Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sadaa Nanna Hridayadalli: Tribute to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

After he saw my post on Raveeendran's "thamburu kulir", my friend Sanjay mailed me. "I was expecting a tribute to Bhimsen Joshi", he said in his mail. I replied back saying that I had not heard Bhimsen Joshi enough to write a comprehensive tribute. Then I realized I was wrong. While it is true that I have not heard Bhimsen Joshi much, it is also true that he was a major figure when I grew up. Especially when we were slowly getting sucked into the beauty of classical music. I was also wrong because this blog is not just about my experience alone but about shared experiences. While I write about my experience with Bhimsen Joshi's music, I would request others to share their experience as well.

During our college going years, Bhimsen Joshi had already become a cult musician. I would define a cult musician as someone who is praised even though the person praising has never heard his / her work!!! Whenever we heard the name Bhimsen Joshi, we would go, "Wow. What a great singer", though most of us would not have heard him sing!!! For some unknown reason, I kept missing on hearing Bhimsen Joshi in my college days. Doordarshan and SPIC MACAY programs used to be our source of listening to Hindustani classical music. While I have heard  Amjad Ali Khan, Malini Rajurkar, Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasi and others live, I never had opportunity to listen to Bhimsen Joshi live. During those Doordarshan days, the first time I heard Bhimsen Joshi was when he and Balamurali sang together for Festival of Hyderabad. The next day I remember having a small discussion with my friend Sanjay, he feeling that Bhimsen was superb and I feeling that Balamurali was terrific. Looking back it sounds silly but then what use your youth if there is no silliness associated with it? Here is the video of Bhimsen and Balamurali singing the raga Yaman Kalyani. Doordarshan and AIR were the lifesavers as far as classical music was concerned. Here you can hear him singing the Telugu lyrics of Balamurali. 

And during the Doordarshan days, who can ever forget the song which helped Panditji's strong voice reach every nook and corner of India and leave a lasting impression on all of us. You can never match his perfection of sur but when he lovingly told us , 'mile sur mera tumhare', we all sang along (though out of pitch)

The next serious listening of Bhimsen happened much later. In the intervening years I was completely immersed in listening to carnatic music that I would listen to nothing else. After a few years I got back to listening to all kinds of music. It was during this period that I bought a tape of Bhimsen Joshi singing Brindavana Sarang. It was a wonderful tape which I have heard multiple times. Unfortunately some of the Music Today tapes were prone to fungus growth and I lost that tape to fungus. Haven't been able to locate a CD of this yet but I am sure I would get it. This was one of the tapes I recommended to all people in a post I wrote quite some time back. You can check out the post by clicking on this link. While browsing youtube I got this video of Bhimsen Joshi singing Brindavana Sarang. (Vrindavani Sarang). Do listen to it. You can clearly see he is not in the best of his health but what power in his singing!!!

Part 1:

Part 2:

The next impact Bhimsen Joshi made not just on me but also on my friend was when I had shifted to Bangalore. I bought a tape of Bhimsen Joshi singing Devarnamas and in it was listed 'Bhagyadalakshmi Baramma' . Since this is a very standard song in Carnatic music I was keen on listening to Bhimsen Joshi take on it. While it is rendered in Madhyamavathi ragam in Carnatic concerts, Bhimsen Joshi uses a different raga. The raga which gives you the mood of the morning. And the rendition turned out to be a very memorable one. A friend came to my house in Bangalore from Hyderabad. He was not musically trained nor was he particularly keen on classic music. He rarely heard classical music. But Bhimsen's rendition of this piece attracted him so much that he took the tape from and used to listened to it every day when he was wearing the 'maala' to go Sabaramalai. He told me that every day for those 40 days this tape would play in his house. Ofcourse he has not returned that tape yet. You can listen to that lovely piece here.

Another lovely Devarnama. This one based on 'Darbari Kanada' . 'sada enna hridayadalli vasamadu srihari'

A couple of years back, at the behest of the Birla family, Illayaraja tuned a bhajan written by Mahatma Gandhi. He tuned it in Sindhu Bhairavi and request Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to start the bhajan by singing the pallavi line. A nice melody.

