Thursday, September 06, 2007

Singin' in the pain

So a friend at work is learning Hindi. I suggested that she listen to slow old Hindi songs to pick up the correct pronunciation of words, and at the same time enjoy some great melodies. I knew because that's where I picked up most of my Hindi pronunciation. Dad got a transfer to Bihar when I was all of six without a clue or a single Hindi word in my head. I grew up in Bihar/Jharkhand, picked up Hindi and spent twelve years of my life there without letting the local dialects mess up my Hindi pronunciation. I learnt to speak Hindi and Urdu primarily through songs and ghazals. Perhaps that's where my obsession with Hindi music stems from. They were not just songs - they were my teachers. Today I am proud of my Hindi. I know my method was effective, and I was willing to share. My friend readily agreed, and I told her I’ll look through my collection and recommend some good ones.

So I was sorting through my 'Nostalgia' folder (a huge database which had made quite a name for itself on the shared drive when I was in university), when I made a beautiful discovery. Re-discovery, rather.

Pukarta chala hoon main
Gali gali bahaar mein
Bas ek chhaon zulf ki
Bas ik nigaah pyaar ki

Oh my. I hadn't heard this song in a long time. It was absolutely mind-blowing. I listened to it on loop a couple of times before going to sleep. The next morning I loaded my ipod with all the songs I wanted her to listen to, and set off for office. I intended to play all of them during my bus journey, but ended up playing this particular song on loop the entire time. When I got to work, I played it the whole day, and I played it in the bus on the way back too. I tend to do this with some of the newer songs but the obsession never lasts. This was different. I was really breathing in the fine details of the song. Each time I listened to it, there was something new, something different I’d absorb.

The beauty of the song is that it's all about Rafi's voice. The song is a very simple one, with simple beats, and simple lyrics - all broken into syllables – deceptively sounding like something anyone can sing. With perhaps four instruments at most, the one thing that rises above everything is Rafi’s voice and the way he sings it. Go on, play the song, and listen - really listen - especially to the part where he sings, "Yehi toh baat ho rahi hai kaam ki". He sounds so amazing in these lines that you would never believe that the guy who looked like a khadoos school teacher could sound so incredibly sexy singing a song which on some levels is basically a song that a roadside lafunga is singing in search of the chick who will be willing to daalo him some ghaas. To turn a song like that into a seductive number, that, I guess, is the mark of a true legend.

And I started to think about legends. Lata, Asha, Kishore, Rafi, and a handful more. That's it? That's it. Oh my goodness, that's it. Some of the singers of today are no doubt, very good -- Sonu Nigam who is perhaps the best (does the fact that he admits to being inspired by Rafi have anything to do with it?), Sunidhi, Shreya, Kay Kay and Shaan. I personally love all of them, and they have very distinct styles, but come to think of it, would you call any of them 'legends'? I wouldn't. I prefer to call them the 'middle band' whose songs will perhaps be listened to as classics a decade later. But anyone newer than this batch just doesn't cut it. The maestros of the past have set the standards so high that anyone who has heard them would never use the term 'legends' for the new breed – especially the ones newer than Sonu, Kay Kay, et al. It's the way they used to sing in the old says - the heart and soul that went into it. The new guys just don't do it the same way. They can barely keep in step with the new songs, and they want to tread on the old ones too. Evident from the example of Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar where a bunch of the so-called very good singers systematically destroyed some beautiful old melodies.

And oh, don't even get me started on remixes, what with their 'Danny feat. Sophie' and what not. Who the heck are Danny and Sophie anyway? Who are these people who think that they’re making music by killing old songs and calling them 'Zubin feat. Zoya'? Who allows them to sing?

It is evident from the singing competitions on TV as well. The audience voting system has taken a toll on the discovery of real talent. Good-looking people make it to the top and even if the lack of talent can’t pull them through, technology makes them become famous singers. And the ones who can actually sing are deemed not pretty enough to make it. I was watching Indian Idol, and I noticed that almost every one of the so called 'awesome' singers falter at time and falter quite badly. And if someone like me who has no training at all in music can “spot the differences”, ah well. Real fans of the song know every bit, every high, every low of the song, and you can't fool us. Okay tell me - how many of the singers on Saregamapa and Indian Idol can you listen to and identify with your eyes closed? How many of them have that unique voice that touches you in a way that you go, "Ah, no one else can sing it this way!"?

