Tag Archives: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Firdous by Coshish

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Hindi Rock already enjoys a lot of popularity and it is particularly hard not to feel queasy when a band proclaims itself to be ‘Hindi Progressive Rock’. The long-haired, Lamb of God loving dudes when made aware of their earthly ‘Indian’ roots, can yield results that can be quite a mess. Stereotypes are a plenty and this is what Coshish shuns through their concept album Firdous. How successfully, remains a contentious question! Coshish is a four-piece band from Mumbai with Hamza Kazi on drums, Anish Nair on bass, Mangesh Gandhi on guitar and vocals and Shrikant Sreenivasan on lead guitars. Coshish, with their debut Firdous makes a dexterous attempt to fuse their eastern and western influences, encompassing everything from Meshuggah and Tool to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Coshish had their PR act sorted way before the much anticipated release of Firdous and a ‘Hitler Reacts’ video gets a worthy mention. This was perhaps just the precursor to how well thought-out their album would be and Coshish has not disappointed on that front. The very concept of Firdous and its artwork is as much laudable as unprecedented it is in the independent circuit. This ten-track album is bound by a unifying theme which is not all that apparent as one may think. The listener is expected to stitch the clues hidden in its artwork and rearrange the tracks to turn it into one seamless track. For the spoilers though, Coshish is the story of a man who denounces this mundane world full of pain and attachments. Anyone thought of Siddhartha or Kurt Cobain there?

Song-writing and the composition does more than a fair job but it’s the vocals that are unfashionably mediocre. The harkatein (nuances) have plenty of sharp edges and the voice overall is barely sonorous to effectively communicate the darker feel of the album. The title track ‘Firdous’ and ‘Bhula do Unhey’ stand out while the radio pop rock ‘Coshish’ is the perhaps the biggest dampener in the entire album. Though, it’s the finale ‘Mukti- an instrumental’ – the grandest of all that truly enriches the flavour of ‘Progressive Rock’. The track, in its entirety, traverses through mellow overtures which are subsequently taken over by heavy riffs and some impressive solos by Shrikant. Having said that, the production deserves credit and you have none other than the ever-impressive Zorran Mendonsa to thank for that.

The underlying darker theme, the album artwork and the music may have struck a few discordant notes, but Firdous still remains a remarkable debut. It is in every sense an unprecedented and indeed a very brave foot forward by Coshish. The very idea of a theme or a story to the entire album is a refreshing one and we can just hope for a domino-effect!

Shubhodeep Datta

Shubhodeep is home to a lunatic in his head, who is on his own with no direction home. Tell him about his grammatical errors! Follow him on Twitter @datta_shubho

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Fireflies Festival of Music 2013, Bangalore

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Perhaps the bar was set too high by the previous instalments of the Fireflies Festival of Music, but this year the festival seemed slightly less successful. It was probably because everyone went into a state of panic as the clocks neared 10 o’clock, rushing the last few bands and generally leaving everyone feeling a little confused. As the festival was for a much shorter duration this time, there were fewer people this year and the line-up lacked the big names of previous years. However, the line up of artists was, if anything, more eclectic and more esoteric than ever.

This year’s event, which took place on the 10th of February, started about three hours late, which is sort of in keeping with the record set in 2012. For the longest time, there was a sizeable crowd left waiting with nothing to do but eat and smoke. Yes, we did have a few gripes with the festival this time but the music and the ambience more than made up for it. Despite the public whine that the festival was not an overnight affair anymore, Fireflies Festival of Music remains a much-anticipated event. The magical setting of the Pipal tree at the center of the amphitheatre promised a host of profound and stirring experiences, and one wasn’t really let down.

This year too, the event was hosted by Akshat Jitendranath, who has become the face of the festival. The first act on stage was Sangeet Sadhana – a Hindustani troupe. Anindita Mukherjee kicked off proceedings with her rendition of ‘Bhor Bhayee’, which rang many bells in the audience because of a certain Bollywood adaptation. This was followed by a duet in Raga Basant Bahar, and by the popular Rajasthani Mand ‘Kesariya Balam’, performed by Poulomi Dutt. There was then a surprise: a Rabindra Sangeet in Dadra style fused with Raga Bageshri to produce a magical duet – the soaring male vocals on this one hit the spot.

