And the SoY Award for the Best Music Director goes to?

Anil Biswas_Shankar-Jaikishan_SD Burman_C RamchandraThis is the third series of detailed year-wise review of songs. Mid-way I had a feeling that this exercise might appear monotonous and uninteresting. I am very happy to note that my fears were unfounded. Rather, the readers’ participation has been more intense and passionate, and their comments very knowledgeable. Therefore, as I conclude this year’s exercise with the Final Wrap-Up about the best music director(s), I have to sincerely thank the readers for their participation and making the exercise worthwhile.



And the award for the best duet goes to?

1951 FilmsWe are now nearing the end of the Review of the songs of 1951, with the penultimate wrap-up – of the best duets – before the final wrap-up of the best music director. The wrap-up of the best solos, especially of the male solos, caused some serious differences of views and sharp reactions. I had thought duets would not pose such problems. But looking at the comments in the overview post, I could not have been more wrong. Several readers added a number of duets from outside my long list, which I had thought was fairly exhaustive. One such addition I find so breathtaking that I have to give it a place in the final shortlist. There is an all female duet, which is my great favourite, but seems to be on no one’s radar screen, though another all female duet from the same film has been mentioned. There are some other all female duets, or songs with more than two singers, mentioned by the readers. And among the well-known songs, the choices vary widely, some being quite unexpected.



A tribute to Salil Chaudhry on his birth anniversary (November 19) by guest author Sadanand Warrier

(SoY regulars are familiar with a more famous Warrier – Anuradha or Anu. Her husband, Sadanand, prefers to keep his immense knowledge hidden under the Nom de plume “SSW”. Now that the cover is blown, readers are familiar with his ability to traverse seamlessly from music to literature to science to history to economics, from English to Hindi to Malayalam to Tamil to Telugu, from komal gaandhar to F Major to teevra madhyam, and from Western Classical to pop to Hindustani to Carnatic to ghazal to opera to film songs.

Acknowledged as a revolutionary genius from his very first score in “Do Bigha Zameen” (1953), Salil Chaudhary was a multifaceted talent, earning renown as a short story writer, lyricist, music scholar and left-wing activist, besides music director. He was also probably the most multi-lingual composer. I envisage a series of articles to do full justice to him by more than one guest author. There can’t be a more befitting person than SSW to set off the series on Salil Chaudhary – I am grateful that he accepted my request to write this guest article as a tribute on his birth anniversary (b. 19 November 1925, d. 5 September 1995). He informs me that Anu has helped him a lot in doing this article, I thank her too. Enjoy this learned article, laced with SSW’s characteristic humour – AK)

Salil ChaudharyI am a relatively new visitor to the Songs of Yore website. I started reading articles on it more frequently during the last year, but I do not get to spend as much time as I would like to on it. I have commented on some topics where I could contribute something, but I have relatively little of value to say on most of the articles. On the other hand, I have learnt a lot from reading those articles that I have visited, and time permitting, I shall be reading more. But my few comments seemed to have piqued AK enough to ask me to contribute an article on the use of instruments in Hindi film music of the era that the website is dedicated to. I have not yet done so, primarily because while I know of some of the instrumentalists, I am not in any position to be accurate about them. So when AK asked us (my wife and me, possibly because he had no idea whether I could write more than one paragraph coherently) to contribute an article on Salil Chowdhury, I did think seriously about it. My wife has already written an article on Salilda on her blog, so she offered to look over my shoulder while watching me work. So, thanks to AK, this is my article on Salilda, a composer who I admire the most in the realm of Indian popular song. In some ways, I feel that his influence is felt more in my native state of Kerala because, even today, I see his influence amongst the younger composers. That is perhaps because I am not as familiar with modern Bengali composers; I am quite sure he has influenced them too.



A tribute to Surendra on his 104th birth anniversary as a part of Anil Biswas’s Centenary Year series

Surendra and Anil BiswasI have mentioned a few times that because of contractual difficulties inherent in the Studio Era, Anil Biswas could not compose for KL Saigal, even though their careers overlapped for over a decade, half of which was in Bombay itself where Saigal shifted from Calcutta in the early 40s. But, when Saigal was becoming a national sensation with the New Theatres in Calcutta, especially after Devdas (1935), Bombay was looking for its own Saigal, and its prayers were soon answered in Surendra – a tall, handsome young man, with a melodious voice, from Lahore.



A tribute in her Centenary year

KhursheedI realised somewhat late that Khursheed’s Birth Centenary (b. 14 April 1914, d. 18 April 2001) fell this year. But she is such a prominent singer of the Vintage Era that I had to pay my tribute with her selected songs. Vintage Era refers to not only a period of time, i.e. the 1930s through 40s, but also, and more importantly, a different style of singing, which became extinct with the arrival of Lata Mangeshkar. No singer represented this contrast better than Khursheed. Endowed with a full-throated, open and powerful voice, she was one of the leading singers of the Vintage Era. Blessed with a beautiful face and charming personality, she was also the leading lady in many films. Her roles as actor-singer against the legend, KL Saigal, in Bhakt Surdas (1942) and Tansen (1943) has given her an important place in the history of Hindi cinema. The songs of these films are remembered today as much for Khursheed as for Saigal. Besides these two films, she sang for most of the great composers of the era.



Songs of Yore Award for the Best Female Playback Singer goes to Lata, Lata, Lata…Lata Mangeshkar, with Happy Diwali greetings to all

Lata MangeshkarAll superlatives fall short of describing Lata Mangehkar’s dominance in 1951, just as we saw in 1955 and 1953. Mahesh even said that the best female playback singer other than Lata Mangeshkar is Lata Mangeshkar herself. Many of us would give 1 to 10 slots to her, and still feel that many more everlasting songs are still left out. Since the year also had career landmarks of several ‘other’ singers, we decided to split the female singers in two parts. ‘Other’ singers have been covered in the Wrap Up 2. In this Wrap Up (3), devoted exclusively to Lata Mangeshkar, we can discuss her best without being constrained to look over our shoulders to include ‘others’ for equity.



A tribute on Kishore Kumar’s death anniversary October 13

SD Burman & Kishore KumarIt 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

Begum AkhtarA 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 & Lata MangeshkarAnil 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.



SD Burman and Hemant KumarHemant 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.