While Bhimsen Joshi was the torch bearer of the Kirana Gharana, it dawned upon me after to listening to other Kiran doyens like Abdul Karim Khan, Sawai Gandharva, Hirabai Barodekar, Gangubai Hangal, Feroz Dastur etc, that Bhimsen Joshi, while keeping the core of the gharana intact, had moved much ahead by incorporating aspects of other gharanas as well. While most of the Kirana gharana singers seemed to have given a preference for melody, Bhimsen Joshi, while being melodious, also brings in lot more of rhythm and energy into his singing. The second aspect, energy, is one which makes him endearing to the lay audience. At the same time, his grasp of the raga and his superb imagination captures the attention of all connoisseurs. He was one of the few musicians who had excellent crowd pulling ability and at the same time was praised by the musically knowledgeable critics. A balance which was achieved only by a few musicians, either in Carnatic or Hindustani music. Looking at the Hindustani music scene it is not very heartening to note that no one of Bhimsenji's stature is anywhere in sight in this or next generation. A great musician has passed away leaving behind a huge void. 

To me, Pt.Bhimsen Joshi is a name which is intricately linked to my youth and such names are never erased from your memory. I do wish I had heard more of him than what I have. It is not something that I cannot correct and I intend to do it as early as possible.  Let us all pray that Panditji's soul rests in peace. His music will always be around to provide us the peace we long for. And hence he shall remain, 'sadaa namma hrudayadalli'. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One song at a time - 30. Thamburu Kulir

(Raveendran Master)

One particular aspect which makes me go listen to a composer often is the way he deals with raagas. To me, the more imaginative the music director is in dealing with a raaga, the more new ideas he is able to showcase, the more respect I have for him. In this regard, Raveendran is one music director for whom I have high regard. He was very good in dealing with various raagas in a very original fashion.

Raveendran ruled the Malayalam film music in the 80s. He has given songs which will always stay with the Malayalis. Songs like 'Harimuraliravam' and 'Pramadavanam' are all time classics now and some of the movies he worked like 'His Highness Abdullah' and 'Bharatham' had his music as their mainstay. Ravenndran's effort is even more laudable for he was in an industry which was quite adept in dealing with Carnatic ragas. Music directors like Dakshinamurthy Swami, Devarjan Master, M G Radhakrishnan et al have dealt wonderfully with various ragas. Raveendran was able to lay a very unique path for himself and gain the adulation of the film goers.

(In the music directors of this generation (including Rahman) I don't see this aspect of trying to show us a new face of the raga. They are all very good in using the standard phrases and coming up with good orchestration, catchy rhythms etc and in ensuring people have an immediate connect. The one music director whom I think has this ability now is Sharath. Again a Malayali.)

Today lets look at one lovely song, from a film called 'Soorya Gayathri'. I did not know the film name when I first heard this song sung by a singing competition contestant. I was stuck by the way the tune changes so well in the charanam and immediately search for more details about the song. This song is a very melodious one. I thought the song was based on Bouli, the morning raga. One web site gave the raga as Revagupthi. (Since I honestly haven't heard Revagupthi enough to distinguish it from Bouli, I would request someone who knows the difference between these two ragas to comment.) Anyway, Raveendran conjures up a wonderful mood in the pallavi itself but the charanam takes the cake. Listen carefully to the first charanam. After the first two lines, when Jesudas goes, "kaatu mulam thandil" observe how the raga color changes. Sheer genius. The overall handling of the ragam is amazing. No surprise that I keep returning to this song often.

I am now going to give you two versions of this song. First the song as sung by Jesudas in the movie:

Now listen to this performance by the singer named Roopa. (I had posted her performance of 'Gangai Karai Mannan' earlier.) I heard the song first time in her voice. I love this version for one reason. The place where I mentioned that raaga changes color is made even more explicit by her in her rendition. I went 'Wow' when I heard it for the first time. Very well sung.

