Monday, 30 April 2012

Romay - Freedom

Romay, the producer who set up his own record label called Acoustic Science, has released Freedom via his soundcloud page. This is a drum and bass track inspired by chants for freedom across the world and has been released ahead of Romay's True Vision EP which should be out on the 21st May.

Freedom starts with a choppy vocal sample and is followed by some brilliant futuristic sounding beats and bass. Romay has made this available as a free download via soundcloud, so get it while you can.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Bikram Singh - ELB Navdeep Inversion Mix

Bikram Singh has released a remix of Electro Love Boliyan with the single Jaaniye. The Navdeep Inversion Mix of ELB was made by New York based Navdeep who previously remixed Taakre from Bikram's first album. Like the Sunil Sehgal remix of Kinna Sohna Munda, this new mix of ELB is something that fans may not have noticed. 

There are now three remixes of ELB and the Navdeep Inversion Mix sounds the most different from the original. The original ELB is loud, unapologetic and full of bass. However the new mix is much quieter and more like a chill out tune than a dance floor filler. It is wonderfully understated and melodic. Navdeep has removed most of Bikram's vocals, something which I usually dislike. But the vocals that remain are so well integrated into the rest of the track, that I barely noticed their absence. It's ingenious of Navdeep to make everything softer rather than just add a heavy bassline which happens all too often in remixes. There is a complex combination of beats and subtle bass which work well together and Navdeep has created a whole new atmosphere in the song. He's removed the boliyan, but kept the love.

Magical things have happened when Navdeep worked with Bikram in the past and this occasion is no exception. ELB was one of my favourite tracks on and I'm glad that it has been remixed in this way. I just wish that Bikram and Navdeep could make music together more often as the results are spectacular.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Zameer - Tatti

Zameer, whose debut single was selected as the theme song for the 2010, Paralympics , has released a video to accompany his single Tatti. For those who do not understand Punjabi, the title of the song translates as “poo”.

The video starts off in a barn where a girl wearing only a bikini, duputta and Wellington boots makes eyes at a man. She flounces off outside into the cold where a bhangra group are dancing. She then sits on a tractor and feeds Zameer various food items, before Zameer pronounces that he needs to relieve himself. The video switches between shots of the girl, Zameer, the tractor and the dance group before Zameer and his musicians head back inside the barn where the video ends.

The blurb accompanying the video states that the video is satirical and that it “aims to bring to light various human elements in a comedic format.“ It goes on to say that it does not “intend to poke jest or offend and cultural, linguist or religious groups”. It ends by stating “We sincerely hope you will laugh at what is meant to be a simple, light hearted, gastrointestinal comedy”.  If the video producers felt the need to put this up with the video, I’m sure they have already had people being offended by it.

Whilst I like the idea of satirising and parodying the typical bhangra video, I thought most people stopped finding jokes about excrement funny aged five. I don’t find poo jokes offensive, but I think they are puerile. Perhaps this is satire aimed at those suffering from arrested development. In my opinion stating the need to relieve oneself is not satire or funny even if the makers of the video say it is.

It’s not just the toilet humour that I don’t find funny, I also take issue with the casual misogyny and unlike the poo joke I do find this offensive. The only woman in the video is objectified and stereotyped beyond belief. It’s two and a half minutes of telling the woman to get back in the kitchen and stay there. It is not satirical, ironic or funny. I’m sure some women would put laxatives in the food if they were treated like that, ensuring that the man who ordered them about really did need to spend some time on the loo.

The only good thing about the video were the subtitles. If they hadn’t been there I would have questioned my Punjabi skills as I really never thought someone would write a song about human waste. The track is not something that you would want to dance to. It is a short simple song and it gets boring and predictable after a few listens.

Overall this is an awful video. Despite what the makers of it say this is not comedy and it is not clever enough to be satire. If you find this funny, you are either five years old or have the developmental age of a five year old and need to grow up.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Take Five: Sitar Tracks

If asked to name an Indian instrument, most people would probably say sitar. Twangy sitar notes have almost become a cliche in the West. But there are artists and musicians who know how to use the instrument.Today's Take Five is all about sitars and those who make them sound great in new and innovative ways.

Ananda Shankar - Streets of Calcutta
The nephew of famous Ravi Shankar, Ananda Shankar played with Jimi Hendix and covered songs by the Rolling Stones. Ananda Shankar was one of the first musicians who fused Eastern and Western Music together. Streets of Calcutta is a brilliant piece of phsychedelic sitar funk that sounds ahead of its time. The song was brilliantly remixed by the Punk-A-Wallahs and was recently used in the adverts for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Decline of the Album: Part Two

In part one of this post, I looked at what iTunes and the closure of specialist music shops had done to cause the decline of the album. In part two, I am exploring the role of the media in the decline of the album and what artists can do about it.

