29 April, 2008

Mere dholana - A song of rare excellence

I came acroos the song "Mere dholana sun,meri pyaar ki dhun" , while watching the film "Bhool bhulaiiya" on my DVD a few weeks ago. I think everyone from the appreciative audience to music critics missed this song totally, The movie no doubt was a super hit and the songs too were a raging hit, especially"Hare Krishna, Hare Ram", but noone appreciated the beauty ofthe above mentioned song. AmImissing something which others have'nt? Is the song a copy of some other original work? If so, then I request someone to point it out to me. It is indeed sad that the common people have completely lost the taste for good tunes which are Raga based. I would like to know, on which Raga is this particular song based on. While the songs of Jodhaa Akbar were appreciated for their spiritual and Sufi element, this song did not get any mention anywhere. The male singer of course is a noted Carnatic vocalist M.Sreedhar, but the surprise package is Shreya Ghoshal. With this song, she has certainly made her mark finally and has left Alka Yagnik and Sunidhi Chauhan far behind. Sunidhi, alas has done a grave injustice to her talent after winning the shows l9ike "Meri awaz suno" and "TVS SaReGaMa" as a child artiste. Shreya too won the same title a couple of years later, but has since honed her skills very nicely and can now sing all varieties of songs. Sunidhi is just reduced to singing saucy item numbers.One more point here. With the advent of digital technology, singers can give "breathless" performances by simply singing ion small takes and then the editors pick them up and cut and paste the songs. It was evident in Mere dholana also, where the last portion of the intricate sargam was sung with the breath held for a great length of time. Or has the singer actually sung it "live" with no takes?

29 August, 2007

Indian Idol, Voice of India or SaReGaMaPa Vishvayuddh

These days we are being bombarded with reality shows of the musical kind. Three of them are running simultaneously on SONY (Indian Idol), ZEE (SaRe....) and STAR (Voice of India). All of them claim to be the REAL talent hunt show and are claiming high TRPs and contestant turnout for their show. So which do you readers think is the best show? I would like to analyse each show one by one.

1. INDIAN IDOL - This how SUCKS and sucks heavily! Want to know why? No talent at all! The piano round is over and 14 contestants have been shortlisted for final eliminations. I would say even if they LONGLIST the contestants, they can never put up a decent singer. The fault lies probably with the jury who are dramatists par excellence but poor judges of talent. It is clear even to a tone deaf person that none of the contestants are talented enough even to sing in bathrooms, yet the judges wax eloquent after each performance.The entire thrust in this show is to project the contestants as "Performers" and not singers.Thats why we have participants gaudily dressed up as rockstars and contorting their faces in all shapes and trying to put up a rock show instead of singing decently! BTW where are Abhijit Sawant and sandeep Acharya these days? Why are'nt they singing in any films or any award functions? My opinion - SONY TV, YOU GUYS JUST LOST IT, SO BEAT IT!

2. SaReGaMaPa-VISHWAYUDH -This show does have some talented singers, especially Pakistanis (Amanat, Junaid and Mussarrat) and of course Raja and Aneek. The jury too is more knowledgable but no less dramatic! The episodes where Himesh clashed with Asha Bhosale were hyped up for the sake of TRPs.Yet, the jury do manage to give unbiased views most of the times. Most importantly, there IS talent in at least some of the participants. Also, the show is trying to project singers and not mere hyped up rockstars like Sony TV. My opinion - REASONABLY GOOD SHOW.

3. VOICE OF INDIA - I started watching this show from its Indore auditions only. It is the dark horse amongst all taent hunt shows. The Indore and Delhi auditions were real eye openers for me. One after another there was a steady stream of SINCERE, NATURAL AND TALENTED singers. Their song selection, rendition, performance and presentation was fabulous. Most importantly the show is being projected as a pure singing talent hunt show and so far there doesn't appear to be any compromise on the singing quality of contestants. The show does have its fair share of drama no doubt, yet I found it to be the most watchable show if not for anything else, at least to listen to the talented singers. The singers to look out for in view are Abhaas, Sumithra Iyer, Priyaani and Toshi. MY opinion - THIS SHOW ROCKS ! GO FOR IT!

I request readers to contribute their comments freely.

04 June, 2007

Vividh Bharathi or FM radio?

Finally, after much propaganda, 3 FM channels were launched in Bhopal city on 1st June.It is somewhat akin to cable TV channels mushrooming these days. I too was obvioiusly excited at the launch of new FM channels But my excitment is fast turning to disillusionment. For all its media hype, the FM channels are dishing out pure CRAP 24 x 7!!!

