Category Archives: Music

Madonna Turns 60

Madonna broken

On August 16, 2018, Madonna turned sixty.

My first memory of Madonna was watching her “Like a Virgin” video when I was five years old. I remember my sisters performing dances to “Into The Groove” and “True Blue” in our living room. It was only after the “Like a Prayer” era, however, that her impact on me began.

I was one among many gay men who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s feeling like they inhabited a world of darkness. I was in high school in the mid-90s and I remember that it was a very lonely time. This was compounded by the Indian culture I grew up with at home, in which homosexuals weren’t even supposed to exist. There was no one out there saying it was okay to be gay – no one, on the scale of Madonna, that is.

Sexuality was never openly discussed at home, in school or even in public. So, Madonna became my secret teacher and mentor on the subject. Even before I had the courage to say who and what I was, she gave me the words. In her songs, videos, concerts and interviews, she unabashedly celebrated sexual diversity and exploring one’s sexuality.

One time, I remember watching the Girlie Show on Much Music in front of my dad and uncle. It was the part where “Justify My Love (The Beast Within Remix)” was playing. As Madonna recited from the Book of Revelation, two male dancers violently and passionately groped one another on stage. My uncle and dad watched with puzzled faces. I felt embarrassed but couldn’t change the channel. There, in our living room, Madonna was breaking boundaries.

Like many gay men, I had to conceal the truth of my sexuality for many years, at great personal cost. On this her 60th birthday, then, I want to say thank you to this remarkable woman, if for nothing else, then for recognizing that we exist, for making us visible and for not giving a fuck. Thank you, Madonna, for being the person I could always look to and remember myself.



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George Michael (1963-2016)


Written by Randeep Singh

This year saw the passing of music icons like David Bowie and Prince. But I was more affected yesterday when I heard about the passing of George Michael. David Bowie had hit his peak before my time and Prince wasn’t played as much in our house.

By the time I’d turned five, George Michael (as part of Wham!) was a pop sensation. Songs like “Last Christmas” or Band Aid’s “Feed the World” (to which he contributed) are some of the earliest I remember. My sister’s bedroom wall was plastered with Wham! posters and later, with a giant “Faith” poster when he went solo.

Musically, George Michael was the true King of Pop. His string of Wham! hits like “Wake Me Up…,” “Freedom,” and “I’m Your Man” remain irresistible. His ballads “Careless Whisper” and “One More Try” are as moving as his hits “Faith” and “Freedom 90” are funky and memorable.  

His music will be the true bearer of his legacy. George Michael may have struggled with depression and coming to terms with his sexuality, but his perky, passionate and poignant songs will keep sending out light beyond the darkness. 



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Goodbye Sabri


Written by Randeep Singh

I was not a fan of Amjad Sabri. I don’t know any of his tunes. Why am I mourning his passing?

Sabri was one of the leading singers of qawalli in the subcontinent. As part of the Sabri brothers, he performed in dargahs, concert halls and stadiums around the world.

He was shot dead today in Karachi. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. In the past ten years, Pakistan’s Sufi Islamic culture has been bombed, murdered and assailed. Shrines are attacked, worshippers are killed and festivals are fired on.

No one is pure in the Land of Pure. Not Sabri, a devotee of Allah and His Prophet. Not Farid or Data Ganj, Sufi poets and cultural icons of Pakistan. Only the new guardians of Islam show the straight path. They are the masters of the day of judgement …

Goodbye Sabri. May your voice lift the spirits of those you left behind. May Pakistan preserve your legacy and the spirit of its culture.

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Filed under Music, Pakistan, Randeep Singh, Uncategorized, Violence

Naqsh IPB – Saptak (Music Review)


Title: Saptak
Artist: Naqsh IPB (Daksh Kubba, Lead Singer; Imran Habib, Guitarist; Irfan Lawrance, Bassist)

Rating: 80%

Saptak is the swinging, spirited debut from Indo-Pakistani alternative rock band Naqsh IPB. Celebrating peace, love and harmony, the album sports the sound of underground desi rock with the vocal stylings of Caravan and Atif Aslam.

The opening track “Iltejah,” is a call for love and peace with its refrain, “dil se dil ko mila.” It’s followed by the cheeky “Kaka,” the yearning “Saajna” and the rousing “Megha.” From hard rock, Saptak moves to minimalist acoustic guitar in “Musu” and “Pagli” with Kubba’s tenor soaring gorgeously now and again.

