Rahman eschews youthful exuberance here, instead putting together a vibe of laid back young romance. He picks singers with thinner voices that can convey youth, gives them simple melodies but makes them work hard. And to be fair, he works just as hard with them.
Rahman gives Kabhi Kabhi Aditi to Rashid Ali, a singer with a fluid voice that can hold most of its sweetness at high notes. But it comes at a price - Rashid has a tendency to go nasal and jiggle his notes ever so slightly.
Fortunately Rashid is good with the guitar - creating a delightful little tune with pulled string notes to power the song. Probably because Hindi isn't Rashid or Rahman's first language, they have a funky way of breaking up a phrase or compressing words. And this allows them to give the tune an exoticness - the song sounds peppy and different.
Rashid's voice is clear enough that Rahman wisely uses only an amped down scattered bass line in the song. Around the second verse, he throws in a gorgeous flute - it instantly transforms the song and gives it a wistful mojo.
Rahman unveils another singer - Runa Rizvi - on Jaane Tu Mera Kya Hai, a song where he mixes the melancholy of a strummed mandolin with the restlessness of repeated triplets on a keyboard to give the song a nifty unease. Like Rashid before her, Rahman makes Runa's lungs work hard (despite the benefit of a couple of takes). Runa's voice has a relaxed stillness that plays well in this track.
Her song has a companion piece - where the male lead now works out his feelings for his friend. Rahman hires one of his old favorites Sukhwinder Singh, fast becoming one of India's leading vocal lights. Its the third outstanding composition of the CD and Rahman blends a thick flute with keyboards against a backdrop of stabbing violins to start the song. He knows he's on to something special because he takes his time - Sukhwinder doesn't open his mouth until nearly a minute and a half have gone by.
Both Rahman and Sukhwinder exercise notable restraint. Rahman creates underwhelming, winding, operatic tunes to propel the song and Sukhwinder carefully holds his voice back and lets it simmer.
There is more fun stuff on the album if you care to explore. In the song marred by a rather foolish controversy, Pappu Can't Dance, Rahman employs a host of singers to create the only truly uptempo track on the CD. There's a nonsense Hindi rhyme, an island rap and all kinds of sonic bells and whistles thrown into this track. Rahman uses his singers in interesting ways - its worth listening to if you thought Rahman couldn't be silly and have some fun.
There are two larger observations I would like to share.
Thoughtful as Rahman is about his compositions and careful as he is to not buckle under his own musical weight, I get the feeling he often plays it too safe. On the Rat Pack influenced, you me are chalk and cheese rumination, Tu Bole Main Boloon, Rahman (who assumes vocal duties) uses a piano, cello and trumpets. But in a musical genre ripe with fusion possibilities, its a tragedy Rahman doesn't throw in a sitar or a shehnai or something else that might have sounded good to him.
Second, lyrics for these kind of songs are hard to write because the situations are so rote. There's the falling in love song, the discovering love song and the crazy in love song. But Abbas Tyrewala (Munnabhai, Main Hoon Na) does a fine job arranging well worn phrases in interesting ways. He shrewdly inserts the words in the movie's title in multiple songs. He's positively terrific on Kahin To which is reflective of what he's trying to do here - write for a character rather than a situation.
Many thanks to Sidekick for recommending this CD to me. Uss ladki ke ghar mein pau nahin tikte but she always has a home here on the Drift. Thanks Motorsandal for helping me figure out the guitar notes and entertaining me simultaneously.
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