Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

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sushant

Upcoming talent: Sushant Divgikar

FOR those wondering why I hadn’t posted a new blog in the past two months, the reason was: acute spondylitis. Of course, I had other writing commitments for Rolling Stone magazine, Mid-Day, Hindustan Times and Absolute India newspapers, which I fulfilled. But typing was a bit painful, and I avoided it wherever I could – namely, writing blogs.

During the on-and-off break from work, there were times when I just couldn’t make it for concerts. Over the past three months or so, I missed the Alan Parsons show, the February season of the Symphony Orchestra of India, flautist Rajeev Raja’s gig at Blue Frog, the Ronu Majumdar-Rekha Bhardwaj show at Nehru Centre and Nandu Bhende’s Beatles tribute at D’Bell, Lower Parel. The last miss will be a regret forever as Nandu, a dear friend, passed away on April 11.

There were some shows that I managed to attend, despite some level of physical discomfort. In late January, I caught Rakesh Chaurasia & Friends at the Fine Arts Society, Chembur. Featuring Rakesh on flute, Gino Banks on drums, Sheldon D’Silva on bass, Sangeet Haldipur on keyboards, Satyajeet Talwakar on tabla and Sanjoy Das on guitar, the group played some good, classical-based fusion.

Next was the Abbaji Barsi at the Shanmukhananda Hall on February 3, held every year to mark the death anniversary of tabla great Ustad Allarakha. As usual, Zaklr Hussain spearheaded the show. Violinist N Rajam’s rendition of Ahir Bhairav and Carnatic vocalist Abhishek Raghuram were the highlights of the morning session. The afternoon had its share of solo percussion recitals, and the evening had a jam session with Zakir, drummer Lil John Roberts, members of the Gipsy Kings and an array of Indian musicians.

On February 4, the country outfit Bellamy Brothers played at the Willingdon Catholic Club, Santa Cruz. The show has been earlier reviewed on this blog.

Mid-February, and the Mahindra Blues Festival comes to town. This year’s highlights at the Mehboob Studio, Bandra, were the outstanding guitarist Derek Trucks, who played with wife Susan Tedeschi and special guest Doyle Bramhall II. The second day witnessed the well-known Jimmie Ray Vaughan, brother of the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan. Another performance worth mentioning was Shillong band Soulmate, clearly the best Indian blues band around.

In early April, one had the pleasure of seeing the amazing jazz guitarist John McLaughlin with his band 4th dimension, featuring keyboardist Gary Husband, bassist Etienne M’bappe and drummer Ranjit Barot. The show at Bandra’s St Andrew’s auditorium was memorable, as what they played was tight, energetic jazz-rock.

The following day at St Andrew’s, one attended a pop show with a difference. What’s special about Mumbai-based Sushant Divgikar is that he sings falsetto, in a female voice. Thus, he sang hits by Adele, Beyonce and Barbra Streisand with effortless ease, hitting the high notes perfectly.

On the Titanic song ‘My heart will go on’, he was joined by Auxilla. Popular singer Rekha Bhardwaj made a guest appearance on the 7 Khoon Maaf song ‘Darling’. The winner of many karaoke contests, Sushant is a bundle of talent. A voice to watch.

That, then, was a quick summary of shows attended in the past two months. One, of course, missed many classical concerts, and some fusion shows. Hopefully something brilliant will come up over the next few weeks.


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Pt Raghunath Seth

SAD times we live in. It’s been a week since noted flautist Pt Raghunath Seth passed away, and there’s not been a single word in the media. Even the famed Wikipedia hasn’t updated the information. Only a handful of disciples, musicians and fans have paid tribute over the social media.

Seth had his own significant contribution to the world of bansuri. Besides Hindustani classical music, he composed for films like ‘Damul’ and ‘Ek Baar Phir’, ad jingles and documentaries. A disciple of two great musicians – vocalist-musicologist Pt S N Ratanjankar and flautist Pt Pannalal Ghosh – he also did numerous shows in the West, accompanying Steve Gorn, an American who plays the bansuri.

