Roop Nagar - Najam (1999)

Two and a half years ago, Najam Shiraz gifted us with his "Khazana". This year he invites us to join him in "Roop Nagar". Released by Sonic, sponsored by Pepsi Music and co-produced by Najam, Imran Ali and Amir Zaki, the album features the talents of Amir Zaki, and lyrics by Sabir Zafar, Ahmed Zahid and Ibn-e-Insha, and of course his own compositions. Najam succeeds in creating a place which according to him is "A state of mind, a permanent feeling of love, a place I want to be, a road I want to take".

The opening track is "Pal Do Pal Ki Chahat" a haunting eastern melody regaling the tale of a girl's betrayal by her lover. I visualized deserts and camels when I first heard it. Accompanied by it's beautiful video (the 14th track) on the CD version, shot on 35mm, featuring Iraj and Tahir as the lovers (inclusive of camels and deserts), "Pal Do Pal Ki Chahat" draws you into the world of pain and suffering of this betrayed woman. Heady choruses and Najam's expressive vocals tell the whole story. The second track "Dil Tor Kay Na Ja" is also a woman's story and the title speaks for itself. A mid-paced but upbeat tune. Najam's vocals makes one realize that he is definitely destined to do great things with his voice, which he proves in the third track. "Roop Nagar" the title track, takes us again to the deserts but one with an oasis nearby. This song is a true experience, one that I cannot describe in words. It is better felt rather than spoken or written about. A distinct feature of the songs in this album is the heady airy atmosphere, which Najam has created by harmonizing. To this reviewer, the choruses in this song are the best that he has ever done.

"Yeh Moamla Koe Aur Hay" is a history lesson Najam style! A thought provoking song about the presence of God and true faith in our lives and with Amir Zaki's superb guitars to complement Najam's quiet but expressive vocals asks you "What's it all about?". "Yeh Moamla Koe Aur Hay" is the voice of every conscious mind. Does anyone have an answer? "Piyar Kae Sehra Main" is about love, trust and commitment. The ultimate love song. The sound: quite, upbeat and very dimensional. Makes you want to fall in love if you aren't and feel very lucky to have that special someone if you are! "Mera Jee Nahin Lagey" is the antithesis to "Roop Nagar". In an interview, Najam once said, "Depression and frustration are the gifts I was born with and I still carry them". A very relatable song, especially for those who have faced many hardships in their lives. The melody and mood : dark and profound. Where "Sona Chahta Hoon" seemed violent, "Mera Jee Nahin Lagey" could have an almost suicidal effect! But it end's leaving you with the feeling that there is hope.

A singalong (Karaoke) track "Ur Gaee Maina" comes next. The actual song is the last track on the album and is probably Najam's `99 version of "Larki". A fast paced, dance track for all the party animals out there. "Ae Aurat" is a tribute to women. Originally from the sound track of the PTV play "Shahpar". Written by Rasool Hamza Toq, a Kazakstani poet and translated by Mustansar Husain Tarar, this is the first ballad of Najam's career and is a unique aspect in his expression of true love for a woman. Produced by Nizar Lalani and Najam, "In Fizaon Sae Agay" is also a song done for the Pakistan Air Force. If you liked "Shaheen" you'll love "In Fizaon Sae Agay". Faced paced, it makes you feel like you are actually flying a plane while Najam sings about the passing landscape. Electric and Bass Guitars are done by Asad Ahmed and Sameer Ahmed. "Piyaz Jalne Do" is about a couple where the husband is struggling to get his wife's complete attention which is focused on preparing his meal. A romantic song that should inspire all married couples no matter how long they have been married. A country'n'western melody with Najam's quite, whispering vocals. "Aisi Ada Sae" is for all those shy guys out there who have these great big crushes and can't do anything about it. Here Najam voices what every shy guy can only dream of saying. Also country'n'western melody with Amir Zaki's guitars bubbling over. "Mat Jao Gori" is the male version of "Dil Tor Kay Na Ja". A 90's desi style reggae, "Mat Jao Gori" is written by Ibn-e-Insha and Produced by Nizar Lalani and Najam.

A definite progress is seen both musically and in Najam's vocals as compared to his last album "Khazana". "Roop Nagar" has a more mature and less experimental sound unlike "Khazana" which according to Najam himself was quite experimental. In "Roop Nagar" Najam has emerged with an individual but universal sound of his own in the sense that he has not catered to a specific category of listeners. Music lover or occasional listener, this is one album that will not disappoint anybody. There is something for everyone. Najam was true to his word when he said "Piyar karne kae liye, geet sunaane kae liye, ek khazana hae mere paas, lootane kae liye".

Aisha Panjwaneey