Celebrating with some newly discovered gems and a tribute to Master Madan

Songs of Yore Seventh anniversaryWhen I wrote on the sixth anniversary, I had been concerned by Gaddeswarupji’s ominous statistics that many promising blogs start losing steam in the sixth year. Seven years is ripe age for a blog. This is the stage when, I guess, a blogger starts thinking whether he/she is able to keep the readers still interested, or is doing more of the same. I believe SoY has been able to do more of different things. We are getting new readers, we also get to know of many who follow the blog regularly, though they may not be participating. A highlight has been the arrival of two new guest authors: Ravindra Kelkar and Ashwin Bhandarkar. Mr Kelkar had already made a mark as an OP Nayyar-expert. He filled up an important gap in SoY as I could not have given him the profile commensurate with his fan following. Ashwin is a Master with a light touch. Readers can expect many more offerings from them.



Guest article by Subodh Agrawal

(I had once hesitantly asked Subodh whether he would be writing on Asavari and Jaunpuri in his series on articles on film songs based on classical ragas. The reason for my hesitation was that these ragas might be too light for a connoisseur like him. Therefore, I was extremely happy to find his article on my favourite ragas without any extra nudging from me. The beautiful Ragamalika painting on Asavari Ragini, used as the thumbnail with the article, located by his daughter, is from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London collection, available on their website, which I have downloaded with their permission with grateful thanks. As credited by the V & A Museum, this is by an unknown artist from Hyderabad from 18th century.

Subodh decodes the similar ragas Asavari, Jaunpuri and Dev Gandhar with his characteristic clarity. About the painting, he pointed out a unique feature: In all the paintings on Asavari, snake figures very prominently for some unknown reason. As you enjoy this post, the experts are also called upon to throw light on the snake-Asavari connection.  Thanks Subodh for another excellent piece. – AK)

Asavari Ragini, courtesy @Victoria & Albert Museum, LondonIndian ragas have different times of the day assigned to them. One begins with Lalit at the crack of dawn, and goes on to the Bhairav family. Asavari and its clones Jaunpuri and Dev Gandhar belong to late morning. The original version of Asavari used all four komal swaras – much like Bhairavi. It then ceded popularity to the modern version of Asavari, which uses shudh ‘re’ but komal ‘ga’, ‘dha’ and ‘ni’. When Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande grouped north Indian ragas into ten thaats, he chose Asavari (with shudh ‘re’) as the key raga of the thaat named after it.



Shankar JaikishanIn the first part of Shankar-Jaikishan’s duets, I covered the songs in which either Mukesh or Rafi sang with a female singer. They being the predominant singers, one would think that that post would cover most of the famous duets composed by them. But SJ were hugely talented and diversified, and played a key role in introducing or boosting the career of many singers. Subir Sen, who was among the top singers of Bengali songs, is mainly their gift to Hindi film music. Mukesh’s forays into acting and film production gave an opening for Manna Dey as the voice of Raj Kapoor, and SJ created some iconic duets like Pyar hua iqaraar hua, Aa ja sanam madhu chaandni mein hum, Ye raat bhigi bhigi etc. Even though SD Burman gave Manna Dey his first big hit Upar gagan vishal, and was his uncle KC Dey’s protégé, Manna Dey credited SJ more for giving him prominence. We have also seen that SJ used Talat Mahmood’s voice in at least nine films, more than most composers, though they may not be counted among the elite group who gave the best songs for him. They have used Hemant Kumar sparingly, but they managed to compose a couple of his greatest duets.



Guest article by Ashwin Bhandarkar

(If we broadly divide the SoY community into two categories – ‘music experts’ and ‘others’ – Ashwin Bhandarkar belongs to the first category. Therefore, it is not surprising that he is appearing as a guest author; the surprise is that it has taken him so long to do so. He explains that he has “had a bee in his bonnet” for long about contributing a guest post; finally it took DP Rangan’s post on flowers to spur him to write on the connected theme of ‘bees’ and ‘honey’.

An expert who can write with a light touch is a treat to read. Ashwin’s content is impressive and shows his deep knowledge of music across genres. But what makes the piece delightful is his unpretentious style peppered with a dash of humour. It gives me great pleasure to welcome and introduce him as a guest author. Ashwin is an alumnus of BITS Pilani and IIM Calcutta, and is working with an IT services major in Pune. – AK)

Bhanwra bada naadanEver since I started following SoY, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about contributing a guest post, but for the life of me, I could not make up my mind about the topic. Then, all of a sudden, inspiration struck after I read D.P. Rangan’s latest post – if flowers can make their debut on SoY, then it follows that bees should not bee far bee-hind, right? Therefore, busy as a bee though I have bee-n over the past few weeks, I managed to take some time out to type this post on bees – and honey – in Hindi film music and other musical genres, and luckily for me, AK has found it good enough to be published. Hope SoY followers find it interesting.