In the world of bansuri, while Pannalal Ghosh was the pioneering senior, Pts Hariprasad Chaurasia, Vijay Raghav Rao, Raghunath Prasanna and Raghunath Seth comprised the next generation of esteemed practitioners. And some of the albums Seth released with Magnasound were nothing short of magic.

Despite that level of genius and respect, the gentleman went away unreported and silently. And this is not the first time this is happening in Hindustani classical music. The deaths of very senior musicians like flautist Pt Vijay Raghav Rao, sitar maestro Ustad Shamim Ahmed Khan, and vocalists Yeshwantbua Joshi and Lakshmi Shankar were not covered too. But for a touching column in ‘mint’ newspaper by Shubha Mudgal, the death of harmonium great Purushottam Walawalkar didn’t get media attention.

Even Ustad Vilayat Khan, one of the greatest sitar players ever, got very sparing mention. In contrast, there have also been musicians who have been given due coverage, moreso because the media was familiar with them.

In such a scenario, it is natural to blame the ignorance or even indifference of today’s media, whether it is print or electronic. That is true, of course. But there are other factors that come into play – namely public relations, the existence of lobbies and camps and the general tendency to cover glamour and celebrity more than the art itself.

Let me cite a personal example, taken from my days at Mid Day. When Vilayat Khan passed away in March 2004, we had originally planned to devote an entire page. Besides the obituary chronicling his life, I had got tributes from other musicians, and a story on who all had come to pay homage during the final journey.

The coup, of course, was that I actually managed to get Pandit Ravi Shankar to pay a very graceful tribute, even though it was a known thing that he and Vilayat Khan had been arch professional rivals. Needless to say, only the Ravi Shankar story managed to make it to print, with Ravi Shankar getting the larger photograph too.

If one looks at today’s media scenario, the truth is that there are very few writers dedicated to the classical music beat. Barring ‘The Hindu’ from Chennai, which naturally gives more prominence to Carnatic music, there is hardly any consistent coverage. One finds one-off articles and columns here and there, but the space is limited and display less prominent than popular film music. Compared to Bollywood stars and item girls, music gets very little attention. Even on television, In Sync is the only channel to focus on classical music – the rest believe in insufficient or no coverage.

Thus, when a senior artiste passes away, the media is either caught unawares, or simply does not give space because there are glamorous and ‘saleable’ things to write about in newspapers or show on television. Here, artistes who have had good public relations skills or who have been close to some of the ‘star’ musicians get more attention.

Undeniably, this is a sad state of affairs. Musicians like Raghunath Seth, Vijay Raghav Rao, Lakshmi Shankar, Yeshwantbua Joshi, Shamim Ahmed Khan and Purushottam Walawalkar have all made huge contributions to classical music. The truth is that they never achieved celebrity status, and never even wanted to, even though they were as brilliant as anybody else. If only the media could be more sensitive and sensible.

The Bellamy Brothers blast


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ON the surface, it would appear that American country music has a very limited following in India. Talk about the genre, and the average western music listener will mention only a handful of artistes and songs. The number of albums sold in Indian stores is much lower than rock or pop, and there have hardly been any country shows in India, in comparison to western classical and jazz. The only show I remember attending was Dan Seals at a private US consulate appearance in 1995. The death of the legendary Ray Price in December went unnoticed in the Indian media.

Yet, if you were at the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana in Santa Cruz on Tuesday, February 4, you’d have been surprised to see the turnout and enthusiasm at the Bellamy Brothers show. It simply proved that there is a cult following for country music in India.