Friday, January 14, 2011

One song at a time - 29. Pal Bar Main Yeh

(Rajesh Roshan)

We spoke about music directors who did not get their due, we spoke about those who just vanished from public memory. Today we shall speak about someone who showed a lot of promise but somehow did not end up fulfilling the initial promise shown. One such music director was Rajesh Roshan.

Rajesh Roshan, the son of legendary music director Roshan, started off with a bang. When movies like 'Kuwara Baap' and 'Julie' happened, people stood up and took notice. The music of Julie was on everybody's lips those days. Be it 'bhool gaya sab kuch' or 'dil kya kare' or 'yeh raaten nayi purani'. Not to mention the wildly popular English song by Preeti Sagar, "My heart is beating". None of my generation would have grown up without listening to these songs. It is not easy matching up to the legacy of a giant like Roshan but Rajesh Roshan's first steps cannot be faulted.

Later Rajesh Roshan did some nice movies like 'Swami', 'Des Pardes', 'Manpasand', 'Khatta Meeta'. Then slowly he started fading. Not that he was ever out of films but somehow the music of the newer movies did not match up to the high standards he had set in his earlier movies. The decline of Rajesh Roshan musically would probably require a detailed study but I have a feeling that his peak period coinciding with the peak of Amitabh Bachchan was probably not good for him, since Amitabh's movies didn't worry too much about music. Rajesh Roshan had done work for Amitabh in movies like Mr.Natwarlal, Yaarana, Do Aur Do Paanch. All the while throughout 80s, 90s and the first decade of this century, Rajesh Roshan has been giving one hit here, one hit there, but somehow the magic of the 70s isn't present any more.

Listen to this song from the movie 'Swami' and you will understand why many thought Rajesh Roshan was a great talent to be reckoned with. He was seen by many to be the next best thing to have happened to Hindi films after R D Burman. His music has the freshness of RD without being a copy of RD. At the same time his music did not remind us of his father either. In short Rajesh Roshan showed what was then at a premium, originality. This song opens slowly and has a very leisurely gait to it. Many a times the music director opens very well in the pallavi to lose track in the charanam but Rajesh Roshan builds the charanam in a very nice manner. The charanam start without any percussion accompaniment initially. The percussions join later. The way he blends the charanam into the pallavi with the violins is also very original. Overall a class song. I am sure even Lata with innumerable top quality songs to her credit would not hesitate to put this songs into 'The Best of Lata' category. The movie 'Swami' was a nice one. A typical Basu Chaterjee movie done with lot of sensitivity. The other two songs from the movie 'yaadon mein hai' and 'kaa karoon sajni' were nice ones as well, with the latter song especially getting a lot of air time and rated amongst one of the best Jesudas efforts in Hindi. So if you ever get to hear a modern song composed by Rajesh Roshan and feel frustrated, do head back here and listen to this song. It will sooth your nerves.

Trivia: This song seems to have impressed the Malayalam director I.V.Sasi and his music director A.T.Umeer so much that this song was used in their movie 'Avalude Raavugal' as "rakendhu kirangangal"(sung by Janaki). Ofcourse a lot of people of generation remember 'Avalude Raavugal' for a different reason but we will not get into it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One song at a time - 28. Kalala Alalapai

(Gulebakavali Katha)

In the last post I spoke about Jaidev, whose talent was not given its due by the film industry. But we have to be thankful that he is still remembered by the connoisseurs today. In certain other unfortunate cases, the song remains in public memory but the memory of the creators has totally slipped into oblivion. One such case is what I will be talking about today.

I first heard the song, 'kalala alalapai', during my hostel days. Those were the days when my room mate Siva and I would have the radio on continuously and keep searching for one station or the other to listen to songs. Other than the usual suspects like 'Vividh Bharathi', we would also tune into Radio Ceylon, which would play Telugu songs. (The role of Radio Ceylon in propagating Indian music is enormous. A big book needs to be written about it.) The signal of Radio Ceylon was never strong and so most of the music we heard on that channel was combined with noise. Inspite of that, we used to enjoy ourselves since the Radio Ceylon folks taste in music cannot be faulted. 'kalala alalapai' was first introduced to be here in midst of all the static.

