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album profile
Maa'ma Dey is alive, with the sound of music
Rahim Shah's ninth album has a few misses, but mostly what could be the makings
of hits. Maa'ma Dey marches to its own dhol, harmonium and shehnai

By Amina Baig


Album: Maa'ma Dey***1/2
Artist: Rahim Shah

"To be absolutely honest; I have always been partial to Rahim Shah, from the time he sang the beseeching ÔGhumÕ in 2001 to the last video of his I saw on TV: the catchy pop ditty ÔKhanum RangiÕ. Rahim Shah does not go overboard experimenting with his music; be it the genre or the message he tries to put across to his listeners. But the steadiness with which he has been building his music towards commercial viability is sincere; and that is what is so appealing about both this artist and his work. Rahim ShahÕs latest album MaaÕma DeyÉ (which if I am counting correctly is his ninth) features songs in both Pashto and Urdu, a break from the neatness with which he split his previous eight albums into four Urdu and four Pashto albums. MaaÕma Dey plays not just with the idea of mixing a few languages into one mix, but also the different musical styles Rahim ShahÕs official website (www.rahimshah.com) says he is most interested in: film, folk and pop.
However partial, it is with some misgivings that I dive into ShahÕs newest baby, MaaÕma Dey. The one thing I must say right off the bat is this: I listened to 11 of the 13 tracks on this album in one easy sitting. Without being disturbed by the kind of music one might find too horrible to bear, or uncomfortable to the ear, MaaÕma Dey is easy-listening music through and through. The kind you can drive to without getting too distracted by or surf the net while it plays in the background. Kind of like Kid Cudi singing various mixes of ÔDay And NightÕ at you through your radio Ð only in Urdu, Punjabi and Pashto. The title track of the album has to be the most pleasing one in my opinion. ÔMaaÕma DeyÕ, the song had me at ÒAssalamualekum.Ó It opens with some unintelligible rap in English and Rahim ShahÕs voice, as he greets his listeners with a heart-warming ÒRahim Shah da Karachai na.Ó This is layered over with the sound of light applause, as if people in the studio with this Pathan pop sensation couldnÕt help but be bowled over by the musical marvel unfolding before them. Pretty soon the claps become part of the dhol and harmonium that dominate the arrangement of ÔMaaÕma DeyÕ. The song itself is about a maama (maternal uncle) getting married and his nephews wishing him health, wealth and happiness. And though I am not familiar with the Pashto language at all and in fact had to convince the only Pashto-speaking man I know to even understand the little bit I could - I hold my first opinion of ÔMaaÕma DeyÕ as the truest one; it is a song that will engage you with its tune, which belongs to the family of music you hear at mehndis and just cannot shake out of your system for a while. Which is exactly why the sultry sounds of a heavy orchestra in the next track ÔBoondhÕ seem oppressive. Even the opening words ÒMit gaye hum, sar-e-bazaar mein/ Lut gaye hum, sar-e-bazaar mein,Ó carry strains of serious heartache within them. Though very much in the vein of ÔGhumÕ, somehow ÔBoondhÕ doesnÕt strike that certain chord, the one that makes you like songs, regardless of their critical worth. At least not with myself, ÒMein boondh boondh hua aise hi jalne ko/ Taras raha tha mein tu tum se hi milney ko,Ó might be more someone elseÕs cup of tea perhaps. The whole composition is very dramatic though; very filmi, if I may. And I canÕt help but think that with a better producer, Rahim Shah can completely harness and tame this flair for passionate ballads that he seems to have and is keen on.
Next up is ÔOrh Dey.Õ It has this very techno, very confused sound to it. The kind you associate with disco lights on wagons, which were a dying breed of public transport in the Ô80s. ÔOrh,Õ in Pashto means fire, and Rahim Shah is singing about being surrounded by flames. The song is rather in the same category as ÔBoondh,Õ though with a more dizzying beat.