Shocking isn't it. Everyone was so eagerly awaiting the launch of FM channels for the past 1 year or so, in order to "teach a lesson" to the AIR. The same AIR which appeared so drab with its oft repeated public service message (quotes of Gandhiji, Vivekananda etc!), the insipid style of news reading (Yeh akaashvani hai....), those programmes for farmers on how to get a better yield for your potato crop, the programmes in afternoon for housewives (Sakhi saheli), the film music on demand for lay public (Man chaahe geet, with demands from Jhumri talaiyya, kaanta toli etc!), the "Fauji bhaiyon ka programme - Jaimaala", the list is endless. With such boring programmes being aired, your mind yearned for something fresh and tangy. In come the FM channels with their peppy hosts, zany ads, traffic updates, phone in talks etc. Yet what happens next - it all fizzles out in no time at all! No doubt, the broadcast is stereophonic, which AIR cannot replicate, I will stand by my Vividh Bharathi.

Why did this happen? Mind you, the public is still enjoying it. Its only yours truly thats complaining. So please read on for my list of grouses -
1. For me, the primary reason that FM channels couldn't hold my attention is UTTER LACK OF VARIETY. From morning till late night you get to hear only one type of music on and on again - latest film songs or remixed old songs set to crazy beats. In fact even the beats in all these FM channels hear the same every time you switch on your radio / moble set.
2. Second reason why FM channels couldn't match Vividh Bharathi is that the FM channels cater to the taste of only one generation i.e. youth whether they be college going or jobbers. What about Old people, housewives, employees in police, defence, government servants, lower middle class section like tailors, dhabawalas, truck drivers, barbers, burchers etc?
3. Thirdly, there is no thought given to different genres of music. All you get to hear is "Dhakchik dhakchik" type of beats and unpronouncable lyrics! What about devotional
music, classical (you got to be joking man!), old film songs, folk songs, etc?
4. Fourth grouse is NO SERIOUS CONTENT. There's no analysis of current affairs. In the name of news you get to 3 headlines!

Die hard FM enthusiasts will argue that for news, and other variety of music you can always go back to AIR. Well then, I AM going back to my beloved Vividh Bharathi and I'm not coming back. For me the day begins with devotional music, foloowed by some classical music and then to GOOD film songs old or new. Its just impossible to rock 24 x 7 with the latest songs like Abhishek does in the Motorola

28 May, 2007

Composers who brought winds of change in hindi film music

When "Alam ara" was released in 1931 it created a revolution of sorts since it was a "Talking" film (hence the name - Talikes!). It also had songs picturised on the main characters. From 1931 to 2007, the hindi film music has come a long long way, passing through various phases like simplicity, classical, western, Rock'n roll, Disco, to the current generation of Hip hop etc. Who were the people who gave the film music its form and substance? Who were responsible for it evolving from one generation to another? Lets take a look at them.

1. ANIL BISWAS - He arrived on the scene in 1936 in a big way with "Achhoot Kanya" and the famous song Main ban ki panchchi. This was probably the first hindi film with a full fledged orchestra for its songs. Thus we need not say that the western influence in film music began only in 1970s! This was also the era of K L Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, C H Atma, R C Boral, Noorjehaan, Surendra etc. The music of this era was heavily classical oriented which required formally trained singers. Unlike today's era where even glaring imperfections in voice can be easily masked by technology, then the voice and its inflections had to be perfect. Also we saw "Nasal" voices in that era.

2. THE GOLDEN ERA - It will be a blasphemy if I name only one of the composers of this era, since ALL had an equal role to play in immortalizing this period enshrined as the golden era of hindi film music (From 1950s to 1960s). The protagonists of this period were Naushaad, S D Burman, Shanker - Jaikishen, O P Nayyar, Madaan Mohan, Roshan, Khayyyam, Jaidev, Kalyanji - Anandji, Laxmikant - Pyarelal etc. The last two of ourse continued well into the Disco generation also. In this era for the first time, pulse of the general public was catered to. Thus, apart from classical influence, we also saw heavy rock roll, pop etc. Who can forget S-J's rollicking songs composed for the maerick Shammi Kapoor? All composers at some time or the other DID delve into western music to fuse with the Indian sounds. The resultant music was a heady mixture of Folk, Classical, Western clasical, rock n roll and pop. Thus we had "Laaga chunari main daag" based on Raag Sindhu Bhairavi, "Merra naam chin chin choo" a cabaret song, " Nain lad gayee hai" a folk song and "Thundee hawaayen, lehraa ke aayen" based on western classical, just to name a few!

