There’s something about Garaj

They’ve been around for a while now, performing locally and even internationally at the Royal Albert Hall as a part of the Earthquake Relief Fund. And after travelling here and there, performing all along the way, they’ve finally released their first self-titled album.

Karam Abbas Khan (lead vocalist) and Imran Ahmed (guitarist) are the two musicians that make Garaj. Karam hails from a family of musicians from the Gawalior Gharana and is the son of the Late Ustaad Ahmad Ali Khan. Whilst Imran handles the rest of the sound, i.e., guitars and such.

The first thing you ask yourself after hearing this album is: What is their sound? Quite frankly, it’s difficult to pin them down, primarily because they’re a fusion act that plays classical, rock, funk, hip-hop and even a hint of trance/electronic. Obviously, when they’re juggling so many genres there are bound to be some casualties.

The album starts to suffer with its first two tracks, Dil Muchlay and Dil Naal Dil. Granted, Karam’s singing is almost hypnotic but it soon becomes annoying and you find yourself reaching to switch to the next track and then again to the third track. Here’s where things get slightly interesting.

Aja Mahi is the song that almost could. We hear the true potential of Karam’s vocal prowess and Imran’s minimalist guitar carries the song through. But what stops this song from becoming possibly the best track on the album is overkill on part of production: a case of too many effects spoiling the track.

Tujh Bin Ghar is the most mediocre track on the album. It sounds like so many other tracks from so many other bands and is clearly the filler piece of the album. Tum Bin Lagay Nahi suffers from weak and almost mouldy lyrics. Mouldy because they are like spoiled cheese but its strength comes from very a very basic sound, something this band should do more often rather than relying on effects and production overkill.

Tum Bin Ik Pal Chain sounds more like an arcade game soundtrack than a proper musical piece. Clearly no serious effort has been put in to fine tune and hone this track. Ajana Morey takes things to an almost retro type beat and although while it’s catchy, it suffers from the same directionless sound heard before on this album.

Jis Din Na Milo Gi and Tanha, Tanha are the purest tracks here. Unadulterated from excessive effects and beats, the almost ghazal-like sound soothes the mood of the listener.

At the end, there’s definitely something about Garaj. But clearly the debut album suffers from lack of direction and excessive production to the tracks. Think the perfect donut but with too much sugar. With proper guidance and fine tuning this album (and this band) could take on the likes of Fuzon or even Jal for that matter. One can only imagine what this album would have sounded like if someone like say Mekaal Hasan had produced it.

As a new band breaking on to the scene, Garaj has to be lauded for talent if not the effort. Ultimately though, it is the fans that will have the final word on Garaj: Will they strike a chord with the masses or wash out like the proverbial baras?

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