A song can be amazing, but if music fans don’t know about it, sales of the song will be none existent. Marketing and PR companies acting on behalf of the artist used to tell the media about a new release who in turn would let fans know. The intention was to create a buzz about the release and get people interested enough to buy it.

Now with social media, an artist can reach fans quicker than the time it takes marketing to spread the word. It is great that artists can communicate directly with their fans. However, they may not be the most skilled copy writers to promote their work through social media. Tweets like “my new album is out, buy it now” soon become boring when tweeted ten times a day. All artists should be involved in promoting their work, but they have to make sure they engage their audience properly to create a buzz.

When I first started buying music I relied heavily on magazines like Snoop and several websites which no longer exist. As well as telling me about new artists, they all regularly reviewed albums. The reviews were thorough, expressed opinion and I felt I could trust them. As well as praise, there was constructive criticism which helped me sort the hits from the misses.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Jay Dabhi - Menu Tere Jeya

Jay Dabhi, the New York based DJ who used to stand on milk crates to reach the turntables, has remixed Menu Tere Jeya by Miss Pooja. The Miss Pooja song from the album Breathless has been mashed up with Last Forever by Norman Doray and Tristan Garner.

Like all Jay Dabhi mashups, this one works wonderfully. The original song, which was produced by Rishi Rich, was good but not fast enough to dance to or slow enough to be a romantic ballad. The makeover has transformed the track into a Punjabi house anthem.

Sadly Jay Dabhi has not made this track available to download as yet, but you can play it as much as you like on soundcloud. 

Edit: Now available to download via soundcloud. Get it while you can!

Culture Shock and Nindy Kaur - Save the World Remixes

Save the World by Culture Shock featuring Nindy Kaur, which was released on the album Legal Tender 2.5, has been remixed not once but twice. The Electro Remix is by DJ Nyk featuring DJ Pratik. The other remix is by DJ Lijo. Both tracks were released via the Three Records soundcloud account. 

The new versions of the hit song are both full on dance tracks and I'm not sure which I prefer. Both have plenty of bass and thankfully have kept Nindy's vocals intact. 

These have been released as free downloads so get them while you can.

Bilal Khan - Bhool

Bilal Khan, the guitarist who started his musical career under a tree in a University in Lahore, has released  Bhool on youtube. This is the first song from his next album Maktoob.

Bhool starts off simply and steadily builds as more instruments are added to the song. There is an instrumental break halfway through after which Bilal's brilliant vocals kick in again. Strangely for a Bilal track, there is little emphasis on his guitar. There is a guitar in the track but it blends with the rest of the instruments. The lyrics are poetic and there is a good balance between the vocals and the accompaniment.

I loved Bilal's last album Umeed and I am thrilled that he has put this single on youtube. Bhool has many signature elements of a Bilal Khan track such as Bachana. It is slow and melodic like the songs on Umeed, but the tone of Bhool is richer and it seems to have more depth which suggests that he has developed as an artist.

There are currently no release dates available for Bhool or Maktoob, but hopefully they will be on iTunes soon.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Trippin on the Sounds of India

After heat, dust and bright colours, sound is often the next thing that hits a traveller in India. Sneha Kahnwalker, the Bollywood music director for films including Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and LSD, has made a TV series exploring the unique sounds in a particular place. Sound Trippin documents her travels to ten places in India to record their sounds and put them into a song representing that place.

The first episode of Sound Trippin aired on MTV India last Saturday. It was set in the Punjab where Sneha visited the Qila Raipur Rural Olympics and a cricket bat factory in Jalandhar to record her sounds. She also visited Jyoti and Sultana Noora, two singing sisters who she worked with on the Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! soundtrack.

Dub Sharma, a dubstep producer from Chandighar, was given the task of putting the sounds and vocals together into a coherent piece of music. Saw sounds from the factory and motorbike sounds were used to create the bass line whilst the Noora sisters’ vocals floated on top. The result is an innovative folksy dubstep track that is rustic and retains its sense of geographical identity. The song called Tung Tung is accompanied by slickly edited shots of the Rural Olympics and people of the Punjab.

Sound Trippin is made by Babbel Fish Productions, the same company who made The Dewarists and I think I prefer Sound Trippin. I found The Dewarists pretentious in places. It focused more on the personal development of the musicians rather than the music they composed and the place they composed it in. Sound Trippin however puts the emphasis on the sounds and the places and people that make them. Sound Trippin also seemed to connect with the place more than The Dewarists did.

My only criticism of the programme was its length. Half an hour was far too short for this show. I wanted to see more of the Olympics and get to know the Noora sisters rather than see a brief overview of how they worked together with Sneha. The footage was beautifully shot but it whizzed by all too fast.

Sadly there is no news as yet if the tracks made in the series will be released. Tung Tung would work well as a stand alone track so I’m hoping that they will be released for download by the end of the series at the latest.

