Category Archives: Songs

A compilation of my favorite Manna Dey songs

Before presenting to you a concise list of my favorite Manna Dey songs I would like to say a few words about this touching interview of the great singer published in The Pioneer. The editor of The Pioneer, Chandan Mitra begins the interview with the following question:

Many people say you are film world’s most under-rated and under-recognised singers despite being so phenomenally talented. Does this bother you?

He replies:

It used to. I would be very hurt at being overlooked when it came to singing for the hero. Some music directors, such as Naushad saab, never used me, always relying on Rafi for the male voice. As a result, I never sang for Dilip Kumar. In my days of struggle, some producers were positively indecent.

It is true that Manna Dey didn’t enjoy the sort of fan following that mainstream singers like Rafi, Kishore, and to an extent even Mukesh enjoyed. His voice was not the typical “hero” voice. It was too refined, too mature, to become a part of a typical Bollywood hero repertoire. But it doesn’t mean that he was under-rated. Some of the best songs were sung by him. Whenever there was a song that demanded excellence but it wasn’t necessarily sung for the quintessential Hindi-movie hero, you would hear Manna Dey singing it, whether it be Jeevan chalne ka naam, Yaari hai imaan meraa or Naa to karavan ki talaash hai. He did actually sing for mainstream singers like Rajesh Khanna (Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai), Raj Kapoor (Ye raat bheegi bheegi) and Raj Kumar (Har taraf ab yahi afsaane hain) and I’m not listing all of them.

Anyway, here is a compilation of my favorite songs sung by Manna Dey:

Nadiya chale chale re dharaa chandaa chale chale re taara

Door hai kinaara

Phir kahin koi phool khila

Too pyaar ka saagar hai

Umad ghumad kar ayi re ghata

Dil ki girah khol do

Ai bhai zaraa dekh ke chalo

Raat gayi phir din aata hai

Tum gagan ke chandrama ho mai dharaa ki dhool hun

Chalat musaphir moho liyo re pinjare waali muniya

Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai

Jeevan chalne ka naam chalte raho subaho shaam

Ye raat bheegi bheegi

Kasme vaade pyaar wafaa sab baate hain baaton kaa kyaa

Tum besahara ho to kisi kaa saharaa bano

Tere naina talaash karein jise wo hai tujhi main kahin

Poochho na kaise maine rain bitayi

Taaqat watan ki humse hai

Bhor aayi gaya andhiyaara

Tum bin jeevan kaisa jeevan

Aayo kahan se ghan shyaam

Note: Strangely I couldn’t find complete version of this song, so if you do, do let me know.

Jhanak jhanak tori baaje payaliya

Weirdly he got his first National award in 1971 for this song, so late show, after having sung so many excellent songs.

Har taraf ab yahi afsaane hain, hum teri aankhon ke deewaane hain

What makes Rafi, Lata, Kishore and many of their contemporaries timeless

I am an avid Hindi film music fan (I know, this sounds clichéd) although of late I wasn’t getting much time to listen to 100s of my favorite songs. While recovering from a severe bout of herpes (no, as many of you might think, it was not sexually transmitted) I got to spend lots of time in my bed, with my Samsung Galaxy Tab constantly playing 300 odd songs that I have saved in it. Most of the songs belong to the 50s, the 60s and the 70s eras and to my pleasant surprise, many of the highly popular songs have been sung by Geeta Dutt.

After completely dominating the Hindi film music industry for a very long time, due to some illness and other reasons, she took a break and then tried to reignite her singing career with a melodious Mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan. But by 1972 the style of singing had totally changed and you can actually feel how “out of time” she sounds, especially after listening to the songs of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle. No wonder, she never sang again. This also helps you understand clearly why some singers are timeless and why some are not.

This characteristic of timelessness can be applied to any art, whether it is singing, instrumental music, writing or painting. Artistic expressions that are slaves to their times don’t last much but those who attain popularity simply due to their quality are always in demand (not considering fads). But here my focus is in the film songs.

If you listen to Muhammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle, aside from the fact that they were highly versatile and hard-working, you will notice that they got rid of time-specific accents and started singing with very clear pronunciations. They developed their voice culture in such a manner that no matter when you listen to them, they’re not going to sound old or out of date. This is the reason why their songs became so popular and why in various remixed and twisted forms they keep on surfacing in many films and advertisements.

Take for instance contemporary Hindi film singers. None of them sounds in command. They are either shrieking or purposely singing in a weird style so that they’re not judged on the basis of their singing. Many of them sing in an Anglicized accent. Some resort to Sufi styles. Some try to imitate the rustic rural styles. Nobody just sings, the way Rafi and his contemporaries used to. Just imagine Kailash Kher, or even Rahat Fateh Ali Khan trying to sing Tum muje yun bhula na poege or Koi hota jisko apna. Which contemporary singer can sing Roop tera, mastana with the same level of passion and sensuality?

The key things that made Rafi and company timeliness are:

  • Total command over their vocal cords
  • Love for the art instead of the lifestyle
  • No particular accent
  • Very clear pronunciation
  • Effortlessness
  • Originality

Of course music directors and lyricists played a very important role, but eventually it was the singing that did the trick. And it is not about being old and being contemporary. Very old singers like Sehgal, Surya, etc. wouldn’t have been able to compete with this set of singers because they used to sing with a certain style. Surya singing Khallaas or Sehgal singing Ajaa ajaa, mai hun pyaar teraa would be total disasters. Attitude too must have contributed to a great extent.