While the total crowd strength was estimated at 3,500 ― 12-15 per cent of which may probably have been those with complimentary tickets ― what added to whole show was the sheer ambience. Mostly comprising Goans and local Christians, people came in their Stetson hats and cowboy boots, and danced to the peppier numbers. Even more surprising was the fact that a few people sang along the lyrics of most songs, something one has seen at rock shows like Roger Waters or Scorpions.

Personally, I have had a limited exposure to David and Howard Bellamy. Back in the late 1970s, one heard their hits ‘Let Your Love Flow’ and ‘If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me?’ on the radio. Then, in the late 1990s, I had heard their album ‘Live at Gilley’s’, which featured the songs ‘For All The Wrong Reasons’, ‘Getting Into Reggae Cowboy’ and ‘Do You Love As Good As You Look?’. But that was it.

These five songs were among the highlights of the 90-minute set, besides the opener ‘Feeling The Feeling’, ‘For All The Wrong Reasons’, ‘Get Into Reggae Cowboy’ , ‘Redneck Girl’, ‘Old Hippie’, ‘You Ain’t Just Whistlin’ Dixie’ and ‘Crazy from the Heart’. A highlight was ‘Pray For Me’, the concluding gospel track which lent variety. Besides the regular lead and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboard and drums, a highlight of the sound was the use of the steel guitar, which gave a typical country feel.

Hailing from Darby, Florida, the Bellamy Brothers were formed in 1968 but took almost eight years to achieve mainstream success. While they initially focused on pop songs, they later began concentrating on country and country-rock, getting a more devoted audience. Their popularity was at its peak in the 1980s, and though chart success eluded them later, their core audience continued to grow.

On this tour, the Bellamy Brothers also played in Goa. The success of the Mumbai show proves a couple of things.

One, the choice of venue was fantastic. Though there was one drawback in that there were a couple of residential buildings nearby (probably enjoying free music), it was a pleasant space, suited for live entertainment. One hasn’t seen a major show at Willingdon, and this could be used for more concerts in future. Reasonably priced food and beverages added to the audience’s satisfaction.

Secondly, and more important, the concert gave good evidence that there is a market for live country acts in India. Though the opponents of country music may feel the songs are too structured and even repetitive, there are clearly many takers for this sound too. For some strange reason, this area has remained untouched by event organisers, and hopefully, this show will be an eye-opener. Time to think of organising shows by Billy Ray Cyrus, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum.


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Umayalpuram L Sivaraman (left) on mridangam and Bhawani Shankar on pakhawaj

The ‘Percussion from India’ series was started in November 2013 as a follow-up to the ‘Instruments from India’ series, which talked of melody instruments. The first two parts of the new series, which aims to features drums commonly used in India, spoke of the tabla.

Like in the previous series, the aim is two-fold: one, to make Indian readers aware of certain artistes they might not have heard before, and secondly, to expose relatively new audiences, mainly from the West, to the beauty that various Indian instruments offer.

In this series, I shall not go into too many technicalities and playing styles, unless really necessary. I shall focus on how the instrument is used in different genres, and mention the leading performers in each style. The list of musicians may, however, not be exhaustive.

This month, we shall talk of double-headed drums used in different types of Indian music.

DOUBLE-HEADED or two-faced drums are used in north Indian Hindustani music, south Indian Carnatic music and different types of folk and devotional music. In most cases, the player sits on the floor and keeps the instrument on his lap, though in some types of folk music, he attaches it with a strap around his shoulder.

The main instruments in this category are the mridangam, which forms a very important part of Carnatic music, and the pakhawaj, which was earlier used in the dhrupad form or Hindustani music but is seeing rarer exposure today. The dhol forms an important part of folk music. A brief note on the various double-headed drums.

Mridangam: Known primarily for its use in Carnatic music, the mridangam is also heard in the Nepalese form of Newa music. However, while the Carnatic musician sits on the floor, the Newa musician stands and plays.

