Abbas Ali Khan - Sun Re (2006)

The warm-up to Abbas Ali Khan's new album included the release of three very ingenious videos that due to over play on music channels got imbedded in public memory "Sun Re", "Teri Yaad" and "Malal" left music aficionados in Pakistan convinced that Abbas was a talented musician with a strong control over vocals. His debut album "Humsafar", though appreciated by music critics, was released in 2003 but got lost in bad distribution. To assure this didn't happen again, the talented vocalist signed up with IC and got more out of the deal than planned as he ended up with a not only better marketed album but also a better stylized self, one that helped create a new image for him. Suddenly, Abbas' music not only sounded good but looked better too. By the time his second album, "Sun Re", hit the market, the Abbas Ali Khan hype was built up to the maximum and expectations were high.

Success depended entirely on the merits of the album though and "Sun Re" does live up to expectations, more or less. The album works its way through twelve love songs, all playing with diverse moods of, well, being in love whether with memories of lost love, the beloved or even one's country. While "Sun Re" and "Malal" are soulful ballads, the latter a tad bit macabre yet haunting, "Aa Zara" and "Sanvaria" are finger-snapping beats that call out for love with optimism. "Teri Yaad", is experimental in its inclusion of rap by Waleed but where this song pushes the boundaries of a ballad, "Doori" falls prey to the prototype set by the beat of the dholak. If it weren't for the lyrics that dwell on the memories of lost love, this would very well serve as a dholak-luddi number often played at weddings. It's got a distinct "gagar" feel to it. Another song that falls prey to tradition is "Des Ki Khushboo". The patriotic track has become an essential part of every music album and it seems Abbas in a moment of weakness decided to do one too. There's no enthusiasm in either its music or lyrics to justify why exactly it was made part of the album. It's just there, hanging in a rather mediocre limbo, sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the other musical gems.

The vocals on the album are what make it a cut above the other options in the market. One enjoys the ease with which Abbas goes through the songs there are no strains or uncomfortable moments here. From quick paced to relaxed, energetic to languid; through English, Urdu, and even a brief dose of Punjabi, Abbas Ali Khan indisputably has control over his voice and he puts it to good use.

"Raaton Mein" and "Dhoondte" are the kind of mellow songs one listens to while sipping coffee and gazing out at the rain. It leaves one in a lazy, loving mood that could be happy or depressive depending upon whether you've found love or lost it. Abbas Ali Khan plays with moods the same way he plays with music. There's diversity in his album, and yet it's a cohesive piece of work that ostensibly comes from one source. The production is good and though the lyrics aren't exactly poetic masterpieces, they cannot be categorized as fluff either. Definitely not.

The album takes another brief dip down with "Na Jane Kyun" which isn't bad but has you feeling that it definitely could have been better. A fairly long song, it gets boring and is unable to hold interest. After another bout of mellowness with "Des Ki Khushboo" comes a much needed spirit lifter. "Sanvaria" could have landed straight from the disco era of the eighties. With the orchestra in the background it is very Blondie goes to Funky Town via Rina Roy's Disco Station. "Sanvaria" is a fun loving track but it's also a little pretentious. This one seems a little out of character for the vocalist who came up with the work of genius, "Sun Re". And yet Abbas Ali Khan endorses the song with a double. It sounds good, so who cares if its pretentious.

"Aa Zara", however, is Sun Re's piece de resistance and should easily make it to the number one spot. The song, with its pace and mood, is simply brilliant. At this point one just can't help notice that other than "Aa Zara" and "Sanvaria", the only songs which have high impact are those which have been released as creatively shot videos over the past few months. When a musician puts out a video that may be more appreciated than the music it is made to, he steps into risky territory and that is what Abbas Ali Khan has done but much to his luck, the strategy works in his favour.

That is probably because he knows how to sing. Indeed, the person he thanks the most on his album is his guru, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, the great kheyal gaiki stalwart. Couple that classical training with using the production talents of Sarmad Ghafoor and Abbas has come up with a winner. Produced wholly and solely in Islamabad, "Sun Re" speaks volumes about the burgeoning popular music scene in capital. It's selling like hot cakes in the market, making Abbas Ali Khan a force to reckon with in the future. If he makes videos for "Aa Zara" and "Sanvaria", he might just become numero uno overnight.

Aamna Haider Isani
The News International, Pakistan