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West of the border

This one is cued in by a request. Karishma Kulkarni wrote in after reading this column's reviews of the Faiz and Khusro albums from EMI Pakistan's 'Great Works' series.

music Updated: Dec 11, 2010 00:40 IST
Amitava Sanyal

This one is cued in by a request. Karishma Kulkarni wrote in after reading this column's reviews of the Faiz and Khusro albums from EMI Pakistan's 'Great Works' series. She pointed towards 'Great Works of Bulleh Shah'. The album wasn't on the shelf I had picked up the other two from. So I asked another friendly shopkeeper for all the EMI Pakistan albums released in India by Virgin. He plucked a bunch. Here's a part of the harvest.

But I cannot dwell as much as I want to on Bulleh Shah because of the richness of the other albums fetched up.

First, let me say that though Nusrat Fateh Ali's 'Charkha' is wonderful and all that, it's a rare instance where his nephew Rahat has outdone him. Check out tinyurl.com/2ctftmu (also on the 2007 Saregama album, 'Charkha'). It's jhoom-inducing hypnotic rhythm covers up for the fact that it plays along with only half the lyrics.

Listening to Abida Parveen's 'Sadhe Wehrre', you realise why she managed to hold her own in a star-studded generation — her ear for danceable rhythms. It's a pitch on which Nayyara Noor's 'Tere ishq nachaya' falls flat.

The album's worth the money. But I found a gem away from it: Sher Miandad's 'Raaz dhiya' at tinyurl.com/3ysksut. A rare case in which a pop star is inspired beyond genres.

One for a zamana

Known best for writing that lament of laments, 'Ranjish hi sahi', Ahmed Faraz (born Syed Ahmad Shah) passed away in Pakistan in 2008.

The 20-song collection begins with 'Payam aye hain', one of Noor Jehan's later hits. A slight discomfort creeps in with Runa Laila's chocolatey 'Kya aisa kam' and Farida Khanum's fast-tempo 'Har aashna mein', made poppish by accompaniments in the style of old Doordarshan (a sliding guitar ruins it).

The producers' attempt to widen the gaze among artists is appreciable. But in front of Mehdi Hasan's 'Abke hum bichhre', Ejaz Hussain Hazari's pales. Don't go for the filmi version — listen to a live take at tinyurl.com/3xenz89.

The second CD begins with 'Ranjish' by — who else? — Hasan. Mehnaz, unlike Runa Laila, manages to infuse some soul into 'Ab ke tajdeed'.

Hasan glides along the blue notes in a memorable manner in 'Zulf raaton si', another song that suffers from forced, unmatched accompaniment. Malika Pukhraj's inebriated, slightly-behind-the-tempo voice comes off better on 'Sukhan dard ka' than on 'Hum apne ansuwon'. The last track is a bonus: a reading of 'Yeh meri nazmein' by the poet himself. It's yet another lament — for a Pakistan he couldn't agree with.

Not all velvet

I'm unlikely to warm up to an album promising 'Velvet Voices'. But truth be told, so much of good music suffers from uninspired packaging that it's a trouble that comes with the territory.

The 15 songs ease out the whine — this is indeed a rare treasure. It opens with Noor Jehan's original of 'Chandni raatein', made into a video hit by Partners in Rhyme. Malika Pukhraj's 'Zahid na keh buri' is the earliest recording by the artist I've come across on CD. The whole version of Pukhraj's 'Abhi to main jawan hoon' — also an early recording, unlike on EMI's 'Great Works of Faiz' collection — is another treat. The manna keeps coming with 'Arey meghsaaro'. In fact, you can take the few Khanums and Runa Lailas as a bonus, and treat this as a Pukhraj-Noor Jehan collection. It still would earn all the stars for the sheer rarity of the recordings.

I said it's 'a part of the harvest' because there was also an album by Pathaney Khan. I'm saving that for later.