The trend of popularising sufi music started over a decade ago with some excellent and enthusiastic musicians who had a genuine concern for spreading the love and philosophy the sufis believe in.
Countless albums and artistes made innumerable efforts over the years. At one point, it was considered ‘cool’ to know or be associated with the word ‘sufi’, even if there were no connections to what one was doing.
In that era of ‘coolness’, another set of artistes with a special knack for mediocrity thrived and rose to high fame, thanks to the markets which didn’t look beyond commerce.
The current album, ‘Philo_Sufi’, by the young Azaan Khan, seems highly inspired by the same markets.
Grandson of the illustrious sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan, and son of Shujaat Khan, Azaan hails from high pedigree with not just the reputation of his musical lineage, but the burden of responsibility as well.
But there ends the fairy tale. Going by this album, one wonders how a prestigious label like Saregama even allowed this kind of tortuous lenience.
The name of the album, ‘Philo_Sufi’, is enough to say how serious you could take it. The album contains eight tracks and these seem to compete with each other in how bad, bad can get.
The first track, Aankhiyan Mori Tarse, also features dreadful vocals by Azaan’s father Shujaat Khan, whose name has obviously been utilised for all sorts of marketing purposes, including the cover of the CD.
Also shocking is the absolutely distasteful lyrics in each song of the album. The lyrics sound alike in all the tracks. At most, they sound like flop songs from Bollywood, or those bad numbers that took Lucky Ali down the unforgiving ladder years ago.
To listen to these lyrics in the most soulless voice becomes an exercise in sheer torture for anyone who genuinely loves music. Azaan seems to have zero sense of the most important element of Indian classical music — sur. To pass that off as ‘sufi’ is petty and reprehensible.
The only elements worth listening to are the drums by Gino Banks and saxophone by Rhys Sebastian, that come in as a saving grace. One wonders if they collaborated only because of Azaan’s undeniable family name, power and influence.
There is an excellent line delivered by Sir Toby in Piya Behrupiya, the excellent Indian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Atul Kumar, where he says, “Do peg peeke, aadmi sufi ho hi jaata hain” (two pegs down, anyone turns into a sufi).
Azaan Khan’s album fits right into the bill of such ridiculousness. These are random meanderings of a clueless guitarist lost in self-indulgence morphed as sufi and repackaged to the chaos of branding and marketing; a thoroughly disappointing affair at its best.