It’s an established fact that words lay the foundation of a song. They are the soul of the song. With this album, the music industry’s relationship with words hits a new low. Sample this: Parbaton ke raaste, raaston pe hum, chahaton ke vaaste, chahaton mein hum, chal mere sanam—ye kahan mil gaye hum. If these lyrics by Mehboob are not confusing enough, try understanding this gem: Duniya se hai bhala ye sama.
Perhaps it’s because the melodies were composed first and set to written verse later? Maybe, the “dummy” words fitted for this purpose were not changed in the final version at all? Whatever the reason, the result is a substandard album. While we’re not trying to benchmark Krishan Kumar Menon’s (KK) songwriter Mehboob against ustad poets such as Sahir or Majrooh Sultanpuri, surely we deserve better?
This blame must be shared by composer KK, who chose the inferior submissions. But, first, full marks to KK on many counts. His own lyrics for Cineraria make it a sensitive and intense love song. His album photographs by Jatin Kampani are good-looking, the inlay cover and booklet are well-designed. In addition to the credits, the booklet also has KK’s personal thoughts and messages (nice touch). All the song’s lyrics are neatly spread across the booklet. This would have been a laudable effort if someone had proofed the numerous mistakes contained therein. Savour this sample howler: The well-known joke ye dawakhana kal bunder kha jayega is written wrongly spaced in Hindi to actually read, ye dawakhana kal bund rakha jayega. Or yeh hitchko likhayegio kabhi printed incorrectly as ye hitchkolay khayegi kabhi. This carelessness is eventually compensated by KK’s soothing compositions and voice. The music and rhythm are fitted well on the songs. The track Masti opens with the novel use of KK’s eight-year-old son Nakul’s lines in English. This danceable tune will grab the listener.
The folkish Rain bhai kaari has a catchy, devotional feel. The thoughts are fresh and motivating, even philosophical. The water droplet effect and enunciation of words such as zindagi to sound like jindagi make this seemingly rustic and Bengali-flavoured song instantly likeable. Another good tune is Yeh kahan mil gaye. The song is easy on the ears if one ignores the meaningless libretto. The title track, Humsafar, warrants a mention as a soft, serenading number. The track Cineraria builds up well and is likely to make it to the charts. Deewana hai mera dil, dekho na packs energy. I wonder if the latter would be better without the excessive use of the phrase woh o o, woh o o? All the tracks other than Cineraria have been written by Mehboob. All 10 of them are composed and rendered by KK. With his slight Kishore Kumar hangover, energetic KK’s singing is well-loved. His delivery is crisp and full of emotion (remember Tadap tadapke is dil se from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and O humdum suniyo re from Saathiya?). He should work on better melodic cutting of the words when forming the tune and soften the attack on the words rendered, a shortcoming evident in most songs today. KK is one of the best singers currently and shows the promise of a long innings. Despite its grave shortcomings, the album Humsafar is noise-free, a worthy successor to his debut album Pal, and will be popular with young listeners.
Humsafar by KK, Sony & BMG, Rs175
Kushal Gopalka is an archivist and student of Indian music who writes for Swar Aalap, a monthly newsletter.
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