Thursday, April 03, 2008

The music of Tashan

Vishal-Shekhar's recent work has threatened to put them an album or two away from turning into Bappi Lahiri-type clichés in the film industry. On Om Shanti Om, they rescued themselves by fulfilling the demands of commerce with a return to form somewhat approaching their creative high point on Taxi No. 9211.

And on Tashan, a very important project for them if less seismic than OSO, they seem to be working hard to forge a signature sound. What is this sound exactly? A variety of instruments, employed in carefully limited combination and amped down to not overwhelm the vocals. Its a clean sound - devoid of dense synth dubs, back beats or huge guitar crunches. V-S have been quick to embrace electronica before, but on this CD they seem to be telling us: this is what we are most comfortable with.

Along with this, V-S seem to have established a go-to ecosystem of trusted singers who they rely on to bring their songs home. Often it seems they build in a number of hooks specifically for the singer they've hired.

Take the opener Dil Haara for example. The song is constructed entirely around the natural lilt in Sukhwinder Singh's voice. V-S give him more sonic variety to traverse than he is normally used to. And he does a fine if not memorable job - his voice is a little too rustic and his diction too sharp to negotiate the softer turns in the song. Later, he has to negotiate a tricky psychedelic up-tempo transition towards the end which doesn't work very well - although you want to salute V-S for taking that chance.

On Falak Tak - the singular ballad on the CD - V-S employ Udit Narayan, who with his phulka puri voice is the romance king of Bollywood. And his deliciously gentle drawl envelopes this song completely. Accompanying him is Mahalaxmi Iyer, whose voice I listen to very carefully ever since her bravura work on Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (she's fast turning into a female K.K. with her versatility - only her voice quality is better). And through two-thirds of the song, V-S resist the temptation to throw keyboards in - choosing instead a steady two piece percussion and a couple of guitars to create a gorgeous slow-grind sound.

Even on Chhaliya (Sunidhi Chauhan, Piyush) - a song about a woman with overwhelming self-esteem - they pull out the six string after the first verse and render a solo piece that doesn't overwhelm the song. Chhaliya - for all its mainstream appeal - is also reasonably complex in terms of change of pace and hooks, something V-S did on Rehem Kare (Cash) with much success.

This approach helps them when asked to do something like Dil Dance Maare (Sukhwinder, Udit, Sunidhi) - it allows them to retain a lot of dignity while creating a hugely corny song.

Finally, Tashan Mein, which closes out the CD, is sung by Vishal and Saleem, the latter of which employs a tremendous nasal drawl to infuse the song with much decadence. Tashan Mein is paced in a manic way with a simmering verse exploding into a more breathless chorus. Its got nonsense lyrics but a rather cool Hindustani alaap leading into a folksy bridge.

There are four brief spoken words on the CD as well - each voiced by the principal actors in the film: Kareena, Saif, Akshay and Anil Kapoor. They are meant to be thumbnail character sketches and add a little bit of glamor to the entire album. They amused me quite a bit: look, there's Kareena trying to sound bindaas, here's Saif flaunting his burnished cool, there's Akshay trying to be funny and if you pretend Anil Kapoor is skewering an actor skewering desi villain stereotypes, you might chuckle.

Also:

42 comments:

Amrita said...

It's interesting you brought up JBJ coz someone just wrote the other day that they thought Tashan was gonna be the JBJ of 2008 - and I hope that isnt the case. Although Anil Kapoor by himself is a lot to take.

Re: the music, I dont know if this was the first time they actually achieved what they were shooting for or if this is the first time they were allowed to achieve what they wanted. But if this is the direction they're gonna take from now on then color me impressed.

And I totally can't get Falak Tak and Dil Haara out of my head.

Sidekick said...

aspi, when you do a review like this, i feel i ought to like the album. never mind that i don't get 90% of the nuances you describe, but i'm a sucker for reasoned, rational argument even when i don't understand it :). it shames me somewhat that i'm no better than "me like, me no like" sukanya verma at rediff but i think dil haara is the only keeper in this album :P . That said lage raho with yr awesome reviews and maybe in the distant future i'll develop some appreciation of the nuances. meanwhile, i'll give the album another listen.

btw, isn't the Dhoom music franchise Pritam's?

anu g said...

Sidekick:). I feel the same:).Aspi, gosh, I am impressed, just how do u manage to come up with such detailed precise technical terms. I feel terribly ignorant. I just listen to a song, and like it, or dont like it:).Sigh, I didnt realise my love for music was so shallow:(.
I was just reading the India Today mag which had the review of a book on Bollywood Melodies by Ganesh Anantaraman.Its supposed to have a lot of indepth info,I think u will love it.
I liked the Tashan Mein song.Reminded me of the 'yoon hi chala' from Swades.Who is this Saleem?Someone new? Sounds a little like Kailash Kher.

m said...

dhoom 2 music was composed by pritam bb

SkD said...

