After being feted at the Cannes Film Festival, Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur has certainly caught the eyes of the international media and critics. Releasing the same day as Teri Meri Kahaani, this film looks like it might just steal the limelight away from the romcom. The buzz for the film has been huge, it got a standing ovation in Cannes and will open the London Indian Film Festival. Kashyap has taken a chance on composer Sneha Khanwalkar who was behind the music of Oye Lucky Oye and Love Sex Aur Dhokha. If those interesting soundtracks are anything to go by, then this album is sure to be an inventive and varied bunch of songs! The film will be released in two parts, which may account for only 14 songs this time round of the 25 Kashyap has boasted about! These 14 songs comprise of one the best albums of the year so far, here’s why:
The opening track, Jiya Tu (Bihar Ke Lala), instantly catches your attention with the beats on the damaru drum and bongos which pauses to give way to such a catchy melody. The song has such a great synthesis of the rustic Indian elements with a Western rock sounds. I love the tumbhi, and harmonium in the back that sounds so in sync with the aggressive thumping drums and bass riffs. Manoj Tiwari sounds so precise with the Bihari feel of the song, and has such an earthy voice. The male chorus just add to the perfect mix of desi and Western elements, especially when they pitch in during the heavy riffs. The song works because it is rustic enough while also being commercial enough to stick with you. The lyrics by Varun Grover sound so authentic in capturing the Bihari spirit and the chorus of taani naachi ke that is so addictive.
The hilarious Hunter is next, and the lyrics are so terribly crude, which means I love it! I am so impressed that Khanwalkar has taken Trinidadian Soca music and mixed it with desi instruments, and to make it a smooth fusion. The singers Vedesh Sookoo, Rajneesh, Shyamoo, and Munna sound like they are having so much fun and make this such a fresh and energetic song. The lyrics like, “I am a hunter and she want to see my gun, when I pull it out, by the women start to run,” makes something like ‘Bhaag DK Bhose’ seems so passé in its shock factor! This is a definite chartbuster song – do give it a chance.
O Womaniya Live opens with piercing vocals that amplify the live style of the song, and from then on the song continues to impress. It feels like a definite ladies sangeet song, and the lyrics are playful and sensual, which match the situation. The vocals by Khushboo Raaj and Rekha Jha are so beautiful in their earthiness and verve. This version of the song sounds brilliant with the minimal arrangements of just the guitar, harmonium, and drums. It takes the live feel to another level, as you feel like your right there, hearing these women singing it for the first time. There is a great sense of improvisation between the two singers, who match each other so well and interject at times too. The other version, Womaniya, is an interesting electronic redo of the song, and it sounds really good as well. Khanwalkar plays around with the arrangements of the song, by adding so many elements like amplifying the live singing at points while adding heavy drums, saxophones, and many other instruments in there. The bridge of the song which has a shehnaii and potent guitar duelling off is perfect, which makes this version sound like a jam session that works by accident! Listen to both, and choose your pick!
Another gem is Keh Ke Lunga, which immediately hooks you in with the drums, and damaru, which invites a bit of suspense in the rest of the song. The song goes from strength to strength with its tonal shifts and interludes that sound nothing alike but fuse together so well. Again there’s a risqué phrase of the title, which is tweaked into an oddly gentle and powerful revenge song. Sung by Sneha Khanwalkar and Amit Trivedi who are wonderful – they let the music speak for the track. Trivedi and Khanwalkar have such razor-sharp and clear voices which match the song’s trance style. The arrangements here are just fantastic, combining so many different instruments like an electric guitar alongside the flute and cello, it all fuses together so perfectly. Savour this one.
Bhoos is one of the most interesting songs of the album, with some fabulously fun lyrics that match the situational feel of the song. Despite its situational appeal, the song is an enthusiastic gem solely for Manish J Tipu, and Bhupesh Singh who are clearly enjoying the hilarious verses given to them. Punctuated by no overt electronic arrangements, the sound of ‘Bhoos’ is so rustic and brilliant with just the trumpet, harmonium, tablas, and even some dog barks which complement the singers so well.