And even if some new masterpieces do come about ('Tanhayee' from 'Dil Chahta Hai' would be one, and 'Tadap tadap' from 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' would be another) why aren't they memorable? Why is it that I can sing along when I listen to songs that were created when my parents were babies, but I can't tell you the lyrics of this year's chartbusters three weeks down the lane? Why are the songs so short-term? Whatever happened to evergreen melodies? Did we have a limited pool that got consumed sometime in the 70s and all we can do now is recycle them and come up with utterly forgettable melodies? Why don't we crave good songs anymore? Why don't we demand purity of melodies anymore? Why are we so content with what we have as long as it sells? Whatever happened to music as a beautiful form of art? It's depressing, the way we all go ‘Kaindi ponnnnnnnn!!’ for three minutes and then forget it before moving on to the next song that we can tap our feet to.

Why is it that in the old days, the singers had nothing but their voices and they sounded nothing short of golden, and today, when they have so much digital help, they just sound like something is missing? But then, maybe it's all the technology that's to blame. It has reduced the gap between the great singers and the ordinary mortals. In the old days, the singers had nothing but their voices, and that was a good thing. Today it's not. I read that for 'Kya janoon sajan' (the original from the movie 'Baharon Ke Sapne'), RD Burman made Lata put on headphones and recorded her singing over her own song playing in the recording room, to add the double voice effect. (Those who are familiar with the song will know what I'm talking about.) I have no doubt it was much easier for Kavitha who sang the newer version in Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar.

Looks like technology has made it a piece of cake - anyone can sing. And so everyone does. Annu Malik does. Himesh Reshammiya does. Mika does. Rakhi Sawant does. Oh. Let me say that again. Rakhi Sawant does.

Face it - the way we're headed, there is no stopping us. You and I will soon become great singers too.

God save the music.

Come, let's all bray together.


kashika said...

well, as i m kind of new to the bar, i guess thts what ur supposed to say if ur the first one to comment?

anyway, the works of rafi,kishore, asha and lata are beyond comparision. but the singers of today are inimitable in their own way. but still i agree thet'll never be called legends.

//Annu Malik does. Himesh Reshammiya does. Mika does. Rakhi Sawant does//

you forgot Shekhar Suman complete with a younger *yawn* look.

Sudeep said...

*agrees on all points*

nicely put down n last line was too gud :)

I am currently mesmerised by the song Aawaz di hain song frm Aitbaar (purana wala)

Ramkumar said...

its not all bad as u say. U got to accept u don't get soulful melodies bcos there r not good films which can take it.
Speaking about voices. U r right about talent shows. Even i vote for good looking singer rather than talented ones unless the difference is huge.
I would place Kay kay in the legendary list. Man what voice he has. Well, u may be ignorant of his presence in Telugu and tamil music industry. His rendition in a particular language is amazing unlike other singers who escape with their voices instead of concentrating in getting the pronunciation right .It is amazing how low profile he has been in the media still churning out hits after hits. Thats real talent for u.

GuNs said...

You missed Mukesh in that list! Grr...

Its not only the new singers that are committing blasphemy. I have hated Jagjit Singh all along but I really want to lynch him badly ever since he COMPLETELY ripped apart and destroyed one of my favourite Mukesh songs "Kahiin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye" from Anand. I would like to shoot Jaggu dada in his ass the day I see him (and I also happen to have a gun, of course).

Some songs I've ended up listening to on loop (and I rarely do this) are: Kahiin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye, Yeh Dosti Hum Nahi Chodenge, Kya Hua Tera Waada, Free Bird, Don't Stand So Close To Me and a few others which I dont remember now. I had the same feeling as you - with every listen, I discovered new things in the song.

Do listen to these yourself and tell me what you think of them.


Sayesha said...

Haha! Congrats on your first gold! :P
Shekhar Suman is singing?? :O :O :O

Oh man. I want the song!!

