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"Zikr Tera" by Roop Kumar Rathod - Music Review
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Roop Kumar Rathod and Sunali Rathod invite you to appreciate their latest offering “Zikr Tera” to commemorate the celebration of their silver jubilee together and to pay a tribute to the legendary duo Late Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh. While Roop Kumar Rathod’s ghazals vary in mood, they have one thing in common – they are meaningful, beautiful and captivating. The volcanic talent behind ever-green film songs such as "Sandese Aate Hain” (Border), “To Chalun” (Border), “Tere Liye” (Veer-Zaara), “Maula Mere” (Anwar) and "Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hain" (Rab Ne De Bana Di Jodi), has composed all the eight songs.

Haathon Mein Haath tells a melancholic story. Slow-paced in nature, this ghazal maintains a calm momentum throughout its duration. From its mysterious prelude to the soothing entry of Roop Kumar Rathod, it captures one’s attention in no time. Sunali Rathod’s contribution adds more depth – because of its vocal texture and smoothness. The apt arrangements further elevate this ghazal. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most touching and poignant ghazals to have been released in the last decade.

Unfortunately to the disappointment of many, there won’t be any more duets in this album but only solo versions. A tribute to Jagjit Singh is as close as it can get with Zaroorat Uski – a surprise revelation! The arrangements and orchestration are very similar to Jagjit Singh’s ghazals style– simple and minimalistic, but efficient. The first flute interlude turns the whole affair even better. “Zaroorat Uski” extracts the best from the voice of Roop Kumar Rathod, who meticulously transforms this poem into an extravagant ghazal outing with lasting appeal.

Aur Kuchh Din converges into very familiar territory – mostly because of its “filmi” feel. Despite the negligible and insignificant resemblance, Sunali Rathod delivers an exceptional performance. Her voice takes the forefront at most places and she reaches the high notes with aplomb. The solo violin contributes to the right ambience in the second interlude. The musical arrangements take a backseat in this piece and doesn’t aid in blending the tune with the depth of Sunali’s voice.

The music begins with a mesmerising guitar and solo violin prelude, backed by the terrific entrance of Roop Kumar Rathod. A classic in the making; Paron Ko Khol engages the listener from its first note and magically transports us to a musical heaven, mainly due to the superlative vocals and the exquisite tune. The magical journey continues with the beautiful piano interludes and soft orchestral arrangements. Roop Kumar Rathod displays a wide vocal range throughout the ghazal and expresses his emotions at the right places, especially in the second “antara”. The only minus point is its abrupt ending.

Sawaal Sabne Kiya relies on a smooth flow and a thin tune. Roop Kumar Rathod sails through effortlessly and allows listeners to appreciate his soulful voice in a relaxed mode as the ghazal is light and breezy. Despite the good intentions, the ghazal falls into average territory, mostly because of its short duration, below average arrangements and half-baked interludes.

Abr Guzra is a rich and complex ghazal, sung with panache by Sunali Rathod – her high-pitched rendition in the “antaras” is worth a mention. The harmonic and rhythmic complexity are handled by the carefully interwoven arrangements which tremendously move the ghazal forward without over-shadowing the magical vocals.

Starting off with a mysterious and intriguing prelude; Meri Chaadar Tha is a deep ghazal, beautifully knitted with selected tabla beats, peaceful flute interludes, powerful “antaras” and poetry - all contributing to this engaging ghazal. Roop Kumar Rathod’s voice is the main instrument in this piece and the arrangements are top-notch. They allow the soulful voice to shine and the result is outstanding.

A tribute to Jagjit Singh is very apparent in the slow-paced Zamin Ko Aye Khuda. Equipped with swift guitar acoustics, simplistic arrangements and a balanced use of the violin, Roop Kumar Rathod shines in both the composition and the singing department but the ghazal does lack the required punch.

Shakeel Azmi’s poems in “Haathon Mein Haat”, “Aur Kuchh Din” and “Paron Ko Khol” are superbly written and carry the depth expected for a ghazal. Madan Pal’s “Sawaal Sabne Kiya”, Praveen Kumar Ashkk’s “Abr Guzra”, “Meri Chaadar Tha” and “Zamin Ko Aye Khuda” are all equally good. It is Sani Aslam’s “Zaroorat Uski” which emerges as the most appealing poem in the whole album.

The sole creative force behind “Zikr Tera” is Roop Kumar Rathod; who displays that he is a prolific ghazal composer. The album is a lush, beautiful and soothing ghazal excursion through a land of gentle beats, exquisite poetry, surging smooth orchestrations, and the soothing voices of the couple. It succeeds because of the singing prowess and the subtle arrangements, minus any software interference which usually tend to templatize ghazals with rigidity. “Haathon Mein Haath", “Abr Guzra” and “Paron Ko Khol” evoke harmonic progression, expressive singing and touching arrangements. Despite no ground-breaking tune, Roop Kumar Rathod proves with “Zikr Tera” that Indian classical music training makes wonders when rendering a ghazal and he succeeds with flying colours.

Zikr Tera is available for download on iTunes.

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