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The High Notes of 2006
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Welcome to the High Notes of 2006. The purpose of these yearly articles, if you may, is to not only present you with a list of what I believe to be the most deserving soundtracks of the year, but to identify certain trends and fashions in music that have surreptitiously developed throughout the year. Each year we witness our music moving to newer grounds; some higher and some lower. In 2004, for example, we re-instated the integrity of poetry and lyrics in our music. In 2005, the trend continued from lyrical reinvigoration to musical genres, as the year made way for some expressive instrumental scores. This year, however, I’ll analyze the musical tendencies on an individualistic level…

As opposed to the last couple of years, the music scene does not have too much to be proud of. If 2005 was marked by cinematic droughts and flourishing sounds, then 2006 has flipped it around. Yes, the year will forever be remembered as the year that brought prosperity in various forms to the moviegoers as well as the filmmakers. Unfortunately, musically speaking, we’ve seen many underachievers. And it was not till the last quarter of the year that we were finally given something good to listen to on a somewhat consistent basis.

The first individualistic trend I’ll give attention to is characteristic of being Prolific. Yes, I am talki1ng about the man in the cap, Himesh Reshammiya. Some sort of record must have been broken in the first half of 2006 by the number of releases that had the Reshammiya stamp on it. We were at a point where he was releasing multiple albums a week. He actually takes the word prolific to another level, as he now has landed his own film with him in the lead, titled “Aapka Suroor” (which you shall recall was the title of his debut independent album). Yes, proliferation may have brought him name and fame, but anyone who knows music will tell you that his work has suffered tremendously. Someone please introduce Himesh to the concept of Over-Exposure. Each of his soundtracks had one, at most two, hit tracks – but what about the other five, six, or even seven? Hell, maybe the listeners won’t notice if we stuff all his soundtracks with remixes and unplugged versions! Please, don’t make a mockery of my intelligence. Take a gander down the list if you please, because I hate to break it to you – but you wont find his name in this list.

Another individual who embodied the characteristic of Prolific in a more subtle and advantageous manner was Gulzar. Yes, this is not a misprint. Gulzar saab has truly redefined himself. No, it’s not another example of my genius analytical skills (well, it is somewhat) but the man has outright told us! Listen to his words in Anu Malik’s Jaan-E-Mann. His conversationally youthful words are just one example of him breaking new grounds. Listen to his intoxicatingly naughty words in Vishal Bharadwaj’s Beedi of the soundtrack Omkara. Go back into the 70s; hell, go back a couple years and no one would have guessed in their wildest dreams that such a poetically polished lyricist could be able to expand his genius to such extreme lyrical genres. And finally, give a listen to his work in Rahman’s Ek Lo Ek Muft of the soundtrack Guru. And just to show off a tad, he whispers his beautiful words, as he has been for decades, through the vocals of Jagjit Singh in their jointly collaborated album Koi Baat Chale. Prolific? I must say so.

Moving on to our next theme – we look at the underachievers of 2006. The first that jumps up at you is quite a shocker. In fact, these men have brought us musical splendor in many forms during the past few years (pre-2005). I’m speaking of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Signed for a couple of HUGE projects that released this year, they gravely underachieved in both of them. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna really only had one asset – Shafqat Amanat Ali, who rendered a brilliant Mitwa. Other than that, the soundtrack was as stale as the film itself (and that’s pretty stale!). Their next major assignment was Farhan Akhtar’s Don. Preceding the bashing the film got, the music didn’t do much better either. Not only were they disliked for their unoriginal remixing of past classics, but neither did their original contribution stir a mouse. But redemption was just around the corner in the form of Salaam-E-Ishq. The music, although still below S-E-L potential, was a breath of fresh air when compared to their prior two disasters. Let’s hope 2007 brings us the S-E-L of prior years.

