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About 'The Lost Souls'
Catalogue Number: BUZZCD02 LP Release Date: 03/2009
“The Lost Souls has a point to make: the role of the heart over the mind; the plight of the dispossessed in a world beset by religious and intellectual divisions. As the translation of A Thousand Books says, ”You study the words of a thousand books, but never did you study yourself” (BBC Music review)
In his own words Niraj describes how the emotional inspiration for The Lost Souls came from a pretty dark, uncertain place:
“The feeling behind the songs came from my own realisation that it is totally necessary to live in the moment. Politics, religion, science, none of these things provide certainty for me any more. I don’t know whether that’s a reflection of our own times or just a place I’ve reached philosophically – it’s a bittersweet feeling.”
From truth comes beauty – In turning to his music to provide answers, even if only temporary ones, to the big questions that affect all of us concerned about the world we live in today, Niraj has created that rare thing: art that turns loneliness into luminosity, that acknowledges the need for us to surrender to inevitable fate, but also celebrate it.
Is this album for you? If you’re looking for experimentation, for melodies that scratch that itch you never knew you had, you’ll find it here in the sweeping orchestral tones of Yaa Wafaa, the breathy, sensual twists of Trace, in the middle-eastern opera that is A Thousand Books. I suspect that for many more of you it’s the pureness and richness of sound that will draw you to this album and provide the most reasons to play it again and again. With tracks like It’s Life, Baavaria, Saawan, and with the final track Surrender there’s a sweetness of sound that feels like being welcomed home after years spent abroad. To that extent the album picks up where Along the Dusty Road left off and those of you who loved that album will find this one just as soulful, just as uplifting and perhaps just a little bit older and wiser in tone.
I wish I could talk more about my personal highlights – Japjit Kaur’s voice, the use of thumri, kavit and kathak, the production on my personal favourite track Mori Atariya and much more: but as I think Niraj would say, life’s too short for just talk, talk talk. Especially when you could be listening instead!
Rishi (Buzz-erk Records)
When will I be mature enough to live with uncertainty. I want to be free, free from fear, free from myself. Maybe it all starts with the awareness that I really know nothing?
Uncertainty is a good thing – Uncertainty is life. I don’t know if I will be able to pay my rent next month, or if I will be on the streets. I don’t know if I will ever realise my dreams. I don’t know if there is a purpose to life or if there is anything beyond it. But it doesn’t matter because for whatever reason I am living and more so because of uncertainty… I have this moment and that is all I have… I am a lost soul… This album is dedicated to all the other lost souls.
Stories Behind The Songs
01It’s Life Originally recorded for rafta rafta at the royal national theatre. This track features vocals by Japjit Kaur and tabla by Manjeet Rasiya. A bittersweet composition inspired by Rajasthani melody and sufi emotion.
02 Ur Jaa Meaning ‘fly away’. A song about loss and letting go. The arrangement took a long time as this is a very personal song and it had to be right. It was written with just piano and voice and then I built layers around that.
03 Mori Atariya Featuring the immense voice of Sveta Hattangdi and written by the late Dr Aneeta Sen. There is a saying in Indian culture that when a crow sings near your house it is a sign of good fortune. This song about separation plays on this idea.
04 Vaani This experimental piece brings together kathak bols (spoken dance phrases sung here by Gauri Sharma Tripathi), tribal African vocals and a very old form of Indian storytelling called kavit.
05 Baavaria There are only 4 instruments in this track – guitar, pizzicato violins, a solo violin and double bass. Though musically I wanted to keep this piece minimal I recorded over 50 vocal layers. I really wanted this piece to be about beautifully layered vocal parts.
06 Trace This is a track featuring the sultry voice of Melissa Baten as well as vocal alaaps (ad libs) by Faheem Mazhar. I wanted to create an atmospheric piece layering sargam vocals but in a sensual way.
07 Sapano Se Pucho The literal translation of this song is ‘ask your dreams’. Its a song about asking the right questions and to get to know who you are . I worked with Japjit Kaur and Melissa Baten on lyrics and top line. It was quite a complicated process getting the melody to work exactly as I wanted it to. We got there in the end.
08 The Sin Eater Featuring flute by Sudhir Khadekar. I wanted to explore this haunting Indian melody. This track is all about textures – from subliminal breathing sounds to ambient electronica. Its like a yogic trance.
09 A Thousand Books I came across some Punjabi poetry by the great 17th century Sufi poet Bulleh Shah and was really moved. I then started experimenting with opera vocals and playing with this juxtaposition. From this A Thousand Books was born.
10 Saawan I originally worked on this piece for a dance show called Awaz by Akadami. I was completely blown away with Geetika Varde’s voice and re-worked this piece for the album. Its in a 7 beat cycle which is such a beautiful time cycle and not used enough in modern music.
11 Yaa Wafaa I have been composing a lot of orchestral music for TV over the last few years and I really wanted to represent this on the album. Yaa Wafaa (meaning loyalty) brings together Faheem Mazhar’s epic elastic voice with a big orchestral sound. This piece is all about passion.