Shankar JaikishanIn the last calendar year I did a series of posts on Shankar-Jaikishan’s songs: singerwise for Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Rafi, Manna Dey, ‘Other singers’ and two posts on their dance songs – for Lata Mangeshkar and female dance duets. Several readers rightly remarked that SJ’s series would not be complete without covering their duets. That is true for all top MDs, but more so for SJ because they dominated the scene during the heydays of ‘Bollywood’ – when our films moved away from social issues of factory workers, farmer’s indebtedness and poverty to song and dance romance; when the heroes and heroines went to Kashmir and danced around flowers. We had not become affluent, but we went to cinema to suspend our disbelief and escape for three hours in darkness to the dream world of glamorous stars gallivanting on the screen.



Shamshad Begum with 3G

April 14, 2017

A tribute on Shamshad Begum’s 98th birth anniversary (14 April 1919 – 23 April 2013), and  wishing the readers a very happy Baisakhi, Vishu, Bihu and Tamil New Year.

Shamshad BegumShamshad Begum has been a perennial favourite on SoY. Earlier, there was a reference to the great trinity of Naushad, C Ramchandra and OP Nayyar who arguably gave the best songs for her. (Incidentally, besides these three I also wrote a post on her best songs by SD Burman, under the title “East meets West”.) If you look a little earlier, and a little more carefully, there was another trinity who composed great songs for her. I call them the 3G, for Ghulam Haider, Ghulam Mohammad and Pt Govind Ram.  I am presenting her best songs by the 3G as my tribute to her on her 98th birth anniversary.



Multiple version songsIf you think there is a glaring mistake in the title of this post, you have to blame Mumbaikar8 for it. She only gave me the idea for this post. Don’t ask me what is her good name, please. If she is not disclosing it, I am also not disclosing it. As you know she is living in the US, but I am living in India only. Therefore, when she is writing mail to me, I am sleeping; and when I am writing to her, she is sleeping. I have reverted back to her many times. But, some things one can talk clear clear only face to face. But, she will be coming to India during vacations only. She cannot prepone her visit for very small small things. However, she suggested some very good good songs for the post. Therefore, I had to do the needful and I am posting it now. The date April 1 is purely coincidental. I hope Mumbaikar8 understands. Little little things often cause big big misunderstandings.



Mela-Nadiya Ke Paar-Shaheed-Aag-Anokha Pyar-Anokhi AdaOn our journey back in time to review the best songs of the year, as we reach 1948 we are entering the Vintage Era characterised by a great variety of full-throated female singers. Lata Mangeshkar did sing over 40 songs of which you can count about ten memorable and a couple of all-time great songs, yet she was not the sole pole star, as she became from 1949 onwards. Therefore, dividing the female playback singers as Lata Mangehkar and ‘others’ as I have done for 1949, 1950 and 1951 would not be a true reflection of realty. Secondly, the Vintage Era also means entering a period of more unknown than known, therefore, the year-wise review would now be more a discovery trip.



Wishing the readers a very Happy Holi with some songs of brazenness

Rang barseOnce a casual acquaintance, but who had a way of showing great familiarity, visited me. He started discussing something very animatedly, every second sentence he would look at me intently and ask, “Whose father’s what goes? Isn’t it?” I didn’t know what to say, because I had never heard this expression before, nor did it make any sense to me grammatically, until I had a flash. If you are still puzzled, try to translate it into Hindi. Of course, he meant: किसी के बाप का क्या जाता है?, or KKBKKJH. There are times when nothing but WFWG can convey what you want to say.



Guest article by Subodh Agrawal

(When Subodh came back after a long hiatus with his post on Bihag, he had promised us that he would now be more regular. He keeps his promise with another excellent piece on Mand and Shivranjani. ‘Kesariya balam’ has made everyone familiar with Mand. As for Shivranjani, the readers may recall a scene in ‘Bheja Fry’ when Vinay Pathak and Milind Soman go in raptures discussing Shankar-Jaikishan’s special fondness for this raga. It is Subodh’s creativity to find a connection between the two ragas. I have to also especially thank his wife Renu for the beautiful painting ‘Rajastahani flute player’ which I have used as the thumbnail for this article. Incidentally, the readers must have noticed that 2017 has turned out to be a Festival of Guest Authors, with entire January and February taken by guest articles.  Our venerable Arunkumar Deshmukh has already acclaimed it as SoY’s growing popularity among serious music lovers. – AK)

Rajasthani flute playerThere is not much in common between Mand and Shivranjani as far as their structure goes. The reason I have clubbed them in this post is the mood they both evoke – like a spirit calling out to another across the divide that separates this world from the other. Both strongly evoke longing and the pain of separation. Another raga that evokes the same mood is Pahadi, and I had once thought of clubbing the three in one post. However, Pahadi is a great favourite of Hindi film music directors and one full post (third in this series) dedicated to that raga could barely accommodate a fraction of great songs in it.