O P Nayyar, R D Burman and A R Rahman!

Those three folks, what makes me put them in a same category? Let me explain.

Bollywood (I hate to use this aped term, but its an accepted word now) has given us great music. The music directors of past, and some present, these are the folks who deserve most credit for the musical treasure we have on our iPods today.

And I pick these three gentlemen to be my top 3 composers. Because, there is one thing common about their music – one word – style! OP, RDB and ARR, they belonged to different generations, and in their times, they were and are the folks with most distinctive and trademark styles!

‘Style’ sometimes gets mixed up with ‘repetitiveness’.

If you are in the overly critical mood, you might dismiss O P Nayyar as a horse-tap freak who knew nothing else. But look at it this way. OP dished out hits using this same trademark ‘tak-tak tak-tak‘ rhythm and style. His music was modern for the times and still sounds racy enough. And mind you, he did not use services of the most popular playback singer of his time – Lata Mangeshkar.

It is only OP, whose songs you are most likely to recognize seconds after you press play. And hits, there were plenty. Besides the obvious Kashmir Ki Kali, my personal favorite albums are Phir wohi dil laya hoon and Tumsa Nahin Dekha. Force me to pick the best OP song and I will fickle between at least 4 or 5. Main pyar ka raahi hoon, or Deewana hua baadal? Or should it be Laakhon hai nigaah mein. How about Aakhon hee aaknhon mein from CID?

Being an OP fan does not mean I belittle other super-great composers of the time. R D Burman and A R Rahman are lot less controversial choices for being the style-yet-substance leaders of their times. But OP had the likes of Shankar-Jaikishan, Roshan, the senior Burman, Ravi, Madan Mohan and few more for company and competition. Each of these gentlemen made really great music, but to me, only Shankar-Jaikishan comes close in that substance-with-style category.

Yes, you can tell Roshan from those very short and abruptly ending instrumental interludes that surprise. You can tell a Madan Mohan song by his overly melodious, slow and waltzy tunes that grow on you. And you can certainly figure S-J by the sound of that electric organ or guitar. I am not saying no to any of that. But OP is OP, with a little more distinctive feel to his music.

As I said already, RDB and perhaps ARR too are less controversial choices for leaders on “style”. I need not spend time on them in this post itself. Saved for later!

PS: So who is going to be the next person in this series? After a brief lull in late 80s and early 90s, Bollywood music has certainly been good. Jatin-Lalit flattered to deceive but Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy seem to be here to stay, Shantanu Moitra looks promising, and Pritam could very well be the S-J of present times.


63 Responses

  1. R. D Burman was great and unique in his own way. Nice to see somebody mention old composers. Some of the old melodies were classics and one gets disturbed when they try to mix and match.

    Rehman maybe a genius and his music is good but for me “Old is Gold” whether it is burman, LAxmipyare, Kalyanji- anandji etc. THere is nostalgia associated with them as I grew up on their songs.

  2. whilst a RD fan, i think Shankar/Ehsaan/Loy have a very distinctive and catchy style which i think is unique and appreciable. What do you think?

  3. illayaraja is way way up there.

  4. Hiren – Laxmi-Pyare, and Kalyanji-Anandji are good, but not in the same class as other older composers IMHO.

    Namma Nadu – that was a big slip! I am an SEL fan, they have been pretty good so far.

    Tarle – I was talking only Bollywood composers there. I have heard a lot of Illayaraja music though without understanding any of the lyrics (and intrumentals like ‘How to name it’ etc). [In early 90s, copycats like Anand-Milind introduced me to his music:)] He is definitely way way up there, no question at all.

  5. Dearest SB, Is there not something about sauce for goose etc ?IF Ilayaraja is not Bollywood (Ugh I too hate that term) the how come ARR is? Well both just serve up their Tamil tunes reheated (and not even rehashed) and sometimes even cold for Bollywood- then why the distinction- I know you will have some sophistry up your sleeve.

  6. hotgal – to me Illya-man hasn’t done Bombaiya movies the way AR has. Whether AR just rehashed/reheated his Tam tunes or not (btw, most of Illya-man’s work in Mumbai has been plain old translate and remix type stuff, lot fewer for AR), an average Northie has heard much much more of AR than Illya-man.

    Sophistry. Hmmm, nice word.

  7. AAh the Northie-madrasi stuff- The Vindhyas do it again. Congregational thinking winning over the doctrinal yet again

  8. Sad enough hotgal. But I am certainly not that pan-india music expert who can listen to and dissect composers from their work across all indian languages and movie industries. If you are that rare minority who can, hats off to you, I mean it!

