Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is to Sufi music what Miles Davis was to jazz. At first, both tried to play along with the dizzying melodic pyrotechnics of their elders — Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie for Miles and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for Rahat. Both of them got slapped on the head for failing to keep up. And it pushed them to strike out on their own — on paths that celebrated the simplicity of tonal arrangements rather than frenetic climbs up and down the octave.
In Rahat's case, the difference is stark in two recent re-packaged releases — 'Rahat Sings His Master' and 'Kisi Roz Milo' — brought out by Nupur, the pocket-friendly label.
The former plays six tracks that are among the best-loved tunes by Nusrat, including 'Sanu ek pal chain na aave' and 'Kinna sona tainu'. These, presumably, were recorded between Nusrat's death in 1997 and Rahat's coming out in 2004 (at least in India, with 'Mann ki lagan' in the film Paap). It's difficult to fathom whether the tracks were re-recorded at a slightly-faster-than-actual speed, or it's about a nephew trying to outdo his uncle. The result, either way, is "Tchah!"
'Kisi Roz Milo', however, seems to be by a different Rahat. Well, it's not quite the artist we have come to love through film songs or 'Charkha', his 2007 non-filmi album. But in slow slides such as 'Mere dil ki duniya' and 'Maine usse dekha hai', there's a hint of the Rahat who has given us a new window into his music.
Pop go the roshans
There's no doubt that the Roshan Empire has struck upon a winning formula. Not long ago, everyone bored of the Khans worried that an actor as good-looking and as fleet-footed as Hrithik would be crowded out of the Bollywood beefcake market. But the canny Roshans went after an unguarded corner of the market — they won over the teens and tweens with superhero antics and 'cute' love stories. Now there's only one Krrish in this 'krazzy' market.
But the territory perhaps comes with its own sound.
The soundtrack of Kites served up by uncle Rajesh Roshan to go with Hrithik's story of 'evergreen love — with Barbara Mori — are schoolboy pop. But it's true that in that genre and in the context of Bollywood, it's well-packaged pop.
K K sets the tone with two smooth tracks — Zindagi do pal ki and Dil kyun yeh mera — that could have done much more had the instrumental arrangements moved this side of 1980. Things get a bit odd with 'Kites in the sky', in which Hrithik warbles sweet-somethings in English along with Suzanne D'Mello's sweet-nothings in Spanish. Papa Rakesh is, thankfully, spare and hidden in the dance-floor chorus that's 'Fire'.
Like all recent film albums, the second half comprises just the remixes of the first. As you skip through them, you thank your stars that the Khan families haven't yet struck upon their own all-in-the-family formulae.