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Just finished listening to the Jodhaa Akbar soundtrack by AR Rahman, which was such a letdown. I was expecting it to be brilliant, especially after reviews like this, but it turned out to be one of the most boring and derivative things I've ever heard, and I'm left scratching my head wondering if those people are living in the same world that I am, to write such glowing reviews. I've been a fan of AR Rahman in the past, even pimped him on this journal, but honestly, the best work he did was eight years ago - Roja and Dil Se and Taal, which were some of the most innovative soundtracks and changed the course of the industry - and I feel like ever since, with a few exceptions, he's been either flatlining or going downhill (though because he was so brilliant it's taking him longer to hit bottom than most). And now I'm almost disgusted by this, how ordinary the soundtrack was, how much it recycled themes he's used a thousand times already, how people are praising him.

I wish that they'd given this soundtrack to Shantanu Moitra, who did such awesome awesome work in Eklavya (does this song not give you the goosebumps? IF IT DOESN'T DON'T TELL ME), who always comes up with something innovative and good, or even Mithoon, because even though his recent soundtracks have left me less than impressed, they were for modern and not period films. He's only ever done a period film once, when he created two songs for Anwar, and they were two of the most brilliantly produced songs I've ever heard.

I really hate it when someone I used to consider brilliant falls like this. There are few enough people I admire in the world already. :/ (And after listening to the Akhbar soundtrack I had to listen to Eklavya & Anwar again, just to reassure myself that there was still a reason to live. I might or might not be taking this too personally.)

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watna ve

This song is from the movie Pinjar, which was released a few years ago. There's nothing new in the arrangement, or the instruments used, or the production, or the song structure itself; they've been making songs like this in Bollywood for decades. But it's rare that I hear one so beautifully and skillfully done, with such amazing lyrics and melodies and singing, and it makes me think that the reason they've been making songs like this for so long is because when done properly, they can be utterly heartbreaking.

The singer's voice is low and smooth, soft and resonant, and the lyrics are beautiful in a very simple and poetic way, some of the saddest I've heard. There was this one line in particular - murkhe hum na dekhain ge/ aur tu bhi yaad ana aa na - I won't turn back to look/ don't come in my memories - that caught my heart.

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It was either last week, or the week before, that I was watching SaReGaMaPa, which is something like the Indian version of American Idol. And a boy who couldn't have been more than eleven years old got up on stage, and sang this song that I couldn't remember ever hearing before, Tujhse Naraz Nahin Zindagi. And it was the strangest thing. The host of the show started crying, one of the judges started crying. They asked the boy to sing it again, and he could only get through one verse, because by this time everyone was crying - the boy, all three of the judges, the boy's parents, the studio audience, all the people I was watching with, and, yeah, me too. (It's contagious, I swear.) It was the line he sang again - jeene ke liye, socha hi nahin, dard sambhaalne honge - to live, I didn't even think, I'd have to deal with pain. It just felt so very real.

the lyrics:

tujhse naraaz nahin zindagi

tujhse naraaz nahin zindagi hairan hun main
tere masoom sawalon se pareshaan hun main

jeene ke liye, socha hi nahin, dard sambhaalne honge
muskuraayen to, muskuraane ke, karz utaarne honge

muskuraaoon kabhi, to lagtaa hai
jaise honton pe karz rakhaa hai

tujhse naraaz nahin zindagi hairan hun main
tere masoom sawalon se pareshaan hun main


I'm not upset with you, life

I'm not upset with you, life, I'm surprised
Vexed by your simple questions

To live, I didn't even think, I'd have to deal with pain
If I smile, for smiling I'd have to pay a debt

Sometimes, when I smile, it feels like
I've weighed my lips with a debt

I'm not upset with you, life, I'm surprised
Vexed by your simple questions

Sameer - Tujhse Naraaz Nahin Zindagi

Also, a youtube link.

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AR Rahman move over. I think I've found someone new to put on my pedestal.

Sanjay Gupta is a strange, somewhat delusional character. He claims his movies are highly original, calls them works of art that push the envelope when in fact they're nothing more than pale knock-offs of western movies. Maybe this was why it took me so long to listen to his songs - I figured his music would be just as derivative. But, ohman. Gave the soundtrack to Zinda a listen yesterday, then Musafir, and. His stuff completely blows my mind.

There're two versions of each CD - the lounge version and the club version, and usually designations like this put me on guard, because most Indian club songs and remixes I've heard aren't very good. Indian music producers have this tendency to throw random western elements in their songs to try and make them seem hipper and cooler (MORE WID IT KAY), with the result that the whole thing sounds tacked on and stupid. But whatever the producers here are doing, more often than not it works, in such a way that it seems, at the same time, both completely natural and revolutionary, and then they do it again in the next song, and then again in the next. It's amazing.

These two songs are from the soundtrack of the movie Musafir.

