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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Music and I

People who know me a bit know that one of the most irritating things about me is that, at any given point in time the chance that they will catch me in singing mode is, unfortunately for them, very high. :-)

I say “unfortunately” because I have absolutely no illusions about my capability in this arena. Which, you will admit, makes me still one notch better than the singer who inflicts himself on you under the misguided impression that the only thing that prevented him from achieving singing fame was his lack of ambition or opportunity to thrust himself on a bigger stage. :-)

No, I have no illusions whatsoever that anything even remotely or passably melodious results from the exercising of my vocal chords, infinitely sad though such a realization is to me. And, while retaining the highest regard for classical music and ragas, I have no pretensions to possessing any knowledge of either of these.

Added to this lack of knowledge and skill is the problem that I am usually completely oblivious of the fact that I am actually singing. So much so that I was once rudely reminded by the invigilator during a very important exam that I was disturbing the entire room with my singing. It was a long time ago and I cannot recall with any certainty what particular song was causing such a stir but I think it was “ye duniya ye mehfil mere kaam ki nahin”. Which, I will admit, would have been entirely appropriate for the occasion given my state of mind while answering that paper. :-) I was completely unaware of my singing – and it was only in a low voice - but it did get the invigilator quickly onto my case. I was extremely embarrassed and had to apologize profusely. If, at a later stage during the test I broke out again into song I do not know (for I do not have control over my singing impulses) but for the rest of the session I passed through unscathed. That is, if you do not count the damage done by the test itself. :-)

There have been many more occasions when I have suddenly got out of my trance and realized that I have been singing – often only because of staring eyes, disapproval written large in them, making me squirm uncomfortably. I distinctly remember the occasion at Mumbai airport, not so long ago, waiting to board the Finnair flight and suddenly realizing that I was singing, rather audibly, “chhoo lene do naazuk honthon ko” and having a young Finnish lady sitting next to me. Boy, was I thankful that she did not understand Hindi !

Enough – I am not going to embarrass myself any further with a narration of my singing experiences. The point is that I do sing a lot to myself, usually being blissfully unaware of it – and so anybody who is in the vicinity at that time is likely to have to bear the brunt of the shelling. And it is not as if it is an iPod or some such gadget causing this - I need no such trigger to burst into song. :-)

So, WHAT do I sing ?

It is almost always a Hindi song. And almost always an old one at that. Old, meaning pre-1980. Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Mahendra Kapoor. All of them. Sometimes even Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum. It all depends on my mood and what is on my mind at that time.

Occasionally – very occasionally – it may be an English number. But then I know very few English songs (and even fewer songs if I need to go beyond four words) so at least I don’t often mess with this, even in my sub-conscious. Not that I do not like English songs – I really do – but I just do not know many of them. When I was growing up all I knew were a few songs of the Beatles, ABBA, Boney M (I said I knew, I did not say I liked), the Carpenters, Police, Queen, Pink Floyd and the like. Just a few songs – that too a few lines of each song. Compare that with the number of Hindi songs I picked up from all around me – “full” songs, first word to last – and there is no contest.

Any specific songs ?

Hmm…to be honest, it is a very wide variety of songs.

I will be humble in stating that there are thousands of songs out there that I am sure I still do not know (and am learning about every day, mainly on the net and following wonderful sites like http://atulsongaday.wordpress.com/).

At the same time there are still very many old songs that I do know – and my pick at any given moment could be any of these.

