Sunday, December 21, 2008

Battle for the soul of desi music

Ok ok..I wanted to title this as Nusrat vs Kailash Kher, but settled for the dramatic instead of the cheesy. Desi music has never been in want of legendary singers. There is greatness in singing and then there is singing with soul. Perhaps it has to do with being acquainted with poverty at some point in life....when suffering, pain and a certain hopelessness guide your way of life. You then start doing things in a way you really want to, you do things not for the commercial, but because you know deep down that this is how it needs to be done... you are at peace with a song because you know you have found its soul. The singing that is thus born is so fresh and carries away the listener with its carefree abandon.

It was way back in high school when I first heard "Afreen".
Well, granted the song became a hit in part due to the worshipping of the scantily clad Lisa Ray by bums like me.
Granted the lyrics are as cheesy as those of a first time love letter written by a high school kid -
"aisaa dekhaa nahiiN Khuubsuurat ko’ii
jism jaise Ajanta kii muurat ko’ii
jism jaise nigaahoN pe jaaduu ko’ii
jism naGhmaa ko’ai jism Khushbuu ko’ii"
(what else can you say about such descriptive compliments ;-) )
Yet...... Nusrat's rendering took it to a certain level of innocence that is so close to being spiritual.

Well, so what if it took all the seductiveness of Lisa Ray or the blending with techno to make Nusrat's music popular...Whatever be the means, the broader subcontinent audience so richly deserved to hear his heavenly voice.

While it was the constant poverty of a small traditional qawwali band that shaped the initial years of Nusrat, it was the total failure of his fledgling business that drove Kailash Kher back to his music roots. Thankfully "Rabba Ishq na Hove" was well received despite a subpar picturization(not that I mind Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta strutting their stuff in latex minis) and the medocricity of the movie(Andaaz) it appeared in. I need not comment on what followed....his khuli gayaki style of sufi music (inspired by none other than Nusrat) has won over its fair share of admirers since then.

"Oh Sikander" or "Mustt Kalander" , "Teri Deewani" or "Tere bin nahi lagda dil mera" , "Tujhe mein pyar karu" or "Angrai par angrai"....... the debate continues. Despite his somewhat high pitched voice for a male playback Kailash has adapted the Nusrat spectacularly enough to make it a commercial success.

Still when the old master and his mustachioed , kurta-pajama wearing middle aged crew sing,
"Nazar mila ke, mere paas aa ke, loot liya
Nazar hati to phir muskura ke loot liya
Koi yeh loot to dekho ki us ne jab chaaha
Mujhi mein reh ke mujhi mein samaa ke loot liya"

they do emobdy a certain simplicty that brings an involuntary smile to my lips.

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