In addition to major project liks KANK and Don failing on musical fronts, so did Krrish and Dhoom 2, both of which were train-wrecks from the very get-go. In Krrish, Rajesh Roshan gives us a bunch of flimsy filmi tracks that are as small as the film was big! The only track that caught my fancy was ‘Main Hoon Woh Aasmaan,’ which was violently ignored and thrown out of the film altogether (I urge you all to please give this track a listen, it’s worth at least one). However, hands-down the biggest disappointment of the year 2006 has to be Dhoom 2. Pritam’s hackneyed compositions and lack of a single decent melody throughout the entire album is a sight for sore eye, or a sound for sore ears should I say. But, the man excelled in other projects, so I shall lay my hand of forgiveness upon him this time.

The final noteworthy trend I’ve noticed is not an individualistic one. Rather, it’s one that deals with the heart of the matter – the music itself. Through albums like Woh Lamhe and, more notably, Bas Ek Pal, a progressive age in filmi music has given rise. Young and talented artists like Mithoon, Atif Aslam, and Kailash Kher (among others) are widening our borders and expanding our musical horizons. It is a fine time to be a fan of Hindi music, as I truly believe we are moving into a new phase in our music’s history.

Even 2006 hasn’t brought upon a shortage in gossip on the music scene, what with the numerous catfights between Himesh Reshammiya, Anu Malik, and T-Series, or perhaps the long-awaited law suit that was brought upon Pritam and the team of Gangster for stealing the song Ya Ali. But I digress. Let’s get to the meat of the piece and count you down to the number one musical release of the year 2006. (Note: All of you who will be cursing me upon reading this article because your beloved Rang De Basanti was nowhere to be found – please catch your breath and realize that the music of RDB had released in December of 2005, not 2006. Thank You).

Following are what this writer believes to be the top 15 soundtracks of the year, with credits and highlights of each. Also, please feel free to click the album title to read our full review.

15) Salaam-E-IshqMusic: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

As mentioned already, S-E-L have had a very disappointing year. But the silver lining would have to be that they got their chance to redeem themselves in the last month of that very year. The title track is just some good ole’ S-E-L fun. And the theme continues throughout the soundtrack, whether it’s Adnan’s unique rendition in a youthful Dil Kya Kare, or Shankar Mahadevan and Shilpa Rao’s glossy chemistry in Saiyyan Re. But their versatility stands tough in Kailash Kher’s somberly Ya Rabba. S-E-L have fallen in a drought in 2005 and 2006, it’s really comforting to see them end the year with momentum on their side. It’s obvious they’ll need that momentum, as they have a rather impressive lineup come 2007 in the forms of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Kismat Talkies, Marigold, and Taare Zameen Par. Here’s wishing S-E-L to get back on the fast track all over again!

14) Kabul ExpressMusic: Raghav Sachar and Julius Peckiam

Raghav Sachar is a new name for most music listeners. This extremely talented young artist makes a dream debut in a rather big project. And one thing you’ll notice throughout the soundtrack is its pop feel. There’s almost nothing filmi about the soundtrack, and that’s one reason that it flies so high – hard to compare it to anything. From his thriving guitar riffs in Keh Raha Mera Dil and breezy vocals in Kabul Fiza to his flashy composition in Banjar, Raghav showcases his talents in hope that even bigger banners will recruit him come the New Year. All in all, Raghav has come up with a pile of songs that have strong vocals, a healthy melody, and nice dosages of variety – bordering the album on a ‘Must Buy.’

13) GangsterMusic: Pritam

Gangster is the first soundtrack that, with almost all its songs, had a strong hold on music listeners – and rightfully so. Be it James’s sultry vocals that oozed all over the mesmerizing Bheegi Bheegi, or perhaps the silky smooth melodies that draped Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai. Or no wait! It has to be Zubeen Garg’s immaculate rendition throughout the sparkly Ya Ali. Whatever the reason was, this album scored on so many different levels. So why is it featured on the bottom end of the list you ask? Well, go ahead and click on the link above and you’ll discover Pritam’s naughty little fantasy with a word we like to call plagiarism. All but one track (not surprisingly the forgotten Mujhe Mat Roko) were shamelessly stolen almost note for note by Pritam. And although the soundtrack is quite amazing, it is not original. Therefore it is forced to forfeit some slots in our countdown.