I do seem to realize though that there are a few “favourites” that I end up falling back on every now and then. One common thread in almost all of them is that they are soft melodies, the type that reside somewhere in your sub-consious quite easily. The music is often subdued, effectively accentuating the voice of the singer. Many of them have excellent lyrics too. A sample of them :
- tumhari zulf ke saaye mein (Rafi saab – Naunihaal)
- itni haseen itni jawaan raat (Rafi saab – Aaj Aur Kal)
- suhani raat dhal chuki (Rafi saab – Dulari)
- ye reshmi zulfen (Rafi saab – Do Raaste)
- jaane kya dhoondhti rehti hain (Rafi saab – Shola Aur Shabnam)
- teri duniya se hoke majboor chala (Kishore – Pavitra Papi)
- jeevan se bhari teri aankhen (Kishore – Safar)
- khizan ke phool se (Kishore – Do Raaste)
- wo shaam kuchh ajeeb thi (Kishore – Khamoshi)
- pal pal dil ke paas (Kishore - Blackmail)
- tum agar saath dene ka vaada karo (Mahendra Kapoor – Humraaz)
- hum chhod chale hain mehfil ko (Mukesh – Jee Chahta Hai)
- zubaan pe dard bhari dastaan (Mukesh – Maryada)
- jo tum ko ho pasand (Mukesh – Safar)
- laaga chunri mein daag (Manna Dey – Dil Hi To Hai)
- ya dil ki suno duniya waalon (Hemant Kumar – Anupama)
- ye hawa ye raat ye chandni (Talat Mehmood – Sangdil)
- nainon mein badra chhaye (Lata Mangeshkar – Mere Saaya)
- in aankhon ki masti ke (Asha Bhonsle - Umrao Jaan)
- jab koi baat bigad jaaye (Kumar Sanu & Sadhana Sargam – Jurm)

Of course this is just a sample of the songs that I am aware that I end up singing quite often – to myself. Often I pick up the song somewhere in the middle. For example, “ye phool chaman mein kaisa khila” (ya dil ki suno duniya waalon) or “jeevan ke safar mein tanhai” (hum chhod chale hain) or “tujhe kya khabar hai o bekhabar” (ye hawa ye raat ye chandni).

Anyway, whatever it is, I am convinced that my madness for old Hindi songs keeps me going to a large extent. I can listen to them any time of day or night. There are songs for every mood and I never ever get bored of them. Like my other passion, cricket, I can discuss old Hindi songs (and films) for hours together.

But old Hindi songs easily beat even cricket - there is something magical about them. When I think about the impact they have had and continue to have in my life, I cannot thank enough those who have played their part in bringing this music to me. The singers, the composers, the lyricists and all those arrangers and musicians (who nobody knows about) who have over the years enriched the lives of millions with their contribution to music. Long after they are gone (and many of the oldtimers are now gone), their music will live on. It is their legacy for future generations to enjoy. I do consider myself fortunate to be in a position to enjoy their music.

I plan to discuss more about my musical interests in future posts – I cannot have enough of it – but if anybody wants to check out old Hindi songs (including many obscure ones) , he could do worse than visit the site of my friend Atul at http://atulsongaday.wordpress.com/. Like me, he shares a passion for old songs and has painstakingly built up his site, song by song, over the last 14 months or so to now have a library of almost 2000 songs (and continuing to add as many songs as possible every day). Complete with an often-interesting intro, a video of the song and full lyrics. It is a labour of love for him - he is doing his bit to preserve songs for posterity. We need more of this and I am thankful to him too for unearthing many gems for me that I would never have heard if it had not been for him.


squarecut.atul said...

Hahaha, fantastic stuff, Raja.

The urge to sing, and singing subconsciusly without realising it. I recall that there was this colleague of me who would do the same ceaselessly. And his speciality was to sing sad songs when he felt depressed. Asking him to shut up had no effect on him. So one day, I decided to pay him back in the same coin. I began to sing just like he did. He smiled and continued singing. But as time passed, his smile was changed into a frown, and then irritation, and he asked me to stop, but I would not.Just imagine someone singing in a way that was many times worse than the worst singer. He finally saw the errors of his ways.

Of course, I am not telling you to stop singing. Your intterest in singing gives us such wonderful anectodes. Personally yor enthusiasm rubs on me too, since you have been my biggest supporter for my song blog.

Keep writing such stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.


Jewellery By Shalini said...

Nice One Raja :-)

Please keep singing. You've got to do what you enjoy, and do it for yourself without worrying about what others think all the time.

