When "Kabhi", Josh's first single (and the name of their second album), started doing the circuit in 2004, people were perplexed. Who were these guys, they'd thought. Were they Indian?
Why "Kabhi" nipped the country's pop industry (please don't sneer, our music industry just reached puberty, cut it some slack, yes?) in the jugular is because the video was pretty out there – perhaps too daring (our local musicians had only just begun to warm up to the idea of having their videos shot in bars). But the concept sold. And let's not forget – the song was pretty phenomenal too (the bohemianly-desi-weekend video only just added to it).
Getting a right-royal smack on its little bum, Pakistan's pop music 'scene' yelped like a banshee, knelt down and decided it was about time to pull up its socks.
With significant, repetitive airplay all over our broadcast media, you probably know the drift by now – Josh is made up of Rupinder Magon (known as 'Rup') and Qurram Hussain (a.k.a 'Q').
Josh was everywhere really, from TV interviews, airplay on radio stations to a few odd concerts here and there (primarily in Karachi).
"Kabhi", like an obdurate ninja, had kung-fooed its way to the top of the charts. "HAI-YAH!" it had screamed with rear-shaking numbers like "Josh Naal" and "Ban Farh Kay" (featuring Sukhbir). After which, it all sky-rocketed when Josh found itself in the international music arena after their remix versions of "Powerless", "Maneater" and "Promiscuous girl" by Grammy winner Nelly ("I'm like a bird") Furtado.
But come their third album released on the 1st of November in 2006 – "Mausam" – and frankly, I'm not all that bowled over.
Nevertheless, "Mahi Ve", "Mausam" and "Aaj Ke Din" seem to be the album's saving grace.
Originally sung by Zubeida Khanum, Josh's version of "Mausam" is simply outstanding. From the melody to the vocals, impeccable. Fuzzy-feel-good-cuddle-bug-ish, this one's a sure-shot winner. The video too (shot in Pakistan and directed by Umar Anwar) captures the temperament of "Mausam" quite skillfully.
"'Mahi Ve' has a sufiana touch to it because the lyrics request God to keep one humble and grounded," Rupinder had said in one of his interviews on a local music channel – no wonder people took to it. Sufi, spiritual elements in music are all the rave these days. Incorporated into genres of bhangra, eastern classical and desi pop, musicians can become overnight sensations (there's Rabbi Shergill, Kailash Kher and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to name a few). Moreover, "Teri Aankhon" isn't too bad either. It has that acoustic 'clean feel' going for it which would go down well with any quixotic desi out there. Cute.
"Rock Your World" is also just about so-so. Making for a dry dance number, it has a Craig David sound to it. Maybe the reason why we find songs like "Rock Your World" run of the mill mainly because they've been done too often? They all just tend to sound very 'plastic-pop' for some reason. "Aaj Ke Din" comes as a nice surprise though – the saxophone bit interspersed here and there gives this song a placid sensual melody. Easy going and chilled out, I'd listen to it on a long drive back home after an arduous day at work.
What perturbed me most, however, was that one of the songs ("Ajnabi") featured on "Mausam", that is almost an absolute clone of "Kabhi" (the first single from their previous album). Why do some musicians do that? The average listener isn't daft I assure you. Replicating a tune/melody from a previous hit into a current number is pretty dippy wouldn't you agree? Sheesh Kebabs, it stupefies me really. I would've expected a pedestrian band to flip a slip like this – not Josh, those guys are too smart.
Hearing the album a couple of times, Josh's experimentation with their music – peppering a track with one melody or sauteing it with another – is evident. Experimenting in an album whether you're a newbie to the bizz or an oldie (who knows the tricks of the trade) is still precarious nonetheless.
One band's album goof-up can be as bad as an established author's latest novel going down the shoot, or a designer's most recent line getting ripped apart by fashion heavyweight critics – it's the same thing and all at the cost of what? Experimentation. Very dicey. The flops, the hits, the so-so-in-between's – they give rise to growth, provided the 'flops' aren't repeated. That should be a 'no go red alert zone'. But in Josh's case, the band stands safe because album number one really was a #1.
Next time around, Rupinder and Qurram should focus their talents, originality and musical astuteness on what they know best – songs that follow along the lines of what Josh depicts itself to be as a band, as a sound. Too many remixes (no matter if they've been done by RDB or Rishie Rich, heck even Tiesto) will decapitate and pulverize an album, winds up being too wishy-washy you know? If bands are hell-bent on adding remixes to their albums, they must do so, but provided they include a maximum of two (or maybe even three). More than that and you step right into the 'no go red alert zone' (especially if your area of expertise/sound is anything but remix-ish).
That being stated, here's hoping Josh's fourth will be even better. Experiment I say, but one must keep their strengths in mind. Extra pumps in sneakers won't be the only things that can cure their Achilles' heel. It will have to be experience.Sonya Rehman