In Carnatic music, the mridangam can be used as a solo instrument with a violin accompaniment, or to accompany vocalists, violinists and flute players, among others. It is played with the hands. Often, it is one among the many percussion instruments used in a Carnatic concert. The others, which include the ghatam, kanjira and morsing, will be discussed in a later part of this series.

Besides Carnatic music, the mridangam is also used to accompany southern dance forms, particularly Bharatanatyam, and in theatrical dance forms like Yakshagana. Derived from the words ‘mrida’ (clay or earth) and ‘anga’ (body), the mridangam is said to have been played since the time of Lord Shiva.

Over the years, some of the best known players have included T K Murthy, Palghat R Raghu, Umayalpuram L Sivaraman, Karaikudi Mani, Vellore G Ramabhadran, Palani Sunramaniam Pillai, Palghat Mani Iyer, C Murugabhupathy and Mahadevu Radha Krishna Raju.

The mridangam has also been used extensively in south Indian film music by L Vaidyanathan, Ilayaraja, A R Rahman and others. It has also found a role in north-south fusion encounters, and in Mumbai, Sridhar Parthasarathy has often accompanied tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain and other percussion ensembles.

Pakhawaj: A variant and descendant of the mridangam, the pakhawaj is used as an accompaniment for various music and dance performances. It is also played with the hands.

In Hindustani music, it was primarily used as an accompaniment to dhrupad and dhamaar styles. The famous Dagar brothers were accompanied by pakhawaj greats like Govindrao Burhanpurkar, S V Patwardhan and Ambadas Pant Angle. Other players from the older generation include Ramashish Pathak.

Rom the 1970s onwards, Bhawani Shankar has established himself as a leading pakhawaj player, accompanying instrumentalists like santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia.

Legend has it that the tabla was created after cutting the pakhawaj into two halves.

Dhol: The dhol is used in folk and devotional music from various states of India. Ranging from bhangra and Sufiana music of Punjab and the Sindhi dhamaal, to Ganesh songs in Maharashtra and the Navratri festival of Gujaeat, to the music of Assam, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka and Kashmir, it reflects energy and rhythmic vibrancy.

Unlike the Carnatic mridangam and Hindustani pakhawaj, the dhol is played with a pair of sticks of different thickness, providing different tonal patterns.

Other double-headed drums: Among the popular types is the khol, used in Bengali and north-eastern devotional music and played with the hands. It is also used in Baul and Bhatiyali music.

In south India, the thavil is played mainly at temples, but is also heard at public concerts. It is also used as an accompanied to the wind instrument nadaswaram. For a right-handed player, the right side is played with the hand and the left with a stick.

Other double-headed drums include the damru, associated with the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, the madal, used with dance and folk music, and the naal, which is tuned with bolts.

Each of these drums has a charm of its own, and add to the variety and diversity of Indian music.


anuradha

Recharge Plus/ Anuradha Pal

Genre: Fusion

Sur Aur Saaz/ Rs 295

Rating: *****

A disciple of the great Ustad Allarakha and Zakir Hussain, tabla exponent Anuradha Pal has established herself as an outstanding and innovative percussionist in her own right. Besides accompanying Hindustani classical musicians, she has been involved with experimental music through her all-female group Stree Shakti and the fusion outfit Recharge.

Anuradha’s latest album ‘Recharge Plus’ is a follow-up to the mighty impressive ‘Get Recharged !!!!’. Featuring an array of talented musicians, it is one of the most brilliant fusion albums to be released over the past couple of years, blending styles as diverse as Hindustani, Carnatic, Indian folk, devotional, jazz, Middle Eastern, African, Latino and even western classical to create some splendid sounds.

Besides composing the tunes, Anuradha herself plays an assortment of drums here. Apart from the tabla, she uses the pakhawaj, kanjira, djembe, darbouka, udu and bongos. And though other musicians chip in with mridangam, ghatam, cajon, timbales and the traditional drumkit, the album is not dominated by percussion. Smart and judicious use of keyboards, sarangi, sitar, shehnai, violin and saxophone, among other instruments, lend a complete feel.

