A tribute on Kishore Kumar’s death anniversary October 13
It is befitting that I am completing my (renewed) series on SD Burman with the singer he was most fond of. With 115 songs, he gave Kishore Kumar more songs than any other (male) singer. Surjit Singh’s site indicates that out of this only 53 were solos, and 62 were duets and other songs. If you just start recalling their songs, duets are as likely to flood your memory as the solos. Can SD Burman-KK be complete without Kora kagaz tha ye man mera, Gata rahe mera dil, Aasman ke neeche hum aaj apne peeche or Chhod do aanchal zamana kya kahega? Therefore, when I resumed the SD Burman series with his different singers, it soon became clear that I have to do Kishore Kumar duets, too, to complement his solos I did last year.
A tribute on her Birth Centenary, October 7
A legend in her lifetime, who achieved enormous fame at a very young age, and gave joy to millions of listeners of many generations, including doyens like Mehdi Hasan, Talat Mahmood, Madan Mohan, Pt. Jasraj and Pt. Ravi Shankar, Begum Akhtar’s own life seems to be full of sorrow, pain, abusive relationships, betrayal by people she loved and a deep melancholy. She was born on 7 October 1914 (as Bibbi, along with her twin sister Anwari) to a court singer, Mushtari Bai at Faizabad (UP) and Asghar Ali, a civil judge in Lucknow. Mushtari Bai’s singing was causing a strain in the conservative Muslim family of her husband, and soon after the birth of the daughters, the marriage broke apart.
Continuing Anil Biswas Centenary series, his best songs for Lata Mangeshkar as birthday greetings to her
Anil Biswas occupies an important place among the music directors who played a major role in grooming and developing Lata Mangehskar. She was an artiste par excellence, but Anil Biswas taught her the craft of playback singing: the importance of words, as she came from a tradition which emphasized taans; breath control before mike to take breath without anyone noticing it, and maintaining the vocal quality at any pitch. Anil Biswas was to Lata Mangeshkar what GH Hardy was to Srinivas Ramanujam.
Hemant Kumar, a singer-composer par excellence, and SD Burman, a Titan among singer-composers. And the former was quite open to singing for other composers too. That brought the two great Bengalis together. Hemant Kumar was another name for melody and sweetness – he is among those who never sang anything which was less than extremely melodious. SD Burman’s motto seemed to be ‘give me the singer and I would give you a great song’. So, you know what happened when they combined. Even with a handful of songs (14 songs including 10 solos) they left an everlasting impact. I put Ye raat ye chaandni phir kahan at the very peak of Hemant Kumar solos (along with Naushad’s Chandan ka palnaa). Its duet version with Lata Mangeshkar has also figured in their best duets in my earlier post. Aa gup chup gup chup pyaar karein, Hai apnaa dil to aawara, Jaane wo kaise log the jinke – you can name one after another, each is a landmark song.
Songs of Yore Award for the Best ‘Other’ Female Playback Singer goes to?
In the previous two series for 1953 and 1955, I had one Wrap Up for the best female playback singer, and unlike the question mark for male singers, the by-line for female singer had a straightforward: “And the Award goes to Lata, Lata, Lata, Lata, Lata….Lata Mangeshkar.” But in the write-up and the final ten I made efforts to include about 3-4 songs of other singers too, in the nature of affirmative action. Her dominance is no less pronounced in 1951- Mahesh goes to the extent of saying that the best female playback singer other than Lata is Lata Mangeshkar herself. But several readers gave separate lists of their favourite songs of Lata and ‘other’ female singers, and suggested that I do the female playback singers in two parts. The ‘other’ singers bring immense variety and several of them had their landmark songs in the year. Therefore, let me split the female singers in two parts, and start with the ‘other’ singers first.