‘Ka Karoon Sajni, Aaye na Balam’ in Raga Sindhu Bhairavi was next. As fans of the thumris, this rendition did not let us down. The violin embellishments were delicious. ‘Ghir Ghir Aaye Kari Badariya’ in Raga Pilu was next, followed by a tarana in Raga Darbari. The male duet, culminating in a tabla-tabla jugalbandi was a happy inclusion in the short set! Ritesh’s silk smooth vocals stole the show, as did Anindita Mukherjee’s unique style of delivery.

The second act on stage was supposed to be ‘Vedanth and Bindu’, but to our surprise, the band seemed to be missing one half of the band – Bindu! ‘Vedanth and Bindu’ was quickly changed to ‘Vedant and Ananth’ as Bindu could not attend because of reasons not made known to us.  This Fireflies regular teamed up with old friend Ananth Menon – yes, Ananth Menon of Galeej Gurus and By 2 Blues fame – to produce an eclectic set of modern day blues, pop and Kabir hymns. Vedant and Bindu are a Chennai based duo that specializes in Bhakti music and Anant Menon is a blues guitarist and vocalist but this odd mixture did produce some pleasant surprises.

The first surprise was the sound check, ‘O Come, O Come Emannuel’ in two part harmony. With the sun shining bright, Vedanth went on to sing a few hymns by Sant Kabir. This is where we shamefully admit that we were not very knowledgeable about Sant Kabir’s hymns so Vedanth’s explanations helped. The first hymn, as he explained, was about a young newly wed pining for her husband, which he followed up with a Malvi version of another Kabir hymn describing the temple that is the human body. In this mix of Kabir songs, Vedanth quite unexpectedly sang a cover of ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ – a Bob Dylan classic. The performance was lackluster, perhaps due to the fact that one guitar and one voice was trying to hold the attention of hundreds of people for a span of four songs

Ananth then joined Vedanth on stage to belt out ‘Pride and Joy’ by Stevie Ray Vaughan, followed by ‘Jheeni Chadariya’, this time embellished with Ananth’s blues lead guitar. Never before have we heard ‘Kabir Blues’, but we’re not complaining! ‘He was my Brother’ – a Simon and Garfunkel cover, followed this. They closed the short half-delightful set with a blues rendition of a keertan – ‘Bhajo Re Bhaiya Ram Govind Hare’.

Sufi and Qawali singers from Kutch were up next and they were the epitome of humility. Brought to the festival by an NGO working for the empowerment of women in the Kutch region, the joy of being in Bangalore and playing their music in front of a large gathering of city folk was evident on their faces. The band manager of this six-member group was more than happy to explain every song and his enthusiasm was highly infectious. Each song was tinged with melancholia and sadness and was beautiful, even though most of us did not understand any of the lyrics. The most memorable moment of their set was when one of them decided to play the double flute. Completely novel, passionate and intricate; the performance of the flautist got a standing ovation and rightly so.

After a high energy and thoroughly enjoyable closing song by the artists from Kutch, came the Irish band – Bahh Band, who had waited three long years to get to Fireflies. Probably one of the better artists of the night, they brought with them an unconventional yet pleasantly surprising set of songs that were a mix of Indian classical and Irish folk. Throughout their performance, their uber-charming sarod player – Mattu, kept up a great rapport with the audience. They started the set with ‘Spirit Gift’ – a song dedicated to the festival and the Pipal tree. The track started with an unhurried sarod dominated intro and progressed languidly as the percussions kicked in without being too overwhelming.