Seven of the eight tracks consist of Indian vocals. Strangely, all the vocalists – Sandip Bhattacharjee, Aditya Khandwe, Nanu Gurjar, Vaishali Samant and Chandanabala – have been credited together, and one wishes the liner notes had mentioned who had sung which song.

The album begins with ‘High Voltage’, which stays true to its title. Bursting with energy, it begins with percussion and keyboards, before using impeccable vocal taranas and taans. ‘Desire’, which talks of waiting for a loved one, is a nice blend of the semi-classical thumri style with Latino and jazz melodies.

‘Just One God’ is a marvellous amalgam. It begins with the mantra ‘Ya devi sarvabhuteshu’, and goes on to include some breath-taking sargams, and a stretch from Carnatic composer Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s ‘Vatapi Ganapatim bhajeham’ in raga Hamsadhwani. As a total surprise, we hear western classical snatches from Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and Beethoven’s ‘9th Symphony’.

‘Seventh Heaven’ is a wonderful adaptation of the Sufi piece ‘Kadi aa mil sanwal yaar ve’, written by Farhat Abbas Shah and popularised by Pakistan’s Mekaal Hasan Band. The singing on this version is simply soulful.

On the title track, Anuradha uses raga Miyan ki Malhar. While the first half contains some melodic sarangi, sitar and shehnai, a dazzling orchestral portion brightens up the climax. ‘Cloud 9’, the only instrumental piece here, is set in the rare nine-beat cycle, and has a heady combination of Carnatic music and jazz, with a mesmerising violin stretch by Raghavendra Rao.

‘Joy’ explores the Rajasthani folk style of Maand, using a soothing sarangi and crisp vocals. The piece, which celebrates the return of a loved one, also moves between the Hindustani, Carnatic and jazz worlds. Finally, ‘Recharged by Shiva’ is an invocation to Lord Shiva, containing a good selection of devotional shlokas.

Being primarily a tabla player, Anuradha ensures that each piece contains some amount of virtuosity on that instrument, and produces some dazzling stretches. Yet, she never makes the tabla dominate over the other elements, using it for just the right amount to fit in perfectly with the nature of the compositions.

For that matter, each composition is perfectly balanced, between genres and instruments. And going by the sheer energy levels, this is an album that is bound to recharge you repeatedly.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding


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Sergei Rachmaninoff

In November 2012, we started a series called ‘Take Five’, which would recommend five albums or artistes from various genres of international music. This series will be carried once in two months. The first seven parts talked of British alternative rock, classical crossover, world music, electronic music, early female blues legends, the Motown superstars and the Velvet Underground influence, respectively. This month, we look at western classical concertos.

AMONG the various types of western classical compositions, this writer has a special weakness for concertos. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a concerto features a solo musician, who has a primary role in the piece, as against a symphony, where all musicians have important roles, but nobody is prominent.

Based on the instruments they are written for, we can have violin concertos, cello concertos, piano concertos, flute concertos, harp concertos, so on and so forth. At times, two or three soloists may also be used, and we can thus have a concerto for flute and harp (like the one composed by Mozart), or a concerto for piano, violin and cello (for example, the famous Beethoven piece).

A standard concerto has three movements – fast, slow and fast. While concertos are always a pleasure to listen to on CD or vinyl, watching them being performed live is a different experience altogether. The best place to hear them, of course, would be live in a concert hall, but besides that, one finds plenty of material on DVD and YouTube.

Before talking of five concertos that would be ideal for lay listeners, here’s a brief on the origin of the form. Here we are using the terms Baroque for music created in the 17th and early 18th centuries, Classical for music created in the later 18th century, Romantic for music created in the 19th century, and Modern for 20th century music. This is as per the generally accepted descriptions of these periods.

