Guest article by Subodh Agrawal
(When I wrote my last post acknowledging the second anniversary of Songs of Yore, I mentioned Subodh Agrawal’s guest series on classical ragas and hoped he wrote more often. Soon after in a very sweet gesture, he sent me his article on Raga Pahadi as his gift to mark the anniversary of SoY. In literary discourse, ‘Lok’ and ‘Shastra’ are supposed to be opposite of each other which do not meet. Pahadi is one of the Ragas which straddle both folk and classical, which makes it universal, extremely pleasant and, not surprisingly, a big favourite of composers of Hindi film songs. I am grateful to Subodh for letting SoY begin its third year with his guest article on Pahadi. – AK )
There are several ragas that draw upon the rich cultural heritage of folk music. There is Mand based on the folk music of Rajasthan; Pilu from the Hindi heartland and Pahadi from the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand. Many other ragas like Desh, Tilak Kamod, Vrindavani Sarang, Jhinjhoti, Gara, Kafi and Khamaj also straddle the boundary between classical and folk, but the three mentioned above excel in giving a classical expression to the pristine beauty of folk music.
Pahadi and Pilu are popular ragas with Indian film industry. A simple search on the internet brings up fifty-odd songs in each of them. I first thought of doing a common post on all the three predominantly folk ragas, but the sheer number of great songs in Pahadi and Pilu forced me to change my approach. This article is devoted to Pahadi. Hopefully I will get around to Pilu one of these days.
I would not attempt to present the formal structure of Pahadi by giving its aroha, avaroha, vadi, samvadi etc. Several excellent articles are available on the net for that. As in my previous articles, I would try to build up a feel for the raga by present a few film songs from the raga and then conclude by presenting a few classical pieces. An addition – demanded by the folk roots of the raga – would be a few pieces of folk music.
Let me quote from a brief but beautiful article I found on the net by Harkesh Bakshi (www.soundofindia.com): “Peace, power, pathos, poignancy: these words together constitute an apposite expression of the aesthetics of the raga Pahadi. The raga is like a lover, unruffled in union, serene in separation, powerful enough to achieve eternal union, but resigned to the painful parting ordained by destiny.” I couldn’t have put it better. This raga appeals straight to the heart, as the collection of songs from films would show.
Choosing ten from the vast repertoire of film songs of this beautiful raga was not easy. My list underwent several modifications as I worked on this article, and even now I am not satisfied that I have chosen the ten best. I have left out two outstanding songs Tum apna ranjo-o gham and Suhani raat dhal chuki as they have figured prominently on Songs of Yore in AK’s posts on Jagjit Kaur and Best songs of Naushad for Rafi.
1. Awaz de kahaan hai by Noorjehan and Surendra from Anmol Ghadi (1946), music director Naushad.
I open with the song from the great Noorjehan, which went on to become a symbol of the pain caused by the partition of the country. The timing must have had something to do with it, as this film was released only a year before the partition when Noorjehan migrated to Pakistan. For a long time the Urdu Service of All India Radio had a regular feature Awaz de kahaan hai - with the opening lines serving as the signature tune – seeking to evoke the nostalgia people on both sides of the border fell for the lost times. Noorjehan visited India in 1982 to a red carpet welcome. This song was the highlight of her live performance during this visit.
2. Meri aankhon mein bas gaya koi re by Lata Mangeshkar from Barsaat (1949), music directors Shankar-Jaikishen
This song and number four below have perhaps the clearest exposition of the classically accepted structure of raga Pahadi in film songs. Barsaat was the movie that launched or gave a boost to several careers – Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Lata Mangeshkar, Shankar-Jaikishen. It also gave RK films their famous logo.
3. Do dil dhadak rahe hain by Talat Mahmood and Asha Bhosle from Insaaf (1956), music by Chitragupta
The best thing about ‘Songs of Yore’ is the discovery of forgotten gems. It is amazing how many great songs have disappeared from public memory. Thanks to the lovers of music who have uploaded the clips on Youtube and other music sites we have this huge gold mine before us. I had not heard this Talat-Asha duet from Insaaf. I came across it in my search for songs based on Pahadi. Interestingly, the instrumental accompaniment of the song does recall Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube, as mentioned in the comments on Youtube! Music has no boundaries.
4. Saajan ki galiyan chhod chale by Lata Mangeshkar from Bazaar(1949), music director Shyam Sundar
Another forgotten gem from the 1949 film Bazaar. The initial movement of the song is similar to Meri aankhon mein bas gaya koi re; but its slower tempo makes it more poignant. This is the first song I have heard from the composer Shyam Sundar. Perhaps another candidate for AK’s series on forgotten composers (how many more are waiting to be discovered?)
5. Rahen na rahen ham by Lata Mangeshkar from Mamta (1966), music director Roshan
No article on classical songs can be complete without Roshan. A couple of months back there was a retrospective on Roshan on a TV channel. An associate of his recalled how elated the whole unit was when this song was recorded. कुछ गाने बनाए जाते हैं और कुछ बन जाते हैं. यह गाना बन गया. दुबारा रोशन साहेब भी इसे नहीं बना सकते. This is a song that composed itself.
6. Sun ri sakhi mohe sajna bulaye by Lata Mangeshkar from Nagin (1954), music director Hemant Kumar
This one is in anticipation of AK’s much awaited post on songs of 1954. I am sure Nagin would rank very high in all categories. Till then enjoy this song from the movie that established Hemant Kumar as a music director. I must caution that the instrumental prelude is not in Pahadi. The raga is established only when Lata starts singing.
