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Mixing the classic with maverick

HER RICH vocal timbre, musical sensitivity and poetic colours capture the true spirit of Urdu Ghazal. Call it the hybridisation of Indian lyrics with Western melodies or the ?American interpretation? of Ghazal, Paula Jeanine has crossed artistic boundaries to develop a repertoire that suits her vocal notes and poetic direction.

india Updated: Sep 20, 2006 14:25 IST

HER RICH vocal timbre, musical sensitivity and poetic colours capture the true spirit of Urdu Ghazal. Call it the hybridisation of Indian lyrics with Western melodies or the ‘American interpretation’ of Ghazal, Paula Jeanine has crossed artistic boundaries to develop a repertoire that suits her vocal notes and poetic direction.

Singer, poet, percussionist and composer, all fused into one, Jeanine has concretised a concept in which the Indian musical elements are richly splattered with western fundamentals.

‘American Ghazal’, as it is called, mixes the classic with the maverick, resulting in a 21st century fusion of global forms. The ghazals she sings in English are a free translation of Urdu ghazals.

“I was the only child and was always introspective. My mother was a jazz singer and so this form of music flowed into me naturally. I, however, found something amiss and was always yearning for something stronger.

I needed a vehicle to put my talents, to exhale something pure from the soul. It was this craving that led me to flutist Steve Gorn, who introduced me to the Indian musical landscape”, she said.

Jeanine visited India after 9/11 and trained under Dhanshree Pandit Rai. “At that point of time, I felt I was the luckiest person on earth. I was reborn. Not only did it give a new colour to my vocal prowess but also added an innovative flavour to my poetries.”

In New York, Jeanine gets her ‘musical lessons’ from Ghulam Mohammad Khan, a relative of Mehdi Hassan. “I started listening to the ghazals and realised their musical intensity. Ghazal is a deep subject and is saturated with elements for transforming the soul. It has given me a platform for singing on metaphysical subjects.” And what about Bollywood music?

“Some are extremely good. I especially liked the title number of Kal Ho
Na Ho. You won’t believe but I really danced on this number just after my marriage.

I also liked the numbers of Veer Zara and Paheli. People are inching towards the hybridised form of music, like the one in Salaam Namaste.”

Jeanine maintained that Hollywood music was still not as savouring as that of Bollywood. And lastly, what she was experimenting next? “I have found a new love in ‘sarangi’. I found it was the apt instrument to compliment my voice. Besides I am also writing a piece called ‘Kit of Parts’, which is themed on my college boyfriend.”


Riveting performance
PAULA GAVE a riveting performance at Arera Club on Tuesday. Among the different compositions that she churned were ‘Face it Honestly’ (freely adapted from the ghazal ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’, ‘Uninterrupted’ (freely adapted from the ghazal ‘Humko Kiske Gham Ne’, ‘What I know Now’ (freely adapted from ‘Hasti Apni Hubab Ki Si Hai’), ‘Pale Moonlight’ (composed by Jeanine/ Bennett) and ‘Many Bridges’ (freely adapted from the ghazal ‘Mere Humnafas, Mere Humnawa’. Those accompanying her were Sarvar Hussain (sarangi), Nafees Khan (tabla) and Anwar Hussain on (harmonium).