Archive for the 'Music' Category

Anoushka Shankar – Traces Of You ft. Norah Jones

Jazz singer Pam Crain, R.I.P

Naresh Fernandes (@tajmahalfoxtrot) just tweeted that Pam Crain, the diva of Indian jazz, has died.

More about her at jazz singer Radha Thomas’s blog.

And here she is with the Braz Gonsalves band.


What Man Santa: Holiday cheer from Mumbai’s Bandra

Naresh Fernandes in India Ink/NYT:

It is, Tweeted one enthusiastic fan, the “Kolaveri of Christmas.”

Like the Tamil film song “Why This Kolaveri Di” that went viral last year, the Bollywood musician Daniel B. George’s quirky Christmas tune “What Man Santa” has been spreading across the Internet faster than a snowball melting in the Mumbai summer. Within three days of being posted on YouTube, the song had been viewed more than 200,000 times, earning the producers lots of laughs and inquiries from radio and television stations that want to air the tune in the run up to Christmas.

“The reaction has been phenomenal,” said Daniel B. George, the hooded character in the video who is also the composer of the ditty, in a telephone interview. More:

Pandit Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)

Pancham-taar may have snapped, but the dhwani remains, writes Sadanand Menon in The Hindu:

That the superstitious buzz about the world ending on 12.12.12 proved to be a dud, was no consolation for millions of music lovers across the globe yesterday. Their universe ended with the news of Pandit Ravi Shankar breathing his last in a hospital in San Diego on the night of December 11. Over the past seven decades, he had come to be identified the world over with his iconic Sitar, the complex string instrument which became the ambassadorial face of Indian classical music. As the violin legend Yehudi Menuhin, himself a close friend of Shankar, remarked in an afterword to Shankar’s 1999 autobiography, “…from mastering an instrument, we ourselves became instruments of something that possessed us”.

Till the last, Ravi Shankar was admittedly at the peak of his creative enterprise. Even as recently as the first week of November, aged 92 and braving deteriorating health, he had performed in concert with his daughter and shaagird Anoushka Shankar Wright at Long Beach, California. It was a passion and a creative journey that began in the narrow Tilebhandeshwar galli in the ancient city of Benares in the 1920s and soon spun out into a fairy tale romp across continents and cultures into a comprehensive insemination of the imprint of Indian classical music on global music.

Today, trying to talk of ‘Ravi Shankar’ to an average Indian is akin to trying to talk of ‘Mount Everest’ to a group of Sherpas. His name has inveigled into the nooks and crannies of popular culture as ubiquitously as ‘Taj Mahal’ or ‘Jantar Mantar’. From music clubs to hair cutting saloons, from tailors of desi attire to the corner paan shop, there was something suave and ‘international’ about appropriating him for local name-boards. Why India, even in Manhattan, New York, I once counted three ‘Ravi Shankar Indian Diners’ on 5th Avenue alone. The name became the stamp of India. More:

The NYT obit

RIP: Dave Brubeck

Take Five comes full circle: By Naresh Fernandes at


Pakistani fish seller’s song gets record deal

In The Sun:

“Come on ladies, come on ladies, have-a, have-a look, one pound fish. Very very good, very very cheap, one pound fish.”

Once you’ve heard it you can’t get it out of your head — and it might just be the Christmas No1.

The One Pound Fish Song is the creation of market stall trader Muhammad Shahid Nazir who has just reeled in a record deal with Warner Music.

He was spotted after a YouTube video of him singing at an east London market notched up more than 3.6million views. Not bad for a guy who was rejected by the X Factor panel.

Now Warner Music execs reckon he could be as big as Gangnam Style star Psy — and are pitting him against the winner of X Factor for the most remembered hit of the year.

Alesha Dixon and US boy band Mindless Behaviour have both recorded versions of the song and Rio Ferdinand has tweeted that he’s a fan. More:

Rahman’s Nenjukulle goes viral

Malini Nair in The Times of India/Crest edition:

A Tamil song gone viral is not always great news musically – it is usually wacky, raucous stuff that might tickle your funny bone and set your feet tapping. But last weekend Shakthisree Gopalan, a slender young Chennai singer, perched on a high stool at the studios of MTV Unplugged with AR Rahman by her side, broke the mould.

 As the mellow notes of ARR’s accordion twinkle away, she starts singing in a voice that is at once easy and earthy: Nenjukulle omma mudunjirukaen (I have tied you up in my heart). There is some spartan and delicate guitar and violin work alongside the song but it never overshadows the voice and right up until the song winds down, you have no choice but to listen. If you follow the lyrics it is an achy song of love, if you don’t you are floored anyway by the pull of the melody. More:

The Shakey Rays – Down The Drain and 8 Floors High

The Shakey Rays are a four piece indie rock band from Chennai, India.

Raghu Dixit jam with Bela Fleck & friends

This is simply awesome:

From Wiki: Raghu Dixit is an Indian singer-songwriter, producer, and film score composer based in Bangalore. He is most famous for fronting the Raghu Dixit Project, a multilingual folk music band. Though a gold medalist in Masters in Microbiology and a proficient Indian classical dancer (Vidwat in Bharatanatyam), Raghupathy Dixit is now known more as a self-taught composer and musician.

