Music review entries

January 21, 2010

Disappointingly underwhelming

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/zgwx

Title:
The Streets of Bollywood 3
Rating:
1 out of 5 stars

The word remix often strikes fear into the hearts of Bollywood music fans, terrified that an unknown DJ will have destroyed their favourite film tracks. With names such as Rishi Rich and Hunterz on the credits of The Streets of Bollywood 3, however, you could be forgiven for thinking that on this occasion things were in safe hands.

Unfortunately, it is partly this presumption that makes the album so disappointingly underwhelming. It begins promisingly, with It Can Only Be Love, Rishi Rich’s take on a Bollywood love song, ably assisted by Mumzy on added vocals, but things quickly deteriorate. Kami K’s lyrical contributions are entirely devoid of any imagination, Hunterz appears to have phoned in his performances without any effort or verve, and the eight tracks which are not produced by Rishi Rich seem to be little more than thudding RnB beats rather perfunctorily employed over Bollywood melodies.

The album sleeve rather annoyingly pays no tribute to the original composers of the tracks sampled, or the films from which they are taken – a definite faux pas if they are attempting to appeal to the Bollywood market, and also a mistake if they are attempting to open up Bollywood to the urban market.

The title of this album implies that the music producers have done something new and interesting with Bollywood favourites, to make them more accessible to an urban audience perhaps. Yet one soon longs to hear the original songs in their unadulterated forms. The only positive is the opening track, thanks to Rishi Rich’s unsurpassed ability for music production alongside Mumzy’s excellent voice. But in all honesty, any listener will find plenty of that on one of Rishi or Mumzy’s own albums.

Bollywood fans should stay well away from this compilation as they will most probably despair at the treatment some old classics and modern favourites have been given. Those wanting a more urban sound should look up some of Rishi Rich’s earlier remix work, which far outshines this poor effort.

One can only hope “The Streets of Bollywood 4” is not lurking around the corner.


Pass on this unmemorable score

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/hzb6

Title:
Paa - Ilaiyaraaja
Rating:
1 out of 5 stars

The film Paa was attracting attention well before the release of its soundtrack, with Bollywood fans curious to see how Amitabh Bachchan, arguably India’s biggest film star, could possibly be playing the on-screen child of his real-life son, Abhishek. It is probably no bad thing that intrigue has been drawing audiences to the cinema, as this music is unlikely to be an incentive.

The album features moments which are pleasant enough – the rather sweet vocals of Shilpa Rao on Mudhi Mudhi Ittefaq Se, for example – but disinterest begins to set in before long, and nothing quite shakes that away. Other highlights, Udhi Udhi Ittefaq Se and Gali Mudhi Ittefaq Se, follow a single, pleasant melody but are let down badly by poor arrangements which lend an air of cruise ship dinner music. Equally disappointing work is evident on the tracks Gumm Summ Gumm and Hichki Hichki, which do nothing to overcome their average qualities, and the less said about Mere Paa the better. Perhaps Amitabhji’s almost incomprehensible vocals on the track make more sense in the context of the film, but as a piece of music it is simply inane.

It seems surprising that the soundtrack to Paa is so very unimaginative, considering the pedigree of the music director, Ilaiyaraaja. With a classically trained background and over 900 scores under his belt, he is a stalwart of the Tamil film industry and a recipient of an Indian National Film Award for his compositions. His music has even crossed global divides, with samples used by M.I.A. and The Black Eyed Peas for their respective albums Kala and Elephunk.

Bollywood film soundtracks are often intended as teasers to the film, released beforehand to engage the interest of filmgoers. It is unlikely this underwhelming effort will achieve that desired effect for Paa, and it is almost certain that this collection will not remain in the minds of music lovers for very long.


January 17, 2010

For all lovers of bhangra

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/4p28

Music front cover
Title:
Billo Rani - Malkit Singh
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

To know of Malkit Singh does not require much knowledge of bhangra music. With over 20 studio albums under his belt and over 20 years of touring in countless countries, he is the tour de force who has taken Punjabi music worldwide, and helped to cement bhangra as an internationally recognised sound.

Even those with no experience of bhangra whatsoever may recognise Singh, through the track Jind Mahi. The song was popularised by its use in the immensely successful Bend It Like Beckham soundtrack.

Even with such a colourful catalogue behind him, the opening track of Billo Rani, Nach Billo, is unexpected – it’s a duet between Singh and Mumzy Stranger. But the combination of the former’s traditional Punjabi style and the latter’s RnB leanings works surprisingly well, and the Rishi Rich-produced number is easily a highlight of this set. Things soon progress to a more recognisable bhangra sound, though, with almost all of the remainder of the album reverting to the style Singh’s most loved for. The sole exception is second collaboration with Rishi and Mumzy, final track Saari Raat Nachava.

