Can you feel the rhythm dear reader? Do you wanna salsa!?!? Not the stuff on nachos, but real live dancing! You might find yourself in the mood to salsa after hearing the “Mumbai Salsa” soundtrack by composer Adnan Sami (“Lucky”, Dhamaal”) with lyrics by Sameer. Amidst a sea of blockbuster soundtracks like Saawariya arrives a soundtrack that comes way under the radar. The King of “blink and you’ll miss them” movies, Vikram Bhatt produces and Monoj Tyagi directs this film that stars a group of relative unknowns. Manmohan D. Singh produces the film and the music is released on the BIG music label (a label that seems to be giving T-Series some competition). Adnan Sami started out brilliantly with his first soundtrack “Lucky – No Time for Love”, but has yet to live up to that high standard in any of his follow-ups. In fact, his last pop album, “Kisi Din” also failed to live up to expectations. The soundtrack to “Dhamaal” was adequate, but again not Sami at his best.
Never let it be said that I don’t go all out for my reviews dear reader. To write this salsa-rrific review, I decided to take some salsa lessons. What better way to determine how good this album is than by actually (and quite painfully) learning how to salsa? So, off I went to the local dance studio, signed up for a few lessons and learned how to not be embarrassed when shouting, “Olé”! The instructor was kind enough to play several tracks on the album while giving me a lesson. So let’s get down, dance the night away and review this soundtrack!
Being the uncoordinated reviewer that I am, it wasn’t easy moving to the rhythm, but the first track on the album, “Mumbai Salsa” helped to get me going. This is a track that begs to be played loud, as the salsa beat is quite infectious. Adnan Sami and Alisha Chinoi provide the playful singing that completes the song. The track starts out with a strumming guitar along trumpets blaring within the typical salsa musical rhythm. The musical arrangement is refreshingly well done, staying away from the “canned” over synthesized atmosphere that is the norm for most songs these days. Sameer’s lyrics are perfect for a song like this, nothing too deep, but good for the moment (“Come on you people come on and party through the night. Come on you people party through the night”). For this track, I only stepped on my instructor’s feet (much to her anguish) five times, but slowly I was beginning to feel that I do have a latent ability to dance or maybe not. The track made me want to shout, “Let’s do the Mumbai Salsa oh jaaneman”!
One would think that with a title like “Mumbai Salsa”, the entire album would be heavily influenced by that style of Spanish rhythm; however, that’s not the case as evidenced by the second track, “Friday”. The album suddenly and a bit jarringly switches to classic seventies disco mode. I had a hard enough time doing the “salsa”, and smashing my instructor’s toes, and now I was expected to break out my white disco outfit and dance the “John Travolta” dance. The music is classic disco, with strumming “wah wah” guitar, violins, trumpets and synth “bleeps ‘n’ bloops”. For this track the dance studio was transformed into the decadent “Studio 54” (the infamous New York City disco hangout of the seventies). The vocals are adequately provided by Gayatri whose voice fits the disco theme. Adnan Sami seemingly takes a cue from the hit song, “Friday, I’m in Love” by the Cure as this track, preaches the virtues of Friday as the best day of the week. It’s best to check your mind at the door with this mediocre track and simply disco the night away while screaming, “I want to live it my way, why can’t it just be Friday”!?
So far, after the first two tracks, Adnan Sami has created fun but forgettable music that is perfect to dance the night away, but there is little in the way of the meaningful or memorable emotional music that is his trademark. Just when you think that the rest of the album is going to be pretty much the same, Adnan Sami throws the listener for a loop with what may be his best track ever. The third track, “Choti Si” is simply put, a magnificent track that combines just the right amount of melancholy and emotions into one melodious song. The music and flow of the track is reminiscent of George Michael’s hit song “Father Figure”, yet is purely Adnan’s composition all the way. The way his voice breaks and quivers at just the right moments while the music softly plays in the background is very moving. shenai and santoor are ably supported by the soft use of percussion. This one is arguably his best track since, “Shayad Yahi To Pyar Hai” from” Lucky – No Time for Love” It will make you hit the repeat button right away. Lyrics by Sameer are top-notch and fit the music/melody perfectly. Sway to the track and whisper, “Choti si intazar mere yaar maan ja. Mujhe chodne se phele ek baar aa gale se lag jaa.”
