By Sonya Rehman
Released in 2007, in India, ‘Charkha’ – Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s debut album – has been met with standing ovations…both at home, and abroad.
Comprising of eleven soul-stirring compositions, Charkha takes its cue from the intense, Eastern-classical genre of music. But that being stated, Rahat’s sophomore effort is anything but over-powering.
Just like his renowned Uncle – the great Qawwali maestro – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (under which Rahat received tutelage for his art), Rahat’s vocals are gentle, and soothing almost, straying far from an overbearingly passionate territory.
Infact, the accompanying compositions, run almost parallel with the singer’s vocals – striking a rather perfect symmetry of sound.
Suited best for easy listening, with hints of melancholy here and there, the album’s first song (also called Charkha) sets the pace of what is to follow. A nostalgic number that speaks of loss, Charkha is a mesmerizing track.
Interestingly, if listened to at one long stretch, the album flows forth like a story – where each song’s compositions are concerned.
Nothing too loud, no instrument too powerful, Charkha’s numbers are light, yet almost hypnotic. Just like song number two, ‘Ang Ang’.
Even though it wouldn’t be fair to draw comparisons between the Uncle and the nephew (Nusrat and Rahat respectively), it must be stated that Rahat’s vocal delivery is much like that of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s.
They may not sound completely alike…yet, you will notice instances during listening to the album when Rahat will sound exactly like his Uncle. Differences arise, however, when Rahat hits a high note – his voice sounds huskier and raw – whereas Nusrat’s seem steady and somewhat fervent – almost spiritual.
From the misty ‘Rang Rangeela’, to the forlorn ‘Tere Bina’, Charkha comes as an aural treat for the mature, classically-inclined listener.
‘Dunga Pani’, Charkha’s sixth, portrays Rahat’s vocals much like the hit number (‘Jiya Dhadak Dhadak’) he did for the 2005 Bollywood film, ‘Kalyug’.
Compositionally, ‘Dunga Pani’ is a true winner – as it transcends into a wonderful, pacey, almost Western-classical beat.
Others such as ‘Aj Hun’, ‘Janay Kahan’ and two remix versions (of ‘Tere Bina’ and ‘Charkha’); Rahat Fateh Ali Khan seems to have hit it big.
Following in the footsteps of his celebrated and legendary Uncle, Rahat appears to be making waves in India and beyond.
From working with Rohail Hyatt to accomplished Western producers and to Bollywood hits such as ‘Mann Ki Lagan’ (from the film ‘Paap’), ‘Naina’ (from ‘Omkara’), ‘O Re Piya’ (from ‘Aja Nachle’) and many others, including riveting numbers for ‘Om Shanti Om’, ‘Jhoom Barabar Jhoom’, Mel Gibson’s jaw-dropping flick ‘Apocalypto’ and more recently, ‘Main Aur Mrs Khanna’, Rahat is leaving no stone unturned.
But coming back to Charkha, the album itself, if I were to rate it; I’d give it an honest four stars out of five.
This is because Rahat’s vocal adroitness seems to be gifted, natural and raw – without having to try too hard.
Being emotive, passionate and pained where necessary in his songs, Rahat’s approach to singing is humble and unassuming…they almost never manage to scream out: ‘Look I can SING’!
Truly a treasure for Pakistan – as far as the art of local music is concerned – let’s just hope Rahat continues to balance his time between work in Pakistan, and abroad. And in addition, let us hope he’s given the respect and admiration (that he so rightfully deserves) in his own home country as well.
Charkha will stir your spirit with its eclectic concoction of soul-stirring numbers, therefore for each and every Eastern-classical music aficionado out there, give it a listen.