//bcos there r not good films which can take it.

And why not?

/Well, u may be ignorant of his presence in Telugu and tamil music industry.

Ah well. I may be ignorant, but I don't think that makes him a 'legend'. Don't get me wrong. The guy's got talent and I adore him totally. That way, I think even Sonu is super talented. But I can't get myself to refer to any of them as 'legends'. Like you said, "the difference is huge". :)

Sayesha said...

Oops sorry I think I was commenting at the same time as you were. :)

Sorry for missing Mukesh out, am not a big fan so forgot about him. :P :P But yes, some of his songs, esp the Raj Kapoor ones, rock! :)

Uh-oh, I didn't know Jaggu did a remix of Kahin dooor. Shux man, I'm a huge fan of Jaggu! :)

//Do listen to these yourself and tell me what you think of them.

I've heard all the hindi ones in your list (of course), but will check up the english ones. :)

shub said...

Hehe, I was thinking of old songs earlier in the day too.
Speaking of which, have you heard this one :
Love it!
Nice post, btw.

Sayesha said...

Abbe bache ki jaan lekar rahegi? I said na "a handful more"! That handful contains everyone else that I am not a big fan of. Next thing I know people will lynch me for not mentioning KL Saigal, Geeta Dutt and Begum Akhtar! :/

//Speaking of which, have you heard this one :

Ooh I LOVE this song! I LOVE the lyrics!!!! They have SO MUCH meaning! Oh man!!
ps: Did you watch the movie? It kicks ass! Waheeda oh Waheeda!

Sakshi said...

Sayesha, well said. I am always mocked for my rather archaic taste in music. Though I listen to new tracks, I tend to play the oldies when I work. they are well written and melodic. They are made by people for whom music was a way of life - not just about being famous. And it shows.

And btw- if Rakhee Sawant can do it, so can I.. going to record my muzik now :P

Bivas said...

//Come, let's all bray together
still ROTFLing on that
but then thr are some singers on indian idol or saregamapa that u can identify with ur eyes closed...of course it wudn't be coz of their brilliant singing!
...of the oldies 'aa chal ke tujhe main le ke chalun' n 'kisiki muskuruhaton pe' wud be my recco to add to the list :-)
@shub-beautiful song :-)

Sayesha said...

Hehehe... I play oldies at work too! Heheheh! Yahan ke log sochte honge kis language mein kya sun rahi hai! :P

//And btw- if Rakhee Sawant can do it, so can I.. going to record my muzik now :P

OH OH OH! Can I please be "feat. Sash"?? Pleeeeease? "Sakshi feat. Sash!" Sounds awesome! You can do the actual braying, I'll just go "Kaindi ponnnnnnnnnn!" every now and then! Deal? :D

Yeah I like Kisi ki mukuraahaton pe... nice touching lyrics. Aajkal ke toh lyrics bhi pata nahin kahan gaye - kaindii ponnnnn!!!!! :/

Ramkumar said...

u have got "old is gold" syndrome. come on while u shud respect old classics u must also acknowledge the present good music.
Not every music director is himesh. There are A R Rahmans too. of course they are few. that is why it is special.

i remember when i was a kid, ilayaraja gave an interview. The interviewer asked why current melodies don't match the excellence of old classics. He said when next generation comes same would be said about my compositions.
What he has said has come true. His works are considered classics now. In TN all the FMs broadcast only IRs music at the night for the soothing effect. May be ur kid will say AR classics are matchless.
About KK, what to say??...:)

Thisisme said...

i wud say..ur in that 'old is gold' feel..the nextgeneration always thinks that the prev one rocked in terms of talent :-)
btw..having said that..can u tell me a good website from where i can download such nice old songs :D ? plsssss..

Thisisme said...

n abt ur prev post...lets not talk abt hairs here..pls :(..
my 1st haircut n the most rocking from a nieghbourhood uncle..called sulaiman uncle..blv bloody habid or watever can compete with his talent..this sulaiman uncle did amazing eyebrows (blvme..he made it an art..perfect at that :-) ) ..amazing haircut..! no one can beat him till date..even though i have tried all big names..sadly his shop got demolished by the govt..bas uske baad se mere hairs ka haal na poocho :(((

Sayesha said...