After those exuberant songs, we get a quieter number with Piyush Mishra’s Ik Bagal, which could be right out of a 50s film with its perfect arrangements. The tune is composed, written, and sung by Mishra which bears his trademark stamp of a quality song. The lyrics are particularly beautiful and eloquent, which may just make you swoon! The sitar and flute which punctuate the track are so haunting towards the bridge, which gives it that extra push in making it stick with you. Mishra’s voice is so haunting and the song showcases what a versatile performer he is. Certainly donning all the hats like Mishra has done, you could expect something to be missing, but this pacing and arrangement is perfect here. The lovely inclusion of the tarang and violins keep this a gorgeous track. Keep this on repeat!
Next up is O Bhaiyya, which is an interesting track with the Musahar of Sundarpur, singing what sounds like Bhojpuri. However, the emphasis isn’t really on the lyrics or lack of, the aim is to lose yourself in the music which uses electronic beats to layer the track. The aural effects are intertwined with the guitar riffs, and weird siren sounds. It does work, but mainly as situational track. During the bridge, the riffs and synths speed up the tempo and keep this track energetic.
One of the weird but wonderful gems is Tain Tain To To, which sounds like an extended jam session that is so entertaining. It is completely addictive, with its nonsensical lyrics (if you can call them that) complete with a la lee lee la lo, which may annoy some, but with the experimental style of the album, it’s a crazy track that just works. I love that this track sounds like a homegrown Ska track with its killer bass riffs that are accompanied by requisite trumpets, but also harmoniums, and tablas. Try this one out!
We get back to Bihari essence of the album with, Soona Kar Ke Gharwa, which is a short tune that is another live one with just the manjeera and tabla in the back. The vocals by Sujeet-Gaya are piercing but so strong and it works for the situational appeal.
One of the tracks which should have been much longer is, Aye Jawaano, by the Ranjeet Bal Party but it such a great track for its 1.54 length. The poetic and political verse at the beginning is very funny and clever, but it’s the music that hooks you in. Playing around with mixing and looping, Khanwalkar makes this such a memorable track because the desi instruments used in this fabulous track. It has such a catchy melody with the loud thumping drums, and guitar hooks that give it that extra edge. The song is extended with Loonga Loonga, which adds Akshay Verma to the mix, and he sounds great with the minimal verses he’s been given. This version speeds up the tempo with its electronic beats but it does sound a bit average. The songs are mixed up together well enough, but one thing you can’t fault the album for is being boring, and even this song has some great arrangements but something does feel missing.
Another song composed and written by Piyush Mishra is Manmauji, which is another lovely track that sounds so folksy and from the 50s. The vocals by Usri Bannerjee are gorgeous, as she has such a sensual and earthy voice that works with the masti-filled lyrics. The male vocalist adds good support with his opening verse and sound effects, and if he was there a bit more, it would have worked as a nice duet as well. Alas, the song is cute little nugget from this eclectic album, that perhaps would fit in the 40s-50s section of the film’s narrative. The orchestration of the flutes, ghungroos, and tabla make it sound so rooted in the folk sound and authentic to the area. Again this one feels a bit short at 2.53, but it is layered enough that you can relish it.
We finish the album with another rustic number, Humni Ke Chhodi Ke, that is one of the longer tunes, but it’s a fitting end to the album. Sung by Deepak Kumar – Muzzafarpur who sounds earthy and has a voice that stays with you. The song utilizes only the harmonium and its minimalist sound adds to the Kumar’s vocals.
Sneha Khanwalkar has come up with one of the most amazing albums of the year so far, because it is such a refreshing change from what we usually hear. As expected, this is an eclectic bunch of the most hilarious, oddest, and enthusiastic songs I’ve heard in such a long time. The album fuses together so many different musical genres and styles, but retains the Bihari spirit in each of the tracks. And also how wonderful is it to find such a talented female music director who gives some of the usual male music directors a run for their money in terms of originality and versatility. There is not one song here that sounds familiar or flows into one, each of them are so innovative and fun. It’s truly one of the albums that should be on your shelf this year.
We went with 4.5 but to be honest I am seriously leaning toward our highest ever rating of 5/5!