I love Tashan!Esp, Dil Haara n Tashan Mein....im lukin forwrad to hearin an instrumental version too..

Pratik said...

Right now, listening to Tashaan :-) ...the music is enjoyable...I second all these people..I don't understand the nuances..just plain like/dislike :-)

girlie girl said...

I have yet to hear it, but enjoyed your review. Aspi, i agree with anu g, how do you come up with the specifics...it doenst matter but we definitely enjoy them.

Aspi said...

Actually to be fair music is about connection first, technique second. So "I like this I like that" is the right way to appreciate it. Its kind of like blogging - you don't have to be a great writer, just one who can connect.

But with music I am still searching for a language that will allow me to explain why I liked a song (or not). And it needs to be a language that can explain the music without digging into technique too much - I'm still working on it :)

THanks for the correction re: D:2. If this weren't among friends - I'd be super embarrassed.

Amrita, Anil deserves a post all by himself. But I can't bring myself to watch any of his movies so far.

ritha said...

Sidekick, just like u, Aspi's review wants me to revisit the album! Still, filmi electronica is not entirely my cup of tea. But I think like Pritam, V-S are doing some addictive hooks. Unlike Pritam I dont get good melodies. All the songs have great hooks at the beginning, that are not justified what follows in most cases. What follows is soo pedestrian.
The beginning of Dil Haara reminded me of Sandeep Chowta's "Heer"
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chv14A7Vfb8)

Mind Rush said...

Ya, Aspi you hear the songs at a different level from many of us. Glad we have someone to educate us.

After reading your blog post I began wondering if V-S will do a US tour any time soon....
Any comments from Skd or Megan?

m said...

they'll be tourin with aishu and family i believe

Sidekick said...

Aspi, I love the geeky musical reviews. I hate to make this more of a chore for you but perhaps you can link us to some of the basic jargon (often wikipedia which is a bit of risk in terms of reliability of info) such as riff, hook etc. I’m an unabashed geek so I like to learn about random stuff, so perhaps links are better than explanations in case there are others who find that stuff boring. Ehsaan (of SEL) demonstrated a riff in this show that anu g linked us to. I like to think that over time I’ll get some of the basic structure – at least enough to listen more carefully and evaluate on more than just emotion.

Sidekick said...

Ritha, thank you ---- again :) I couldn’t have articulated as well as you have why I find Tashan wanting. I listened to the album again today while working. The beats and rhythm are catchy but Tashan seems short on emotion – esp. the love ballad Falak Tak. Perhaps it’s appropriate to a movie short on substance and long on style – by all accounts. Pritam for all the copycat charges, always rocks the romantic numbers – they’re soul stirring; not so much in D2 I’ll grant!

Aspi said...

ritha, Tashan is very removed from electronica - you couldn't call a single song in the album as belonging to that jonar. But V-S do tend to zap a song with a lot of instruments - which is what might be turning you off. They don't make stripped down music - although you could argue that no one really does anyway.

I found Krazzy 4 to be most amusing esp. listening to Rajesh Roshan trying to be hep.

However, I'm very easy on music - I'm constantly looking to see how much effort was put it into things. And I'm easy to please :)

sidekick, I think that linking is a great idea. I shall try that at the risk of coming across as condescending.

Amrita said...

Aspi - sidekick is totally on the money re: links. I used to think it was condescending until I realized my readers appreciated the thought.

Sidekick - I have to defend Falak Tak!! The only thing that limits my enjoyment of that song is the thought of Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor acting it out. Apart from that it's one of my favorites this year.

Aspi said...

Akshay can make any song appear sleazy. Come to think of it - so can Kareena. Heh heh, who's going to knock me for saying that now.

m said...

i'm not a kareena fan anymore aspi so i am not gonna defend her teehee

Sidekick said...

o u blogger types - there's nothing condescending abt links. if anything they imply u're not taking anything for granted abt yr adoring audience :P. those who know what u're referring to can move right along and the uninitiated get a brief education :)

amrita: since u're my phavoreet, i tried hard to get behind yr phavoreet gaana of the moment par afsos :( . to make nice, i'm sending hazaar cyber hugs ;) i will say with repeat listening i'm enjoying tashan more......

Aspi said...

That's all the encouragement I need - I'm linking like crazy in my next Autoricksha post.

After spending copious hours trying to figure out how Google's pagerank works (one of the two reasosn I started blogging), I am very careful about linking out. Its too geeky and complicated to explain but its been one of the reasons also.

m, wot happened between you and Kareena? Saif? :)

m said...

kareena started getting overhyped and overrated, yeah i don't like the whole saifeena episode either, too in your face...

so i am not a fan anymore.. Things may change though

As of now i like Kangana, Deepika (to some extent) apart from Ash obviously and Preity :D

ritha said...