Musically derivative notwithstanding, Saptak is a promising debut, hitting the right notes melodically, lyrically and as a coherent artistic statement.

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Madonna – Rebel Heart (Music Review)

Written By Randeep Singh

Rating: 82%

While not without its duds, filler and throwaways, Madonna’s thirteenth album , Rebel Heart, is the singer’s best, most consistent album since Music (2000). Touching on themes of betrayal, redemption and self-realization, Rebel Heart features classic Madonna pop in “Living For Love,” “Ghosttown” and “Inside Out” and some of the singer’s best recent ballads in “Wash All Over Me” and “Rebel Heart.” Madonna’s mellowed and seasoned, but she’s still a lover and a fighter in Rebel Heart. And, from the sounds of it, still the First Lady of pop.

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An Evening with Saeen Zahoor


Written by Randeep Singh

On May 31, 2014, Pakistani Sufi singer Saeen Zahoor performed at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre, sending the audience into trance, dance and inspiring reverence throughout.

The evening brought together local Indian and Pakistani performers, organizers and audience members. Indo-Pakistani band Naqsh IPB opened the evening with their blend of modern Sufi, rock, classical and filmi musical stylings. Through clashing drums, pulsating guitar riffs and the soaring vocals of Daksh Kubba, Naqsh warmed up the crowd for Saeen.

He entered in his long black kurta embroidered in yellow, ghungroo bells jingling around his ankles, carrying his colourfully decorated ektaara (one-string instrument). “I am not an artist,” he began, “I am a dervish who recites the name of His Master.”

Saeen didn’t just sing: he performed in every sense of the word. The spirit of Bulleh Shah poured through Saeen, his songs, his dance, his story-telling. His two hours on the stage was a musical theatre on the life and poetry of Bulleh Shah.

After declaring his devotion to Bulleh Shah in “Ni Mai Kamli Haan” (‘Crazy I Am!’), Saeen sang “Aukhen Painde Lambiyaan Raavan” (‘Hard and Long are the Paths’), of how Bulleh Shah journeyed for miles in search of his teacher. On meeting his teacher, Shah Inayat, Bulleh Shah asks: “how does one find God.” Shah Inayat, planting spring onions, replies: “what do you want to find God for? Just uproot this from here and plant it there.”

Saeen then broke out ecstatically into “Nachna Painda Ae” (‘Dance One Must’) swirling on the stage in his ghunghroo bells just as Bulleh Shah had once for Shah Inayat.

Saeen also sang on Bulleh Shah’s rebukes to legalistic Muslim clerics in “Bas Kare O Yaara Ilm” (‘Enough of Learning, My Friend’). Saeen tells us, Bulleh Shah gave up the shariah for the way of Love just as Heer refused to marry another man according to the shariah because she had been wedded spiritually to her Beloved. On love’s path, Saeen sings “let’s go Bulleh to that place where everyone is blind” in “Chal Bulleha Uthe Chale.”

From his stepping onto the stage, the audience became disciples of Saeen. He sang with abandon, he whirled with frenzy and he ended the night to the boom of the dhol drum bringing the audience to its feet. The air was filled with passion, energy and devotion. People went up to the stage and paid their respects by touching their heads to the stage or folding their hands in reverence: the theatre became a Sufi shrine, a dargah.

Above all, Saeen ensured Bulleh Shah will live on as a shared heritage. His spirit and art were the spirit of love and unity. Says Saeen: “humanity is to love one another.”


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Filed under Culture, India, Music, Pakistan, Poetry, Punjabi

What Makes a Song So Catchy?


A melody that’s simple, familiar and repeated over and over can make a song catchy. What makes a song catchy though raises more questions than we have the answers to, for now.

My friend’s son who is pursuing his bachelors’ degree in music points out that a (catchy) pop song moves easily from one chord to the next and then back to the “root” chord. The notes in the melody fall closely to one another on the musical scale.

A study at the University of London suggests that a chorus which combines a hook over three different pitches was found to be catchy.  Just listening to the chorus of some of the catchy songs I grew up with – Madonna’s “Into the Groove,” Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven on Earth” – suggests it’s one of the things that makes a song so catchy.

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