"Geet Gaata Chal O Saathi Gungunaata Chal
O Bandhu Re
Hanste Hansate Beete Har Ghadi Har Pal
Geet Gaata Chal..."

Raja Swaminathan said...

Thanks, Atul and Shalini. :-)
Shalini, that's one of my fav songs "geet gaata chal".

Btw, I have added one song to my sample list - had missed it out. "In aankhon ki masti". I sing that a lot too - it always brings back certain memories.

Anonymous said...

That is a great list of songs! Although I feel that the list depends on the state of one's mind to an extent ;) I didn't see a lot of 'sad' numbers or numbers that 'charge you with emotions' like 'jaane waalon zara..mudke dekho kabhi' or "yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai'. It is not a fast paced song but the way Rafi saab takes it from a lower pitch to a much higher pitch, it is tough not to be moved :)

I haven't heard you sing so I can't comment about your 'capabilities'. But I'd still urge you to keep singing. The appreciation and interest for the kind of songs that you have mentioned is (unfortunately) declining in India. People like you remind us that one doesn't need clamor to get into the mood. A good voice and simple music that accompanies it with fantastic lyrics is just as good :)


Raja Swaminathan said...

Thanks, Ajit.
Actually this is not exactly a list of my fav songs, though each of these songs would make it to that list. But that list would be very long, way longer than this list.

This is just a list of some of the songs that I tend to sing a lot on my own. Most of them have a romantic angle to them, only the odd one is a sad one.

I know it is sacrilege but I am not a big fan of Rafi saab's Dosti songs. I do love his Pyaasa songs though - "ye duniya agar" is one of my fav songs. :-)

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Anonymous said...

My god, I simply can't believe that my choice could be so similar to yours except that I am a zero in cricket. But most of the songs that you mention are close to my heart Raja.You have to agree with me when I say that these songs are immortal because of good lyrics and the music that allows the lyrics to be understood. Yes, I also keep on murmuring songs and I am at best a bathroom singer.
Your list contains all the songs that I like save some from Mukesh. I think Mukesh had a limited ouevre and his nasal singing - sorry to say this- did not appeal to me much.But "Suhana safar" from Madhumati and "Ek Din Bikh Jayega" from Kal,Aaj Aur Kal are two of my favorite mukesh numbers besides the title song of anokhi rat (sanjeev kumar-zaheeda starrer).
Agree with you. Square cut's efforts to preserve music needs appreciation.
I am also happy that you have mentioned - "Jane Kya Dhoondhthi Rahthi hai" from Shola aur shabnam -it is the most beautiful song of Rafi.
Please do write about S D Burman as a playback singer in your blog. Can you point one song of S D Burman ([playback, not music) that doesn't touch your heart.
I recently wrote about unsung talent in Bollywood and how good singers like Hariharan, Suresh Wadkar and Mahendra Kapoor never made the grade. So also the Punjabi singer who sang the title song - Geet Gata chal.forgot his name.Pls keep writing as these blogs are what will keep music lovers like us bonded.

I also list my fav 10 here

1.Chanda Ki Kirnon Se (Intezar)
(Kishore Kumar).
2.Dil Joh Na Keha Sakha (Bheegi Rat) (Mohd Rafi).
3.Panchi Banu Udthi (??? movie)
(Lata Mangeshkar).
4.Simti Hui Yeh Gadiyan (Chambal Ki Kasam) (Rafi-Lata)
5.Rahen Na Rahe Hum (Mamta) (Lata)
6.Tum Na Jane Kis Jahan Mein (Lata) (??? movie)
7.Kaun aya mere man ke dware (Dekh Kabira Roya) (Talat Mahmood)
8.Hasne Ki Chah Ne Mujhe (Manna Dey, ???? movie)
9.Teri Neeli Neeli (Rafi,Lata) (Jane Anjane)
10.Tum Agar Sath Dene ka (Mahendra Kapoor) (Humraz)