12) Aryan – The UnbreakableMusic: Anand Raj Anand

Anand Raj Anand is a name that has been lingering on the scene for quite some time now, but has never hit the bull’s eye. However, Aryan is right up there with some of his best (Kaante and Wajahh). But while looking at this soundtrack we can immediately pick out two songs that take Aryan to the next level: Jaanemann and Rab Ne Mere. Jaanemann is an absolutely beautiful duet between, whom else, Shreya Ghoshal and Sonu Nigam. A fine-tuned composition, ARA impresses big time with his musical arrangements, which are bright and rich. Rab Ne Mere, rendered by Shreya and Kunal Ganjawala, is equally spellbinding, as it carries with it an absolutely addictive melody. The Pizz Strings, which relentlessly invade the musical backgrounds, are absolutely divine. And although the remaining tracks are good as well, the soundtrack must be purchased for these two stupendous numbers.

11) Taxi No. 9211Music: Vishal-Shekhar

Taxi No. 9211 brought about a rage in the unique form of Meter Down, rendered exquisitely and energetically by Adnan Sami. But although seeing John and Nana get down with V-S’s beats in Meter Down’s music video, the best part of the soundtrack is a pair of tracks titled Ek Nazar Mein Bhi and Aazmaale Aazmaale. When you want unique sounds with that fresh breezy feel, V-S almost hardly ever fail to deliver. Ek Nazar Mein Bhi carries the feel and rhythm of their Saamne Aati Ho Tum (Dus). K.K. makes his first, of very many, musical impacts in this track as he sings this song ridiculously well. Apart from the strong melodic appeal, the ace arrangements by the boys themselves are compliment-worthy. Additionally, the man with the golden voice, Shekhar Ravjiani himself gets behind the mic to give an award-worthy rendition in a one-of-a-kind Aazmaale Aazmaale. Dev Kohli’s lyrics are masterful in their simplicity and expressions as a man begs his heart to take a chance on love. The simplicity given to the words and composition seem to give support to Shekhar’s vocals as the three join hands to bring us one of the year’s greatest songs (and one to be remembered for years to come).

10) DorMusic: Salim-Suleiman

Although Nagesh Kukunoor films are known mostly for their sublime stories and eye-catching themes, Dor excelled both, cinematically as well as musically. Salim-Suleiman have been making great strides in progressing into the realm of composing full-fledged soundtracks rather than just background scores, and this is a beautiful example of one such stride. Imaan Ka Asar would have to be my pick, as the piece flourishes behind the enchanting duet between the divas of the industry, Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan. Throughout the soundtrack, lyricist Mir Ali Hussain is nothing short of fantastic, as embodied in the courageous piece Yeh Honsla. In this track, Shafqat Amanat Ali makes yet a second huge impact with this groundbreaking rendition. Inspiration is the soul of the music as well as the film. Salim-Suleiman and Nagesh join hands again for yet a third time to bring us their most enthralling collaboration to date. Please don’t turn a cold shoulder to this film, nor to its music – it’s a must buy that has my highest respects.

