Prefer Rahman Unfettered

Listening to Main Vari Vari from Mangal Pandey, I could not help but think how different the song would sound without that prominent bass (fretless I think) accompaniment, which incidentally is beautiful and employed as only Rahman can. Without the bass, it becomes a more ordinary, though still catchy tune. But then, a catchy tune doesn’t set you apart, does it? So Rahman stamps his authority and adds color to the song with the bass and all those lush string pads that remain the foundation for most of his songs.
But all this in a period film?

S.Suchitra Lata of ‘The Music Magazine’ said it better when reviewing Lagaan.

One is not arguing stubbornly for “authenticity”, but only looking for musical clues to a bygone era, for a shade of musical sepia that one wants to absorb and appreciate.

Main Vaari Vaari is still a song steeped in modernistic sounds in spite of the saarangi making an appearance. And one would have expected Rahman to really experiment atleast once with a period film. After all, ‘The Rising’ is the most “period” of all his movies. In the end, the album is caught in a musical tug-of-war between Rahman’s natural instincts and the requirements of the album.

Which is exactly why I’d rather listen to a contemporary Rahman album where his creativity is not hindered by the musical authenticity of a bygone era. If I were to cite an example in an ‘apples to apples’ comparison, then another qawwali-ish song like Noor Un Ala from Meenaxi comes to mind. What Rahman did with that song never ceases to amazes me. Right from the bassy motion synth lullaby that begins to add a haunting element to the song at 00:42 to the electronically whacky slap that thoroughly funks up the alaap of Murtaza (Or Qadir) Khan, it is genius let loose without an obstacle course in its path. Now that is the Rahman I always yearn for, and hope to get more of in the future.

6 thoughts on “Prefer Rahman Unfettered”

  1. ‘Rasiya’ , ‘Main vari vari’ and ‘Al maddath maula’ are the picks for me. Somehow i didn’t find anything very interesting with ‘Holi re’ or ‘Takey takey’. The three versions of the theme jus were ok with me.

  2. BTW…i felt that ‘bluish guitar’ is Rasiya song was great to listen…I belong to that ‘don’t care’ category anyway.:-)

  3. heh-heh yeah. Without that guitar the song loses flavor. Just like the bass in ‘Main Vaari Vaari’.

  4. Anand: I don’t know too much about bass sounds, so I’ll take your word for it. But yeah, the ‘Octave down’ is excellent. I always recommend Raja’s ‘Thumbi Vaa’ to illustrate this kind of bass play to someone.
    I’m sorry…I think I totally lost out on what you meant. I actually heard the ‘Main Vari’ song again and hear it now. I guess ‘Thumbi Vaa’ is just more of a walking bass.

    That Jana Gana fretless is amazing, including the piece he uses to round off the song. Sometimes you wonder why he does it? How many really care about a 10 second bass part in the middle of a song? But I’m atleast glad he cares! :)
    Thanks for stopping by.

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