“I put my heart into this, a broken one.”: Karun’s 'Qabool Hai'
Acceptance is packaged in a glossy wrapper, said to bear peaceful acknowledgment. But what it really entails is swallowing down the truth even if it burns your throat; meeting face to face with it after it has been dangling across your face like a suspended sword. And that’s what Karun’s album ‘Qabool Hai’ will carry you through. Subverting the meaning of the Urdu word, ordinarily used in agreements of love, the album walks a different path where it signifies the acceptance of love’s passing, its simmering down.
Karun is 1/3rd of Teesri Duniya, a Delhi-based trio, self-described as “existential pop culture,” are hell-bent on butchering industry standards and not restricting themselves to a specific trademark sound with constant experimentation and renovation being their numero uno. ‘Qabool Hai’ follows in with the same ideology, featuring assorted, novel Indian-esque sounds that “make you feel at home,” with heart-wrenchingly raw and personal lyrics.
Talking about ‘Qabool Hai’ Karun enunciates, “This album is a piece of me. Keeping singles and EPs aside, if and when I’m working on an album, it’s ME.”
He additionally says,
The album charts the experience of different types of love that envelope us- some piercing our insides and making an unloved home in our bodies while others approach like the warmth emanating from gulping hot chocolate on a chilly day. Moreover, love is explored right from its nascent, innocent stage and tracked to how it decays, battering apart the people involved, culminating in finally, love lost and the acceptance that follows its departure. Further, it also depicts, “how to love, how I have loved and how people have loved me” as Karun describes.
Since the album is majorly confessional, penning it down was equal parts cathartic and agonizing for Karun as pouring it out did not just suggest acceptance but also, brought about a painful drive-thru of the heartbreak he experienced. On this, he says, “I cannot write my album. A week prior to the release, I’m still writing some verses. I don’t want to relive all of that, I’m afraid.” Karun further goes on to share how he’s at the peak of his vulnerability when he writes and how his writing comes to him in a stream of consciousness without the intent to please anyone.
‘Qabool Hai’ starts with an intro aka ‘Kahaani’ which begins to take form with the presence of two birds sitting on a nest, over the branch of a tree which marks their home, their resting place. But, as unexpected tremors make their way into their home, the branch starts maneuvering, and ultimately the nest starts to come asunder as time takes its toll. What follows are repeated attempts of tugging and pulling from both sides to save the nest from coming apart but it just did not feel one with the branch anymore so eventually the birds fly away.
This intro serves as an idyllic analogy of Karun’s relationship while also setting the foundation stone upon which the album art is erected with the red smeared all over it, offering to you all the bucket of emotions that love evokes.
The subsequent tracks fall together in no particular order, each signifying a different phase of love. While ‘Batheriyan’ revolves around a phase of naivete where the protagonist is surrounded by multiple women, ‘Jaana’ is about longing with undertones of desperation and confusion with the lyrics, “Kyu tujhse karu, kaise karu, kabse karu.” ‘Jaana’ also draws a poetic contrast between the protagonist’s reality and dreams wherein he only meets his lover in a land far away from his present.
Intriguing elements like a conversational flow come to the surface with ‘dyk’ where Dhanji and Karun are talking about their personal entanglements with love. Similarly, ‘Guldasta’ features an intense conversation of Karun with his own self, persuading and shaking himself by the shoulder to move on, echoing his defense mechanism. The more prominent vocals in it are intended to mimic the voice you feel originating from the back of your head. Another element that stands out in the album is the sobbing you hear as part of the ambiance in both ‘Guldasta’ and ‘Jau Kahan’ which sprouts from Karun’s attachment to Eminem who does similar sequences like him crying in the background of tracks like ‘Attack of the Weirdos’ and more. Lastly, ‘Chand Pe Kadam (interlude)’ includes two kids, drenched in innocence, conversing about the first human step on the moon that might seem like a detached segment but is actually a part of the album’s body, signifying our innate state of drifting away in thoughts. As Karun describes it, “It has no meaning yet all the meaning.’’
Coming to the soundscape of the album, Karun talks about how the album distinguishes itself from his previous works. “Qh is different because of the music producers it has. Baajewala and Lambo drive are some exceptional musicians in India right now with whom I haven’t worked in the past. They both are on 6-7 tracks of the album.” He further adds, “I have rapped less, sung more, and composed more melodies.”
As mentioned by Karun, the album features multiple new sounds, not boxing itself in a particular genre, rather spreading its arms in disparate directions like the branches of a tree. While the title track, ‘Qabool Hai’ fabricates a somber, melancholic ambiance building on strong vocals and minimal drums with the guitar’s melody being particularly standout, the head-swaying, mellow love song ‘Jaana’ features a verse in Punjabi built on soft looped guitar notes alongside newer elements being added as the track progresses. On one hand, there are head-bopping tracks like ‘Kinaare’ with Karun’s honest lyricism interspersed with an unexpected bass introduction on top of melodic reversed guitar chords and on the other, the hip-hop sound-infused ‘Jau Kahan’ with a violin-based structure and heavy bass, all adding up to a beautiful melody. Karun’s penchant for Indian instruments truthfully shines through with ‘Paheli’ encompassing rich segments of flute and sitar gracing the top layer with ethereal guitar finger styling.
Now, steering off to how the album will only be available on a CD format, Karun says, “The only reason my album isn’t going to stream anywhere anytime soon is that I wanted people to work hard in order to listen to something so personal. It’s literally a piece of me.” Building upon the same, he says, “Nobody wants to do the hard work to listen to good music. Bas jo playlist banake dedi, wo sunte chalo. Personally, I feel editorial playlists are shit.” Lastly, he adds how “This time, it’s different” and how Qh “hits you at places in your heart which you didn’t know were active.” Sure enough, encompassing a homely soundscape so unheard of in this day and age that blends in while standing out with multiple languages employed to translate chewed-out emotions Karun so intensely feels, this album will successfully rip your heart out only to patch it back up.