They moved onto their version of ‘Face of Love’, originally sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Eddie Vedder. Although the overzealous smoke machines fogged up the stage and the vocalist was barely audible, nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the band and the execution of the track was spot-on. Following some more chit-chat with the audience where they took a dig at one of the most famous exports from Ireland – Snow Patrol, they decided to play some lively Irish folk songs – although slightly Indian-ised versions of them.  ‘Sexy Leprechaun’ was probably one of their best songs of night as their percussionist – Brain Fleming, was absolutely riveting on the Bodhrán – a handheld Irish drum. Fireflies was a great learning experience for any music lover – first we heard the double flute and then the Bodhrán!

Filled with intricate and enthralling Bodhrán solos, the song was a treat for the ears and the eyes. Between songs, Mattu managed to advertise their CD and impress the audience with a few Tamil words that he had picked up. As the sun set and the Pipal tree was lit up with colourful lights, the Bahh Band performed their final song – an Irish folk song called ‘Blacksmith’, where the vocalist managed to channel Enya and give us all an ethereal performance.

Floyd Fernandes took the stage next with two other musicians from Mumbai. As one of the best Jazz guitarists in India; his set was flawless and thoroughly entertaining. Although fatigue had set in and most in the audience were visibly tired, they had no problems grooving to smooth jazz, funk and blues that Floyd was belting out. They even danced along during Floyd’s rendition of Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’ – which thankfully sounded nothing like the Boney M cover!

Talavattam was the next band to take the stage but hunger and fatigue took over and we were forced to skip their performance to get some much needed refreshments. Although we were missing from the amphitheatre, judging from the loud cheers and shrieks from the crowd – they were definitely one of the most popular bands with the audience at the festival.

What happened next was probably the lowest point of the whole night. Emam and Friends – a bunch of world musicians from – well unsurprisingly – all over the world, took to the stage after what seemed like an eternity to set up. With utter miscommunication between the artists and the sound tech team, problems escalated and some comical diva behaviour ensued. Finally, they began with ‘Guru Mantram’ and it would have been memorable in a good way if the vocalists were absent. Not only did they distract from the talent of the percussionist and sarod player, but their amateur singing of powerful shlokas, bhajans and kirtans and the accompanying jig were very unsettling. The only high point in their performance was when Brian Fleming from the Bahh Band joined them and Emam and he went crazy with the bongos and Bodhrán respectively.

Midway through their performance, they were informed that their set had to be cut short due to time constraints – and Emam went full on diva on the crowd and organizers demanding why the ”headlining act” was being treated so badly. We all seemed to have missed the memo about them being the headlining act – awkward! They sulkily ended their set with some badly sung kirtans and left the stage with barely concealed rage. No matter how much Emam thanked the wonderful audience, his disappointment with the organizers was very evident.

The last band on stage was Dutch Jazz group and another Fireflies regular – Spinifex. Their style of jazz fused with metal was so loud that they must have definitely blown out some eardrums and woken up slumbering citizens miles away. Given – the music was quite outstanding with a few hiccups and the venue was absolutely magical. However, we could not help wishing for the glory days of the Fireflies Festival of Music as we walked away from the ashram.

Anusmita Datta

Anusmita Datta is an ardent day-dreamer, music lover, die-hard foodie and occasional writer. Her obsession with pandas is sometimes disturbing and she can be often found lusting after momos!

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Behosh by Parvaaz

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Way back when in the year 2011, I had witnessed a live performance by Parvaaz at Legends of Rock, the audience was informed that Parvaaz was a Psychedelic, Sufi rock band from Bangalore and that they sang most of their songs in Urdu and Kashmiri. I distinctly remember hearing an audible moan from a metalhead a few tables away. Although most of us did not understand the lyrics, needless to say, by the end of the show the band had managed to turn us all into rabid fans with their amazing stage presence and lead singer, Khalid Ahmed’s explosive vocals.

With a number of “fusion music” acts such as The Raghu Dixit Project, Swarathma and Emergence making it big in India and beyond, the time is ripe for Parvaaz to be the next big thing. Their soulful, psychedelic rock, powerful vocals and eloquent lyrics are guaranteed to take them places. Although they are mistakenly categorized as a “Sufi-Rock” band because of their Urdu and Kashmiri lyrics they strive to shake-off all stereotypes and are hard to typecast into any genre. Parvaaz is a pioneer in the Bangalore music scene with their vibrant songs; deep, meaningful lyrics written in an unfamiliar language and unmatched vocals and stage presence.