  9. Brothers and sisters… let us not fight over Northie-Madrasi music stuff..Let us be Indian and enjoy great Indian music. Here in USA american artists are using Sitar instrument in their music albums. Also Ricky Martin, Madonna are using great Indian instruments/tunes in their albums….Let us not fight over music of different regions..Let us be Indians..whole world is watching us. Rehman was here last month at LA in prestigious Hollywood Bowl venue and response from people from all races was amazing. We should be so proud about Rehman. I will say Rehman is Indian music ambassador to world. His music is so touching to heart ..take example of his music in movie Taal…My goodness..I don’t have words.

  10. AR Rahman’s music is one of the best. I first came accross his music when I was visiting Chennai as a student and Roja (in tamil) was released then. The songs that I heard were all in tamil. Even though I don’t undertsand tamil I had memorized couple of songs from that album. :) I still vaguely remember some of the lyrics.
    In recent times I have observed that Rahman’s music doesn’t appeal when I listen to it the first time but then slowly it grows on me. Wonderful!

  11. what abt Hamsalekha?? Listen to his songs! I feel its good!

  12. I am terribly sorry dearest SB. It looks like Ive derailed your train on the OPN-RDB-ARR lineage , which certainly was well constructed.That wasnt my intention at all- honestly. It’s just that sometimes you put a few people/things on pedestals – it could just be my perception too- ARR, Narayan Murthy, Vande Mataram et al and then I feel this place could do with a lil bit of iconoclasm.

    OPN was a great trendsetter undoubtedly- but then he had the great tradition of C Ramchandra and Anil Biswas as his matrix. In any case Lata’s reedy voice would never have suited his full blooded compositions and he was canny enough to know this and use Asha and the superb Geeta (Aaah why didnt he use her more)- Humko chhodke kahan jaaoge fron shrimati 420, Jaata hain kahan diwaane (CID)– sorry SB have to finish this some other time- these melodies are too intoxicating.

  13. NRI/PoliteIndian – yes, Rahman is very good. Though he has been accused to be repetitive at times (recycling own tunes types). But he did influence and change Bollywood music a lot.

    Sandesh – haven’t listened to Hamsalekha. BTW – just curious. why ‘Kangalish’ on your blog? you could try kannada fonts, it works on wordpress for sure.

    hotgal – no need to be sorry, really. I wasn’t offended or anything. BTW, I enjoy your comments, you write very well – got a distinctive style.

    BTW, if you look at it, OPN wasn’t a trendsetter really – he didn’t inspire any change in Bollywood music, for some people tried to be ‘inspired’, but couldn’t make his type of music. C Ramachandra – he was a real trendsetter in that sense – for he helped move Bollywood music out of classical to a more ‘popular’ setup. So, I have read, and figured from whatever little very old music I have heard.

    About Geeta Dutt/Bali. Oh! Glad we found a topic we have common views on.

    Talking iconoclasm – I dont revere really those singers of 60s-70s that much. Why is it that select few (4 or 5?) guys and gals sang all the best songs of 60/70/80s? It so boring. Lata, Rafi, Lata-Rafi, Lata-Mukesh. Asha-Rafi. Mix and match as you like. I am sure there would be many whose careers were killed by these established names of the time. That situation seems to have – finally – changed now, certainly a lot of voices to hear and choose from today.

    okay, a comment shouldn’t be this long. later.

  14. Great comments all.

    Let me attempt to define style – the Nayyar style. Bollywood has seen some great composers, many who will be considered even greater than OP Nayyar. However, nobody has his signature behind every composition,except OPN. Within the first 5 seconds of the song you know it is him. And you cannot do that with greats like Madan Mohan, S-J, SDB, Naushad. This is style. A style which is inimitable. And its not the horse-tapping beat. Its the entire orchestration. Listen to Yahi woh jagah hai, Woh hans ke mile humse, Chain se hmako kabhi, the earlier hits like Ae dil ae deewane (Baaz) Ja Ja ja Bewafa, Hun Abhi Mein Jawan Ae dil, Thandi thandi hawa mujhe unka pata (Asha/Geeta duet) where you can almost feel the evening breeze around you.

    I have analyzed and amplified this extensively in my book which I am writing…. OP NAYYAR – When Rhythm Was King. OPN is a legend and unfortunately not enough is being done to give him the visibility that he truly deserves. He is 80 and time isn’t on our side. The least we can do is not to associate and compare him with composers who don’t even come close to him.

