Day 10: Sajna Sajna Kya Kiya?
(You guys have probably read this one already, but keep scrolling down for Day 9...i promise the confusion ends here!!)
A Sunday morning shift is never easy, it was extremely hard to motivate myself to get out of bed at 8:30 a..m, pick up Yasir and OK and drive over to the studio, but the spirit of rock’n’roll kept me going (insert devil horns here). So I called up Omar to wake him up, and I was shocked at how sprightly he sounded. I never thought OK was a morning person. So I verbally abused him. Then I called Yasir, who sounded just as cheery. He too, suffered copious abuse.
Picking up OK was the funniest thing, as we approached his house, we saw a tall figure with a full grown beard, tousled bed hair and brown shades, effortlessly dragging on a hapless cigarette. OK’s effortless cool was a sight to behold at 9 in the morning. I think he’s the only real rock star in the band sometimes. But then I decided he was too much of a mela.
Further drama ensued when Raza, our engineer was nowhere to be seen and the studio was locked. Frantic calls to Lodhi were made, who had to be roused from his mellow yellow state (cruel joke I know….) and establish contact with Raza who answered the phone in his customary dignified "Huylyoo?" Laughing and abusing ensued and he said he would be over in 5 mins, which was eventually half an hour. So we sat in my car listening to the radio debating on why Yasir was such an assbucket and what makes quality porn.
The song I was going to attempt to sing today was "Sajna". Now, although I had written it, I wasn’t too fond of this song. It was one of the first songs I had written in Urdu and I thought it was a little immature. But it turned into an interesting little ditty through our recording process and now it was up to me to breathe life into my crapass lyrics. Yasir was the most profoundly affected by the lyrics and despite me administering several stick beatings, he was adamant that we should change them. I grudgingly agreed to change one line.
To be honest, it was a line I was always going to change it but I never got around to it. It goes like
"sajna sajna kya kiya, dil ko kyun barbaad kiya, idhar sey aa key udhar sey jaa key, tera hi intezar kiya".
Crap, I know. What I do sometimes is insert dummy lyrics in songs so that I at least have a tune to sing, then I usually replace them with something a little more poetic. Hence the "idhar sey aa kay" just ended up being one of those things we overlooked, but soon became the object of much ridicule amongst my family/friends. A jirga was assembled as we maniacally tried to fashion one line between the four of us. Missing Lodhi terribly, we called him up, but instead he said, "You choo*****, stop using studio time to write f****** lyrics". He made an eloquent point.
Anyway, getting the lyrics right, I started to do my first couple of takes with singing. This early in the morning my voice sounded uncontrollably bad. I could see Yasir and OK wincing through the booth window as I tried to hit any high/sustained notes. I sounded raspy and quivering, like a cigar smoking rabbit. I prayed that this would sort itself out after a couple of takes. But I was shocked at how horribly out of key I was singing.
Gradually, I became a little more confident and Raza started to record me, verse by verse. But I was still too forceful and high pitched. The guys decided I needed to be softer and sing more personally, ala. "make love to the mic". This was no easy task. You try to sex up a big black pole with wires. (well actually, some of you might be into that kind of stuff...)
I could feel my temper rising up the back of my neck as I failed take after take. I kept receiving instruction from the guys and Raza. Either my tempo was off, or my key was varying, but most of all I didn’t have the right "feel’. Finally OK closed all the lights in the studio to put me in "sexy performance mood". He encouraged me to make hand gestures. I felt silly but I agreed. So there I was in pitch darkness flailing my arms around in the vocal booth trying to remember where the bloody mic was positioned. I remember thinking "So this is what Stevie Wonder feels like".
Raza drove me into the ground once again. I was getting more and more frustrated as each take seemed to be worse than the other one. Yasir kept telling me to sing like I did on "Nazar", but I just couldn’t channel the same emotion. But the boys stuck to it, and kept encouraging me and bit by bit, we got through he whole song. I was relieved and expected some joy from Raza. But all he said was "okay take". I was like "okay take?! That was f***** brilliant!!" I later realized that this was the highest compliment Raza would give anyone.
Yasir and OK were chomping at the bit, desperate to get involved so I thought that we should have a little fun with backing vocals. I worked out a three-part harmony for the outro of Sajna and I had barely finished explaining it to them when they both rushed into the vocal booth like pixies on crack. An amused Raza said that it would probably be better if we did them one at a time because they were at different heights.
Omar went first to record his bit. A lot of people don’t know that Omar has a surprisingly pleasant and melodic voice. He sang the part perfectly and got it one take, but what I loved about it was that he changed the tone ever so slightly from what I told him and it sounded so much better. You can hear him chanting "Aaa bhi jaa, aa bhi jaa" towards the end of the song.
Yasir was a little more difficult. Yasir too has a pleasant voice, but his singing voice is a little high pitched, so it tends to cut through the mix and it’s a little tricky to work him into a harmony part. I was missing Lodhi, who is so much better at organizing harmonies. But with a little bit of echo to round off the sharp pitches, Yasir managed to a breathy chant in the middle of the verse.
I was really happy hearing the whole the thing. He got it exactly how I imagined, I was proud of the little guy.
Backing vocals really do add a new flavor to the song and we were so happy, we managed to work it into "Nazar" as well. It was slightly harder because the song is so sparse, the melodies have to be very precise otherwise they start clashing.
A gruelling days work, but as usual we ended it by listening to our completed mix of Sultanat. It is a great feeling just listening to this wonderful thing we’ve created.
"Where are we going boys? To the toppermost of the poppermost! "– John Lennon
Labels: Studio Sessions