9) I See YouMusic: Vishal-Shekhar

So, V-S are the first composers to make a repeat appearance on this year’s list of most accomplished and reward-worthy soundtracks. I See You snuck its way in during the last couple weeks of the year, and thankfully so! This is the perfect example of Vishal-Shekhar style, as it brings about songs that are high in quality, yet breezy, fresh, and easy for everyone to identify with. Sunidhi Chauhan’s Sach Hui is a revelation of sorts with its ingenious sounds and heaven-like rendition. The sweet sultry vocals of Sunidhi sing Vishal Dadlani’s words of romance with an ethereal touch. And to turn the tables, V-S introduce a new quasi-trance dance number in Halo Halo, while sticking to their signature carefree ways in Kehna Hai Jo, rendered exquisitely well by Shekhar Ravjiani – making it three in a row after Aazmaale (Taxi No. 9211) and Kyon Aage Peeche (Golmaal). And Zubeen collaborates with V-S for the first time for an ace piece in the form of Subah Subah, worthy of everyone’s attention. I See You ends the year on a very good note for V-S, and only leaves us thirsting for their music in next year’s lineup, including Cash, Om Shanti Om, and their collaboration with the Bachchans. Kudos!

8) Woh LamheMusic: Pritam

Following suit is Pritam, who makes another appearance down the list with his exceptional work in the music of Woh Lamhe. So many songs make this soundtrack gorgeous. Be it James’s thrusting rendition in Chal Chale, or perhaps Glenn John’s absolutely brilliant rendition of his father’s original track Tu Jo Nahin. This album is noteworthy for another reason – Pritam. It is the first album of Pritam where we see him break into the light-romantic genre and stray from his racy ways. But the very asset that this soundtrack carries, proves to be its biggest downfall – Pritam. The man has blatantly lifted the majority of the songs from other artists. And just like Gangster, this soundtrack is forced to give up ground in the upper portion of the list due to its lack of originality. However, if we were to disregard this hampering quality, then Woh Lamhe carries some spectacular music with it. For more details as to the original credits, which were nowhere to be found on the CD sleeve, please click the link above to view the full review.

7) Pyaar Ke Side EffectsMusic: Pritam

Pritam Pritam Pritam. My goodness man, do you have an ounce of dignity in you? But I have to hand it to you, you’re one hell of a great composer, you just need to lay off your criminal ways and your potential would be immeasurable. Pyaar Ke Side Effects is one of the sexiest soundtracks to hit stands recently. I know it may sound odd to classify music under such terms, but give Alisha Chinoy’s Allah Bachaye one listen and you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from. Apart from that, Zubeen makes yet another major impact in his heart-stirring rendition of Jaane Kya. The album has some fine northern influences also, which take shape under the title Pyar Karke, which has been rendered by Labh Janjua (aka Punjabi MC). Is This Love (A-Mi-Manera), is a very unique composition and is beautifully rendered by the romantic duo of Kunal Ganjawala and Sunidhi Chauhan. Pritam’s trademark guitar riffs appear pleasingly throughout the piece. Hm, I wonder what the original was titled? A-Mi-Manera perhaps? Yes folks, the majority of these songs are also ripped off by Pritam. But it is an undeniable fact that this group of songs still carries an amazing level of appeal – and it’s obvious that Pritam’s touch on the original makes them sound even better (with some exceptions of course).

6) AnwarMusic: Mithoon & Pankaj Awasthi

You may see two composers given credit to, but it is one man who single-handedly brings this soundtrack to incredible heights – Mithoon. All of twenty-one years in age, Mithoon creates two of the most spectacular songs you will ever hear in your entire lifetime. Maula Mere Maula and Javeda Zindagi (Tose Naina Lagey) are probably amongst the greatest one-two punches you’ll ever find in a soundtrack. Maula Mere Maula is, hands-down, my pick for the greatest song of 2006 and this is why: Roop Kumar Rathod’s tantalizing rendition, an insanely addictive melody, and Sayeed Quadri’s simple yet soul-warming lyrics. I don’t want to continue in words, in fear of ridding you of the celestial pleasures you’ll gain from listening to the song. Javeda Zindagi does not lie far behind as Mithoon outright proves that he has the potential to be the greatest composer India has ever heard. Kshitij and Shilpa Rao give a spellbinding duet in this uniquely worded song that gives new meaning to the holy musical trinity of renditions, arrangements, and lyrics. Rarely will an incomplete album reach so high on my lists, but when you have a pair of dazzlers like this, exceptions are bound to occur.

