The Hindi music industry has seen stalwarts musicians whose work has managed to not only thrive and but also beat the vagaries of time. The era of the 1950-s, right up to the early 1990-s have seen some great singers, the heritage of whom is present for everyone to see.
Being a passive listener to the songs playing on through cds and cassettes since childhood, there are four voices that I would like to speak about in this article.
Ahhh, what a voice he was gifted with! The baritone of a well raised, well mannered gentleman is what he sang in! A voice that gave motion to romantic poetry with as much beauty and elan as the impact it provided to qawwalis, devotionals and patriotic. Being proficient in classical, that was another genre where he left his indelible mark. His voice had this scent of freshness that comforts and invites the listener each and every time..What set him apart,for me, is that there was an effortlesness in his singing, an ease, that simplified and elementalized the most complex and difficult of musical compositions into bite sized pieces that is easy to listen,savour and connect to. In fact, the gentle soothing character of his voice further embellishes the composition, transforming it into memorable symphonies that compel to hum along. His was the voice of a courteous, soft-spoken, amiable,gentleman with whom people will like interacting with.“Gulabi Aankhen”,”Ye maana meri jaan”,”Pukaarta Chalaa” are some of his songs that stand out for me.
Despite being untrained, he dominated the Hindi music scene right from the mid 1940s to the late 1980s. Pretty sure he would continue to do so,if not for his untimely demise.His voice had a tonal contrast unparalleled, complemented by the vocal range he possessed. Another remarkable feature of his voice would be its stamina-it gave the impression that he could sing all day,all night, without breaking into a sweat! A rich baritone,strong and crisp,capable of rousing the sleepiest of minds,he was the designer and champion of the style of singing known as “yodling”-a style that is as easy to the ear as it is challenging to sing .One song that really shows his maestro would be “Aake sidhi lagi dil pe tirchi nazariya” from the movie “Half Ticket”(1962), in which,incidentally, he himself was the lead actor. The seamless transition from the male to the female voice, this song is a true embodiment of the class he possessed.His voice was the hero’s voice, that of alpha.“Mere sapno ki rani”,”Zindagi ka safar” are few noteworthy mentions.
If a canary were to sing lyrical songs, that is Lata Mangeshkar’s voice for you. A voice so sweet,so soothing, yet so stirring,so engaging, her voice represents the era of women who were demure, reserved;yet expressive in the kindest, the most feminine of ways. A calm breeze, ebbing and flowing,swinging and changing courses most gracefully and effortlessly, her voice was the perfect contrast to the sturdy masculine chrome that the male singers brought to the songs.
Her singing prowess found equal match in the innumerable solos she sang throughout her career. “Kya Jaanu Sajan” and the famous “Ae mere watan ke logo”-a song that brought tears to Jawaharlal Nehru’s eyes, and evokes strong patriotic feeling even today-stand out for me, among her many greats.
Her sister’s influence never overshadowed the legion she managed to create, maintain, and expand from the day she entered the Hindi music scene. Asha Bhosle’s voice represents the era where women started coming to the forefront in every sphere of human endeavour. Her voice represents the liberated woman who became more emancipated,more vocal,more outright,bold,in-your-face and unreserved. This was probably what juxtaposed her in stark contrast to what her elder sister had established in terms of singing trend.Raw energy,sonorous tone, subtle sensuality ,soft undertones all these are jam-packed in her voice.“Dum Maaro Dum”-the psychedelic phenomenon-is probably the best example of the caliber of her singing. Other favourites of mine would be “Do lafzon ki hai”,”Piya tu ab to aaja”, among other greats.
It is something of a wonder how these two sisters single handedly have managed to complement, supplement, and dominate the Hindi music scene for as long as It has has a documented history. To put things in perspective, these two artists have performed with countless number of male artists, who have come, left their mark, and receded into the golden pages of Hindi music. And continue they do, to be the revered legends even today!
These are only four artists about whom I have attempted to put forth my views. There are inarguably many others who commanded the Hindi music scene right from the early 40s to the late 80s. The artists I have mentioned here are those whose musical legacy is something that has grown and established itself in my musical conscience more prominently.
8th April, 2017
2 thoughts on ““Verdant Voices…””
When I read the introduction, I went into contemplation, thinking who are my favorite singers of that era and obviously most of us would zero in on similar names. But when I thought how I would have described them or differentiated between them, I was clueless and I definitely couldn’t write in such detail. But I loved the fact that you could write so well and so much about them, describing not only their voices and singing styles but also the finer nuances.
I especially loved the way you juxtaposed Lata and Asha Jee’s singing.
Coming from someone who technically is not from the same era or who grew up in times when such songs were not from the “popular” playlist, I think you have subconsciously or consciously picked up a lot from the variety of music that you were exposed to at home.
Appreciate the idea of writing on these singers who are and will continue to be legendary singers of all times. I also admire your uncanny knack of articulating distinctinctive features of their voices and style of singing unique to them. Effortless singing of Md Rafi, the stamina in Kishor Da’s voice, Lata didi’s voice representing reserved indian womanhood yet expressive and midas voice of Asha representing liberating indian womanhood. Furthermore, I also admire the fact that you stayed away from the debate of who is the best or better as all of them have class of their own. As for me, I spent all my life listening to their songs and trust me, some of their songs I must have listened thousand and thousand times and every time I hear them next look as refreshing as they were in the first time. I am pleasantly surprised to your understanding of the nuances of their singing style in great details as you belong to an era where their physical presence is almost non- existent. That’s the class of their voices, I mmortal and flowing eternally sweeping all generation in their cozy lap.
Your blog is a tribute to these legends.