Arnob & Friends Live: Spirit of indie wrapped in commercial sheen | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, August 13, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, August 13, 2009

Music Review

Arnob & Friends Live: Spirit of indie wrapped in commercial sheen

Last year, Drishtipat (a non-profit expatriate Bangladeshi organisation that works on human rights) partnered with Arnob for a worldwide concert to raise funds for its humanitarian projects. 'The Unheard Voices World Tour' featured Arnob and his compadres -- Andrew Morris (saxophonist), Nazia Ahmed (vocalist), Resalat Rasheed ‘Dhrubo’ (bassist), Tarek bin Taher Akhanji ‘Jibon’ (drummer) and Nazrul Islam (dhol player) -- playing to full houses in the UK, US and Canada.
Bengal Music Company Ltd. recently released a live album (recorded during stage performances) featuring songs played by the band during the ‘Unheard Voices’ tour. Titled “Arnob & Friends Live,” the album presented by HSBC, is part of the bank's latest brand campaign.
Music enthusiasts familiar with Arnob are well aware that the artiste's sound is essentially indie. With this album, however, Arnob has seemingly decided to combine the raw energy and warmth that define indie music with the cutting edge studio produced gloss that makes mainstream sound lucrative. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It takes a genius with the Midas touch to be able to combine Lakshmi and Saraswati. Famed composers and musicians have laboured throughout their lives to achieve this.
The genre-bending album features 12 tracks -- some new, some old and some borrowed.
The opening song, “Amaye dhore rakho” (written and composed by Arnob), stays true to the musician’s roots. Andrew Morris deserves special mention. The Welsh saxophonist is like salt in Arnob’s curry. Morris' sax not only introduces jazz elements, it changes the whole mood and familiarity of particular songs.
“Lalpahari” (a folk song from West Bengal) is a foot-tapping composition based on jhumur beats. With Nazia as the backup vocalist, Arnob effortlessly takes the listener to the land of red hills, far from the hustle and bustle of city life. The song could just as well be a yearning to break free of monotony.
“Amay bhashaili re” (written and composed by Jasim Uddin) is a slow, melancholy take on the ever-familiar folk classic. Featuring impressive drum beats by Jibon, Nazia’s vocals sound easy to the ear, but the song somehow lacks that X-factor.
Arnob returns with “Hok kolorob” (written by Rajib Ashraf and composed by Arnob). This is a renewed cover of a song from one of Arnob’s previous solo albums (with the same title).
Nazia breaks the mould with her cover of “Orey nil doriya.” This classic Bangla film song (written by Mukul Chowdhuri and composed by Alam Khan) from “Sareng Bou” gets a complete makeover without losing any of its essence. It takes a seasoned artiste to sell a song intended to be sung by the opposite sex, and this emerging vocalist succeeds with flying colours. Armed with Nazrul’s dhol and Morris’ sax, Nazia’s rendition of “Amar mon-er nongor poira roisey Sareng barir gharey...” goes beyond a sailor’s nostalgia and becomes a universal yearning to reunite with the beloved.
Arnob has also included his interpretation of the Tagore song “Majhe majhe.” Rendered in a scale higher than usual, this devotional piece has a rather whiny sound, but on the whole it’s enjoyable.
The highlight of the album is perhaps the last track “Nao chhariya de,” another widely known folk song (written and composed by Jasim Uddin). Arnob and Nazia gel like yin and yang and Morris’ sax sounds surprisingly inseparable in a folk ditty. This is how it's done. All fusion and remix enthusiasts should take note.
Indie, folk, semi-classical (Nazia’s rendition of a Raaga Yaman based composition “Piya ki nazariya”), Rabindra Sangeet -- this album should have been called “Jhalmuri Redux.”

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