Planet Bollywood
Lucky Ali returns to the barren Indi-Pop scene with the emotionally resonant ‘XSUIE’!
- Samir Dave           Let us know what you think about this article

Most people know Lucky Ali from his hit album “Sunoh”, which contained the smash hit, “O Sanam” and his killer track “Ek Pal Ka Jeena” from “Kaho Na…Pyar Hain”. Those two tracks literally put him firmly on the music map for most fans that were looking for something a bit different.

When “Sunoh” was released in 1996, the Indi-Pop scene was blasting into the stratosphere. Artists like Euphoria, Alicia Chinoy, Shaan, Sonu Nigam (in his pop avatar), Adnan Sami, Apache Indian, Anaida, Altaf Raja, Bali Brahmbatt, Biddu, Baba Sehgal, Gurdas Mann, Falguni Pathak, Raageshwari, Sunitha Rao, Sagarika, Sukhbir, Stereo Nation and more were in full swing. It was almost a musical renaissance with the successful creation of a new viable musical genre and outlet for artists other than the standard Bollywood soundtracks. Track down any of the previously mentioned artists albums, and you will find creativity on a level that hadn’t yet hit Bollywood films of the time.

Lucky Ali made the most of his initial fame, coming out with albums like “Sifar”, “Aks” ,“Kabhi Aisa Lagta Hai” and playback on multiple soundtracks (“Sur”, “Kaante”, and “Yuva” to name a few). Yet, the problem with each of his private releases was a growing sameness to the songs. It almost seemed like Lucky Ali, the artist was bored (or forced to sing the same kind of song over and over again by music directors). For the most part, he has pretty much disappeared for the last few years, reappearing here or there, but never reaching anywhere near his initial levels of popularity.

So what is it that is part of the Lucky Ali charm? His voice is certainly different and requires a strong melody with backup vocals for it to work. Perhaps it’s the interesting fusion of Western and Eastern influences. Whatever it may be, one thing is for certain, he is talented and brings a welcome diversity to an otherwise stagnant music scene.

Speaking of stagnant music scenes, there is no market at this time for Indi-Pop, as recent albums by Shibani Kashyap (“My Free Spirit) and Mohit Chauhan (“Fitoor”) came and went without making much of an impact. Music companies are reluctant to release pop albums, for fear of losing money on the manufacturing and distribution of the cassette or cd. Of course, the entire music scene is at a crossroads right now, with online downloading increasing and fewer people buying physical music formats (but that’s an article for another day).

So, into this downbeat music scene, Lucky Ali resurfaces with an excellent new album, ,“XSUIE” and a clever way of marketing/distributing it. He’s skipped the music label, and physical distribution of the music to offer it online for legitimate downloads. Also, he’s utilizing the new technique of social marketing, by marketing the album via his official XSUIE Facebook page. It’s an interesting strategy, but one that doesn’t really increase the visibility of the album itself, which is a shame, because it certainly deserves to be listened to and appreciated. He’s embraced the world of online digital music, and I hope he finds success in that.

So, let’s spin the digital flash drive and listen to the latest from Lucky Ali, the interesting and emotionally resonant, “XSUIE” (which roughly translates to doing things at one’s own pace).

First up, “Rehne De” which is typical Lucky Ali with guitar work, straightforward lyrics and a lyrical melody. It signals a return to form for the artist. The guitar solos are excellent (acoustic guitar, electric guitar) and the violin flourishes create a laid back soft pop atmosphere that’s easy on the ears. Ask yourself if you feel lucky today? You bet!

After that, we get the contemplative stirrings of “Sea of Life”, which has a distinct Chinese instrumental influence that’s makes the track especially poignant. The use of the Chinese fiddle (erhu or nandu) gives the song emotional weight. It’s another winner and a highly addictive track for “XSUIE”. Still feeling lucky? You bet!

The third track, “Tere Bina” is groovy ‘n’ cool. It’s got a nice swagger to it and picks up the pace from the first two more mellow tracks. It’s the refrain, “wherever you are, it’s always too far…I want to be there with you” with the backdrop of guitar and drums that really gives the track a nice soft rock feel. Aren’t you lucky? You bet!

After the soft rock of “Tere Bina”, we move into Beatles territory with, “Yeh Zindagi”, a track that sounds like it could have been composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney during their youthful heyday. Lucky Ali’s vocals fit in well with this peppy number and the back up vocalists with the English lyrics like, “Oooo…yeah, this is the life…..” only add to the nostalgic Beatles feel of the song. Instruments are kept simple with swirling guitars, a drum kit, and Beatlesque counter melodies making it a highly listenable track. Did you get lucky? You bet!

We move back into mellow territory with a country guitar twang in a highlight of the album, “Dil Gaye Jaa”. It’s the way that Ali sings “dil gaye ja….gaye jaye re…….”, that catches the ear. It’s just a beautiful song that again relies on guitar, drums, and the occasional violin flourish. One can picture a beautiful woman walking on the beach, waiting for that special someone. Aren’t you the lucky one? You bet!

The sixth song, “Khudahafiz” has a nice eastern violin influence. It’s a straightforward track with a wonderful flute interval that combined with Lucky Ali’s vocals, stirs the strings of the heart. It tugs at the soul. Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! You bet!

The final track, “O Raahi” is one of the best of the album. It plays to the strengths of Ali’s past hits, while building something new and fresh. Starting off with a vocal jugalbandi with a western artist who sings counterpoint… “don’t let go….hold on….you are never on your own”. Ali’s voice truly captures the mood evoked by the music. The start ‘n’ stop rhythm flows with the funk guitar, airy keyboards and percussion (traditional drum with a subtle hint of Arabic Rai thrown in) to make this song a total melodic package to be experienced. Don’t you wish you got lucky? You bet!

It’s a shame that what is arguably the best Indi-Pop album in recent memory, has for the most part been overlooked, because of the lack of promotion and distribution by a music label. It’s certainly Lucky Ali’s best work since his first album “Sunoh”. Deeper and more emotional, the album’s melodies take their time to establish a connection and each track strives to hit a different emotional chord. It’s not Bollywood style, thankfully. “XSUIE” rejoices in the fact that it is Indi-Pop and proud of it. Do yourself a favor and track it down, download it (legally to support the artist) and enjoy some lucky musical bliss.

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