The Bengaluru-based album, Parvaaz is undoubtedly one of the most admired bands in the Indian rock circuit. Their songs use Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri poetry. While the sound has strong doses of progressive rock/ metal with shades of psychedelia and modern blues-rock.
The group’s latest album Kun comes five years after its last collection Baran. What immediately registers is the sheer quality of the compositions, as the set boasts of Mir Kashif Iqbal’s stunning guitar passages, innovative rhythm structures and smart time changes. Vocalist Khalid Ahamed has a distinct style and is aided by marvellously-textured back-ups.
The album has been woven beautifully and can be played on a loop. Yet, on very close listening, a few things become obvious. One is that Ahamed tends to get slippery while suddenly changing register. When he sings naturally, like on ‘Soye Ja’, ‘Katyi Rov’ and ‘Mastaan,’ he’s a delight. But when he tries too hard, like on parts of ‘Harf’, ‘Dasht-ba-Dasht’ and ‘Zindano’, there is that clear discomfort and unexpected jerkiness. And this is a trend one has noticed with many other Hindi-rock singers too. That complete roundness is missing.
Secondly, one must agree that the lyrics, which talk of the current situation and existential issues, have depth – the words used are very much from the Faiz Ahmed Faiz stylesheet. Yet, they also get too complex for the average rock listener. Check the opening lines of Harf, which go, Bewajaah zarf kyon, harf jo hai badshah; Bezubaan ki zabaan, pe haal-e-dil hai razdaan. Or the Mastaan words, Hai hukkam-e-awwal, shahid hai ek khuda; Waiz ka dushman na saki ka humnawa.Not something that many listeners may instantly relate to, the album is filled with such examples.
Finally, while Parvaaz has a sound and style of its own, the influences are pretty obvious. One may find many portions consciously or sub-consciously inspired by Pink Floyd, U2-esque guitars, Moody Blues back-up vocals, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Tool drumming and song-formatting, early Coldplay, Junoon and Strings.
Cynical as all this may sound, the bottom line is that this album rocks, and how. The compositions have been so brilliantly written, orchestrated and arranged that one can’t think of a flaw in those aspects. The soundscape of the introductory title track, Iqbal’s guitar solo on Shabaan, the build-up of Mushq-e-Gul, the tempo changes on Soye Ja, the beginning of Zindano, the intense orchestration and magnificent ending of the Kashmiri Katyi Rov, the overall smoothness of Mastaan, and the guitar-drum coordination on Dasht-ba-Dasht all act as lessons in songwriting.
One may feel the earlier album Baran, featuring the masterpiece Gul Gulshan, was more adventurous as it used the violin and saxophone on some tracks. In that sense, Kun has a more uniform structure and credit is also due to drummer Sachin Banandur and bassist Fidel
D’Souza. The entire production has class. Despite the vocal ups and downs, this is a splendid piece of work, fit for many repeated listens.