Saki (Psychedelic Insomnia Mix)

Lyrics by Dev Kohli, produced by Vishal-Shekhar, sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Sunidhi Chauhan. A mix of traditional and techno and rock IN A WAY THAT WORKS. *still kind of blown by that* sakis were what they called women that served drinks in wine houses. This song has lyrics that I adore (in no small part because I'm a huge proponent of the "to love is to be at war" school of thought). This is no sappy love duet - both the man and the woman can be hard and cutting, and the atmosphere of the song reflects that.

lyrics )

I love the beat, the guitar riffs around two and a half minutes into the song, the back and forth that immediately follows between the woman and man (ishq ke galiyon main na jana... ishq to mera khuda hai aashiq mera naam hai), especially the way the guy draws out the last syllable, his voice spiralling up. It works so well, and the only place aside from hindi songs that I've heard that done is in operas.

Rabba (Lounge Version)

Produced by Anand Raj Anand, lyrics by Dev Kohli, sung by Richa Sharma. There are traditional vocals, a steady techno beat and ambient backtrack. Rabba means god, and the girl is saying, in the first verse:

let no one come into my life
if someone comes don't let them leave
if they're going to give me tears
then don't let them make me laugh before

Will do his album Zinda next.

*ishq: passionate love
**aashiq: passionate lover

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Naervaer is a Norwegian band consisting of Terje Sagen and Jan Transeth. Their sound is spare and evocative, reminding me of jagged cliffs against gray skies or campfires in the night. The tracks ranging from purely instrumental to trip-hoppish to having arrangements and vocals reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. According to Terje Sagen, when they were making their music, "Mood was the key word. Don't force it out - let it come naturally, and the reflection of the mood will be pure." I could picture their music as the soundtrack to a coldly beautiful movie, characters moving in wide open spaces, a landscape that seems to dwarf them.

So far they've released only one CD, Skiftninger. Both these tracks are from that CD.

An instrumental track, spare and lonely.

Dose Dager
A simple, rather lovely track, with a slow, steady beat, what sounds like the keyboard, guitar, and Norwegian vocals. Falls somewhere between ambient and alt rock.

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A couple of indian remixes.

Britney Spears - Me Against The Music (Rishi Rich's Desi Kulcha Remix)
The original song is nothing to write home about, with repetitive produced beats and lyrics that stand out more for their awkwardness than their poetry. But then UK Bhangra producer Rishi Rich got his hands on it, turning it inside out by eliminating the melody, creating a killer backbeat, and adding bhangra elements, all of which combine to make this one of the catchiest dance tracks ever.

Rock U vs Mundian
A mash-up of Five's We Will Rock You and Punjabi MC's Mundian to Bach Ke (Beware Of The Boys). It's rather hilarious how well this works.

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So I went to a Lhasa show the other day, and this band that I'd never heard of was the opening act. Was mildly interested, because the info booklet had compared them to Calexico, but wasn't expecting anything much.

And then they played, and I was completely blown away. Their sound was like nothing else I'd ever heard, a mixture of folk/indie rock and mariachi and eastern instrumentals, and it was amazing. As Mikel Jolet of Filter said, "DeVotchKa may be the best band in America you’ve never heard of."

The following two songs are from their album How It Ends.

You Already Know
Such A Lovely Thing

I really can't say enough good things about this band. The whole album's great, like a soundtrack to a dream of a terrible, fabulous, beautifully tragic love.

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Lhasa is a Mexican-American singer who draws from various modern and folk styles, including jazz and french chanson. Her songs have a moody tone and intriguing lyrics, a sound that's rich and seductive and weary.

These two song as from her second album, The Living Road, where she sings in French, Spanish, and English.

La Marée Haute (High Tide)
Sung in French, accompanied by the piano and bass clarinet, and then later strings.

My Name
A stark, melodious song - one of the album's more haunting tracks.

Also, if you ever have a chance to see her live show, you shouldn't miss the opportunity. It's completely amazing.

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A.R. Rahman is the best known Indian film music producer at this time, and, if articles like this time magazine one are anything to go by, is well on his way to international renown. He's produced soundtracks for dozens of films, starting with the 1992 film Roja, compositions that are a unique mix of modern and classical music traditions.

The following two songs are from the movie The Rising, his latest work.

Al Maddath Maula
A Qawwali-style devotional song where, to be fair, Rahman doesn't vary much from the usual modus operandi - repeating phrases and tabla based rather boring rhythm - but which I still adore without reason, and I finally figured out why. It's because I love dichotomies, and while being a devotional hymn, the song still manages to sound sinister and tragic, as if it could also fit perfectly in a descent to madness soundtrack. Al Maddath Maula means help me god, and it has phrases like - god, is there going to be an even deeper darkness/ god, is there every going to be an end to this night - and there's this feeling that the answer is no, there isn't, the world isn't going to change, it's the person who's going to have to change, and the person knows it, that what they're praying for, really, is the strength to become something terrible so that they can stand up to it.

One of the sexiest songs I've heard in some time. I like how sinuous the whole thing is, how various melodies are twisted together, and I love the really low husky singer's voice (that's there for all of two lines *coughs*). The video for this was amazing.



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