My main annoyance is against the new breed - the kind I hear in remixes and music competitions. Personally, I believe that no matter how you redefine even the concept of music itself because of changing times, I believe that besura will always be besura in every generation. And yes, I do acknowledge the present good music, including some of Himesh's compositions, even though I don't think much of him as a singer. I thought 'Main jahan rahoon' was a beautiful melody. But I doubt if I will remember it next year. I'd say Illayaraja and Rahman are in the 'middle band' as I mentioned in my post. Yes, they are very talented but I don't know whether the impact factor and memorability are comparable. When you play any of the oldies from the 60s or 70s (and there are tons of 'em!) now, most people - even the totally tone-deaf ones - are able to hum/sing along. Perhaps we should play today's songs fifty years later and see how many can hum/sing along with how many of the songs? :)

//the nextgeneration always thinks that the prev one rocked in terms of talent :-)

You think? Then why do Sakshi and I get laughed at by many of our 'Kaindo ponnnn' peers for liking oldies? Waaaa! :'(

//can u tell me a good website from where i can download such nice old songs :D ? plsssss..

Oh my goodness! Kya poochh rahi hai? Woh bhi public ke saamne??! Sharam kar! :O

//n abt ur prev post

Hehe! baal ki khaal is post par nikaal rahi hai? Literally! :P

youtham said...

u noe a persons music taste starts from their mom's womb

i m here in the corner of the bar. silently observing the ongoing and sipping my drink ;)


Enigma said...

Finally!!! After much fights with the system admins, i hav managed to get the blogs unblocked at office here! Had missed readings and commenting on Sash bhai's blog for so many weeks... yet to read the posts... just wanted to say i have missed this blog a lot... lemme go read all the posts now :)

- Cheeku

Ab said...

yesterday i was listening to some oldish english music on radio (th stuff they play for people who cant sleep after 12, or like in my case, woke up and bathed just then) and noticed so many of our so called golden melodies in Hindi were sourced from these relatively unheard english songs..
Like, they played this song which is an exact copy of a song i used to think as beautifull "Tumse Milke, aisa laga...". Usha Uthup has gone on record saying that Chura Liya hai tumne Jo... was sourced from a folk song in Europe that goes "If its monday, this must be Belgium".

Actually, I feel video is what is killing todays music! like in all these oldies, th visual effects werent compelling. but today viewers see th songs as a background to th video rather than the other way round!
Like, Im a big fan of that Aamir Khan song Pehla Nasha... but the beauty of th song is th opening piano notes, which never really gets registered in the brain when we're watching it!

kashika said...

yes, dont you know? shekhar suman has recently launched an album. its called 'kuch khwab aise' or something of the same effect. he's looking pathetic and is kinda romancing a girl half his age n she's not even pretty. and as far as his singing is concerned, dont even get me started.

Thisisme said...

ppl laff at u for liking old songs :O ...i mst say they mst b the deaf kinds :P

n btw..cant resist showing u whatshekhar suman has been upto lately..cudnt find the proper video..but this shud nonetheless give u an idea :D:D dont kill me :P

gosh ..he sounds so excited abt his singing that i kinda felt sorry on seeing the video n listening to the song!! :-s

n this one is anthr one

Sayesha said...

Ah well! I do get a lot of backseat bewdas in the bar. :)


I totally agree about the video killing the audio and also the Pehla Nasha bit! :)

Holy cow! Ahahahahah! :D
ps: I watched his video - the dude's been working out though. :)

Ahahahaha! I wacthed both videos! Gosh kitna effects dala hai song mein!! Hahahaah! And what a ghisa-pita storyline - girl in bikini gets wet, guy runs after her, she has long dupatta, guy sleeps with her, and next morning she's gone - oh she was a mermaid you see. Sheesh! :|

And look what else Youtube tossed! Ahahahaha!

Thisisme said...

oh..that was utsav.,.its got some amazing songs!

n shekhar suman..i think that was his debut or so...the song is haunting..but suman luks soo..hmm..dunno what to say :D of the best melodies i think to have happnd..

