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|
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?