Parvaaz (which means “flight” in Urdu) came to be in March 2010 when two of the three original members and childhood friends- Khalid Ahmed and Kashif Iqbal reunited in Bangalore while they were studying here. The band is truly a brainchild of these two talented musicians from Kashmir. After one of their original members and bassist Neil Simon, Rhythm guitarist Adarsh Deokota and drummer Somarshi Bhattacharya were not able to continue with the band, Parvaaz settled into its current line-up with Khalid Ahmed on vocals, Kashif Iqbal on lead guitar, Fidel D’Souza on Bass and Sachin Banandur on Drums. It is not an exaggeration to claim that Khalid Ahmed has the strongest vocals and best showmanship of all the lead singers out there in India. Their songs and live performances have distinguished them from the rest of the herd. Parvaaz’s electrifying performances led them to win numerous college fests and they have been steadily gaining popularity since their performance at the Fireflies Festival of Music and Arts in Bangalore in 2011.

After much speculation and doubt, the band released their debut E.P. called Behosh on 13th July, 2012 and if this is to be considered a teaser for their planned album then nothing short of extraordinary can be expected from their album. Khalid Ahmed and Kashif Iqbal have penned the lyrics for all the tracks on this album in Urdu and Kashmiri, as is the case with the rest of their songs, and are unapologetic about it. They write and sing in the language they find comfortable and anything else would seem unnatural. Their sound incorporates elements of Sufi, Jazz, Blues and Psychedelic rock beautifully without being unpalatable to mainstream audiences. One can get a sense of their confident, electrifying and unabashed live performances from the five tracks that they have chosen to put in this E.P. As the band puts it, they want their listeners to lose themselves completely to the music and quite literally become “Behosh”. All the tracks on Behosh contain mesmerizing instrumental interludes and deep soulful lyrics. A sense of nostalgia and melancholy pervades the album and they have managed to create a seamless flow from song to song. Behosh starts off with a funky, psychedelic sound and progressively becomes more peaceful and melancholic.

‘Behosh’, the title track, begins with a funky, ominous, psychedelic bass section and leads into the vocal acrobatics of Khalid Ahmed. This track is a perfect mix of Psychedelic rock and blues with the addition of amazing vocals. The guitar solo section followed by the Harmonica interlude provided by Jerome Mascarenhas really drives home the blues influence on this track. Just when you thought the song would end quite tamely, the frontman’s oft mentioned amazing vocals kick in and the song ends in a glorious flourish.

‘Marika’ immediately shocks you with an almost primal scream. Written for a female friend of theirs, named Marika, from Norway, the song contains some great instrumental sections like the previous track. This track is a delicious mélange of frenzied vocals and guitar riffs accentuated by the brazen laughter track thrown in. A very memorable song as I instantly recognized it from their live performance a year back. ‘Marika’ is sure to get your pulse going with its racy drums, suggestive lyrics and energetic lead guitar.

After the first two energetic pieces, the E.P moves onto a mellower ‘Itne Arsey ke Baad’. Penned after Khalid Ahmed and Kashif Iqbal met their friends from back home, this song captures the heartbreaking distance from and the fervent longing for their homeland. The lazy, bluesy music belies the intensely nostalgic and heart wrenching lyrics. If you are not suffering from melancholia, you might just end up leaning back, closing your eyes and enjoying this relaxed tune and forgetting all about the otherwise heavy subject matter.

‘Dil Khush’, literally translated as “happy heart” is an uplifting tune and is the longest track on the E.P clocking in at over eight minutes. It celebrates the joie de vivre that comes from blissful ignorance. The sound of rain welcomes you to this optimistic track with its thumping bass line and brilliant guitar dominated interlude. I might be prudish to admit that I did not particularly like the three minute drum solo. Maybe they got a bit carried away with the theme of celebrating life with this drum solo as it seems disjointed from the rest of the song and unpleasantly jolts you right when you are getting into the groove of the song. Kashif Iqbal’s delightful guitar riffs and unrestrained playing are the high points of this track.