12 Ur Jaa (beats mix) I really wanted another mix of Ur Jaa on the album. So I reworked it with more of a rhythm section. The chorus is bigger on this mix but I wanted to keep the dynamics of the track so the verses are left quite sparse.
13 Surrender Keeping with the orchestral theme the album ends with this piece. Its a composition about surrendering – sometimes letting go of your attachments and expectations is the only way to be free. Only then can one move forward.
Tracklist / Credits
1. It’s life * Vocals – japjit kaur, Tabla – manjeet rasiya
2. Ur jaa Vocals – japjit kaur
3. Mori atariya Vocals – sveta hattangdi, Lyrics – late dr. Aneeta sen
4. Vaani Vocals – gauri sharma tripathi
5. Baavaria Vocals – japjit kaur
6. Trace Vocals – melissa baten, Vocal alaaps – faheem mazhar
7. Sapano se pucho Vocals – japjit kaur
8. The sin eater Flute – sudhir khadekar
9. A thousand books Vocals – japjit kaur
10. Saawan** Vocals – geetika varde
11. Yaa wafaa Vocals – faheem mazhar
12. Ur jaa (beats mix) Vocals – japjit kaur
13. Surrender Vocals – melissa baten
* Thanks to the royal national theatre
** Thanks to akademi
Lyric Translations Of The Songs
Thorn-like tears bring you pain
As they pour from your eyes
The images of an innocent face
Linger deep down, somewhere inside
Within, you surely heard the echoes of the enchanted voice
It was wrapped around the fierce winds
And to a smiling, blissful, angelic flower you spoke
Beyond the mountains
Just beneath the heavens
Let the sky cradle you
Enter a world of happiness
Fly away o fly away
With coloured stones you mask your heart
From the pain of our separation
With wavering strides you stumble
Removed and far away, tortured in your memories
Held captive by the words you gave me
Once in absolute release to life
I have seen that we were never apart
This i had to tell you
I am here
Beyond the mountains
I am here
Underneath the skies
I am here
In a world of joy
I am here
I am here
I am here!
Sapano se pucho
It passes so quickly this cycle of life
Close your eyes for a second and an eternity has passed
How strange this is, nothing can stop its tide
All efforts would be fruitless
Now question those dreams
Ask them which is real
And your memories why they exist
Enquire of sorrow how it feels to be wrapped in bliss
And the architect of life
What creation truly is?
What is this affection?
Where is this place called love?
Those that find it, how do they reach it?
Who gave assistance, grace and favour, who did all this?
Have you examined a segment of happiness?
As we exhale each breath is bound to a term
And gently coaxed we open our eyes
We observe the secret
Indeed you should ask sometime
We wait for tomorrow
Should it ever show?
What lies ahead – who really knows?
And time at its leisurely pace goes
Not confined or restricted
Uncertain of the moment
When the rope holding together each breath of life is rent
Enquire of the blind an illustration of light
And those whose steps falter the crutch that would keep them upright
Quiz the broken hearted concerning the medicine for its healing
And of the soul
It’s companion in being
A thousand books
You study the words of a thousand books,
But never did you study yourself
Again and again you journey to the temples and mosques,
Yet never a desire to unlock the doorway to your own heart
Every second is spent fighting the devil,
Yet your demons you avoid, why?
Sayeth Peer Bulleh Shah -
Stretching high to conquer the sky,
But yet to conquer the one who resides within.
Over the album’s thirteen tracks Niraj moves the major styles of South Asian music into new settings. Tackling the classical sargam style on Trace, he re-renders it into a breathy and sensual new language, while on Baavaria the loneliness of a Hindi song is accentuated by combining over fifty layers of vocals. Every song explores a new avenue as Niraj offers teasing glimpses of a world where folk and classical music are not curated, but instead set free to roam over a modern plateau.
In Niraj’s own words the inspiration behind the new songs comes from “my own realisation that it is totally necessary to live in the moment… politics, religion, science, none of these things provide certainty for me any more. I don’t know whether that’s a reflection of our own times or just a place I’ve reached philosophically… it’s a bittersweet feeling.”
Despite having such strong foundations in an emotional inspiration The Lost Souls will also be of interest to all those who appreciate the finer technical points of traditional and world music. European and African instruments are used subtly, and with his intense use of melody and layered rhythms Niraj consolidates his reputation as the most skillful and provocative contemporary Asian composer working in the UK today.
On creating the album, Niraj says: “I ended up working with five different vocalists and using music from five very different regions. Every musical style has a different way of expressing joy, regret or longing that I really needed to explore. For example, Ur Jaa is all about loss and letting go of that loss and this works really well in a conventional Hindi song structure but I found that I wanted to get more and more emotional intensity – I realised I could get this by adding a gospel element to it.”
Elsewhere the album contains elements of thumri, kavit and kathak as well as a work based on the poetry of 17th Century Sufi poet Bulleh Shah. The album is set to wow all the fans won over by Niraj’s 2006 single Kwhaab (described by DJ Nihal as “One of most soulful, sensual songs I have heard since joining Radio 1″) and yet also present a feast for the ears for all those who believe that classical and folk music, in all its forms, is constantly in evolution and never set in stone.