Adorable Pancreas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adorable Pancreas said...

You left out Urmila Matondkar. Or maybe you got lucky and missed that.

What is it with all these remixes? I had someone tell me the other day that the emix of 'yeh chaand sa roshan chehra' sounds nicer the original. Maybe people like these are the majority, which explains why Himesh 'main naak se nahi gaata' Reshammiya.

Maybe all we can do is 'just chill out'.

Deeps said...

Some things:

1) "Pukartha chala hoon" is on Youtube here:

2) He sounds so amazing in these lines that you would never believe that the guy who looked like a khadoos school teacher could sound so incredibly sexy singing a song which on some levels is basically a song that a roadside lafunga is singing in search of the chick who will be willing to daalo him some ghaas.

I sooooooooo agree!! And his voice fitted perfectly for the totally "eccentric" Shammi Kapoor (In fact I feel Shammi was a hit just because of Rafi's songs :-D). Pukartha is a good example. There are so many others - Nazar na lagjaaye (, Kisi na kisi se (, Aiyyayya suku suku (, Badan pe sitaare (, Aaaj kal tere mere pyar (, O haseena zulfowali ( and so many more.. What a sexy timbre!

3) And you are so right when you talk about the legends. Just a week back I was obsessed with a set of Kishore Kumar songs and played them again and again just for the nuances. I could never imagine myself doing the same even with Kumar Sanu songs :-p.

4) As for the new singers, I think they have a lot to match upto what with many of the legends' songs being hits. Its probably very difficult to have an original voice as such after growing up listening to these legends..

satish said...

itne saare achhhe gaane hain yaar. we are in the same league sash bhai. okk, i am just behind you. par kya gaane hote the yaar??!!! i mean, they were magicians yaar. kishor ko sabhi all-time-god maante hain, par rafi ke kuch gaane wud drive you crazy.

and that was sumthing that u told about 'kaise jaanu sajan'! i also liked that new movie though.

'kahin aaj kisi se mohhabbat naa ho jaaye' ye try kar ke dekho. sammi kapoor aur rasfi ka combo toh lethal hai bhaiyya, netime.

Anand said...

No mention of Sukhvindra Singh among the newer bunch??? Grrrrr! Now there's a dude with a distinctive voice and oodles of talent.

Chiniiz n Sugarz Mom.. Swati said...

sayesha, i came across this one through desipundit.. i completely agree with you.. just a few min ago i came across this song from a new guy raghav, "my babe's got ooooooooo"
and i was thinking .. is this a song!!! grrrr!!

Rohan Venkat said...

One of these posts come along every once in a while, and sadly enough so many people agree.

I'm a child of this generation, and as much as i despise (the majority of) remix culture and indian idol, i wouldn't say there aren't sing'able songs, or lasting melodies.

As someone mentioned, there are the AR Rehmans, the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loys and the MM Kreems. Naturally with all that can be done with music today, composers have more impact than singers. And yeah, you're right i guess, singers may not be 'timeless' any more, but in my opinion, those composers certainly are.

And about the singing along thing well, if you ever have a chance to meet my family, we'll have a whole stack of contemporary songs to sing along to, just as much as Rafi and Lata

Abhijit Dharmadhikari said...

Excellent article! I totally agree with what you said.

Mayuresh Gaikwad said...

Did not go through all the comments, so do not know whether this has been posted earlier.

I think the reason why there are no "superhits" these days is because there is an overflow of choice. So, a lot less people would now have the same favourite song. Since so many songs are being produced, it is extremely inefficient for the new-age composers to write a completely new song and hope that it will be a superhit / evergreen melody.

Hence, the easy way out is to rehash some of the older, already evergreen songs and sell them as remixes. Takes a lot less time, effort and money; but sells for sometime, so is a good ROI from the perspective of economics.

IN the olden days (when people from our parents generation were young)..... i.e. the 60s / 70s, people did not have choices. Th same film songs were blared day after day through "Aakaashwaani" in AIR or through Doordarshan for people who had TV.