    To close on a few words on style amongst the new crop of composers, while AR Rahman has his own distinctive style, I am concerned that he has lost his magic of late. His magic string of the 1990s hits have gone. I have now become pretty good at recognizing Nadeem-Shravan compositions. Hear out the songs of Ashiqui, Raaz and more recently Bewafaa. But N-S have a long way to go before they or anybody comes into the league of OP Nayyar.

    Siraj Khan
    Boston, USA

  15. I am glad I found at least one person who thinks exactly the same way! “Style” of composition is exactly that – you being being able to tell the composition a few minutes into the song or arrangement. It could be some melody patterns, trademark arrangements/rythms or instruments composers prefer

    Say Laxmikant Pyarelal. Dholak, Mandolin, melodious pauses or introductions ending in more pacy regular tune. Quite a few songs they made fit into that.

    Say RD Burman. Half his songs have some variation of that country rhythm (I dont know the name) of type “Kya hua tera Wada”, “Hum dono do premi” or “Dil ki baat kahin lab pe na aa jaaye” have. Guitar strums, that synthesized techno lead instrument (Masoom, Kudrat, Teri Kasam). Rich percussions, mostly western instruments (even if an all-Indian arrangment, it wont be the simple Laxmi-Pyare types).

    I am not a trained musician, so cant put these things down in appropriate jargon, but I could tell a lot of RDB and Laxmi-Pyare songs (And Siraj – Nadeem-Shravan as well) first time I listened to them.

    May be most of this what-I-call-style-here comes from the way the songs are “arranged” and “recorded”. Quite many Jatin Lalit’s songs have that RDB feel apparently because they used an arranger from RDB’s troupe.

    Siraj, if you want to be a trendsetter by letting an anonymous Internet blogger do a foreword for a book, you are welcome :)

  16. Though you can write in Kannada, it is not visible on all machiens! Most of the Linux machines dont have the Kannada font! Will write in Kannada once it stablizes!

  17. […] by silkboard on January 29th, 2007 I am no no secret fan of O P Nayyar. But it is true that I hadn’t heard of OPN till he was about […]

  18. It has been a very difficult day for me. OP Nayyar the person left us today forever but OP Nayyar the composer had died 30 years ago (when his best was all over).

    His name and his distinctive style will be there as long as there is history of music. Nobody replaced him in the last 30 years and nobody will. We have lost an extraordinary personality!

    We were supposed to be spending the weekend of March 3-4 together in Mumbai as part of my biographical project. I will still be there to meet his spirit. Pray for me.

    Siraj Khan

  19. Siraj, sad indeed. His distinctive style will sure live on. wish you the best for your biographical project. OPN was an interesting personality as well, with so much said and talked about him in his days. Not getting along well with producers due to his supposedly enhanced sense of dignity. Affairs with Asha and Geeta (is that true?). A fight (with Lata) that they say never took place. Fall out with Md Rafi. Demanding royalty on album sales (HMV?). Wonder how much and what is the truth about each of these.

  20. How come Shankar Jaikishan are not there. They set the trend in the 60s and others imitate them even today. For me they were the ultimate. All else came later. May be Illayraja a close second and pick any of the above for the 3rd
    P K Viswanath

  21. Mr Viswanath, pick is personal more than anything else. Close call between S-J and OPN on style. Who am I to compare them on substance? S-J produced so many hits, year after year. But to me, OPN is definitely more ‘distinctive’. Remarkable that he kept that style and still survived for 16 years without boring his listeners.

  22. no comparison wid rahman rahman is d best rahman has achieved where no other music directors has achieved rd burman op nayyar cannot produce they can only produce only for bollywood but rahman can do any magic whether bollywood, southie, chineese, or hollywood has anybody done dat shankar ehsaanloy will b good today tommrrow ull forget but rahmans will touch ur heart for years till d music dies so no comparison wid rahman

  23. “About Geeta Dutt/Bali. Oh! Glad we found a topic we have common views on.”


    are you trying to compress two people into one? geeta bali was shammi kapoor’s wife, while geeta dutt (roy) married guru dutt.

    – s.b.

  24. Oh correction there, I meant Dutt/Roy. Not Bali.

  25. Hello


  26. A.R. Rahman is very talented but his music doesn’t appeal for
    a longer time. I find old music has long lasting capability.
    Illayaraja belongs to that category not A.R. Rahman.

    Rahman’s best part is he has excellent style of orchestration.
    But the songs are not that soulful(few are exceptions), listen
    to Jatin-Lalit, they can give more melodious and sad tunes
    which you can relate with your emotions and listen for a long
    time though many of them sound very ordinary.

    I prefer Rahman’s orchestra but not songs. This generation likes
    him because he blends indian music with western orchestration
    that can attract both indian and western audiences.