At last, my favourite song of the album- ‘Lolmatlai’ is trippy, soothing, utterly beautiful and an appropriate end to this album. Listening to this track one can’t help but compare Khalid Ahmed to the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. This track is fully written in Kashmiri and speaks of the object of one’s love. ‘Lolmatlai’ instantly transports you to another worldly and ethereal place (should I daresay Kashmir!) and I couldn’t help but lament at how short this track was. The dramatic and orchestral sound achieved by the deep bass, guitar strumming and percussions does not distract from the clean, breathtaking vocals on this track.

Behosh is a succinct sample of Parvaaz’s body of work and a perfect reminder as to why Parvaaz has such a large fan base. The five tracks on this E.P cover varied topics and musical styles and yet do not seem haphazardly placed. They have managed to capture the energy of their live performances in this near perfect E.P. Enough cannot be said about Khalid Ahmed’s vocals; passionate, perfectly enunciated and unmatched in power and complexity; no other lead singer can hold a candle to him. Each track on the album is a harmonious blend of ridiculously good vocals and beautiful instrumental pauses and to truly enjoy this E.P I will repeat what was suggested to me- lock yourself up in a dark and tranquil room, close your eyes and listen.

The band members financed the E.P themselves and produced it on a shoe string budget and a lot of hard work. So yes, their music is awesome and yes, it is tempting to download it illegally but don’t be a nasty freeloader and buy the E.P which is now available on Flipkart as well as digitally on  OkListen. Enjoy the music and the beautiful album artwork. Also, as you wait for their upcoming album with unbridled enthusiasm make sure to watch them live; which is the best way to witness the phenomenon that is Parvaaz.

Anusmita Datta

Anusmita Datta is an ardent day-dreamer, music lover, die-hard foodie and occasional writer. Her obsession with pandas is sometimes disturbing and she can be often found lusting after momos!

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Kailash Kher: Sufi + Rock + Bollywood! at IIM Bangalore

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Kailash Kher, charismatic singer in the Sufi-rock style, proved yet again that he is right at the cutting edge of fusion music in India during his performance at IIM Bangalore this weekend.

I left early for the venue to beat Bangalore traffic, and reached so early that I caught the band’s sound check. I chatted with lead guitarist Paresh Kamath who told me about the lineup for the concert, especially singling out Tapas Roy on mandolin and saz (long-necked Turkish string instrument).

Kailash Kher: Sufi + Rock + Bollywood! at IIM Bangalore

Roy’s instrumentation added a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour to the performance that evening. But that’s getting ahead of the story a bit! The crowds began to fill in late in the evening as the crescent moon, Venus and Jupiter lined up in the east, and the stars of Orion filled the sky above. The stars then descended on the open-air stage at IIM-B grounds: Kailash Kher and his band Kailasa.

Naresh Kamath on bass, Kurt Peters on drums, Sameer Chiplunkar on keyboards, and Sanket Nayak on percussion (tabla, darbuka, dol) provided solid energetic support. It was great to see Sankarshan Kini on stage as well (acoustic guitar, violin).

The band played a tight two-hour set with sixteen songs, covering everything from ballads to dance numbers. The global mix included rock (instruments, chords), Middle Eastern flavours (darbuka, saz), Indian percussion (tabla, pakhawaj, bhangra dol), reggae and Sufi vocals (with incantations to Allah; depiction of human love as an instance of divine love).

Kailash Kher: Sufi + Rock + Bollywood! at IIM Bangalore

In each track Kailash Kher’s soaring vocals and earthy style shone through, right from the opening tracks ‘Dilruba’ and ‘Aoji‘ down to the closing pieces ‘Allah ke bande‘ and ‘Saiyyan’. The songs ‘Teri Deewani’ and ‘Na Batati Hu‘ drew huge applause, as well as ‘Tu Kya Jaane’ and the title track from his latest release, Rangeele.

