Simultaneously: Laid-back goodness
Armeen Musa was a somewhat familiar name in the country's music arena, but she slipped off the radar a few years ago when she left to pursue her studies in music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). Her journey as a singer-songwriter comes through in her latest album “Simultaneously” – that was released in Dhaka last month. It is the quintessential 'indie' album – nothing extravagant or exhilarating about it, rather a laid-back, easy-listening collection of 10 tracks that most listeners would be happy to put in the CD tray on a weekend drive, or just for a laid-back evening.
The album opens with “Esse Quam Videri”, an old Latin phrase that translates to “to be, rather than to seem (to be)”, and the song speaks about just that. The sombre piano track with a hint of cello makes for a peaceful arrangement. Next up is “Frost” that starts with a beautiful violin piece, and moves into a jazzy rhythm as Armeen's fluid, sultry vocals kick into gear.
“The Brighter Side” is the third track, and is a definitely a highlight of the album. The vocals come on without any intro into a strum of an acoustic guitar in the background, and immediately spread this uplifting, upbeat vibe that is infectious. The arrangement is simple and no-nonsense, while the lyrics inject a dose of positivity into the ears.
It is followed by “Simultaneously”, where the daughter of noted Nazrul singer Nashid Kamal shows off her Indian classical roots with a sweet little tarana-like ornamentation. All the instrumentals play mildly in the distance, as she switches seamlessly between English lyrics and very Indian modulations.
“Jokhon Choley Jao” is next – the first Bangla track of the album. The melancholic piece speaks of yearning for a beloved, and despite nothing being particulatly wrong, the lyrics seem kind of forced. It is only later in the album that the original version of the song – written in English – comes on, does this song make more sense. However, “Arek Rokom Raat”, the only other Bangla song of the album, more than makes up for it, at least lyrically. Written by Sahana Bajpaie, it kind of brings back the pre-Berklee Armeen, in terms of singing style and lower register of the voice. The drumming is measured and the keys are played well too: a really sweet, mellifluous number.
“Races”, the track on queue, is a 180-shift from its predecessor, in all its funk and clarinet (or a similar brasswind instrument) intro. Armeen also throws her voice with gusto, and the almost cabaret-like musical arrangement – layered with backing vocals, bass-and-drum interlude and the frivolous tempo, adds an excellent dimension to the album. In “Was It You”, the next song, Armeen goes an entirely different way, almost Colbie Caillat-like in silliness and innocence. The chorus part is actually a lyric-less childish sound – very refreshing.
“When You're Gone”, the original version of “Jokhon Choley Jao” is the penultimate track on the album, and sounds better than its translation, despite having the identical arrangement. Just a case in point -- songs are really hard to translate, keeping the essence intact. The fabulous violin-playing deserves a special mention, though.
The album closes with “Graceland”, the first song from the album that was released online. On a guitar-plucked track Armeen talks about expatriate student's lives through her eyes – of their their struggles and their dreams. The briefest song of the bunch fills the heart with most warmth, and signs off a lovely album.