The music bull run

When I look at my Hindi Soundtrack playlist these days, I think about this one bull run many may not have noticed. I wouldn’t use loaded words like unconventional, melodious, richly orchestrated, full of variety etc to describe the sound Bollywood is churning out these days. All I would say is this, they seem to be producing enjoyable stuff, and the playlists are getting bigger.

Hard to put down a date when things changed. But there was a sort of lull when A R Rehman was the king. ARR was, and still is doing great. But most others were focusing either on creating the ARR sound – overly jazzed up music being the result, with needlessly high levels of electronic percussions and low pitch strings, or on carrying on with the boring Bollywood sound of 90s – where melody meant slow, and lyrics meant standard phrases from Sameer.

And then things changed, May be with Shankar Ehsaan Loy, but not them alone. Vishal Shekhar, Shantanu Moitra, Pritam as well. Add Ismail Darbar and Himesh too (why not?). Old horses like Anu Malik and Jatin Lalit are trying to fit in. And don’t forget some more talented folks like Vishal Bhardwaj and Rabbi Singh.

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Bangalore Police’s take on city roads

[Cross posted on Praja-Bangalore]

I was googling around when I stumbled upon this page on Bangalore Police website. Well written open talk, that goes to tell you that they do know the traffic problems and possible solutions. First up, a clear admission of the problem:

As there is no growth in infrastructure compared to the growth of population, both human and vehicular, and in the absence of planned investment on such infrastructural problems, various issues have arisen. One such problem is the vehicular congestion apart from problems of road safety.

Next, the dislike of road structure:

The City’s road structure is radial in nature and converging in the core region. Though there is said to be in existence concentric orbital roads connecting the radial roads, they are discontinuous.

Read on and you will notice list of key roads they identified for improvements to make maximum impact:

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Guide Me

Saw this slow moving truck (okay tractor, same thing) today. “Ah, why cant he drive on the left side, in the slower lane”. “God, is that allowed, load flowing all around the vehicle?”. “How do I overtake this huge, wide, slow thing now”. “Can’t see his rear number plate, isn’t that illegal?”.

Well, none of those angry geeky nerdy thoughts. When I see a truck carrying haystack like that, “Kaanton se kheench ke aanchalaaj fir jeene kee tamanna hai …” is all that strikes me first :)

haystack

The music-movie thing

As much as you may hate Him, I mean Himesh, I like him. Why? When you listen to his songs, you think Reshamiya the musician and nothing else.

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Who comes to your mind first as soon as I hum “Woh ladki hai kahaan“. No Shaan, No Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, No Kavita I bet. Saif Ali Khan, I am sure yes.

Chura liya lai“? Zeenat Aman.”Phoolon ke rang se“? Dev Anand. Right?

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From a fan

I am no secret fan of O P Nayyar. But it is true that I hadn’t heard of OPN till I was about 14.

I was introduced to his music a few years earlier though. Mom used to start her household work with a 9 o’clock radio program that played, yes, Hindi movie songs. I couldn’t help but listen, and few years of listening told me that there was something that made “Jaaiye aap kahaan jayenge“, “Maang ke saath tumhaara“, “Laakhon hain nigaah mein” and “Huzure-waala” sound very similar. Each of those sounded like a slide to me, sit on one and next thing you know, it is over. No disruptions, smooth, and continuous. But not slow.

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Top 10 intro tunes I recalled

During my college days, we played this game called Tune-Ah! Simple stuff, you have to recognize a movie song from the introductory instrumental notes/tune. I used to be good at the game, I reckon I still am. Last evening, while listening to Hindi film music, I thought of doing a list of songs that have super catchy, quality and memorable intro tunes. And these 10 came to my mind most readily. Here are the tunes and composers:

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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.

Lata, NRN Murthy and the ‘don’t know when to quit’ syndrome

Group I: Lata Mangeshkar, Dev Anand, Kapil Dev, Asha Bhonsle and Saurav Ganguly. Group II: Sunil Gavaskar and NR Narayana Murthy. Now guess what I am talking about.

People from the first group I mentioned – there’d be a lot more if I think hard – they just don’t (or didn’t) know when to quit. These were my exact thoughts when Asha Bhonsle’s 73rd birthday was celebrated on TV last week. These two sisters – especially the elder one – make prime examples of this ‘don’t know when to quit’ syndrome.

Did you listen to the Lata version of “Kuchh Na Kaho” from “1942: A love story” back in 1995? And then in some songs in Dushman, Lata Mangeshkar again sounded like a be-sura ghost of her past. A more recent example was “Veer Zaara” where I just couldn’t tolerate her voice in a few songs (‘Hum to bhayee jaise hain‘ and one more I don’t recall right now).

