Soft signatures

CD review

The world of ghazals is the most fascinating one if you understand the language, sub-text and the philosophy behind each of those songs and poems.

The first thing that strikes you even as you open the album is a big measure of surprise to know that Pankaj Udhas has still not sung the ghazals and nazms of the legendary Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

How did he survive so long without doing that? Everyone who has to carve a niche in the world of ghazals has to sing some of these composers to prove their worth. Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir, Zafar, Maqdhoom Mohiuddin and Faiz are some of the names to swear by.

The current album has Pankaj’s own rendering of Faiz’s ghazals: some classic and some lesser known. The CD opens with Kab tak dil ki khair manayen, a ghazal Faiz penned, etched with nostalgia and the feeling of loss of a dear one and Yun saja chand, another romantic number. Pankaj manages to satisfy us with his soft meek voice to the tunes music director Amarjeet Bajwa has set.

With some excellent accompanying artistes in the industry today like Rakesh Chaurasia on flute, Dilshad Khan or sarangi, Rajendra Singh Sodha on the violin and Swarlin and Ankur Mukherjee’s guitar, one can enjoy the music in bits and pieces. However, as a total musical experience, it falls short of convincing in its entirety. When you tune something as classic as Faiz, one ought to be far more careful than the usual and this is what Amarjeet Bajwa seems to lack.

For example, the last three tracks on the CD, Raaz-e-ulfat, Shaam-e-firaq ab na pooch and Sheeshon ka masiha koi nahi are modern classics. Over the decades, some of the finest voices of the 20th century have rendered them.

From Begum Akhtar to Mehdi Hassan, Madame Noorjehan to Jagjit Singh, Begum Farida Khanum to Begum Abida Parveen, scores of legendary voices have made these ghazals immortal with time-tested tunes that have now become their own standards of measuring success.

When dealing with such a delicate issue, the music director ought to have taken a little more care and concern in the kind of orchestration he wanted. Instead, the current CD seems to have downsized these fine ghazals into tunes that you wouldn’t remember even two minutes after you stop the CD.

Everyone remembers the wonderful poetry read by Shabana Azmi and sung by the young and talented Jaswinder Singh in the IPTA’s production Sheeshon ka Masiha, a few years ago. Almost nothing to beat that kind of rendering and this is where Pankaj’s voice falls short and remains unimpressive.

Pankaj has a fine voice that suits some kind of ghazals and only some kinds of moods. Not all. After a while in this CD, all his tracks sound alike. You get easily used to his voice and lose all sense of the ghazal, the hidden emotions in it, and the treatment it requires.

The CD might not be the best around to listen to Faiz, or the best voice of Pankaj, but one must commend him for atleast attempting something different and decently original, but nothing noteworthy.

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