Monthly Archives: November 2006

Guru – Music Review

In this post, I attempt a music review.

Guru. Music: A.R. Rahman Direction: Mani Ratnam


Undoubtedly, the most interesting thing about this album is the ‘Dum dara Dum dara’ refrain that is used in two songs – Tere Bin, and Aye Hairathe Aashiqui. Seems like a hat being tipped to the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s sufi Dum Mast Qalandar (Rahman dedicates Tere Bin to his association with the Pakistani maestro over a decade).

First, let’s get the mediocrity out of the way – namely, Baazi Laga, and Ek lo ek muft. I will not talk about these two songs. Even to my untrained musical ear they appear to be the kind of numbers that would befit a film like Gadar.

Aye Hairathe: What makes the album worth its price (or the download time from a torrent site) is Aye Hairathe, a duet that begins rather innocuously with the Dum dara refrain from Tere Bin (which had me promptly salivating in a Pavlovian manner), and suddenly transmogrifies into a michievous, intoxicated, poetic piece of art. The gentle interplay between the tabla and Hariharan’s lines make for many aurally delicious moments. For those who still pay attention to the lyrics in these days of ‘Where’s the party tonight’, the song is a real treat. Full marks to Gulzar, who can now be forgiven for rhyming shayari with diary in Jaan-e-mann.

Tere Bina: While A.R. Rahman’s Urdu pronounciation/diction leaves a lot to be desired, there is something about that voice that seems to be directly linked to the divine. I suspect Rahman selfishly sings his love songs to God, and not necessarily in the context of the film!

Apart from these songs, there is the mandatory ‘opera like’ international sounding song (Mayya), which did nothing for me. In the ‘my experimental songs’ section of the album, we have Jaage Hain, which has all the potential of growing on you after repeated hearings, but certainly not the first few ones. Overall, the album would get a 3 on 5 at the moment (occassional moments of brilliance interspersed with mediocrity). Seeing the songs in the film’s context may improve that score!

Thus ends my attempted review.

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Live search

Though I’m an avid user of Google’s portfolio of web-based products, I’m always on the lookout for non-Google applications that can give the search giant from Mountain View a run for it’s money. Live search from Microsoft seems to be a step in that direction.

The interface is simple, the search results are visually elegant, the quality of results are good, and it opens up pretty fast too.

Try Live Search

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Worldspace, are you listening?

I have been watching Worldspace’s brand building initiatives over the last few months with some interest. First was the tie up with A.R. Rahman as brand ambassador. That was a fantastic move. Clearly Worldspace and A.R. Rahman are two brands that have a number of common characteristics – music, innovation, generation next, international etc. The tag line – ‘There’s so much to hear.’ – also hit a home run. I expect that things should be finally looking up for Worldspace as a brand. It has probably finally made a move from the ‘Awareness’ stage to the ‘Consideration Set’ stage. However, there are some sore points that remain.


Product Placement in Lage Raho Munnabhai
This was a great move. Good product placements are inevitably those that are tied in closely to the film’s script, unlike those that are in your face for no reason (Eg. Elf in Viruddh). The Worldspace guys got that much right. However, they showed actors in the movie listening to Worldspace ‘on the move’, in taxis, using receivers worn around the neck(!) etc. Of course, all this is not possible with a real Worldspace receiver, which needs to be stationary and aligned in a certain direction at all times. In my view this is a serious mistake. One of the biggest negative points about the product is that it is not portable. Now, covering up this exact point is not going to help. You don’t want customers landing up at the retail shop, armed with their credit cards and then discovering this critical piece of information.

Subscription Fees
The second problem with Worldspace is the fact that it charges a subscription fees. I expect this to be the biggest roadblock in the way for success. When all other competing music offerings in the market – FM radio, AM radio, MP3 music(!), MTV – are free, why would a customer want to pay an annual fee to listen to music on a Worldspace. MP3 music is of a comparable quality as Worldspace, and happens to be portable too, in addition to being free. If ICICI bank suddenly comes up with a paid credit card in this era of free cards, I would consider it only if it had a USP that no other alternative provides. Worldspace has no such USP (digital quality music? that’s a commodity. 40 channels? Maybe. Niche channels? Yes, but I can get the same music on mp3, I-tunes, Yahoo Launch Cast… ). With this being the case there is no choice but to be free. There are other ways to bring in revenue, such as advertising, up-selling receivers to existing customers etc.

The Iridium Story
Many years back, Motorola launched Iridium, which was supposed to be this satellite phone that you could use anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the cellular phone wave killed it (of course there were other factors too). I suspect that Worldspace too may be the wrong technology coming into the market at the wrong time. Gone are the days when customers would be in awe of ‘digital cd-quality music’.

The music devotee
So, could it be that Worldspace does not care about common customers like you and me? Are they going for a very niche target group that has specialized tastes in music, and would be willing to pay for it? If that were the case, why are they going for mass market promotions like the Lage Raho Munnabhai example? Niche brands are successful when they stand for only one thing to one group of customers, not when they stand for everything under the sun. If you want to stand for everything, be a mass market brand.

What I would do
If I were the marketing manager at Worldspace, I would firstly scrap the subscription fees. It is a major nuisance factor, and a mental roadblock for any customer to seriously consider the product. Secondly, I would storm the market with receivers (probably priced a little more than what they are priced right now, so that the subcription fee can be recovered) and ensure that there is a big base of users in the first place. Once a critical mass of users is in place, I would then considering selling ‘add-on’ niche channels at a price. Alternatively, I would launch a plain vanilla free suite of channels, and let users add on a bouquet of other channels. It is important that the customer experience the product in the basic form first, before you do an up-sell. Worldspace seems to be entering the market directly with an up-sell (offering all channels to all people at fixed, and exorbitant subscription fee).

Yes, there’s so much to hear. Worldspace, are you listening?

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Summer Placements @ XLRI Jamshedpur

Great show!

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Fully loaded

purnam adah purnam idam
purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya
purnam evavashishyate

That is full. This is full.
From the full, arises the full.
Take the full from the full,
the full alone remains.

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Mullah Nasiruddin

There is a Sufi story about Mullah Nasiruddin, who was once asked by someone – ‘You claim that you can see in the dark. If that is so, why do I see you walk around with a candle in your hand?’. The Mullah replied – ‘ I do that so that other people who cannot see don’t bump into me.’

Think about it.

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Kala Desh Ki Seva Mein

The Prithvi Festival’s tagline this year is – Kala Desh Ki Seva Mein [Art in the service of the nation]. It’s quite an interesting tagline. How can art serve the nation?

– I suppose art holds a mirror to society, and often tells us what we have become – sometimes criticising, and sometimes celebrating humanity.
– Art helps us reflect on, and influence our responses to the world we live in.
– I suppose art does provide employment too (though I doubt that that is the import of the tagline)
– Art certainly helps unite cultures, and helps us understand each other. We live in a world that is fragmented more than ever before by religion, terrorism, and war. Art is the underlying common thread across civilizations that helps us appreciate a ghazal, a classical raga, and hip hop at the same time.
– Art speaks an honest voice, uncluttered by rhetoric, political correctness, and cheap tittilation.
– Art helps us get away from our constructed urban realities, from the mundaneness of making a living, and gets us closer to humanity – ourselves.

I guess it was a good tagline to pick after all!

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