    It’s not fair enough to compare him with old music directors
    by saying that he can produce for india, hollywood, south,
    chinese. These are not proper for a person who has true musical
    sense. Other musicians like Illayaraja of 2day doesn’t need
    to blend because they have their own style and they follow
    indian style. If you say fusion artists are better than indian
    classical musicians because they can produce for both indian
    and western then it would be silly.

  27. A R Rahmans music has started to become quite humdrum and boring off late. I must add that i respect his creativity and originality from the likes of “Lagaan”,”Roja” and “Bombay” but somehow his music seem to be “Music Less” with too many drab purcussions . I would rather say that his music is not musically rich anymore or rather it does not touch every chord of the heart anymore.

    Times to move on to the geniuses like Himesh Reshammiya (Ok Ok i know he sings real bad .. But each and every song of his definitely catches you fance and you just keep repeating it again and again and the best part is… he is 100% original)

    Another one in the making is Pritam (Although he is ZERO % Original) but each and every tune is catchy. Talk about hits like Gangster, Woh Lamhe and now Life in a Metro.

  28. A.R.Rahman is the best , illayaraja sucks

  29. please tell me if you are the same siraj khan who married yasmin waheed? i am a long lost friend who studied with her in islamabad and would love to contact her. thamks

  30. A.R Rahman tries to be a replicated version of Illayaraaja. Remember, Rahman is a student of Illayaraaja.

  31. I wrote this purely as someone who has grown up listening to Hindi film music. My bad luck that I haven’t listened to a lot of Illayaraja (only some thanks to Anand-Milind and Roshan :), and in college thanks to a room mate), so I am in no position to compare music makers across Mumbai and Chennai.

  32. AR Rahman is a waste fellow.he simply copies others as well as his own music.his music doesnt have quality and doesnt reach our heart.he is only a sound engineer, not a musician.his music is lay man music doesnt have any stuff.his re recording is absolutely useless.i feel like laughing on seeing the BGM score and re recording of his films. he has gained name and fame beyond his real talent and worth.he has gained name only because of luck. always ILAYARAJA is THE REAL GENIUS.this will be accepted by anybody who knows what real music is.whichever singer says AR Rahman is a good musician ,hen it is a lie and false praise to get a chance in his movie.always ILAYARAJA IS THE BEST MUSICIAN IN THE WHOLE WORLD.please dont at all compare AR Rahman with our GREAT ILAYARAJA

  33. Great gossip going on..

    I simply dont understand how someone can not appreciate ARR. He has great sense of melody. Excellent knowledge of Musical instruments. And as all have said he is a genius in organising a Orchestral stuff.

    Ilayaraja is the master of melody, no one can compose as sweet melody as his, fits into the theme of the movie too. The only and crucial thing he lacks is knowledge of Musical instruments. He is scared of experimenting with different Instruments. Sometimes just plugs-in non sense stuff in songs which dont fit into the scene.

    RD Burman is sure a legend. A very successfull commercial music director. Many of his songs are inspired by western bands like “Osibisa” and many.
    The only thing indians can be proud of is the singers it had produced, Mohammed Rafi, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to name a few.

    • i think u r biggest dumm ass on this earth… if u don’t have any knowledge music then stop commenting about ppl whom u have no clue…Do u even know who ilayaraja is?? and u r sayin he lacks the knowledge abt instruments and plugs-in non sense stuff in songs which dont fit into the scene…absolutely absurd… a person who is a gold medalist in guitar from trinity college of London. First asian to conduct symphony with the royal orchestra in london ….best in back ground score… and he is undoubtedly one composer who has recorded the maximum number of songs with the live orchestra and he himself has always been the arranger and directs his musicians to play his notes… and u r sayin he lacks the knowledge about instruments. In fact RD Burman himself Quoted that he(ilayaraja) is the only director who gives him complex……One fellow his amazing rendition of bass lines in all his tracks….

  34. Brothers and Sisters….See the Comments of Illaiyaraja he said” A R RAHMAN IS GENIOUS” that makes everybody mum now…A R RAHMAN is known all over the world and every music director of today’s time tries and they have a wish to sing for him…A R RAHMAN is genious…..He was born in india that is what is most proud thing for us…Americans were crazy whenever he came to USA..I saw himesh’s show in losangeles and the next month it was ARR..but ARR’s show was muchhhhhhhhhh appreciated and the crowd there spoke it all….