ÔAansooÕ is a complete 180 from ÔOrh DeyÕ. Although by now I think I am on the road to understanding Rahim ShahÕs aspirations as a singer a little more. He loves the folksy stuff, but I think he believes his true future lies in playback singing. ÔAansooÕ opens with an unidentified woman humming along to soft piano. The song is a sad one. ÒAansoowon se mere dil ko kyun bhar dia?/ Mera sub jal gaya/ Tu ne kya kar diya,Ó laments Rahim Shah, as the lady I wish he had named on his album credits hums away a little shrilly in the background. ÔAansooÕ takes me way back into the Ô90s Ð Bollywood in the early Ô90s to be precise. Remember all those films where Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik would be surprise guests at a party who would sing a duet? And all the while that they would sing, the hero would stare morosely at the heroine, who was with the guy we know she should so not end up with. The point being, Rahim Shah probably grew up watching a lot of those films, and one cannot say the practice was one that went to waste.
ÔChanna Ve ChannaÕ sounds irritatingly familiar. So of course I Youtube it right away. Yep, there it is, in its Pakistani Pop and Bollywood avatar. Both videos make me half-cry/ half-laugh. The Bollywood version has a pork-bellied Jimmy Shergill lounging about on a chaise in the ocean while some dusky lady dances around him. The local version is the one that had me completely flummoxed in the year Ô07, when I saw Aaminah Haq preen away as a photographerÕs heartÕs desire in the video. I am sad to report that the new album version cannot hold a remixed candle to the solid beats of the ÔChannaÕ of yore.
ÔJanjhÕ is a Punjabi number, alive with the sound of shehnai, which one supposes is befitting as Rahim Shah is singing about a baraat (wedding party). The music veers between an Arabic sounding harmonica, piercing shehnai, what sounds like a single appearance of electric guitar, and once again, rap. Why Rahim Shah? You have a lovely voice and your music might not be to a lot of peopleÕs taste, but to your fans, you are the best thing since compact discs. I donÕt think you need to rely on gimmicky English bits to make your songs more popular. The rap trend continues in ÔJiya JiyaÕ; a pleasant enough romantic tune, upbeat but interspersed with a woman singing in English, some Hindi pop style English rap and a voice that sounds like Amitabh Bachchan talking through the song.
MaaÕma Dey springs with an enthusiastic bang but ends slightly half-heartedly. Rahim Shah gets a bit preachy on ÔHum Aik HainÕ, which begins with verses from IqbalÕs poem ÔLab pe aati haiÕ. Then it sort of goes into the question ÒKya hum aik hain?Ó If it sounded like Rahim Shah was ÔfeelingÕ the song as much as one would say he was ÔMaaÕma DeyÕ or even ÔJiya JiyaÕ, it might have been a success; but ÔHum Aik HainÕ is a little flat. ÔTanhaiÕ, the last track on the album is in the tradition of ÔGhumÕ, a heartbroken, pleading sort of song.
Which brings me to the best bit ÔGhumÕ is reworked and re-sung in intermittent Pashto and Urdu and while the result isnÕt the raw emotion of the original; its nice to hear it nonetheless. Maybe just once. MaaÕma Dey... is kind of heavy on the whole techno thing. Rahim Shah clearly loves what he does and perhaps should opt for someone a little more music savvy to produce his next album. Perhaps someone like Rohail Hyatt, who lent Rahat Fateh Ali KhanÕs, tunes in Charkha delicate layer upon layer of sound. An effect that most brought out RFAKÕs strong vocals and mostly folk compositions, without making either sound cheesy or compromised.
Rahim Shah has always been a singer who entertains and while many might shy away from MaaÕma Dey... for those of you who claim to have an Ôeclectic tasteÕ in music, MaaÕma Dey... might be the perfect local gem to add to your dossier of diversity.

*****Get it NOW!
****Just get it
***Maybe maybe not
**Just download the best song
*Forget that this was made