5) GuruMusic: A.R. Rahman

Although Guru is definitely a disappointment when you realize it is being brought to us by the couple that created Roja and Dil Se, it still is good enough to make it down to No. 5 on the list – that says a lot about what Rahman is capable of. Nonetheless, Guru does have its share of gems, such as the Rahman-Chinmayee rendered Tere Bina, which sticks to the classical roots. Or perhaps the extremely unique song Ek Lo Ek Muft, which not only showcases Gulzar’s outrageous versatility but also Bappi Lahiri’s never-gonna-go-away charm when it comes to renditions. Ay Hairathe, by Alka Yagnik and Hariharan, is a great spin-off of Tere Bina, while Jaage Hai has the orchestral lullaby touch – ever so serene and peaceful. But Guru is filled with other colorful tracks as well, which I’ll leave you to discover for yourself. Here’s to another great Rahmantic score.

4) AnkaheeMusic: Pritam

And for an unprecedented fourth time, Pritam appears on our list once again. Just like Dor, Ankahee was a great film, with great music, that was completely ignored by the masses and classes alike. Since arguing on behalf of Vikram Bhatt’s film is beyond the scope of this article, I’ll stick to sticking up for Pritam and this genuine score. Yes, genuine! Pritam (at least to my knowledge) has limited himself to only one rip off, and even so, the rip-off was limited to a single melodic line, not the entire song. The song in question is the title track, which ends up being the highest point in the album. Kunal Ganjawala’s version, which can be deemed an unplugged one, hovers around a soothing melody and oozes through Pritam’s light ballad arrangements, with Pritam’s favorite instrument, the guitar, serving as the backbone. Ek Pal Ke Liya, rendered by K.K., Shreya Ghoshal, and Sonu Nigam in their respective versions is one that should be appreciated by all for its gusty arrangements and impassioned lyrics. Sameer (Ankahee) and Amitabh Varma’s (Ek Pal Ke Liye) lyrics are another major asset of Ankahee that succeeds on all fronts. See Pritam, when you limit yourself criminally, your music excels also; so why dabble with the law?

3) Umrao JaanMusic: Anu Malik

Anu Malik just never seems to go away. And I’ll be the first one to tell you that credit must be given where due. Anu Malik, stand up and take a bow, as you were the only composer who was able to deliver for a huge film that released in 2006. And it’s even more refreshing, knowing that out of all the major projects this year, Umrao Jaan was the one that needed the most musical support. Throughout the year Malik had only been improving: He started in a ditch with Pyare Mohan, then improved with Zindaggi Rocks, improved some more with Jaan-E-Mann, and finally peaked nicely with this semi-classical soundtrack. Unfortunately, Salaam was the only one song that received much of any acclaim, as all the other melodically splendid tracks were only given attention to on screen (for the few who even went to see the film). Alka Yagnik is re-born with Malik’s tunes, as she deserves a standing ovation for carrying the entire vocal load. Javed Akhtar completes the musical trinity with his fine ghazals. And rarely will I give credit to an actress when critiquing music, but Aishwarya Rai, regardless of what her detractors may say, has done an amazing job in her classical dance renditions. It’s only a shame that the majority of viewers were not able to appreciate the expressions in her finger movements, and the cry in her ghungroos, as she told the story of Umrao Jaan through the music of Anu Malik. All in all, this is one of Malik’s finest scores, as he and J.P. Dutta do not fail to supply us with another album that we can lay our hearts on.

