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New age devotional

Preeti Uttam
Times Music
Rs 65

Preeti Uttam is a Times Music discovery. Classically trained since she was three, Preeti sings tunes composed by her father, Uttam Singh, who has made the music for recent films like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dil To Pagal Hai. In Sur he moves away from the idiom of mainstream Hindi cinema towards the idiom of bhajan music.

The words are by Narayan Agarwal 'Narayan' and are, as expected, pious, pleading forgiveness and dwelling on the bliss of the divine.

Saras saras, the best song in the album, is based on raga Charukeshi. It opens with desert winds and progresses on a slow beat on the tabla supported by the santoor. Preeti's voice is restrained in the lower and middle octaves and sounds true. She sings a contemplative alaap before she takes up the words. The slow pace affords her opportunities for improvisation, which she exploits quite competently, but her voice turns thin and strained in the upper reaches. The guitar fill-ins bring in a modern-day ghazal feel, while the harmonium, heard so rarely, plays a couple of welcome ad lib passages.

Uttam Singh (centre) composing for Sur

Mangal chavi begins with guitar notes, and progresses on the kind of orchestra you hear in Anup Jalota recordings - a harmonium, manjira, tabla. Preeti's voice again gets squeaky-high in parts, sounding almost like a violin. Did she have to sing those phrases at all?

The santoor opens Tum ho mere man main, and a voice alaap follows; both explore shades of raga Brindavan Sarang. But Preeti does not manage the delicate flourishes and strays off key. Such lapses are evident even in Rachna rachna where she fails to render flawlessly a tightly constructed phrase to conclude the refrain. The words in Rachna rachna approximate the Christian awe of creation as embodied in the human being (Mein to teri hoon, teri rachna -- I am yours, your creation), expressed in images from Indian romantic poetry (raag, ragini, chand, chandni, etc).

Sur ke ghungroo, the shortest song in the album, is currently on the music channels. Predictably enough, there is a ghungroo playing along. Based on the Bilawal scale, the song is again full of Krishna imagery: the dance, the flute, the gopis The phakawaj gives it a nice heaviness, and the flute bits are well done, although there are few phrases that sound new and fresh.

The inlay card has the songs mixed up, and the last song listed on it is actually the first on Side B.

There seems to be a new age devotional sensibility at work throughout the tape, anxious to sound different but not quite knowing how this can be achieved. There are few synthesized instruments, thankfully, and the santoor, pakhawaj, tabla, guitar, flute and bass guitar make up the acoustic arrangement. Preeti needs to strengthen herself on what this tape promises -- 'purity of tone'.

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