“There must have been at least 7,000 people in the audience,” event organiser Vasundhra Jain told me; she said Kailash Kher was chosen as the headliner for their Unmaad Festival because he is not only a commercially successful singer but also keeps his independent and innovative edge, and is involved in social causes (eg. against human trafficking, child labour, global warming). He also performed in support of the recent Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement.

Kailash Kher: Sufi + Rock + Bollywood! at IIM Bangalore

Indeed, at the Bangalore performance Kailash Kher revealed not only his creative edge and infectious energy, but his humourous side and social awareness, delivered in irreverent “Hinglish” while bouncing and jumping around the stage.

“English is the first most confused language in the world,” he joked. “Let us focus not just on movie music but indie music also,” he urged the audience, taking a gentle dig at the Bollywood industry which dominates much of the Indian popular music scene. Kailash Kher has had hits in Bollywood as well, which has won him admiration from the indie scene for being successful in both areas.

“Don’t focus just on branding and marketing, you must also cultivate a sense of corporate social responsibility,” he told the students in the audience. “Half of life today is pretentious anyway, don’t waste the other half,” he joked.

Kailash Kher: Sufi + Rock + Bollywood! at IIM Bangalore

He endeared himself to the Bangalore audience by saying that the people and weather of Bangalore were perfect for music, and he even said a few words in the local language Kannada. He invited a couple of girls to join the band on stage for a dance, and seven girls eventually joined him. “Live life Queen size,” he advised them.

“The time for this performance is very short,” he said, taking a dig at the stifling government regulations and the “moral police” in India who insist that live entertainment and pubs shut down at the ridiculously early hour of 10 pm or 11 pm, an absolute dampener for the live music industry.

His Sufi messages drew the most applause. “Divinity is in love, everything else is bakwaas (nonsense),” he said.

Kailash Kher: Sufi + Rock + Bollywood! at IIM Bangalore

For his last song he called on everyone to dance. “Including you sitting there, you with the tie,” he said, singling out an attendee in the ‘VIP’ section.

Now in his late 30s, Kailash Kher appeals to a wide range of Indian society, and has a huge fan following abroad as well. His early influences included spiritual music, folk songs of North India, and classical music (especially Pandit Kumar Gandharv). He then moved to Mumbai in 2001, singing jingles for various TV and radio commercials.

In addition to Hindi, he has sung songs in a range of Indian languages such as Oriya, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telgu, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, and Punjabi. He has been involved in hundreds of Bollywood film songs, and has collaborated with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Salim-Sulaiman, Zakir Hussain, Vishal Bhardwaj and A.R. Rahman. His songs have featured in Hindi movies (eg. Mangal Pandey, Corporate, Salaam-e-Ishq) as well as other regional movies in Kannada (Junglee, Jackie).

Kailash Kher: Sufi + Rock + Bollywood! at IIM Bangalore

The band’s first independent album Kailasa (2006) and second album Kailasa Jhoomo Re  were huge hits, as well as the subsequent ones, Chaandan Mein and Yatra. This was seen as part of a broad revival of Sufi literature and lyrics.

“Kailash has this rare touch of marrying tradition with innovation in his compositions,” according to Adarsh Gupta, head of business at the label Saregama India, on the release of the latest album Rangeele. On TV, Kailash has also served as a judge on Indian Idol and IPL Rockstar.

His music has been described by critics as “intoxicating,” “hypnotic,” and commended for blending Hindustani classical forms (dhrupad) and Sufi qawwal. Followers of south Asian music notice more of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in his voice than Mohammad Rafi.

In contrast to Bollywood-style formulaic and poppy production, Kailash’s songs stand out for their folksy and spiritual nature even with the contemporary mix. Mumbai-based composers Paresh and Naresh Kamath have been co-founders of the band Kailasa and have been with Kailash Kher since the beginning.

“You will get to meet all the killer musicians in my band,” said Kailash, as he introduced the band members one by one at the end of the Bangalore show. The group is bound to find more success as they continue to innovate on the foundations of Indian folk and Sufi music along with a solid contemporary and Middle Eastern feel.

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