Aspi thanks for the correction! I assumed anything that makes a lot of noise with tons of instruments thrown in could be electronica...haha i know i safely make up my own definitions! I've wanted to ask you this- you always say Pritam's music is over-produced, what do you mean by that? I always thought of music as composed and thats it.
Kindly enlighten us some more! And I entirely second sidekick, we want "understanding music 101" here on drift!

Sidekick said...

ritha, aspi may have a more accessible explanation by here is what my go-to source wikipedia says about over production :)

Aspi said...

God bless wikipedia - and Sidekick. That link explains everything. Ritha I think what you might not like is overproduced songs, regardless of whether they are electronica or not.

I like them, but its a matter of personal preference.

ritha said...

Thanks SideKick & Aspi...the definition is kind of ambiguous...from what I gathered:I hate the overproduction in V-S and SEL's music, but i like it in Pritam's. I wonder if theres a thin line betwn over production and layering the music making it more nuanced - which I think wht ARR does...his music is never simple, but it seems like each instrument has its own place and identity.

Aspi said...

Ritha, ARR has of late been creating a new sound for each assignment - at least from what I've heard of him in Bollywood. So his music tends to sound more coordinated.

Pritam makes very tight singles-type tunes. Besides making a song catchy, he doesn't try much with it. This isn't a bad thing - its just a matter of style.

Bella said...

finally caught up with this album on the weekend, its quite good. My favourite are Dil Haara and Tashan Mein.

I couldnt sit through the Dil Dance Mare song without cringing. Apparently Vishal wrote the lyrics for that song and i want to ask him WTF!!! I mean really, after Ajab Si, this crap!??? Come on Vishal

But otherwise, not so bad

megan said...

i downloaded the album but couldn't be bothered listening to it.. i am sooo like over Sunidhi's vocals.. its way too repetitive..

Aspi said...

Sunidhi has hit a rut for sure - and you get the feeling she senses it. She's trying some different things with her voice in the new songs I've heard. And IMO, it isn't working well for her.

Perhaps this is where the limitations of her voice catch up with the huge improvements she's made in the last five years.

Pitu said...

oooo Falak Tak is yummy :-)

Amrita said...

sidekick - hee hee hee, theek hai, itna keh rahi ho to maan leti hoon.

Pitu - come to my arms, baby! Finally!

Cinderella said...

Dil Haara and chaliya are my favourites:)

i wish Falak tak was a bit softer.

and after reading all your posts about the technical aspects i feel my knowledge of music seems so lame too!!!!!!

and i was just seeing the chaliya song.Kareena has begun to look soo malnourished!!!

Chimera said...

Honestly, Tashan music sucks. It sucks beyond belief. Pritam you might say makes a certain generic brand of music, but I really like what he did with Jab We Met. It gave me a lift on the way to college or work. It was good, good, easy listening. Tashan hurts my ears. I don't mind VS as a team at all, they are all good with the guruji stuff etc. etc. but the listening pleasure of Tashan wears off after about 3 listens. Which isn't worth much in the end.

Pitu said...

Chimera: JWM rocked!!! I absolutely love that soundtrack esp 'Tumse hi' and 'Aaoge jab tum'. Tashan is ordinary in comparison. I did like Falak Tak but I don't think I can listen to it over and over and over like I can 'Tumse hi'.

SkD said...

chimera n pitu...tashan music cannot be compared to JWM...simply cuz it belongs to a different genre..which is rock...and prolly u guys dont like much of rock music!

Pitu said...

Actually, I hate rock, so yeah that makes sense. I just can't see Tashan being as much of a hit on the airwaves as JWM was tho..

Anonymous said...

Tashan is hardly rock.

m said...

yeah was about to say the same thing.. being a huge fan of VS i was disappointed majorly with the music,.. i love them when they do different edgy music not the bland insipid yashraj crap.. What is it about Yashraj that brings out the worst in people in terms of creativity.. case in point Salaam Namaste, Tum Pum Pum Rum Chum whaever

Dil haara reminded me too much of Omkara and Chaaliya is your typical sunidhi music.. i didn't like the others either.. couldn't even give them a second listen...

I wouldn't call tashan rock..and i am a big rocker chick and no i don't hate it because its too "rock" for moi

m said...

when i say big rocker chick, i don't mean FAT rocker chick

had to make that clear

Aspi said...

Tashan isn't rock - with that I have to agree.

But some of the constructs do belong to that genre. Falak Tak is probably the most neatly packaged rock ballad but the guitar is very amped down so you don't hear it a lot.

What it ends up doing is possibly creating a feel that sounds rock-ish. If there was a Rock-Lite FM, Tashan would be the CD they would play all the time.

Anonymous said...

lol so its like a dilute take on a totally awesome genre.

my complaint is that it sounds like an amalgamation of music from alot of different movies (some VS', some from other places)

in any case it didnt do much for me listening-wise.

Anonymous said...

i meant diluted!

m said...

yeah i got this feeling that as VS get bigger n bigger i would enjoy their music lesser and lesser
i srsly hope i am wrong though..