A tribute to Mukesh on his death anniversary August 27, and a tribute to the music duo
In the surfeit of TV programmes associated with Centenary Celebrations of Indian Cinema last year, I closely followed the ones on film music. There was one presented by a young lady on Kalyanji-Anandji. After a quick reference to their early career in the 60s, she went in detail about their ‘music’. Her conclusion at the end of the half- an-hour programme was that KA were famous for their songs by Kishore Kumar for Amitabh Bachchan. This struck me as quite odd, as one singer I associated most prominently with the duo was Mukesh. For Mukesh too, if I make a list of his ‘quintessential’ songs, several KA songs would figure at the top. With about 100 songs they composed for him, they must be very close to SJ, if not outnumber them. This is remarkable, considering that Shankar Jaikishan, arguably the most successful composers in the history of film music, who had debuted a decade earlier, had made Mukesh a part of RK camp as the voice of Raj Kapoor. With such a handicap, it is to the credit of the genius of KA and their special bonding with Mukesh that they were able to create a special niche with his songs, no less in quality to SJ’s.
Independence Day greetings to India and Pakistan
Fill in the blank in ‘Aao bachcho tumhein dikhayen jhanki…ki’. We all know the answer – ‘Hindustan’. If you think of it, ‘Pakistan’ also fits in perfectly. It is quite befitting that this is so, because no two countries have such shared history, shared culture, language, musical tradition, dress and appearance. India and Pakistan both got independence on the same day (August 15/14) from the British rule by the same Act of British Parliament, ‘India Independence Act 1947’. This was more like a surgeon separating two children at birth, with the ‘surgeon’ Radcliffe cutting the land into two by drawing his scalpel on the map, creating two nation-states.
Guest article by Arunkumar Deshmukh
(The Living Encyclopaedia, Arunji, needs no introduction to the readers of SoY or other music related blogs. His first guest article in the series on Multiple Version Songs was on Hindi-Marathi, naturally. When I was struggling to look for someone to write on Hindi-Kannada, Arunji surprised me by doing the favour. Telugu is one of the many languages he is proficient in. So it was only a matter of time that he would write on it. With this, all the four South Indian languages are covered – Venkataramanji and Anuradha Warrier having already done guest articles on Tamil and Malayalam respectively. The series conceptualised by Mr Ashok M Vaishnav has grown way beyond what he may have thought initially. Arunji is known for the depth of his research and capacity for great detail. I thank him, as also Priya Laxmiji, Ambrish Sundaramji and Sudhirji, who have helped him in his endeavour. – AK)
I had the advantage of being born in a multi-language state like Hyderabad. It was a composite state of 8 Telugu speaking districts (which have now become Telangana state), 5 districts of Marathi speakers and 3 districts of Kannadigas. Hyderabad being the Capital city, people from all sectors had settled here. I had many Telugu and Kannada friends. I picked up these two languages easily as a child. Urdu was the medium of instruction till the 5th standard and Marathi was my mother tongue, while Hindi was the language of communication. No wonder I became a multi-language person, with English (and now Gujarati) to boot!
A tribute to Rafi on his death anniversary, July 31
If you revisit my earlier post on Rafi’s songs (solos) composed by SD Burman, along with the readers’ comments, you realise the high regard in which the music lovers hold their combination. In spite of his known fondness for Kishore Kumar, SD Burman had something special for Rafi. Canasya finds Rafi’s songs by SD Burman even more mellifluous and romantic than by Naushad. That is some high compliment!
Continuing Anil Biswas Centenary Year celebration, a tribute to his most famous protégé, Mukesh, on his birth anniversary, July 22
And the rest is history. A worn-out cliché, but nothing describes Anil Biswas’s role in the emergence of Mukesh better. Mukesh was a struggling singer-actor in the period 1941-1945, when his brother-in-law, Motilal, took him to his close friend, Anil Biswas, and requested him to try out the young boy. Impressed with Mukesh’s singing, Anil Biswas suggested that in Motilal’s forthcoming film, Pahli Nazar, the boy could be given a chance. The producer of the film, Mazhar Khan, was furious at the prospect of his film being ruined by this new singer. So, Motilal said, that in that case, ‘I would sing my songs’. Anil Biswas, who was familiar with Motilal’s singing for him earlier, told him in his inimical style, ‘Tu rahne de, ye gana main khud gaaunga’.