably, the only noteworthy thing about it being the rock texture of its orchestra.

In Ishq ishq, Zameer Kazmi describes the immensity of love -- it's got the sun and moon by its side and the sky beneath. And gold and silver are but "patthar" (stone) before love. This number, and the following Charon taraf, do not musically improve on the hundreds of Sufi songs we hear in Hindi films.

Janeman is one of the better tapes you can buy off the non-film racks now, but don't expect a ghazal album strong on improvisation. Pankaj Udhas's voice isn't too strong on body either. Lalit's orchestral ideas show an experimental bent -- the idea of giving a rock feel to a ghazal singer's songs deserves a pat. The first two tracks on the album deserve full marks for original thinking on orchestral colour.

S R Ramakrishna

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