In today's age, with so many TV channels and so many songs, no one song is rammed down your throat long enough to make it evergreen, even though it may have the potential. Blame the capitalist economy if you will, but there will be much less evergreen songs in the coming years. Read "The Long Tail" by Chris Anderson for further clarity.

Unknown said...

lol. Do you know Sash bhai that a new reality show has come up with the name of 'Bathroom Singer', wherein the best "bathroom singer" will be chosen & trained for singing. lol. Thats where we're heading! :P

Agree with you more or less and yeah, the movie is not 'Ishq Vishq Pyar Vyar' its Dil Vil Pyar Vyar. Kitni baar bataun? :P

Sayesha said...

Hehehe! Yeah I used to be crazy about the Lata-Asha duet Man kyun behka! :D

#Adorable Pancreas,
Urmila?? Urmila is singing now?? :|

Thanks for the Youtube link of the song! I love Vishwajeet! Hehehe! :P

//Its probably very difficult to have an original voice as such after growing up listening to these legends..

Hmmm... that's a good point... :)

Kaise jaanu sajan nahin re, kya janoo sajan! Ahahahaha! Tu bhi na! :D

//sammi kapoor aur rasfi ka combo toh lethal hai bhaiyya, netime.

To-talli agree! :D

Oh yeah! Also Kailash Kher! :)

Welcome to my blog! :)
ps: Does Raghav reveal at the end of the song what the heck he means by "oooooooo"?? :O

Yes I do agree that there are some talented composers today, just like there are some talented singers too, but we don't even remember the 80s ke songs the way we remember the 60s and 70s ke, so I wonder what will happen a couple of decades later. :)

Welcome to my blog, and thanks for commenting! :)

Welcome to my blog! Yes, you have raised a very good point here. Though some songs do have overkill (wasn't there a time every single channel was spouting Himesh's songs?) on TV, but changes happen fast and we move on to the next foot-tapper. But objectively speaking, I do feel that songs in those days had more 'soul' than the ones of today.

What? Really?? Holy cow! Let's register for this yaar! I am a damn good bathroom singer! :D :D :D
ps: Thanks for the correction, change kar diya! :)

Wavefunction said...

Nice. I share your love and fascination for old Hindi melodies and have been playing and singing them with my group for years. A post detailing my experiences with old Hindi film songs:

~vagabond~ said...

The other day, quite unexpectedly, I heard “Kahin door jab din dhal jaye” playing in an Indian restaurant. It just happens to be my mom’s favorite song. When I was a kid, we had only one stereo at home so very often my Backstreet Boys would have to compete with Mukesh or Lata for stereo time. And I would roll my eyes in utter disdain over my parents’ “poor” taste in music. I now live miles away from home, and the same music that I would roll my eyes at growing up, today has the power to make me helplessly, utterly, miserably, nostalgic. I listen to “Pukarta chala hoon main” and close my eyes and somehow it makes the miles disappear and for the brief moment of the song, I’m transported back to my living room at home, and my dad’s familiar voice singing along with the song. I love good ol’ Hindi classics. 
PS. For the record, you never heard me say I owned a Backstreet Boys tape. *blushing red with embarrassment*

Harish said...

I write this comment as I listen to this fantastic song.
Yes, technology is enabling anybody and everybody to compose music. Television is making anyone who looks good and can hum to be a popular singer.
But at the same time, talent is also getting good exposure. With regard to style, what is there in composing music that is identical to what we had in the past. Change is always necessary. It is this change that makes us the old ones look that much more beautiful. Fifteen or twenty years down the line, songs of today will be viewed with greater respect than today.

Lastly,with due respects to all the legends that musicians of the past were, maybe since very few people got the opportunity to sing in the past, that also had a role to play in they becoming indelible in our minds. Maybe not.

starbreez said...

wow! well done!!! and i thought you didn't like surprises ... :p

Ranjini said...

Wow.. that was something. U and I share a lot of things..for one.. love for old Hindi film songs....I luv each of the songs that u mentioned...and hey thanks for that little known fact abt RD and Lata....u rock!!....

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Anonymous said...

Sayesha, I am here gain to say..that your blog is amazing! I landed on this post from somewhere and am feeling delighted now..listening to some old gems...:)

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