The term concerto was first used in the early Baroque period to denote works involving voice and instruments in which the instrument had an independent role. Late Baroque composers, like Bach and Vivaldi, created some memorable compositions, but it was in the Classical period that Mozart revolutionalised the form, writing five violin concertos and 27 piano concertos. His senior Josef Haydn, though more prolific with writing symphonies, composed four concertos for violin, two for cello and 12 for piano. In the Romantic period, most composers wrote magnificent concertos, and the trend was continued well into the Modern era.

With so many great concertos written over the years, choosing five isn’t an easy task. Here, I have looked at four popular works, and one unusual example, all of which have been personal favourites.

Violin Concerto in D Major – Tchaikovsky: Written in 1878, this was the only violin concerto created by the Russian composer, who is otherwise hugely known for his ballets ‘Swan Lake’, ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

One of the best-known among all violin concertos, Tchaikovsky’s piece is also considered one of the most difficult to play. It has three movements, and runs into 35 minutes.

The piece was written in Clarens, Switzerland, when the composer was recovering from his disastrous marriage. As he didn’t play the violin himself, he took the help of his pupil Iosif Kotek, who as per the grapevine was also his homosexual partner.

For Tchaikovsky’s concerto, one can check the recording of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein, with Isaac Stern as the soloist. Other violin concertos one can check are the five by Mozart, the six by great virtuoso Niccolo Paganini and the one written each by Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and modern composer Jean Sibelius.

Cello Concerto in B Minor – Antonin Dvorak: This composition by the Czech composer ranks among the best cello concertos ever written, and it would be ideal to begin with the one featuring noted cellist Msitslav Rostropovich, with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

Dvorak wrote this piece in 1895, and this was the last concerto he created. It has three movements running into 40 minutes. Its London premiere in 1896 was conducted by Dvorak himself, with Leo Stern playing the cello for the London Philharmonic.

Among the other cellos concertos, the ones by Haydn, CPE Bach, Robert Schumann, Carl Reinecke, Edward Elgar, Dmitri Shostakovich and Samuel Barber are recommended. British composer Benjamin Britten also wrote what he called a ‘cello symphony’, where equal emphasis was placed on cello and orchestra.

Piano Concerto No 2 in C Minor – Sergei Rachmaninoff: Of the four piano concertos that Rachmaninoff wrote, No 2 was the most popular, coming as it did after the terrible response to No 1. The Russian composer wrote the second concerto in 1901.

Written in the standard three-movement format, the piece became so popular it was used in Hollywood soundtracks. The opening section, which sounds like the tolling of bells that lead to the main theme, is a class by itself.
Among the recordings, one can check out pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy playing both Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto No 2 and 3. There is also a priceless recoding of Rachmaninoff playing all his four piano concertos himself.

Over the years, numerous great piano concertos were written. Further suggested for listening are Mozart’s 24th and 26th, Beethoven’s five piano concertos, Frederic Chopin’s two, two by Franz Liszt and the two by Brahms.

Clarinet Concerto in A Major – Mozart: One of the last pieces created by the legendary Mozart before his death in 1791, the clarinet concerto was written for the clarinettist Anton Stadler. It is in three movements – fast, slow, fast.

As there is no autograph for this concerto, and it was published posthumously, critics have found it difficult to understand all of Mozart’s intentions. Yet, it stands out for the delicate interaction between soloist and orchestra, and has received an overwhelming response.

Among the recordings of this concerto, the one featuring clarinettist Sabine Meyer is outstanding. Among other clarinet concertos, those written by modern composers Aaron Copeland and Igor Stravinsky are noteworthy.

Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra No 1 – Ravi Shankar: This was a pathbreaking attempt by sitar maestro Ravi Shankar in the early 1970s to blend Indian music with the western concerto format.