You do not have to be a fan of bhangra or a speaker of Punjabi to appreciate that the vocal style involved requires an immense quality of tone and a high level of control. This album makes it quite apparent that Singh has both of these in spades – he possesses a superb voice that draws you in with its genuine warmth. Fan or not, it’s easy to understand his popularity and the success which lead him to receive his MBE in the Queen’s 2008 New Year Honours.

All the tracks on this album are competently put together without sounding over-produced, and showcase Singh’s voice wonderfully. It may not, however, win any converts to bhangra. While there is no doubting the high quality of what is on offer, only Nach Billo, Paundah Bhangra and Saari Raat Nachava are really accessible enough to be re-visited by those unfamiliar with the genre.

Billo Rani is sure to appeal to all lovers of bhangra, with its simple recipe of excellent vocals and effective production – but it won’t necessarily be bringing new listeners to the fold.

V xx


November 22, 2009

A class above the usual Bollywood fare.

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/g84z

Title:
London Dreams - Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

LDShankar Mahadevan, Ehsan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa began composing together in the late 1990s, coming to prominence with Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai in 2001. Since then, as Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, the trio has scored dozens of films to both critical and popular acclaim. Their latest offering is the soundtrack to director Vipul Shah’s London Dreams.

There is a lack of the instant musical impact that you would expect from the composers who have given us albums as diverse as Rock On! and Kal Ho Na Ho. That said, the record endears itself on re-visiting and listeners will no doubt find themselves singing along to the pounding Barson Yaaron and smiling at the beautiful lilt of Khwab.

One of the most notable features of this album is the lack of any female vocals – unsurprising, as the film revolves around a male rock band. It is, in fact, the excellent use of strong male voices that makes each of the eight tracks a great listen. In particular, Vishal Dadlani, Roop Kumar Rathod, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Mahadevan himself all excel themselves with performances that are powerful, uplifting and soulful in turn.

The wordsmith, Prasoon Joshi, deserves a mention, not because he has penned stunning poetry, but because he has almost entirely steered clear of a growing penchant in Bollywood for the use of inane English lyrics. Other than a couple of glib references to the title of the film, all we hear is lyrical Hindi.

To the uninitiated, Bollywood music can often seem overly dramatic, due to the nature of its purpose. The true test is whether the songs stand apart from their associated film as quality pieces of music in their own right. In this case, all the tracks pass resoundingly. London Dreams may not be Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy at their best, but it still outshines many other recent Hindi film releases, and is a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

V xx


An entirely new type of sound

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/5jb6

Title:
Swami - 53431
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

swamiThe collective known as Swami was formed in 1997 by brothers Simon and Diamond Duggal. The latter is the only remaining original member, nowadays known mainly by his pseudonym of DJ Swami.

53431 – tilt the numbers to make out the name Swami – is a tagged as the Birmingham group’s greatest hits, taking tracks from previous releases such as DesiRock and Equalize. The band’s name is an abbreviation of “So Who Am I?” It’s a question the album seems to be asking itself – and one which it answers with flair.

On paper, the sheer number of genres tied together in this collection shouldn’t work – bhangra, electronica, drum and bass, dhol beats, soaring vocals and MC lyrics to name but a few. Yet to the ears it’s simply a marvel. Certain tracks stand out above others, as is often the case with compilation affairs. Electro Jugni, with its unforgiving bassline, gives the album a pounding start and the anthemic DesiRock recycles a Bollywood riff in the best possible way. Hey Hey seamlessly combines soulful female vocals in English, earthy male vocals in Punjabi, a toe-tapping beat and a jazzy horn accompaniment that Mark Ronson would do well to take a cue or two from. And if that weren’t enough, Homage marries a classical Indian undertone with the sort of dirty dance track that would make The Prodigy green with envy.

To anyone concerned that a greatest hits collection may somehow spell an ending, fear not: DJ Swami and company tease us with two brand new tracks. The bittersweet, aptly named Sugarless, is full of attitude, and Tonight features soulful vocals underpinned by electronic synth.

The line-up of Swami has undergone many changes over the years, but there’s a consistency to the quality of music despite their evolution. To call them a bhangra band doesn’t really do justice to what they’re capable of delivering; they appear to have almost invented an entirely new type of sound, rooted in India but branching far beyond with ease. And this album not only celebrates all of Swami’s musical achievements to date, but provides the promise that they still have originality to offer.

V xx


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