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Premiere: Watch Sameer Rahat Introspect in Varanasi for ‘Jo Bhi Hai’ Music Video

The Mumbai composer and producer’s just-released debut solo album ‘Aamad’ opens with the spoken word track

Anurag Tagat Apr 10, 2020

Mumbai-based artist Sameer Rahat. Photo: Tanmay Saxena

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After a solid year of touring and performing at intimate venues across the country, Mumbai poet, composer and producer Sameer Rahat knew that his debut album Aamad would concern itself with a prominent mood. “It’s given me the push to include songs like ‘Hum Kaun Thae,’ which is seven minutes long. The shows changed my perception of people just wanting to consume fast, three-minute songs,” he says.

The frontman of Urdu prog band Joshish has also been performing more blues rock material at other gigs, but Aamad is personal to the point that it’s vulnerable. Through the course of seven tracks – some of which are subtly arranged but also vehicles for his spoken word pieces – Rahat traverses different feelings following the end of a “profound relationship.” He adds, “The album is about how melody and melancholy is attached to certain places or people, they’ll come back to you and you’re not in control of that.” Songs like “Khat” and “Tasalli” convey painful realizations, while his adaptation of poet Jaun Elia’s “Hum Kaun Thae” is ornate in its use of horns. The stirring orchestral arrangements and sound design on “Chehre Gehre” and “Uss Paar” (featuring singer Rashmeet Kaur) all make Aamad a made-for-headphones listening experience, the flourishes seemingly evoking poignant singer-songwriters such as Nick Cave and more.

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Rahat, however, notes that one of his influences to make a record like Aamad was Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice’s 2014 album My Favourite Faded Fantasy. “I was lucky enough to see Damien Rice last year and he was a huge impact in terms of recording. It gave me the courage to make longer songs and know that it’s okay to divert, like I’ve done on ‘Hum Kaun Thae’ and there’s a lot of sound design for people to let sink in that they’re hearing this poetry.” The two spoken word pieces on the album include “Khuda Hai Kya,” in which he rationalizes and “Jo Bhi Hai,” the opening track which now has a video. Directed by Tanmay Saxena, the layered visuals takes us to a wistful Rahat on the Ganga river in Varanasi, followed by shots of him wandering vast expanses at dawn, showing a hint of appreciation towards the end in his body language, perhaps signaling the way forward.

While’s he composed music for film, ads and short-films, Aamad (first released via the New Artist Spotlight on Apple Music) creates a sonic imprint for Rahat, much like Joshish did with their album Ird-Gird in 2017. Working with an eight member choir and including a 16-piece horn section, the artist also enlisted production help from guitarist Mir Kashif Iqbal (from Bengaluru-based rock band Parvaaz, whose latest record Kun also features arrangements from Rahat). “All the lead guitars are played by him, all these melancholic guitars. You can imagine the songs I live with for 10 years, there’s no perspective from me left. So it was great to have him on board,” Rahat says with a laugh.

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While the tour plans have been cut short due to the global pandemic and national lockdown in India, Rahat has been doing a few virtual gigs. It might work to his advantage, considering the nature of Aamad. “After people have heard it in a quiet manner [at shows], they can go back, having had that intimate listening experience. That’s the idea.”

Watch the video for “Jo Bhi Hai” below. Stream the album on Apple Music and Spotify.

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