Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thoughts of a Music maniac

For someone who has been hearing music since childhood, hearing these “talent hunt” err reality shows a bit more seriously than required comes only naturally. I am a big time music buff and have heard and appreciated all kinds of Indian music from Hindustani classical, Carnatic Classical to apna Bollywood, ghazals – you name it and I have appreciated it. 

Something has been hurting me a lot since the ouster of some of my favorite participants in these shows. And the reason for their failure is the great voting system of India. We never took voting of politicians very seriously, how we are expected to take the selection of a winner of a talent hunt show seriously is beyond my understanding. Well that would not have hurt me much either but there is another thing bothering me. And that is the expectations from the winners of these shows. They are expected to do playback singing and this is what that bothers me the most. I have followed Star Voice of India and Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa very closely – the former only because of one singer – Mohammad Toshi Sabri. I think he is the real find this season. I request you all please hear him once. Specially, Teri Deewani, Piya re, Main jahan rahoon, Allah Hu, Mera piya ghar aaya…You can listen to all his renditions here

We have been conditioned so much to hear Bollywood music that we think that is the only kind of music or the only real music. There are many who have commented that Toshi can sing only a particular genre of music. But they conveniently forget that his genre is the original and the most difficult one (though I do not think that he did a bad job with other genres). 

Let me talk about the Bollywood music first. Bollywood music has not been great always. There was a golden era in the 60's-70's when songs regularly used to be semi classical based rendered beautifully by Lata ji, Manna Dey saab, Md Rafi saab and the likes who were classically trained. This was the time when Hindi cinema music did more progress than the movies we were churning..The music was way more mature. Listen to Kuhu kuhu Bole Koyalia, Jyoti Kalash Chalake, Maayi ri Main ka se kahun peer, Madhuban mein radhika naache re, Laga chunari mein daag, Poocho na kaise maine, all the songs of Baiju bawara and the list is very very long. These songs are still considered standard for anyone aspiring to sing without the guidance of a teacher. There were some emotional numbers like Din Dhal jaaye, yeh raat yeh chandani fir kahan, Rahe na rahe hum, waqt ne kiya and I know this list is probably bigger than the earlier one. For those who have heard a lot of classical music, these songs will always remain in a very high esteem.

Then came the era of Mr Kishore Kumar who had a strong power packed voice but who was not trained. But he gave some beautiful numbers and a long and never-ending list of imitators and I cannot help but put Harshit (he will be crowned VOI) in that list. And unless he develops his own unique style, he will not go much ahead.

After Kishore Kumar, there has been a general degradation in the kind of songs being made except an occasional brilliance here and there. There has been a revival of sorts of late in the music of SEL, AR Rehman saab, Vishal Bharadwaj, Pritam and to a certain extent HR (when he prefers to use the voice of other singers)

But is Bollywood music the only kind of music in India? No definitely not. But it is the most easily accessible music for the masses. But IMHO, classical music (Hindustani as well as Carnatic) is still the best and most refined form of music and will always remain so. Ghazal, qawalli, sufi, bhajan all have their roots in the ancient classical music. And it is unfortuante that there are more listeners of Kumar Sanu than Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Pt Bhimsen Joshi ji or Pt Jasraj ji. 

But let us face it. Playback singing is more about making your voice suit to a certain situation to a certain person. The aim of any movie is to reach out to the masses and thus in the process generate revenue for the producers. These talent hunt shows have succeeded in generating high TRP and money but they have failed miserably in giving genuine singers. Only 3 singers have really made a mark in the last 15 yrs. Reason? There can never be so many playback singers as these talent hunt shows generate because the existing ones are doing everything for the producers and music directors. So I will remain skeptical about the future (?) of the winner of these shows in Bollywood singing. 

But we do need many more singers that are classically trained in the future. I doubt that the "filmy" music in this age of "dard-e-disco" will ever give us easy to grasp classical music as it did once. We need singers who can do that independently and I wish Toshi would do it. I won't mind if he does not get a chance to playback for SRK..but I will be only happy to see him doing it in his private albums and live shows.

The voting system has become a necessary evil. Gajji and others cannot live without it now. And singers like Toshi will keep on loosing to this system not once but twice because there will be fewer who would really understand that. How I wish somone starts a classical talent hunt show (sans voting system). Any takers for the show? More than that, any producer having guts to launch such a show?

A long post but then I was too involved to stop myself. I welcome your thoughts on this.