And here’s the link to The Raghu Dixit Project.

‘Haq Maula’ – Dhruv Sangari & The Humble Mystic


I Want Fakht You

“I Want Fakht You” is a musical number in the new Hindi comedy/fantasy film “Joker”:

Preserving the passion of India’s roots music

Nida Najar in NYT:

RANERI, India — In this tiny village almost 400 miles southwest of New Delhi, where women wash dishes in the sand to conserve water, and electricity is scarce, Lakha Khan sat on the floor of a stone hut, legs crossed and white turban in place. There he coaxed a bright, high-pitched, dizzyingly fast melody from his violinlike sarangi.

Mr. Khan, 66, who is known as Lakha or Lakhaji (ji at the end of a name is a sign of respect in India), is one of the few remaining Sindhi sarangi players among the Manganiyars, a caste of hereditary Muslim musicians who live in this desert state of Rajasthan. He plays for hours — until black beetles falling from the ceiling indicate nighttime — usually with no more company than a couple of passing goats. But on a recent afternoon he had an audience of two: Ashutosh Sharma and Ankur Malhotra, who were crouching over their gear, including a five-channel mixer and two analog recorders. They placed some of their seven microphones on towels to absorb the noise of the flour mill across the street.

“There’s an exuberance or just kind of a lack of inhibition when they’re performing at home,” Mr. Malhotra said of the Manganiyars, whose music is a mix of traditional melodies and arresting vocals. “Here these performances are genuine and real and filled with emotion.” More:

Venkatesh Kumar – Shuddhkalyan

[Thanks to @svaradarajan]:

Venkatesh Kumar rendering Raag Shuddhkalyan on the occasion of his receiving “Dr.Prabha Atre Shastreeya Sangeet Puraskar” in Pune on 25th Sept.2011.

Ellington in India, 1963

[Thanks to Naresh Fernandes @tajmahalfoxtrot]

Read here

The Gentleman behind the story: Jehangir Dalal

Finding Carlton is documentary film about the story of jazz in India.


Vande Materam

The Shillong Chamber Choir:

Something (by the Beatles) as sung by Deepak Chopra

Click on the image to visit The Beatles Complete on Ukulele wesbite.

Click here for Deepak Chopra’s Something. And here to listen to all 185 tracks.

[ps by Shekhar Bhatia: I quite like Day Tripper by Elaine Caswell. There's a nice swing to it. But then I have always liked Day Tripper. (I don't know much about the other tracks)]

Coke Studio’s Indian mystery

Above, from Coke Studio Pakistan Episode 5. Click here to see more Episode 5 videos.

Aakar Patel in The Express Tribune:

Why did Pakistan produce the lovely “Coke Studio” music series and not India? Why is Pakistan’s “Coke Studio” more popular with many Indians than the new Indian version? Is it because Pakistan’s musicians are better or more creative than India’s musicians? Let’s explore the question.

My introduction to this sort of music came before “Coke Studio” began. It happened many years ago when I was staying in Lahore with my friend Iftikhar, a retired colonel from General Pervez Musharraf’s batch in the Pakistan Military Academy.

One evening Iftikhar took me to the Waris Road residence of Masood Hasan, later to become a fellow columnist of mine at The News. We had a few glasses of the good stuff with some other guests (friend Ejaz Haider was also present) and then Hasan took us to a part of the property where his son Mekaal had built a studio and was playing with his band. This was when I first heard the music that is now so distinctively the sound of “Coke Studio”. I would define it as a folk song or raag-based melody, layered with western orchestration. This included a synthesiser’s wash, guitars, a drummer, a bass punctuating the chord changes and backing vocals and harmony. Essentially, it was traditional Hindustani music made palatable for ears accustomed to listening to more popular music. More:

And in Mint Lounge, Supriya Nair reviews Coke Studio Season 5:

It’s impossible to predict the afterlife of a piece of blockbuster pop culture, but here is an early radical proposition: The recently concluded season 5 of Coke Studio Pakistan has been its best yet.

There are excellent reasons to disagree. Coke Studio 5 doesn’t quite set new standards for fusion music in the manner of, say, season 2. Its outstanding reconstructed qawwalis are a follow-up of the form perfected in season 4. What we get in the 25 sets over these five episodes is a sort of remastered anthology of the different sounds Coke Studio has introduced to us over the years: high-octane indie, powerhouse folk, remixed pop staples, lo-fi classical. More:

Dasht-e-Tanhai sung by Meesha Shafi

Dasht-e-Tanhai is an Urdu ghazal written by Faiz Ahmad Faiz. It was originally sung by the legendary Iqbal Bano. [via 3quarksdaily]:

Usman Riaz and Preston Reed: A young guitarist meets his hero

TED talks:

Usman Riaz is a young Pakistani musician making a worldwide mark with his astonishing and fun-to-listen-to technique. Influenced by percussive guitarists–who move beyond strumming to striking, treating their fretboard like the soundboard of a piano–Riaz makes a sound that feels larger than the instrument itself, with a compelling pattern of repetition and variation that harkens to mystical music traditions.