7. Aaj ki raat piya dil na todo by Geeta Dutt from Baazi (1951), music director S D Burman
Is there something about Pahadi that leads to landmark films? Barsaat, Nagin and now Baazi – the debut film of Kalpana Kartik; who went on to capture the most eligible bachelor of the Industry. Pahadi is ideally suited to express the feeling of yearning – as in most of the songs above. Do dil dhadak rahe hain and Rahen na rahen ham are different, but these two songs don’t quite follow the standard movement of the raga. This song, however, stays very close to the standard movement; yet creates a playful, romantic mood. One expects no less from the great SD Burman.
8. Lag ja gale ki phir ye hasin raat ho na ho by Lata Mangeshkar from Wo kaun thi (1964), music director Madan Mohan
If Roshan is there, can Madan Mohan be far behind? I was thinking of using Roshan’s Kabhi to milegi…baharon ki manzil rahi from Aarti. I decided against it as Roshan is already there in the list. Raga Pahadi ideally suits this song with the aura of mystery and yearning that is the soul of this movie.
9. Dil le ke daga denge from Naya Daur by Mohammad Rafi, music director O P Nayyar
Finally a male voice in a list dominated by female singers – mostly Lata! Pahadi by its nature suits the female voice better – but there are songs like this one that do equally well in the male voice. I didn’t remember this song; I have to thank AK for jogging my memory. OP Nayyar was very fond of Pahadi. His other well known compositions in this raga include Tum rooth ke mat jana, Isharon isharon mein dil lene wale, and Tum jo huye mere hamsafar. This video from Youtube is not complete, but gives a pretty good idea of the beauty of the song.
10. Yeh dil aur unki nigahon ke saaye by Lata Mangeshkar from Prem Parbat (1973), music director Jaidev
I can see AK frowning at me for breaching the Laxman Rekha of 1960s, but I don’t think any article on films songs based on Pahadi can exclude this one. Jaidev deserves all praise for creating an atmosphere of pure joy. The movie would have been completely forgotten but for this number, which is somewhat unfair, as it also has an absolute gem in raga Tilak Kamod – Yeh neer kahan se barse hai.
This brings me to the end of the list of film songs. As I said, it was not easy to choose the top ten. I have already mentioned a few that were left out for reasons other than merit. I could also mention Jo wada kiya wo nibhana padega, Bachpan ki muhabbat ko dil se na juda karna, Chal ud ja re panchhi, O door ke musafir ham ko bhi saath le le, Chaudahvin ka chand ho, Mushkil hai bahut mushkil chahat ko bhula dena and many more. There is Sun meri sanwari o the beautiful Rafi-Lata duet composed by Husanlal Bhagatram that has already been covered in AK’s post on Rafi-Lata duets. Once AK reminded me of song number nine, I had to drop Chahoonga main tujhe saanjh savere from Dosti, which had made it to the list primarily on the ground of nostalgia. This was the song, along with others from the same film, that had made me a fan of Rafi as a child – before I switched my loyalties to Hemant Kumar, Mukesh and Talat Mahmood.
I now present three folk songs from Himachal. I know very little about folk music, so I have no idea where these songs would rank in any top ten list of Pahadi folk songs – or whether they would even make it to the top hundred. I have picked them out after listening to about twenty odd songs that a search on ‘Pahadi folk’ on Youtube displayed. These three sounded good to me. I know nothing about the first two singers, but the third one is Mohit Chauhan, who has made it big in the Hindi Film industry during the last few years – winning two Filmfare awards for best male playback singer. Before this he had an Indipop group by the name of Silk Route whose song Dooba dooba was a huge hit. I hope you will agree with me after listening to the folk number that he sounds best when he goes back to his roots.
I now move on to the classical territory, where I feel a little more secure of my footing! The first piece is from the album ‘Call of the Valley’ by the trio Hariprasad Chaurasiya (flute), Shiv Kumar Sharma (santoor) and Brijbhushan Lal Kabra (guitar). The visuals accompanying this piece are from the city of Lahore, which may look a little odd, given that Lahore is not in the hills. However, these visuals make sense in another way. Pahadi is the raga of longing, nostalgia and separation. I have lived and worked in Punjab for nearly four decades now, and if there is one thing about Pakistan that makes the people of Indian Punjab misty-eyed with nostalgia, it is the city of Lahore.
The next piece is by Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan. I had the pleasure of meeting Ustad Ji as a student when he came to my Institute for a performance. He loved raga Pahadi, exuding joy from every pore as he played it. He may not be rated on par with Ravi Shankar and Vilayat Khan by the cognoscenti, but his love for the raga makes this piece special.
I now present a classical thumri by the celebrated Pakistani duo Salamat-Nazakat. ‘Silken’ is an adjective often used to describe voices, but it is rarely as appropriate as in this case.
Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sang in an age when long playing records were a rarity. He and his contemporaries had to compress their presentations within the few minutes the old 78 rpm records allowed; and they became masters at distilling the essence of a raga in that short time. This bhajan in Pahadi by Khan Saheb is a real treat for music lovers.
As this article was being finalized, we heard of the sad demise of Mehdi Hasan. It was particularly poignant for me, as the idea of writing this article on raga Pahadi came to me in answering an email from AK in which he wanted to know the ragas on which Gulon mein rang bhare and Baat karni mujhe mushkil kabhi aisi na thee are based. The first one is Jhinjhoti – which I hope to cover sometime later – and the second one Pahadi. The best way to pay homage to the late maestro is to close this article with his famous composition in this raga.
This article has started and ended with singers from Pakistan whose appeal transcended the national boundaries. It was not something I had planned consciously; but now that it has happened, let me conclude by expressing the hope that the musicians and music lovers on both sides of the border will continue to contribute to normalization of relations between the two countries.
I close by thanking AK and the commentators on ‘Songs of Yore’ for their support and encouragement. I also acknowledge my debt to two websites that have been immensely helpful in my research and for clearing any doubts: www.chandrakantha.com and www.parrikar.org.