Being a successful singer doesn’t mean always trying to sound philosophical and Sufi, growing beards and hair, always trying to sing in the taar-saptak, singing and talking as if Hindi is your second language and English is the first and so on. It is about relentless practice. It is about singing from your stomach. It is about having full command over your vocal cords so that when you are singing, you’re focusing on the lyrics and the expression, and not on the effort required to maintain notes. You become timeless when you sing with a clear accent and you have had so much practice that your every song seems so easy and effortless.

 

We deserve the sort of deal we get from our politicians and governments

I was just watching how the Uttar Pradesh government has asked shopkeepers and malls to shut shop at 7 PM and open at 11 AM to save electricity. The news channel was getting feedback from various people who have been afflicted by perpetual power cuts in various areas of the state. They were all talking about what hardships they are going through.

Predictably, nobody was enraged. People were ranting, but they were not angry. Nobody asked the government, what the fuck it is doing to provide enough electricity to businesses as well as residents? Its job is to guarantee power while entrepreneurs and business people generate wealth for the state, not curtail their activities to make up for its shoddy work and corrupt alliances.

This is the fundamental reason why as a nation we are always surviving on the minimal.  We’re never enraged, and when we are, it is for the most stupid and nihilistic reasons. Raze a mosque or a temple, people are going to hit the streets and create law and order problem. Make a film, publish a book, or create a painting that “hurts” people’s religious sentiments and they burn shops and run amok. Even when a boy and a girl of different caste or religion run away, there is the danger of public unrest. Recently the so-called “oppressed” Dalits burned an entire train because somebody had said something derogatory about Ambedkar but the same people remain mum when their own leaders loot them in broad daylight and relegate their entire generations to poverty, backwardness and illiteracy.

But do you ever see people coming out on streets, burning buses and destroying government property because there are no roads, no schools, no hospitals and no electricity? No. There are Khap panchayats for hanging couples who dare to get married without their elders’ consent, but do they ever hang goons and political charlatans for destroying their entire lives? No.

Another example is the annual flooding of Mumbai. Every year there is chaos and not even once people who are really responsible for this are chased on the streets.

I’m not saying that there should be anarchy everywhere – we already have such a simmering situation to be frank. But unless we start showing rage for the right reasons, nothing is going to change.

Why I listen to older songs

I’m quickly writing this short post as Steve checks his quote engine (I program for him)

These days I’m constantly listening to FM stations while working. This is because I’m mostly coding and doing promotional and administrative work; most of the writing work is outsourced.

About older songs: I mostly like pre-90s, or rather pre-80s songs, as they contain less of musical noise and more of vocal expression. For me, a song is always about expression, mood and language. The newer songs have no depth, although musically (it’s an illusion) they seem more evolved. They either tilt towards western music, or totally folk, rustic style. They are rarely easy going, relaxed expressions. I mean, today’s musicians, and even lyricists, sadly, don’t have enough depth to create something like “ye nayan dare dare” or “tum gagan ke chandrama”.

Another thing I like about older songs is that they didn’t have to depend on facades in order to be creative. Take for instance, “tasveer teri dil mein”, two normal looking people (who might have just purchased vegetables from the corner) sing and enjoy on the roof while there are lots of clothes hanging for drying. It’s dark, there is just one night bulb, the guy is wearing shirt and pants (Dev Anand) and the girl is wearing a patternless, dark-colored saree with her hair tied into a juda (Mala Sinha).

It’s not that I don’t like complicated singing and lavish surroundings, it’s just that, contemporary compositions seem too desperate to “create” something.

Zindagi bhar nahi bulegi – great song, great acting

After doing my riyaaz (singing practice) while having breakfast I was listening to this song – zindagi bhar nahi bhulegi wo barsat ki raat (I’m never going to forget that rainy night) as my effort to understand Raag Yaman (or Kalyan) better. While playing the song on YouTube repeatedly, I gradually began to notice how well Bharat Bhushan has acted in this song. I noticed because if you see the same sequence in some contemporary movie or music album the contrast is striking. The moment the song starts the singer goes into this maniacal trance and in the ensuing fit he or she almost swallows the mike and vomits all over. All hell breaks loose as if some inter-planetary war is going on and soon you’re not sure whether you are watching a singing performance or being witness to an angry speech by one of the wrestlers of the World Wrestling Entertainment. Of course some say it’s like unleashing the inner you, but seriously, are you singing, or are you being tortured by the Taliban?

If the embedded video doesn’t play you can watch it here

Then compare this song. Bharat Bhushan sings in front of a mike in a radio station recording studio. All the expressions are so subtle. He looks a bit conscious, a bit reminiscent, slightly romantic and he also seems to be putting in an effort to sing properly. Notice how when he says dil mein tufaan uthate huae jazbaat ki raat he comes forward and grabs the mike with both hands as a natural reaction to reaching higher notes (I too have this tendency to grab something – sounds crude, though – when I’m singing higher notes). This is how you sing.

Of course I’m not saying this is the only way of singing. I’m just talking about enacting this particular sequence. The director has so dexterously captured the contours of the character.