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Music Review - 'Zindagi' By Local Band Athmaya

Chitra Parayath

(This article is sponsored by Sounds of India)

Spanning various genres, the album Zindagi by Athmaya, as the title suggests, is about life. Ebullient at times, subdued at others, the collection is a promising debut by a group of area artists. You might even catch yourself humming some of the tracks while the others may evoke quiet contemplation. Your reviewer was smitten at first listen, and feels compelled to spread the word about this sweet, multilayered album.

Overall, Zindagi sports some impressive musicianship. Christy Mathew, possessor of considerable musical talent composed and produced the tracks, while the Hindi songs are written by main vocalist Meena Sundaram, a cardiologist by day and crooner for leisure. Jason Joseph shares the credit for the English songs in the album. Mathew and Joseph, both from the Berkelee College of Music display finesse and Ms. Sundaram impresses with considerable vocal range and precision.

For music lovers, a wee bit tired of the Indie pop-fusion genre, this collection will come as a breath of fresh air. Its lilting melodies manage to avoid the more cliched East West fusion sounds. A self-professed follower of AR Rahman's musical legacy and style, Christy Mathews pulls of some great feats here, eminently evident in song no.7, 'Hosh Kahan'. A jazzy number with new-age overtones, it captures the mood of a young girl's dilemma, "should I secure myself in your embrace or fly away to freedom?"

The opening track 'Zindagi ko Jeele', is frothy and light, where Meena invites all to live life to the fullest, suggesting reckless abandonment. Jason's lyrics in English add to the easy charm of this lighthearted, multi-lingual masala, and Harshal Tole's Tabla is playfully pleasing. 'Husn mera' has a retro feel to it, and I'm not too surprised to learn that it is a tribute to the beloved Bollywood actress of yore, Helen. Using her voice to dip, drop and rise with the rhythm, Meena produces a seductive campy song that evokes memories of everybody's favorite Hindi movie 'cabaret girl'.

'Baanvari Pawan', a ballad of anticipation and requited love between a young desi girl and her American sounding lover, fuses folk, pop and rap. Jason's rendering of the rap verses is fresh and inspired. 'Garje Barse', easily the best track in the album, is a direct adaptation of the Indian classical raag Patdip. Meena Sundaram credits her music guru, Mr. Warren Senders with the inspiration for this song. The ubiquitous monsoon song (almost every Indian Pop album has one) has a young girl beckoning her lover to her side.

'Millenium Woman' is another great success in the collection. A song glorifying women without being obviously didactic (and putting off many listeners) is sung with restraint. The lyrics are poignant, certain to remain in minds well after the album has played out. One only wishes there was more of dreamy Muriz Rose on the sax. Meena dedicates this song to a girlfriend who survived a broken relationship.

'Dilbar Jaaniya', a frothy bouncy song,sports and out and out disco beat which will play well in dance studios and clubs. 'Nayi Asha', meaning 'New Hope', the last song in the album is a cover of Meena and Jason's earlier rendering of the song for students of the Berkelee College.

Harshal Tole at the Tabla, Christy Mathew and Juan Camaranno at the guitar, and Muriz Rose at the Saxophone and Flute complement the core ensemble. This reviewer looks forward to hearing more from this talented group.

To sample Zindagi and to buy the album, please visit http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/athmaya

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