    Thanks to genious A R RAHMAN SIR…….(and let me tell u if u say he uses computer music tell me why is he the most known artist in the world and his albums are breaking records..that speaks itself and there is no one who can even dare to counter him..SEE THE TIME MAGAZINE 2007 EDITION..u will get amazed how americans and world are mad about him…Stats show 70% music lovers has ARRAHMAN among their music list….wow…that is all…..and if u say he is enginerring not composing tell me why his music is used in mangapatnam cancer hospital to make patients patients relieve…u say but stats show different….THIS WORLD IS ALL ABOUT SUCCESS no matter how u get it…..)

  35. Guru to A R Rahman, Ilaiyaraaja says he always knew Rahman was a bright spark. “That’s why I took him into my troupe! My keyboard player was drunk so I told my team to get me a player from somewhere. They came back saying a little boy was there – I was okay with the 11-year-old!” he smiles. From placing his fingers on the keyboard to helping him play, he’s proud of his ‘little spark’ who has sure has gone places ( A R RAHMAN IS STILL SO YOUNG AND HE WILL CREATE RECORDS AFTER RECORDS IN THE COMING TIME AS HIS NEW PROJECTS ARE OVER WHELMING……HE IS THE ONLY STAR FROM INDIA ON WHOM WHITE PEOPLE ARE DANCING….) A R RAHMAN ROCKSSSSSSSSS…..

  36. If anyone has doubt about his awesome success ..See the stats…ur mouth will never speak a word then..and then compare that record with your favourites..u wil never come to board again to write a comment…just see the sky rocketting records sales from past 20 years from T-SERIES WEBSITE…himesh and all music directors will be put to shame….SEE URSELF…..A R RAHMAN ROCKS…he is the only guy with such a hugeeeeeeeeeeee fan following outside india…..See the newyork,los angeles and toronto success…just few months before i m not talking of his late huge huge hits..i m saying of recent now..in los angeles people have to que up since 4am which was never been with any star except madonna there……

  37. i really feel sorry for people who think Raja or other composers are better that Rahman…I can only conclude that either you guys have very bad taste of music or u belong to a different school of music all together…Rahman is the greatest composer India has ever seen..accept it guys ,…….its high time………

  38. I believe that A R is so popular because he lives in times when your music can easily reach places. Honestly I feel that his songs are cacophony. Perhaps, it is my taste. But even if the whole world says so, I will not agree that ARR can hold a candle to RDB or Nayyar or Laxmi-Pyare. It might be old-fashioned to glorify people of the past, but it is foolish to glorify someone just because most of them do so.

  39. @ Swaraj what a joke. Firstly Illayarqaja is the true orchestral music composer who can spot a violinist make a mistake in a group of 200 instrumental musicians in various rows. And his useage of Tabla, flute, violin, guitar, sitar and almost all natural instruments is phenomenal. Can you see those instruments in AR Rahman’s studio? You could see him mostly fidling with a keyboard and a computerized music generation sound engineering juke box sort of a thing. You wouldn’t see that many artists at work and the computer creates all that noice. While Illayaraja’s amazing orchestral music can make you realize each and every instrument thats being used and whats so nice about them is that they are not so noicy that it would end up superceding the playback which is the case of ARR. In ARR’s compositions, the music will be more than the vocal which is a non-sense way to compose music. Illayaraja is the best and was the best and will be the best ever in Indian filmy music. There is no classical forms that he has not mastered. And ARR has said several times that Illayarja is God and he is just his angel spreading the legacy of Raja the great.

    • jus chk robot bgm making…..and chk videos of LA concert in youtube……..u find…..hw rahman music is produced by huge orchestra…………

    • budd thanks fr supporting ilayaraja sir… I hate if sum1 says any rubbish like swaraj did…he is a dumm ass…

  40. Boss, Laxmi Pyare the Best MD of Milennium,Unparalleled.

  41. диетолог дубцовойчка раскраскааэробное дыхание снижение весане дорогая но эфективная диетакак похудеть быстро при этом кушать все что хочетсядиетическое питание детей с лейкозомдиетическое вегетарианское питаниекак похудеть хочется естьколлоидное серебро и похудениезаклинания на похудениекак похудеть с помощью яблочного уксуса у доктора джарвисакак сделать чтобы быстро похудела попакапли для похудения мерцанаантицеллюлитный фитнесдиета на минеральной водедиета при панкриотитебелковая диета сушка бодибилдеравывести лишнюю жидкость из организмаможно похудеть на свеклекак правильно питаться при занятии фитнесом для похудениядиета на раздельном питании

  42. Sir,
    No Doubts others are great from eat, but Laxmi Pyare the Greatest.ruled from 1963 to 1998.


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