Why has she not quit yet? What is her motivation in continuing to make fun of her super duper glorious past? I just don’t know. I assume she has made enough money. And being an excellent artist herself, she knows how to tell a well-sung song from a bad one. Doesn’t she herself listen to the stuff she has been dishing out recently? To tell you and her the truth, she lost some respect the day she agreed to participate in that gimmickry called “Shraddhanjali“.

Asha Bhonsle is a bit more talented than her elder sister. And that shows in the fact that a few of her old-age songs have indeed been sung well (Rangeela, Taal years). But please, don’t croon the way you did for Khallaas. I had to reach out for earplugs. Seriously Ms Bhonsle, did you ever play the song back to yourself? If you did, I hope you dropped your jaw in shame at least once. I also noticed how ‘they’ had to use another “voice” to fill in parts of the “Radha Kaise Na Jale” song that Asha just couldn’t have sung.

But our media is still gung-ho about them, “aaj bhi awwal darje ki gaayika” and what more! Please. Past was past and present is present.

In few other fields of note, there are examples of people making a living out of their past reputations.

Remember how we literally had to force Kapil Dev out of the game? Now see Saurav Ganguly. 15000+ runs in international cricket, a man with truly memorable past. But he doesn’t even get the message.

And less said about Mr evergreen Dev Anand, the better. Oh god!

People like Sunil Gavaskar and NR Narayana Murthy are rare. For these Indians knew when to quit, they left in true style. Attention, and a salute.

PS1: What is your prediction for Sachin Tendulkar. Will he be a true Gavaskar disciple? Or will he linger on till his babies grow taller than him?

PS2: Amitabh Bachchan was left untouched here on purpose.

Landmark music: Hum Dono

Imagine an album where three of most popular playback singers of the time, all sang songs that would make it to top5/top10 playlists of most fans. When I think of Hindi movies with landmark music, of the few that readily come to mind, “Hum Dono” stands out for this particular reason.

When music critics do a Lata Mangeshkar top 10, “Allah tero naam” usually makes the list. The lady herself picked this song to be her best. Lyrics are a welcome change from the usual romantic stuff. Slow and melodious tune, you feel like humming along each time you listen.Hum Dono - external link

Find me a Mohd Rafi fan who will not count “Main zindagi ka saath” as one of his best. Meaningful lyrics that qualify to be good peotry on their own, an utterly melodious tune, and Mr Rafi singing at his best, this song is as perfect as it gets.

Don’t let the bhajan and philosophical poetry fool you into thinking that this album is short on romance. Asha Bhonsle joins Md Rafi for what is arguably the best duet sung in Bollywood. One can never get bored of “Abhi Na Jao Chhor Kar“. Duet of such class, that it ranks amongst Asha Bhonsle‘s best.

And such is the quality of those 3 songs that people tend to forget Sahir wrote and Rafi sang “Kabhee khud pe kabhee haalaat pe rona aaya” for this very same album.

So yes, find me another album where three great singers chose to give off their bests. And to top it all, it wasn’t any usual suspect of that time who made these tunes. Jaidev didn’t compose music for very many movies after this one, but “Hum Dono” made sure he won’t ever be forgotten by the fans of old time hindi film music.

Sonu Nigam’s best?

You may not know this song that I play a lot. Let me give you some clues.

  • Anu Malik has a brother going by a funny sounding first name Daboo.
  • I am a Sonu Nigam fan. But this song may not figure in most fan’s playlists.
  • Daboo Malik made music for this film called “Ye Zindagi Ka Safar”.

Have you listened to “Ahista Ahista” from the above mentioned movie? A not so well marketed, but wonderful, slow and well sung song! Try it for it is the unexpected one on my “Sonu Nigam’s top 5” playlist.

  1. Tanhayee (Dil Chahta Hai). SEL’s best one so far, and Sonu’s as well.
  2. Panchhee Nadiya (Refugee) – Wish this one didn’t have Alka Yagnik’s super thin voice. But Sonu more than covers up for her.
  3. Ahista Ahista
  4. Samne Aatee Ho Tum (Dus) – Vishal-Shekhar’s techno beat is fun, and Sonu is “sone pe suhaga“. Lucky singers, they collect more of the money and fame while composers do most of the job!
  5. Kal ho na ho: SEL again. Sorry Satrangi Re and A R Rahman, you narrowly missed the cut. But slow and simpler melodies are where Sonu Nigam gets to show his wares the best.

The rate at which Mr Nigam is getting business these days, I am hopeful this ‘top 5’ list will change pretty soon.