3. R D BURMAN - He arrived on the film music scene with Chhote nawaab" in 1967. With "Teesari manzil" in 1968 he replaced all others from the top position. His ascent marked a new era in hindi film music. The sounds changed completely towards western orchestration with synthesizer and guitars featuring heavily, in complete contrast to Tabla, Harmonium, sitar etc of he golden era. RD was probably the first composer to experiment with unusual sounds. For example who can forget the opening bars of "Chura liya hai tumne..." played by striking a glass with a steel spoon? Or for that matter the background rhythm in the song "O manjhi re" in Khusboo where he used bottles filled to different levels with water and then blowing into them? In the song "Mehbooba, mehbooba" from Sholay, the opening notes were produced by RD blowing over the top of empty glass bottles! All this is not to tale away the credit from other composers like Kalyanji-Anandji or L-P. They too gave memorable hits in the 70s and 80s era. But you must realize that they gravitated to this genre only AFTER RD proved his succes in this genre.

4. BAPPI LAHIRI - Blasphemy again? Hardly, I would say. The man who gave us sensible, sensitive tunes like "Dheere dheere subah hui" based on Raag Ahir Bhairav or "Zid na karo" from Lahoo ke do rang was also single handedly responsible for ushering in the Disco era in the 1980s. So what if culturally, even in the west, Disco is considered the trashiest of all genres? Bappida captured the mood of the people and revelled in the adulation of public. Thus followed Disco dancer, Tarzan, Saheb, Namak halal and a score of some mediocre songs too. This era then gradually degenerated into trashiness (not that it is any better today !) due to most composers cashing on the disco rage by producing synthesizer sounds with crude lyrics to titillate the front benchers of cinema halls.

5. A R REHMAN - In 1994, Roja was released and film music once again was metamorphosed. Be it Western clasical, Indian clasical, Arabic, Reggae, jazz, rock, Pop, A R experimented with all types of music I think he can safely be credited with the next renaissance of hindi film music after R D Burman, which has made experimentation with other music genres more acceptable today. This has spawned the likes of Shanker-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Preetam, Himesh Reshammiya etc who are experimenting with Hip hop, Sufi, Rock n roll jazz etc. .

Though the analysis ends here, debate will surely take place as to which era was better, with the old timers swearibg by K L Saigal, middle generation by the Golden era and Gennext with Reshammiya etc. I personally favour the Golden era, though I am not that old! Why I like songs of this era I cannot explain satisfactorily. It will suffice to say that I prefer sentimental, classical based songs more than anything else, hence he preferrance to Golden era.

Mine is NOT an original article. In fact it is based totally on Luke Kenny's (Programming head, Channel V) article published in Hindustan Times on May 26th 2007.

17 May, 2007

Indian classical danceuse Sonal mansingh threatens to return the Kalidas Sanmaan !

This post once again deals with the ego of an artiste, but this time it is more in suppot of the concerned artiste. I have received enough flak for attempting to paint Kishoritai in a poor light in one of my previous posts! There, it was more about the frills to a performance which could have been done away with.

It has happened on innumerable occassions and it happened again. Kishoritai has been reported to have stopped her recital midway when she espied Farooq Abdullah chit chatting, sitting in the front row. I supprot her stance in this regard at least. It was the turn of the noted Odissi Danceuse, Sonal Mansingh this time to register her protest at the lack of etiquettes shown by the BJP ministers in Bhopal. The same BJP fellas who keep harping about our "Sabhyata" and "Sanskriti" ad nauseum ! It was not a simple performance to boot. The occassion was to felicitate the danceuse herself with Kalidas Sammaan, the highest honour conferred by the MP government. After the felicitations, Sonal Mansingh began her performance and within minutes of commencing, Rajnath Singh, Shivraj Chouhan (CM of MP), Lakshmikant Sharma (ironically, the culture minister !!!) all began to leave the Ravindra Bhavan auditorium. Sonalji was so incensed that she stopped her performance instantly and spoke on the mike regarding such shocking manners or the lack of them! She also threatened to return the Kalidas Sammaan. However, the situaion was somewhat brought under control by the intervention of other dignitaries and ministers and the show then continued till its end.

Similar incident had occured at the residence of Vidushi Gangubai Hangal, the noted singer of Kirana Gharana. In this instance, she was to be conferred the Karnataka Rajya Ratna award by the CM Dharam Singh, who was quite late in arriving as is the wont of all politicians. Gangubai being the outspoken lady she's always been, lambasted the CM after his arrival, who was reduced to his apologetic best !

It only showcases the utter callousness of he ruling lot towards the performing artistes especially classical / folk arts. Had it been Aishwarya Rai's felicitation or any other Tom, Dick and Harry two bit Television stars also, the ministers would have queued up long before the appointed hour to pay homage to those idiots ! I have only disgust for such people. I had expected better manners from the guardians of our "Sabhya" and "Samskari" BJPministers. SHAME ON YOU BJP MINISTERS !

