Mirzya music review: Take a bow Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy for a beautiful melange of folk and fusion
You know that feeling when you are listening to a song and suddenly, out of nowhere, you get goosebumps? I like to think that happens because something about the melody resonates with your soul.
The soundtrack for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's next film Mirzya is like a 35-minute long episode of goosebumps. At no point during the nine-track album do you feel anything less than, "What is this sorcery? This is amazing".
At the forefront of this soundtrack (apart from the composers Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) is the range of vocalists on the album. The Mirzya album has many unheard voices — from the Nooran sisters, a Punjabi folk duo; The Salvation Singers, a choir from Mumbai; Agnee frontman Mohan Kannan; to Rajasthani folk singer Mame Khan and Shankar Mahadevan's son, Siddharth — and their renditions are like a musical punch in the face.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has always known to have exemplary music, best seen in films like Rang De Basanti, Delhi 6 and even the highly underrated Aks. He continues this tradition with Mirzya.
The title track of the album, 'Mirzya' is beautifully helmed by Daler Mehendi, Pakistani Sufi singer Saieen Zahoor, Balochi folk singer Akhtar Chanal and the Nooran sisters on lead vocals.
Mehendi has sung a lot of title tracks for Mehra, including Rang De Basanti, and while the vocals and melody are as powerful in this song, this isn't the best one on the album. The star of this track is undoubtedly Gulzar's lyrics: 'Gol gol ghoome zameen / Aave na jaave kahin / Tere phere leve zameen / O Mirzya'.
'Teen Gava Hai Ishq Ke' (beautifully sung by Siddharth Mahadevan; the resemblance in uncanny), 'Aave Re Hichki' (a folk song based on hiccups) and 'Doli Re Doli' are all delightful folksy gems. They are hummable, have a playful yet melodious vibe to it and aren't as intense as some of the other songs on the album. Mame Khan seems to be the most recurring voice, and for good reason. His vocals are pristine and hard-hitting.
That Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy decided to go the folk route to emote is applause-worthy — and 'Aave Re Hichki' with its somber pace, and the beautiful combination of Shankar Mahadevan and Mame Khan's vocals, is the winner of the album.
You can completely imagine a rural, idyllic setting with this song as a backdrop, and you don't get the immediate connection to the film. This, according to me, is the biggest win for a soundtrack as powerful as Mirzya.
What really catches your attention is the range of emotions in each song. It's not the regular commercial stuff (by a mile): sad, happy, party, love ballad. There's so much more character to each song, and one can only imagine how it would lend itself to a plot that deals with time-defying, eternal love but with equal tragedy.
Something that really stays with you is how the music of Mirzya relies heavily on vocals, and folk instruments. The music arrangement is very minimalistic, and therefore 'Chapora', a fast-paced folk song, with electronic beats is certainly novel, but doesn't bode well with the larger sound of the album.
'Hota Hai' is essentially a platform for the Nooran Sisters to showcase their amazing talent. Their raw vocals match beautifully well with electronic beats, something 'Chapora' could not do with as much impact. This song is folk-fusion at its best.
It's also a much more complex melody, which constantly shifts from flimsy, passing beats to folk interludes to intense vocals to a choir backing (The Salvation Singers). Definitely the most playful song on the soundtrack.
'Ek Nadi Thi' is a more — for the lack of a better word in this context — westernised version, including the rustic vocals of the Nooran sisters. But K. Mohan's heavy bass voice takes the cake in this track, as do the guitar interludes.
Similarly, even though the arrangement on 'Kaaga' heavily relies on Hindustani classical elements, Kaushiki Chakraborty's vocals help soften the blow for those of us who are not that well-equipped or into hardcore Indian classical music.
The only downside to the Mirzya album is that there's too much stuffed into one soundtrack, at least on first listen. Individually, each track stands apart, but as an album there seems to be no cohesiveness. It is yet to be seen how each of these tracks are pictured on screen.
However, it takes serious talent and vision to have this kind of music in a commercial Hindi film, at a time when old indipop songs are given a Badshaah rap and re-released. For this, take a bow Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.