Track four, “Akeli Zindagi” is another feather in the cap for this album, as the music director presents us with a funky jazz-dance tune. Shaan sings this as only Shaan can. His voice is perfect in conveying the mood for this song, which mixes jazz trumpet, electric guitar and synth percussion together with a melancholic salsa inspired dance melody. This track along with “Aao Milo” (“Jab We Met”) and “Dastaan-E-Om Shanti Om” (“OSO”) truly cements Shaan as one of the best playback singers in Bollywood. Lyrics by Sameer are again above his usual quality and it’s nice to see him being a bit inspired. I’m back to my salsa lessons and hey, I’m getting fairly good at it! This one will make you dance and feel with your heart while you say, “Akeli hai zindagi, akela har lamha, hai tanha tanha…”
With the last two tracks, Adnan Sami has taken what started off as a fairly mediocre soundtrack, and raised it to another level. But can he keep it up? I need to stop dancing and take a breather while I listen to the rest of this album.
Track five, “Pyar Se” just about maintains the quality of the previous two tracks. It starts with some very moody guitar strumming and muted trumpet playing. From there, Shreya Ghoshal sings the chorus in an inviting way. Right after the intro, Shaan’s smooth vocals come up and he brings his best as always. Shreya Ghoshal impresses with her vocals as well and both singers sing a breathless jugalbandi. The only negative about the track is that it has a bit of the “been there, done that” feel to it. There’s a distinct lack of originality within the melody. Lyrics by Sameer are passable if not overtly poetic. If you can get past some of the negatives, then the track isn’t that bad, it’s just not that great. This one will make you slow dance with that special someone while whispering, “Pyaar se aise na humme dekho, ke kahin na hum mar jaye”.
Track five ends the set of original compositions by Adnan Sami, with the remaining tracks being either reprises, different versions of the original song, and an instrumental. My lessons are just about over, and so is this review. Hang in there dear reader!
Track six is a reprise of the opening song of the album, “Mumbai Salsa”. The music is the same, but this time it’s a solo by Alisha Chinoi. Track seven is a reprise of “Friday”, but this time lead singer Gayatri is joined by Kunal Ganjawala who is pretty much wasted on this song. Is this overlooked singer not getting songs worthy of his talent? Track eight is a reprise of “Pyar Se”, this time Adnan has pulled Amit Kumar out of retirement to sing the lead vocals. Somehow, it just doesn’t work, as Amit Kumar sounds horribly nasal, and just can’t seem to muster the emotions within his vocals. It just makes you appreciate Shaan and Shreya’s vocals on the same song (track five).
Finally, track nine is a very short two minute instrumental track simply titled , “Salsa” that is perfect to dance to with a nice salsa beat, oboe and saxophone to drive two dancers to ecstacy. It’s the perfect way to finish my salsa lessons and review, to give my poor tired feet a rest. Twirl your partner round and round with this one!
“Mumbai Masala” is better than Adnan Sami’s “Dhamaal” but not as good as his first Bollywood soundtrack, “Lucky – No Time For Love”. He still has not been able to top that first soundtrack. Add “Choti Se” and “Akeli Zindagi” to your playlist. Dance like crazy to, “Mumbai Salsa” and “Friday” at the clubs. Hold the one you love close and slow dance to, “Pyar Se”. Ultimately though only two tracks out of the five original compositions leave a lasting impact on the listener. As a reviewer, I expect much more from Adnan Sami. As a listener I have to say, “Adnan bhai, thodi si to lift kara de?” Here’s hoping for better soundtracks from this talented musician/singer. Still, at least I learned how to salsa…sort of. I think that I need more classes to master the “Mumbai Salsa”.