The next episode is set in Varanasi and airs on MTV India next Saturday. Or watch it on the MTV India website.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Decline of the Album: Part One

Just before everyone went home for Easter, Jassi Sidhu tweeted about how the UK has lost interest in albums and advised artists to release singles instead. According to Jassi, the UK market has a short attention span which can’t stretch beyond a few videos and artists will only release a full album if they have fans in India who will buy them. This kicked off a little debate and inspired this post.

Firstly I want to praise the concept of an album. I think they have an important place in every music industry and it is sad that they are slowly dying out. If a single acts as an artist’s business card, an album acts as a CV. It gives an overview of what a person is capable of doing and allows them space to show their strengths and talent. One song can differ hugely from the next and it’s only through an album can the listener really begin to understand the artist.

ITunes is great as it is so quick and easy to buy music. You can get music as soon as it is released and you don’t even have to leave the house. Before Itunes, I used to have to go to Birmingham or London to buy music. But the success of iTunes has lead to the demise of the traditional music shop. There used to be loads of them but now most of my favourite specialist music shops have been turned into beauty parlours. In India where music shops are still widespread it is often easier to purchase a than to download one and that is partly why the album is still popular over there.

Despite the benefits of iTunes I miss the thrill that went with the experience of buying a CD from a shop. They were staffed by people who loved music and it was great to see someone getting as excited as I was by a new album. Staff could also recommend other albums to me once they knew what I liked. I relied on this advice when searching for new music, especially as teasers were non existent. ITunes tries to suggest similar albums, but it can never truly replicate this experience.

Staff were also knowledgeable about the music they sold. In the days before shazaam, I taped a song off the radio so it could be identified. On another occasion I described the details of a song and dance routine from a Bollywood film so I could buy the soundtrack. Both times staff knew what they were and could sell them to me.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Take Five: Mera Laung Gawacha

The Punjabi folk song Mera Laung Gawacha, about a girl who has lost her nose ring, has had several remakes and remixes over the years. Coy double meanings aside, the song is one of my favourites and new version sounds very different to the last.

This version by Surinder Kaur and Mohammad Sadiq, was probably the first recording of Mera Laung Gawacha although some maintain that Mussarat Nazir sung it first. Both versions are classics regardless who sang it first.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Katy Perry Spices Up California Gurls

Katy Perry, who performed her song Teenage Dreams t at the IPL Opening Ceremony in Chennai last night, has released a remix of her hit single California Gurls called Bolly Gurls. On twitter she stated "In honor of my visit to INDIA, here's a FREE, SPICED up version of CALIFORNIA GURLS *BOLLYWOOD MEETS HOLLYWOOD*" Remixed by Jack Raynor, the track is set against a backdrop of dance scenes from Bollywood films including Aaja Nachle, Om Shanti Om and Main Hoon Na and also incorporates the original music video for California Gurls.

While I liked the original California Gurls, I'm not sure about the remix. The Indian elements that have been added to the song are the stereotypical bols and twangy sitar which don't quite connect properly with the song. However, the video accompanying the remix is well put together. It's nice to see so many great actresses crammed into one short clip.  If you like the track you can download it here.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Culture Shock - Legal Tender 2.5 Review

With over 100,000 downloads so far, Legal Tender 2.5 by Culture Shock must be one of the most successful free downloads of the year. When it was first released some fans were unable to download it because it was so popular and the servers could not cope with the demand. A sign of just how much people wanted to get their hands on this album. Some of the songs on the mixtape were previously released, but for the purpose of this review I will ignore this and look at each track individually in the context of the album.

It’s clear a lot of hard work has gone into making and promoting the album. Each track is well produced and it is nice that the group have made themselves available to fans for questions and feedback. Lyrics are usually hard to get hold of, but each song has its own video on youtube complete with sing-a-long captions. An English translation in these videos would have been a nice addition.

After listening to the album a few times it appears that many of the songs have a similar structure: strong beats set against an electro bass background, a language change in the vocals halfway through the song accompanied by a change in tempo then back again. This is a successful formula, and forms part of Culture Shock’s unique style, but makes some of the songs sound similar to each other and at times I would have liked more variation.

Some of the tracks have the same title and come in pairs. They will either be in different languages, or will have the Punjabi removed from the other version. I like the concept, especially as it reaches out to those who don’t want to listen to music in another language, but it makes the album feel repetitive at times if you understand both languages. 

Beautiful is a song that has two versions in different languages and the lyrics in the English version hint to the title of the album. The addition of the female vocalist makes a nice contrast in the English version, but I found them distracting in the Punjabi version. Choppy syncopated beats open Drum Roll. The Punjabi contrasts nicely with the English vocals and I preferred the Punjabi version to the English only version of the song.