02 May, 2007

Sufi element in film "Anwar", just fantastic!

Just heard the music of film "Anwar". Nobody recommended it to me, I just had it in my MP3 which I purchased recently. In fact I skipped it many times while I was listening to some other more famous songs in that CD. I happened to watch "Antakshari" this friday where Vasundhara Das was the invited guest. In the show she sang her song from Anwar "Tose naina lagey....". At that moment however, with the spirit of the Game, I forgot all about it. However last night, I just happened to take out the particular MP3 again in order to play some songs for my daughter. I suddenly remembered Vasundhara's recital and thought lets try out the songs.

It was night and I was dog tired of roaming in the heat (43 degrees C!) all day. When the music started playing, I stopped all my work and was all ears to the song. LO! I was transported to another world. Its haunting music with its soothing rhythm just got to me and since yesterday I must have listened to it at least 20 times! Even the other song "Maula mere..." too is hauntingly sufi in its feel. My daughter too is very fond of this song. Why don't such compositions achieve popularity? Is it that the taste of the public is so bad that they can't tolerate such beautiful compositions?

I want to know who is the composer of this film. Also, I am not able to place the song regarding its original Raga. Can anyone help me?

24 April, 2007

Greatest hindi film music composer of all times - an analysis

From the past 2 sundays, HINDUSTAN TIMES is running a series on hindi film music directors, written by Ravi Patwardhan. This started me thinking - who's the greatest of them all? The question is formidable and answer is not easy to seek at all! Consider the array of music directors for this award. You got to choose between, Naushad, Madan Mohan, Shanker - Jaikishen, S D Burman and his son, O P Nayyar, Ravi, Khayyam, Laxmikant - Pyarelaal, Kalyanji - Anandji, Roshan, Hemant Kumar, Ghulam Mohammad, Sajjad Hussain, A R Rehman, Jatin - Lalit, Anu Mallik and last but not the least Himmesh Reshammiya!

How do we begin? First of all we must decide the criteria on which to award. I think the criteria must include - versatility, sound knowledge of music, commercial appeal, appeal across all ages (controversial!) and quality of music (again a subjective matter).

1. Versatility - For this criteria, we can exclude most composers and retain SD, RD, AR, S-J and L-P. I would not like to include O P Nayyar, as his music had started to become repititive in the early 70s after hitting an all time high in the late 50s and throughout the 60s. Naushad saab was more in the mould of a classicist and rarely if ever gave compositions apart from folk tunes or pure classical. At this let juncture let me clarify that versatility according to me means compositions of all types viz, Indian classical, western, devotionals, folk etc. Roshan and Madan Mohan were more into classical music although in "Manmauji", Madan Mohan did give a good western tune in the form of Nakhrewaali!

2. Knowledge - Here, I must include Naushad, SD, S-J and almost all the old timers, since all of them came from the old school of classical musical training. I will include AR also here.

3. Commercial appeal - surely Reshammiya can fit in here if not anywhere else!!! Jokes apart, SD, RD, S-J, Naushad, O P, L-P, K-A, A R, Anu Mallik and Jatin- Lalit can easily make the grade in this category.

4. Appeal across all ages - Songs composed by SD, RD, S-J, O P, L-P, Roshan and Madan Mohan have stood the test of time. Same may not be true of a Rehman or Reshammiya or even Anu Malik.

5. Quality of music - has no relation to its saleability. So, I think all old timers can easily be fitted in this category. As far as newer composers are concerned I'm not very sure of their quality, with the possible exception of Rehman.

Now, to shortlist the nominees. I find SD, RD, S-J and L-P in all the categories. We must therefore find out the greatest amongst these. I must reluctantly add that fans of Naushad, Madan Mohan, Nayyarsaab and Roshan may very well kill me for this act! Now L-P's quality of music I find very slightly inferior to those of SD, RD and S-J, although that's purely subjective. That leaves us with 3 composers. Out of them I will remove RD, as his duration as the top composer was much shorter than that of his father or Shanker - Jaikishen. Both SD and S-J reigned supreme for over four decades and thats no mean acheivement! Now comes the biggest challenge. How do you decide amongst SD and SJ as the greatest? Both reigned at the very top for decades and their careers culminated almost simultaneously. Personally, I favour SD a bit more as most of my favourite songs are SD's. I think I will not go any further and declare both as joint winners!

Readers, please let me know if I have committed any serious acts of omissions and notify me. I apologize to all genuine fans if I have inadvertantly hurt anybody's feeling or offended any sensibilities.