I have later heard this song multiple times and is a personal favourite of mine. When I wanted to find out who the music director was, I came to know that the music was provided by Joseph and Vijaya Krishnamurthy. Unfortunately I have no clue on who they were and neither was I able to get details from my friends or from the web. Here is a clear case of the music directors completely being erased from public memory. I am sure some of the senior folks would have more details about these music directors. If they do, I request them to share it with us. The only detail I got till now is that they were assistants to the more popular music director, T.V.Raju.

This song, from 'Gulebakavali Katha',  is an excellent one. The whole song and the picturisation reeks of class. I love the way the tune is structured. It has a special lilt to it, as if the music directors wanted us to float on the waves. (That's what the words say.). Added to it, the tune is so delicately structured as if not to disturb a wonderful dream. Thoughtful touches, of instrumentation throughout. CNaRe's lyrics sung with the usual efficiency by Ghantasala and Janaki. Adding to the overall charm is a young NTR. The heroine isn't bad either!! So let's now enjoy this delectable melody and for a minute spare a thought to the wonderful music directors who came up with this tune. Thank you dear sirs. You have added so much joy to our lives.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

One song at a time - 27. Zindagi Mere Ghar Aana / Allah Tero Naam

I write this blog on New Year day and what better song to start the year than the one which asks life to come to the doorsteps. The song of today will be "zindagi mere ghar aana" sung by Bhupinder and Anuradha Paudwal for the film "Dooriyan".

This also lets us pray tribute to one of the most underrated music director in Hindi films, Jaidev. It is paradoxical that while he received the National Award for being the best music director three times, he was not well known to the lay audience!!! In our films, success depends, as in life, on a lot of factors other than just the skill you possess. While that is true, we should also take to heart on this New Year day that talent and skill will finally out. What is indisputable now is that Jaidev is regarded highly by connoisseurs of music and his songs have a good following among them.  Anyone with a good ear for music can immediately make out a highly original and talented mind at work when he hears the songs of Jaidev. Infact I had recent befriended a youngster who said he heard just one song of Jaidev and immediately went looking for Jaidev's complete works. This friend is from the heartland of Tamilnadu and I guess he has no idea about Hindi. Yet his musical sense drew him to Jaidev immediately!!! 

Jaidev had this ability to create lot of complex melodies. While Jaidev was working with S D Burman, it is said that Dada Burman used to admonish him and tell him not to create such complex melodies. We should consider ourselves lucky that Jaidev did not heed that advice and went on to create his own brand of magic, which was highly original. He has composed for films whose music still lives fresh and will continue living for a long time. When you hear these songs you can but feel sad that such a person never got more opportunities while people like Bappi Lahiri ruled the roost!!! 

As I had mentioned earlier, the song for today is "zindagi mere ghar aana". What a melody!! I love the way Jaidev develops the melody. You can hear how wonderfully Kalyani develops in the charanam, reaching its apogee at "badi dhoop hai jo" and then sliding down delicately to rejoin the pallavi. A very different take on Kalyani and Jaidev brings a freshness to the raga with his interpretation. Added to it, hear how he develops the charanam. It is almost like an extended monologue, with the tune twisting and turning along the way. Deliciously original construction, not your standard one. The wonderful words of the song were written by Sudharshan Fakir. 

Now that you have heard this song, let me give you another Jaidev song as the New Year gift. Again a song which would be relevant all the time, not just for this year. "Allah Tero Naam Ishwar Tero Naam" from 'Hum Dono', one of the big hits of Jaidev. By the way, I have read that when Jaidev had composed this song Lata Mangeshkar was not in good terms with Jaidev and so Jaidev was thinking about calling some other singer to record this song. When Lata heard that Jaidev had composed such a superb bhajan, she is supposed to have called up Jaidev, made up with him and went on to record the song. Such was the power of the tune. Listen to the song and if you were in Lata's place you would have done the same!!!

Khayyam: A poet amongst music directors

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