Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2 Degrees: The Voice of Paintings

This may sound a little blasphemic, it does even to me and I feel a bit awkward writing it, but I'll write it anyway.

The reason why I can't write about music, it just occurred to me, is because I never mastered the vocabulary. Granted, I never felt it was imperative, but every once in a while I find myself wanting to talk about music, and failing. For example lately I've been wanting to write a whole post gushing about Pakistani and Bollywood singer Atif Aslam. But what to write about him other than "I adore him" and other such trivialities? I wanted to put into words just how much I love his voice and how happy I am every time I discover a new song from him in a movie... So... since my music language is lacking, I'll use a different language that I am much more familiar with: painting.

Atif Alsam's voice to me is like a beautiful painting. And if I was to narrow it down - this is where the blasphemy part comes in - it would be like a Vincent van Gogh painting. Now don't sharpen your machetes just yet, art lovers, hear me out!

Van Gogh's paintings for the most part have a quality that every artist covets: they are unmistakable! One cannot look at a van Gogh and think that it's a different artist: they either know it's him, or they don't know much about art in which case they won't venture to guess. A unique blend of all the artistic movements he was going to influence (from the Fauves to the different branches of Expressionists), as well as a tribute to the Impressionist techniques, van Gogh's art is unprecedented and unsurpassed. But most of all, it is singular.

Vincent's Room at Arles

In a similar way one cannot mistake Atif Aslam's voice for another's after they have heard him once. Just like van Gogh's brush strokes, this off-key, rough and yet poetic modulation has a personality of its own, and certainly will endure in one's memory if one has a taste for it. It sure did in mine, I was hooked as soon as I heard Pehli Nazar Mein. And I didn't even know then that his very first song, Aadat, would become my most favourite despite a career that is by now 7 years old.



The one thing I really like about Atif Aslam is the "boy next door" quality of his singing. Unlike Sonu, Mohit and all the others, his songs, though complicated, always sound unrehearsed, as if he could be sitting with you for coffee and all of a sudden felt like singing to you. Ok, maybe I'm daydreaming a little bit much here, but there's such an effortlessness about his singing that I'm always a bit surprised the first time I try to sing along to a new song and fail horribly to hit the right notes. Some people have the "boy next door" face, or the "boy next door" physique. With Atif, it's the "boy next door" voice. Sadly, not the boy next to my door, but that's a different matter...

I find the same quality from a slightly different angle in van Gogh's art: he always painted real life. People, flowers, landscapes, street corners, you name it, he painted it in his own frantic way, reflective of his troubled inner life, but it all feels as real as the coffee shop down the street and the garden in front of your building. And how would it not, when it was all right there, next to his door.

Cafe Terrace at Night

Tired already? Hang in there, I'm not done yet! There's one more thing they have in common and it's the most important one: the passion!




Can you hear heartbreak in every word on Tere Bin? I could before I even knew any of the lyrics, and it still makes me a little bit sad to listen to it.

Though not as sad as Tu Jaane Na and Aadat! Those two have got to be the world's saddest songs, and I love them dearly! Atif's soulful singing is as efficiently heartbreaking as a surgeon's scalpel.

Similarily, van Gogh's mental state makes its way directly to the canvas and into your heart through his violent brush strokes and heavy textures. The colours may vary from the brightest yellows to the darkest blues, but his striking interpretations of something as simple as a vase of flowers never fail to inspire at least awe, if not a full storm of emotions.

Four Cut Sunflowers
Whew... Well this was easier than talking music lingo, that's for sure! Now who knows if it even expressed an ounce of my admiration for this talented singer, but at least I am happy to have tried.

Now that I started thinking about it, Sunidhi Chauhan's voice sounds like a Gustav Klimt painting, Vishal Dadlani evokes Edvard Munch, and Henri Rousseau's naive painting makes me think of Shreya Ghoshal's pure voice. But... maybe that's for part II of The Voice of Paintings?

9 comments:

theBollywoodFan said...

As much as Atif has succeeded in Bollywood, I think his best works have originated from within his home country. If you haven't already, just search for him on YouTube, under "Atif Aslam Coke Studio". That's where the improvisational qualities sound their strongest! I can't get over his 'Kinara' rendition on the show. His solo album releases are matched only by his former band Jal, which in my opinion has gotten better since he left, so it's that rare instance when a separation worked out for all parties!

I like the painting analogies. And give yourself a little credit. Sound is a layer above music, and that, as you've demonstrated in the post, is what you have no issues with. :)

Cheers!

Lime(tte) said...

"Tere Bin, Main Yuun..."... my heart is melting.
You found a really good way for expressing music here, actually I sometimes feel the same way about it... Some people are great at writing about music but most aren't. It's like a feeling, something you cannot touch... Well, you can't touch a film either, but it's much longer and you can just... you can always find something to say about it, other than "those trivialities", as you said.

Dolce and Namak said...

Thank you guys for being so supportive of my wacky ways :) I'm glad you enjoyed the analogies!

@ TheBollyFan, wow, two visits in a row, yhou're spoiling me! :)
You know it's funny, I do have his solo albums too and they don't engage me as much as his Bollywood songs. I think it's because he focuses more on the instrumental part in his solos, whereas Bollywood really knows how to make his voice stand out. That said, some of his Coke Studio stuff is pretty darn awesome, and I am still waiting with bated breath for his next album that keeps getting postponed!

@ Lime(tte) - Hey, maybe they should start making 1 hour long songs, eh? ;) Just kidding! That's so true about movies and I do find that a lot with my favourites: there are so many feelings that I can't put into words as much as I try. That's why I can't bring myself to review my favourites, it feels like I wouldn't do them justice.
But then again, it's all about spreading the love, so I don't think either of us should get discouraged: as long as we manage to do that, people can find their own feelings to attach to films and songs without us having to put them into words, na? :D I'd say you're doing great with that on your blog, so keep it up!

hari said...

Hi, you should watch 'Bheemili Kabaddi Jattu'. its a good telugu movie that came out in 2010. reading your blogs, i have a feeling you might like it. zero stars, and small budget but a story well crafted.

Dolce and Namak said...

Thanks Hari, I put that on hold for my next basket! I'm always happy to get recommendations for films that I wouldn't otherwise hear about! :)
Cheers!

Remini said...

Wow.. I LOVE music. My friends call me "The Jukebox" because I know all the songs that play in the radio when we go out :) It's the one thing that stays with me after I've finished an Indian movie, however good it was. I can't count how many times I've listened to the Dil Se album. But I too can't express my feelings about them beyond "beutiful, melodious, heartbreaking vocals, etc.." :( Kudos for finding a way to express your admiration for Aslam's singing. If I could I'd write like this about Hariharan :) Or George Michale for that matter :P

Dolce and Namak said...

Well then Jukebox girl, remind me to send you an invitation for the international Bollywood karaoke session I plan to organize one day :D

And I'm glad I'm not the only one who experiences some hardship when trying to write about these wonderful people who make our lives prettier every day!

Last but not least: really?? George Michael??? That was totally unexpected! :) Maybe you can karaoke Careless Whispers then! I'll stick to Dil Se and Atif for my part, and maybe some good old-fashioned American rock... :D

iamyuva said...

thx to blog contact..Lav.. i landed here to find amazing page..n post.. nice..

Dolce and Namak said...

Why thank you, Yuva! So nice when someone lands here unexpectedly and likes a post enough to comment on it! Thank you! :D

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