Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The music of Black and White

The more I listen to the soundtrack of Subhash Ghai's box office bomb Black & White, the more I'm convinced its a vastly underrated CD. Especially because you can't listen to party dhuns all the time and need a breather like this once in a while. And when you do, you won't find a better collection than what composer Sukhvinder Singh has put together here.

There are two things to note at the outset.

First, B&W is very much a singer's album. It matches the song and its mood very carefully with vocal talent. The music plays second fiddle to the vocals and the singers get to show off their chops - and three of them, including Sukhvinder himself bites into the opportunity with relish.

Second, B&W is largely a mellow album. Its Hindustani lite-FM played over softened percussion. Delicate tablas replace sharp drums, finger snaps proliferate instead of claps - even the big drums sound diffused. Sukhvinder stays true to this theme through the album - relying on the singing instead of musical arrangements to ratchet up the drama and emotion when required.

On Jogi Aaya, Sukhvinder opens - singing at an octave that virtually changes his voice - and sets the stage for one of the most criminally underused talents in Bollywood music today: Sadhna Sargam. (Her Chupke Se from A.R.Rahman's Saathiya remains a personal favorite.) Sadhna delivers an exquisitely calibrated performance, something even Lata would be proud to have on her crowded resume.

You can hear Shreya Ghoshal's growth on Mein Chali, which has a beat that requires Shreya to keep up with some challenging single-breath singing. Unlike Barso Re - Shreya's coming of age and more celebrated song - this is a stronger performance with excellent modulation at most scales. And Shreya now sounds less shrill at the higher notes than when she started.

Sukhvinder uses Jagjit Singh on Yeh Hindustan Hai - a straightforward melody which really benefits from the natural timber and world-weariness in Jagjit's voice. Its contrasted with a more hopeful version rendered later by Udit Narayan.

Sukhvinder does the bulk of the singing on this CD, doing duty on no less than four of the seven original tracks here. But his one outstanding turn is on the sufi anthem Haq Allah, with Hans Raaj Hans accompanying him. It helps that the song is garnished with petis and tablas (my sweet spot when it comes to these types of songs). And the song has a deliciously kinetic bridge.

There are two more songs on the CD that you can discover for yourself if this sounds up your alley. Sukhvinder does another version of Shreya's song (Mein Chala) and pairs up on Peer Manava with Shraddha Pandit.


Anonymous said...


THANK YOU!! I've been meaning to contact you and ask if you had reviewed this album because I couldn't see a decent music review anywhere online - and I LOVE this album.

My favourites on the album are Jogi Aaya and SS's Peer manava.

I belong in the anti-Sadhna Sargam camp though - but my animosity to her is restricted to her singing in Tamil - because of her criminal mis-pronouciations in Tamil songs - She was (is?) a Rahman favourite and she's hacked a few Tamil songs that I love the tunes of!


Parveen Sibal said...

Great Review Dear Aspi !
Also heard the Indian Idol Kids songs from a New Movie Don Muthu Swami ( Emmon & Deepali ) music by Annu Malik. Deepali is highly talented.
Vinit sang a Tamil Number in Dasavtaram and sounds good. Way to Go

Unknown said...

Bitterlemons, man, that would be annoying so I can understand the dislike for Sadhna Sargam.

Parveen, my next post was going to be about that Emon/Deepali song you mention. I did see Vineet's name on the Dasavatara CD but wasn't sure it was him. This numerology crap - which results in different spellings each time - is driving me nuts. But its a good song.

Parveen Sibal said...

I read abou it some where and heard it without knowing Tamil - Could recognize the voice and music is by Himness !

Parveen Sibal said...

Watch out for NDTV Imagine new show
Junoon Kuchch Kar Dikhana which has great singers like Mohd. Vakil , Jaswinder etc not to forget Sharib.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I love the music of Black and white.

I was so hoping for the movie to be good, too. But alas, I did not hear good things.

Totally underrated.

Anonymous said...

Aspi, I am awed by your music review. It's like taking a mini class in music appreciation. Your descriptions of the songs and the musicians are sublime. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

WOw! Very detailed review. You sound like you could be in the music business yourslef.