Whatever our differences, nothing unites India like Songs do. Whatever the region, language or religion, music plays an important; nay integral part in our lives. Right through one’s life, from birth and the three stages of it and finally death, Indians have a song for every stage of it. And more than one song for every occasion of one’s life. From a “Happy budday ttoo you Sunita” on the day you are born to “O Jaanewaale ho sake to laut ke aana” enroute to your last rites! Be it a festival, be it a season, be it various times of a day, be it hard labour or labour of love, be it success or be it failure. In short any sphere of human activity and we are just one song away from it.
Indian Music encompasses virtually everything from the deepest oceans to the tallest mountains. Whatever the genre, we are spoilt for choice. From Carnatic to Hindusthani to even an Ilayaraja symphony. From Ghazals to Thumris to Khayals to Geet to Nazm to Qawwalis to what have yous! An honest confession here. I can hardly spell Carnatic or Hindusthani. As regards the others mentioned above and million others not mentioned I can make them out from one another with great difficulty or as in most cases not at all. Yet! And yet as I said earlier I am one song away from anything and everything, thanks to Indian Cinema!
Suffices if I say that Indian Cinema is not Indian Cinema without its songs! In its earliest avatar, Indian Cinema was essentially a series of songs strung together with a few dialogues which lead to more songs. No wonder Indian Cinemas’ earliest stars were people who were singer-actors. Once playback singing came about, the actors who made it large were the ones who could lip sync to perfection! I don’t think Rajendra Kumar would have made it big but for his ability to emote so successfully in Mohd. Rafi’s voice to quote just one instance. On second thoughts, Rajendra Kumar’s son Kumar Gauravs’ claim to fame was his ability to do his father in Amit Kumar’s voice! Such are the impact and importance of songs in our films that a taut espionage thriller ‘Andha Naal’ starring the then superstar of Tamil Cinema Sivaji Ganesan, flopped at the box office because it featured no song and the audience felt cheated!
|Where are the songs?|
Given the fact that I am a self proclaimed music critic, I am now going to propound my views on this act and art. And since I have already hooked you beyond the cursory two paragraphs, you have no choice but to hear me out! Also given the fact that I am not too well versed with the grammar of music, its various traditions, its nuances, its finesse etc., I stay away from the routine classification of singers viz, Carnatic or Hindusthani or Pop or light music and I thus draw my own classification of singers. The first category of singers as far as I am concerned are people who spend years in mastering the universe of music, its every note, its every bar to ultimately receive the grace of Goddess Saraswati herself. The next category are people who are not trained in music but achieve stardom through sheer natural talent and genius. The third category are people whose only qualification as singers is that they claim to be one! But my most favourite category are what I call ‘Bathroom Singers’! People who have talent but no avenue or wherewithal to translate it into success due to either their inability to struggle, for want of a lucky break or simply the middle class mentality. And hence they end up plying their trade within the confines of their bathrooms or office parties/picnics or Kalyana Nelangu levels as a hobby. Without taking away anything from them, maybe they were born a few generations too early from the days of Super Singers, Indian Idols and Sa Re Ga Ma!
One genre of music which has always held in utter dread is what we Indian generically refer to as Western Music. I have never been worried if I can’t distinguish between Rock, Pop, Jazz, Country, Rap or what have yous. What has often worried me is my inability to distinguish whether it is a man or a women singing. On second thoughts it could well be a machine doing it!
And to round off this discussion, I am not only a self proclaimed music critic I hereby declare that I am a singer too! So check this out!
PS: Did you know that once Mohd Rafi sang playback for Kishore Kumar? In the film Ragini!
Kalyana Nelangu: An family event in Tamil Weddings.