2) Bas Ek PalMusic: Vivek Phillip, Mithoon, & Pritam

Bas Ek Pal is the birthplace of the progressive sound in filmi music this year. And the man who walks away with my applause is K.K., who is a marvel throughout the entire soundtrack. Be it in Mithoon’s hauntingly mesmerizing Bas Ek Pal, Vivek Phillip’s somberly beautiful Zindagi Hosh Mein, or Philip’s romantic Ashq Bhi. And although the brilliance of these songs were not realized by the masses, there was one song in Bas Ek Pal that was touted day and night by one and all: Tere Bin. Mithoon brings us his very first original composition with vocal buddy Atif Aslam to create magic in audio. A hard-core romantic piece, Mithoon, Atif, and Sayeed Quadri (lyricist) join forces to create one of the year’s finest sounds in Tere Bin. Bas Ek Pal is a complete album from all perspectives and you’d be a fool not to put your money and hearts on this vibrant, yet aesthetic soundtrack.

1) OmkaraMusic: Vishal Bharadwaj

Diversity, authenticity, realism, genre-breaking, are just a few superlatives that come to mind while experiencing the sounds of Vishal Bharadwaj’s Omkara. It’s no doubt that Bharadwaj is a giant of a composer, with respect to ability, but he gives his tragic story a voice throughout the soundtrack of Omkara. Sukhwinder Singh has already earned himself an award for his rendition in Omkara, while Gulzar has made one and all take notice in the very seductive Beedi, which was a rightful craze earlier in the year. But the beauty of Omkara goes deeper than these two pieces. It slips into the pain of heart-break in Rekha Bharadwaj’s Laakad, the exciting flavor of romance in Namak, the silky smooth love duet between Shreya Ghoshal and Vishal Bharadwaj himself in O Saathi Re, and Suresh Wadkar’s soft rendition in the lullaby Jag Ja Re. However, the one piece that crosses the T and dots the I is the one masterpiece in the album – Naina. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is a vocal God in this song, as his vocal strings go on an evocative journey with Vishal’s guitar strings. Gulzar’s lyrics are poetic brilliance and require deep concentration. The piece is so much more than music – it is a once in a lifetime experience. Omkara is a huge triumph for Vishal Bharadwaj, cinematically as well as musically. And although there may be many who can argue against Omkara being the greatest Bollywood film of the year, it is difficult to have any such argument against its music.

Who do you think the year 2006 belonged to? Himesh Reshammiya for his prolific attitude? Pritam, who reappeared numerous times throughout this list (although with a criminal record)? Vishal Bharadwaj, whose sole contribution was so rich it earned him the No. 1 spot? Or perhaps the young Mithoon, who introduced us to a new generation of filmi music? Pick whomever you wish, just realize that we are in the age of an awakening. New sounds are breaking free and stale sounds are breaking down. The industry is filtering out stale duos like Nadeem-Shravan and Jatin-Lalit, who are no longer working together, and bringing about fresher, more talented composers like Mithoon, Vivek Phillip, Raghav Sachar, Pritam, Vishal-Shekhar, and Zubeen Garg, while keeping the classics like A.R. Rahman.

If you go beyond Hindi Film Music, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of great sounds being made on the pop/independent level. Kailash Kher’s Kailasa was a masterpiece in its own right, far exceeding the No. 1 position on this list. Ustad Sultan Khan joined hands with the Divas of the singing industry (Shreya, Sunidhi, and Chitra) in a great album composed by Sandesh Shandilya titled Ustad And The Divas. And Jagjit Singh, along with Gulzar, kept the ghazal genre alive and well with their newest ablum, Koi Baat Chale. Also, new artists from across the border are tapping Indian markets, allowing us to hear even more diverse sounds. Raeth had released their debut namesake album this year, which was a great success. And just recently the Pakistani sensation, Atif Aslam, released his debut album in India under the Tips label, titled Doorie, which has some immaculate pieces as well.

We are in a musical awakening, and I am truly proud to be a part of it. New artists are filling our ears, while lyricists are reliving the golden era of greats like Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. I can only wait till this time next year, when I can present you with newer trends that spread like wildfire throughout the music scene. But until then, we can open our ears and listen…listen to the progressive sounds, listen to the classical sounds, listen to the poetic sounds…the sounds of Indian Music.


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