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"Ishq Karo" by Tauseef Akhtar - Music Review
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Tauseef Akhtar needs to be applauded for being an active player in bringing ghazals on the forefront after a hiatus – a genre which is synonymous with poetry, quality music, good voice and interaction with the audience. Furthermore, it is music which needs to be appreciated – not just to be listened while on the way to somewhere.

“Ishq Karo” is the first offering from the artist, who has been in the industry long enough, to understand the complexity of ghazals. In continuous demand for shows worldwide and locally, and being an integral part of the current ghazal scene along with other veterans and newcomers, post the death of his guru, Jagjit Singh in 2011, Tauseef Akhtar presents us with eight ghazals, reflecting various moods and emotions, since the debut of his musical journey.

The album opens up with Veerane Mein Phool (Allahu), which is a slow ghazal with poignant lyrics by Waali Aasi. While the chorus intermittently recites “Allahu Allahu”, Tauseef’s calm vocals take the centre stage and he delivers an exceptional performance. The song is further enhanced by the perfected orchestral arrangements with apt violin (Manas Kumar) interludes and soothing acoustics in the background. High production values automatically set high expectations for the rest of the tracks.

Ishq Karo is an instantly likeable ghazal as it is light and very well composed. Again from the repertoire of Waali Aasi, Tauseef sings mostly in the middle octave and does full justice to the lyrics. The violin makes a longer appearance in the third interlude and the guitar pieces are equally pleasing. The piece is lively and friendly to the ears. Although technically coined as a ghazal, “Ishq Karo” could have easily been featured in a mainstream Bollywood movie, due to the contemporary programming, tune predictability and “filmi” interludes.

A mysterious and engaging ghazal makes its strong presence felt in Gali Gali Hai Andera. Blessed with a haunting “mukhda”, Tauseef ensures that everything is perfect with this piece; from the thrilling tabla (Ashish Jha) beat, the guitar riffs (Sanjoy Das) and the programming (Tauseef Akhtar). The soul-stirring voice expresses the right emotions of Shamin Karhani’s poetry. Notice how the violin is given more importance throughout the song, especially in the first interlude which captures the right mood and sets the path for a smooth entry of the “antara”. The piece takes a sudden twist in the second interlude; with a stronger rhythm in the guitar riffs bordering the Flamenco style, thereby sounding like a complete departure from the original melody. This ghazal will keep connoisseurs of music lost in this haunting atmosphere while the piece plays. It beautifully ends with a few alaaps.

It has been a very long while since ghazal lovers have heard a piece like Phool Khilte Hain. Well the wait is over and ghazals are back. This ghazal will transport you to a past era while allowing you to appreciate the meaningful poetry of Payam Saeedi and the soothing voice of Tauseef. Special mention to the mood established by Tauseef’s vocals in this long ghazal . All the instruments selected result in a magical blend, without creating any cacophony; the catchy guitar riffs which kicks off the song marries well with the solo violin. This ghazal has the potential to become a classic and popular at shows. Definitely worth a listen!

Muskhil Se Haanthon Mein starts off on a joyous note and is another pleasing ghazal. Written by the experienced Rahat Indori (Mujhe Hosh Nahin –Saher (Jagit Singh)), the poetry has weight and Tauseef sings the ghazal with great ease – sailing till the end effortlessly. While duration has nothing to do with the quality of a ghazal, despite the smooth flow and the excellent use of the guitar throughout the track, it does not match the same standards as established at the start of the album.

Rahat Indori’s close association with Anu Malik in the 90s as a film lyricist, resulted in gems like Chori Chori Jab Nazrein Mili (Kareeb), Tujhe Pyaar Karte Karte (Najaayaz) and Aaj Humne Dil Ka Har Kissa (Sir).

Penned by Shakila Bani Bhopali, Mera Dil Qadamon Mein Hain is a melancholic ghazal with lots of emotions, beautifully sung and expressed by Tauseef. Its slow paced nature renders it nicer and the song is further elevated by the sounds of santoor and tabla. While the piece boosts of quality Urdu poetry, this ghazal takes longer to grow on listeners, maybe because of its predictability.

Jugnu Jungle Aur Saaye echoes ghazals from the past and has an old charm to it. Beautifully written by the late Qateel Shifai, it is slow paced and is one of those ghazals which needs to be appreciated at night. The programming and orchestration are well synched. Tauseef’s performance is commendable and he sounds confident till the end of the song.

Qateel Shifai does not need any introduction and till today, his collaborations with Anu Malik such as Tere Dar Par Sanam Chale Aaye (Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayee), Baadalon Me Chhup Raha Hai Chaand Kyun (Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayee) and Sambhaala Hai Maine Bahut Apane Dil Ko (Naaraaz) are appreciated.

Before listening to Aapse Dil Lagana, it gave the feeling of a film song from the Nadeem-Shravan repertoire (likes of Yeh Dil Aashiqana) with lyrics by Sameer and vocals by Kumar Sanu! After listening to the song, only the prelude and the “mukhda” are very reminiscent of the duo’s type of music in the early 2000s while the rest of the piece is totally different and fresh. Tauseef was an arranger for the duo and it is perfectly normal to unconsciously observe similarities, although it can be just a coincidence! Coming back to the ghazal itself, Tauseef displays more relaxed vocal chords and the arrangements follow suit. Lyrics by Akhtar Azad are fine. The song doesn’t follow much of the ghazal template and is quite enjoyable, after repeated listens.

The album has high production values (mastering by Donal Whelan) and Tauseef’s compositions are worth a mention. There is also the contribution of experienced and established musicians like Ashish Jha (tabla), Sanjoy Das (guitar) and Manas Kumar (violin), who have added their own musical touch at selected places in some ghazals. Zareen Daruwala (sarod) and Prashant Salil (santoor) do not get much exposure. The emphasis on minimalist arrangements and detailed attention to interludes is handled with great professionalism.

Ishq Karo is a decent effort from Tauseef Akhtar. Reviving a genre is not an easy feat. Songs like “Phool Khilte Hain”, “Gali Gali Hai Andera” and “Jugnu Jungle Aur Saaye” establish a connection with the listener and bring back good memories of this genre. In an age where Bollywood songs have been a mixed bag due to different reasons, ghazals present a close alternative to good music minus the noise. Tauseef deserves recognition for hand picking the poets or selected poetry from late poets who have contributed immensely to the sheer beauty of Urdu poetry in this album. Ghazal lovers would be disappointed to know that there are no “sharaabi” songs in this album, but it offers a good mix of cheerful and melancholic tracks for everyone. It is unfair to compare this album with any others as we are in a new era of ghazals and it is indeed a promising and wonderful start! Recommended!

Ishq Karo is now available for download on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Nokia Music.

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