Jind Jan Sohnian - Jawad Ahmad (2003)

Jawad Ahmad established himself as a force to be reckoned with. After proving his depth and musical range with his excellent debut "Bol Tujhe Kya Chahiye." Jawad had something very rare. A voice. The entire generation in the swirl of sufi rock was reeling under the compatibility of those tunes and songs of yore with the most pervasive genre of music. But as Junoon lost sight of what they had set out to do and Abrar kept on scoring hit after hit with his brand of humourous bhangra, Jawad decided that this was the way to go.

He went completely traditional with "Uchiyan Majajan Wali" and let a lot of people down with that. He was blamed for catering to the mass. But even more crucially Jawad had proved himself to be gullible. He chose to follow market forces rather than the ambitions of his brilliant debut. But all was well that ended well. At the end of the day, Unchiyan was a pumping, thumping, swirling, joyous mass of bhangra that made Jawad a force that even Abrar would have to reckon with.

His latest Supreme sponsored album is as expected, a bhangra offering, but with the most awful percussion and production values. All bhangra numbers are driven by an overtly lively but largely monotonous dhol beat. The music is too jhankaar and very dry. It sounds like a phata hua dhol on an adrenalin rush. Yes, there are plenty of hearty "hoey, hoey, hoeys," but thrown strategically into the monotone beat, they are too contrived to lift the spirit as they are meant to do. All in all, this album is the blind following of a successful formula that falls right off the cliff Jawad Ahmad was trying too hard to scale.

"Jind Jan Sohnian," the title track is the first song and it puts you off. A definite contender for the worst track on this really bad album, it is too industrial and mechanical. "Tu meri jind jaan sohniye, tu mera armaan sohniye" - ho, hum yawn. "Jind...," "Tak Dhin Dhina" and "Aja Ho Bailia" are perky bhangra numbers with hopes of cashing in into mehndi season with the same banal words of love. "Chalian Ain Pardes Vain Dholan" is the most layered folk song on the album, and is by far the best in this pile of mediocrity, but it is "Dholna" Part II. One can see another video starring a Lollywood actress pining for Jawad. "Aao Dharti Ko Rang Dein' is a bhangra song in Urdu. I can see it as the jingle of an ad/video (the lines are blurring) featuring people drinking tea and being regaled by Jawad Ahmed on Basant (hey Jawad, there's an idea for you!). Talk about cashing in on past success.

After Uchiyan, Jawad became busy with charity work for the spread of education. Then a la Abrar and Shehzad Roy, he has been establishing friendships and contacts in the army. With all this flurry of activity, he managed to strike gold with his track for the hugely popular drama serial "Mehndi" last year. Jawad believes that this is what will sell and sales are what he is after. When artists lose integrity, it eventually shows up in their art.

"Kaise Kahoon" is one of the more interesting composition that of the others. The composition is by Sahir Ali Bagga. It is the only song that has some instrumentation. A guitar and flute drift in and out, a groove begins on occasion. It's subtle and subtle is a quality the album lacks. But what really does it in are the totally washed out lyrics penned by Jawad himself:

Kaise kahoon keh tum se pyaar hai,
Haan tum se pyaar hai (repeated thrice)
Kaise kahoon tere bina jee na sakoon ga
Kaise kahoon yeh jeevan tum pe nisaar hai,
Haan tum say pyaar hai (repeated thrice)

The lyrics show that there is so much happening in Jawad's life, that not nearly enough is happening in his head. However, it is well rendered with the inflections in Jawad's voice that furious bhangra numbers have no room for. This is the kind of singing Jawad is good at but even then his heart is not in it. He doesn't emote, just indulges in vocal gymnastics. His voice soars a bit too often and crosses that fine line between singing and showing off. And again it is a ballad perhaps to capture a bit of the magic of the hugely popular "Bin Tere Kya Hai Jeena," that was also picturised brilliantly in Shaan's "Moosa Khan." "Bin Tere" was a sparse melody, beautifully rendered and then we were forced to OD on it as Jawad insisted on singing it at every show he did. He doesn't have the guts to revert from the beaten path and is so damn earnest about it that it gets to you. At least with "Jind Jan Sohniyan," it's gotten to him too. It is always satisfying when life comes full circle.

"Tarey Dub Gai Nay, Raat Mukh Gai Ay" is the other somewhat acceptable song on the album. It is Jawad trying to recapture some of the feel of Abrar's dangerously infectious superhit "Sanu Teray Nal Pyaar Ho Gaya." Abrar and Jawad have something of an unhealthy rivalry. Despite both being men in black coats and the most charitable exponents of bhangra this country has ever seen, they both revel in taking pot shots at each other. However, Abrar's lyrics have retained their wit and he is constantly improvising on his music. He knows the rules of bhangra well enough to break them. He can deliver the typical "Nach Punjaban (Majajan)" and then do a delightful about turn with the tongue in cheek "Preeto." Jawad plays by the rules, which was fine in Uchiyan - steeped in tradition - but Jind plays like a Daler Mehdi album, and that is no good.

Then there is "Hamay Tum Say Pyar Hai," a cheerleading anthem for the Pakistan army:

Kaamyaab raho tum har qadam
Qaum ki izzat ho tum
Tum jeeto ya haaro suno
Hamein tum say pyar hai (repeated thrice)

The song is terrible, because Jawad is trying too hard to please the powers that be. The tune is not catchy, the words are not inspiring and it strikes the wrong note in this democratic day and age. And as Pakistan is striving for peace, this song goes on paying salaams to ghazis and extolling the virtues of shahadat as Jawad blatantly aggrandizes the virtues of the army that has long left the battlefield for the political arena. Jawad has been spending more time with army personnel than with other musicians and it shows on this album. It's a very fishy fixation this - of musicians and faujis and it is absolute nonsense, at least when it comes to music. In pursuit of his personal agenda, Jawad is letting his music suffer.

Apart from buttering up the army, Jawad also does what he's told to do like a good little boy and sings "Yehi Tu Hai Apna Pan." So what if it's a rubbish song? How many hit songs can you think of that have an advertising slogan as the catch phrase? He should learn from the last Supreme Ishq venture, Shoaib Mansoor's excellent "Anarkali" song and video. The Supreme marketing manager Qashif Effendi told Instep how Shoaib had put up a fight against using the slogan in the song. Eventually, he fitted in the word "apna pan" and how! One can imagine Shoaib Mansoor agonizing over this corporate demand and writing the lyrics to the song that overrode the sales pitch completely. Now he is a true artist, who has also given the army a promotional serial called "Alpha Bravo Charlie." It's the closest the army has come to a Top Gun like projection. Yes, one needs sponsors for projects, one needs patrons, but it is what one wants to do that is paramount. And it must remain so.

Jawad Ahmad happily writes cheesy lyrics. He pays hackneyed tributes to the army. He composes his music halfheartedly. He's flushed his song writing skills down the drain and he is dangerously self-obsessed. This he proves with his naat "Hum Teray Se Itna Pyaar Karte Hain" that begins in the freakiest of ways with a child, then the "Ooooooo" reminiscent of choir singing comes through, the crying morphs into a child reciting Arabic which is followed by Jawad reciting darood to the beat of a drum. This is quite a heady rush and not a very nice one at that. It leaves one wondering who he thinks he is.

Jawad Ahmad gave up the mantle of being a rocker by going bhangra. With "Jind Jan Sohnian," he gives ample proof that he is finally off his rocker.

Muniba Kamal
The News International, Pakistan