Where has singer Sona Mohapatra been all these days?
The web, that’s where. The Ambarsariya hit-maker earlier this year launched a new project, Lal Pari Mastani, along with her music composer-husband Ram Sampath. The four singles released online by the duo are further proof that Sampath and Mohapatra bring out the best in one another. Their collaborative power was first seen on the music show Coke Studio India, which ended in 2015 after four seasons.
Shaam Piya, the first single to be released from Lal Pari Mastani, gives a sombre fusion-rock twist to the popular Meera bhajan. The arrangement and production are reminiscent to Sampath’s compositions on Coke Studio India. The accompanying band includes top-shelf musicians: Talvin Singh on tabla and Sanjoy Das playing the guitar. A 360-degree panoramic music video, directed by Deepti Gupta, was released in April.
In interviews, Mohapatra has described Lal Pari Mastani as her alter-ego. The video of Shyaam Piya, featuring Mohapatra in a red ensemble, cements that image. Mohapatra told The Indian Express in March that the moniker was inspired by the story of woman who, clad in red, would sing in a dargah somewhere in Afghanistan despite a Taliban diktat banning music and ordering women to stay home and behind the veil.
“The picture was imprinted in my brain that there is a sea of black and here’s a force of nature who is standing up against everything, singing, dancing and saying music is not haraam,” Mohapatra told the publication.
The project’s second single, Tori Surat, based on Amir Khusro’s poem, is a sprightly number featuring guitar licks that bring to mind the work of U2’s lead guitarist, The Edge. The superb fusion-rock track from Sampath has a catchy hookline that ends in a ferocious crescendo where electric guitars, the tabla, and the drums are mashed together.
The third single is a revamped version of Sampath’s workmanlike rock song Anhad Naad, which first appeared on the fourth season of Coke Studio. Anhad Naad 2.0 is a superior recreation, trading the mismatched rock sound of the original for Rajasthani folk percussion. The song’s lyricist Munna Dhiman (U, Me Aur Hum, Delhi Belly), also deserves a shout-out and should grace Hindi films more often.
The fourth song, Ghane Badra, is what really shows the terrific range and musical finesse of Sampath. Loosely put, Ghane Badra comes in the chillwave genre, rarely explored in Indian films and frequently abused by dime-a-dozen pop artists who end up churning lazy lounge music in the name of electronica.
Released on July 31, Ghane Badra is a fine composition that slowly blooms in the head with ghostly synths, a mellow tempo, and Mohapatra’s characteristically fine singing. Dhiman’s simple lyrics, about losing your senses to a day of dense clouds, makes the track a perfect rainy-day song.
Mohapatra had said that the idea with Lal Pari Mastani is to release a song and a video every month till the end of the year. Four months in, we can expect more greatness from Sampath-Mohapatra, whose talent takes a life of its own outside Bollywood.