In 2011, a viral video for his song “Fire Fly” helped bring his sound from the small-but-thriving Pakistani music community to a global audience. He’s now collaborating with other musicians in Pakistan and working on a new album of original music.

Preston Reed: Most guitarists the world over play their instruments in essentially the same way: the left hand holds the neck and applies pressure to each string to change notes, while the right hand plays the melody. Not so with Preston Reed.

In the 1980s, Reed began playing his instrument in new ways, sometimes twisting his left hand to pick out a melody while the right hand strummed accompaniment or tapping the guitar’s body like a drum.

Mehdi Hassan in Royal Albert Hall London (January 1977)

An Indian drinking song

Paloma by Jack, Johnnie, Ol’ Monk

Poutine Masala

Tiny Desk Concert: Red Baraat


Susheela Raman is collaborating with Lahore’s qawwali singers

In The Guardian, Susheela Raman explains how they learned to make music together:

Sufism has many facets and many different styles – it penetrates every level of Pakistani society. Even the qawwals vary. The Mian Mir are a group of working class qawwals who for centuries have performed at an 18th-century shrine in praise of the Sufi saint Mian Mir. Fresh rose petals and green cloths are laid on the tomb around which people sit in states of prayer. Around the shrine however, there is heavy security as Sufi gathering places have been bomb targets (popular Sufism is an anathema for some Salafist Muslims who regard the traditional South Asian reverence for saints and even for the Prophet as a kind of polytheism.) And today, because of government fears for public safety, the qawwalis can only sing at the Mian Mir shrine once a year. This is heartbreaking for them. Lead vocalist Mehboob Khan says he learned to sing alongside his father who performed here every Thursday night for 25 years. It was a family tradition has been passed down for generations.

Sam and I are due to perform with the Mian Mir qawwalis at Lahore’s Rafi Peer auditorium. The Rafi Peer has been bombed three times and now has extensive security measures in place, but it is determined to continue supporting traditional music, no matter what. The event is by invitation only and is not publicised in the newspapers.

We start practising together. Because qawwali music has drones, choruses and driving rhythms there is a lot to latch on to. Some previous fusions with qawwali have gone towards the dreamy, but we are aiming to match their energy and their sense of immediacy. Our songs and sounds mix and merge. More:

Rumour Has It

The story of a church-bred Indian American teenager who made Adele’s songs her own and has become a sensation on the American talent show The Voice. Indira Kannan in The Indian Express Sunday magazine Eye:

Mathai is the daughter of Indian immigrants Samuel and Elsa Mathai, who are originally from Kerala. They moved to the US in 1991, living in New York for 11 years, and then moving to Dallas, Texas 10 years ago. The Mathais knew their daughter could carry a tune, having noticed her talent when she was three years old and getting her a voice tutor at a young age. But they were as amazed as the judges by her performance on The Voice. “We know she’s a good singer, but, wow, this is big,” says her father.

Several commentators have raved about her unusual voice, and the ease with which she covered Adele, even modifying the song to suit her style. Mathai attributes this to years of singing in church, which gave her the confidence to sing before crowds. She took jazz voice lessons until she was about 10 years old, and then opera and choral lessons in high school. Now she is taking guitar lessons and also “messing with the ukulele”. Last August, Mathai cleared the “cattle call” audition for the show, which drew over 40,000 aspirants. After making it to a shortlist of 125, she is currently in a group of 48 contestants, from which a final winner will be chosen. More:

Susheela Raman – Yeh Mera Divanapan Hai (Live)

Susheela Raman — Daga Daga

At Blue Frog in Delhi. The gig I missed.

Remembering Anthony Gonsalves

By Naresh Fernandes

Midway through Manmohan Desai’s classic 1977 film about three brothers separated at birth, a man in a top hat and a Saturday Night Fever suit leaps out of a giant Easter egg to inform the assemblage, ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves.’

The significance of the announcement was lost under the impact of Amitabh Bachchan’s sartorial exuberance. But decades later, the memory of that moment still sends shivers down the spines of scores of ageing men scattered across Bombay and Goa. By invoking the name of his violin teacher in that tune in Amar Akbar Anthony, the composer Pyarelal had finally validated the lives of scores of Goan Catholic musicians whose working years had been illuminated by the flicker of images dancing across white screens in airless sound studios, even as acknowledgement of their talent whizzed by in the flash of small-type credit titles.

The arc of their stories – determined by the intersection of passion and pragmatism, of empire and exigency – originated in church-run schools in Portuguese Goa and darted through royal courts in Rajasthan, jazz clubs in Calcutta and army cantonments in Muree. Those lines eventually converged on Bombay’s film studios, where the Goan Catholic arrangers worked with Hindu music composers and Muslim lyricists in an era of intense creativity that would soon come to be recognised as the golden age of Hindi film song. More:

Brooklyn Qawwali Party plays Mustt Mustt

Dholqueen Rani Taj