Shankar wrote two such concertos. The first was conducted by Andre Previn for the London Symphony Orchestra. The base is Indian, as it uses four Indian classical ragas – Khamaj, Sindhu Bhairavi, Adana and Manj Khamaj. The second concerto, also called Raga Mala was conducted by Zubin Mehta for the London Philharmonic, and features ragas Lalit, Bairagi, Yaman Kalyan and Miyan Ki Malhar. However, the tempo of the movements has been kept in western style, beginning with fast, then going on to slow and then back to fast.

Summing up: Here, we have talked of four concertos that are purely western classical by nature, and one that is a fusion between Indian music and the western concerto format. We have also mentioned some of the other popular concertos, though this by no means is a complete list.

Like the symphony, the concerto has had its own role to play in western classical music. And if you haven’t attended a live concert featuring a concerto, it’s high time you do.


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Farooque Shaikh and Rekha in ‘Umrao Jaan’

THE sudden and untimely death of Farooque Shaikh has come as a huge shock to friends, colleagues and fans, who are at a loss when it comes to speaking about his immense contribution to the world of films, theatre and television. Some wonderful tributes have been written, both in the print and social media, describing his brilliance as an actor, his simplicity as a human being, his passion for cinema and food, and his vast knowledge of politics and current affairs.

This blog aims to touch upon another aspect revolving around Farooque ― of his being the actor who regularly symbolised the late 1970s and early 1980s ghazal revival in Hindi cinema. More than any other actor, it was he who was picturised on some of the best ghazals released between 1978 and 1982, when the ghazal wave was at its peak. Even today, those songs are popular among the generation that grew up on them.

To be precise, of the six films that focused on ghazals during that period, whose music was commercially successful then and is considered timeless even today, four featured Farooque. These were ‘Gaman’ (1978), ‘Umrao Jaan’ (1981), ‘Bazaar’ (1982) and ‘Saath Saath’ (1982). The other two were Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Arth’ and BR Chopra’s ‘Nikaah’ (both 1982), the former having Kulbhushan Kharbanda in the male lead and Raj Kiran in a supporting role, and the latter featuring Raj Babbar and Deepak Parasher.

In these four films, quite a few songs were picturised on Farooque ― either portraying him singing them, or being part of the scene when the heroine is singing them. But before talking of the music of these films, here’s a bit on the overall music scenario during that period.

WHILE the late 1970s brought back the genre, ghazals were actually nothing new in Hindi cinema. Ghazals basically involve a certain format while writing poetry, and poets like Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Jan Nisar Akhtar had been using that structure for film songs, which were set to tune by music directors from Naushad to Madan Mohan to SD Burman. From the 1940s onwards, all major singers like KL Saigal, Talat Mahmood, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle had sung them.

Besides ghazals, Hindi films also featured related forms like the nazm, which involves free-flowing poetry, or the simple ‘geet’ or love song. But trends changed and by the late 1960s, there were fewer ghazals in the traditional sense of the term. So what happened in the late 1970s was essentially a revival sparked off for two reasons.

The first was that the Hindi parallel cinema movement had gained momentum, and directors like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Gulzar, Muzaffar Ali, Kumar Shahani and Mahesh Bhatt, to name a few, came up with a realistic alternative to the fantasy-ridden commercial films of the day.

Even for their music, such filmmakers preferred something that differed from and went against the popular commercial sound. Some chose light classical or folk music, while others relied on simple melodies not belonging to any genre as such.

Still others opted for the ghazal, as the genre had been making waves in the non-film segment. Artistes like Jagjit-Chitra Singh and Rajendra-Nina Mehta had become popular, and the late 1970s and early 1980s saw the discovery of new artistes like Hariharan, Talat Aziz, Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota and Penaz Masani in the non-film ghazal segment.

Thus, the second reason for this revival was that with ghazals becoming popular outside of films, it was only natural they found a place in parallel cinema too. With commercial films getting into disco and loud music that went with the violence and sleaze, ghazals acted as a refreshing change. Ghazal singers like Jagjit Singh, Chitra Singh, Talat Aziz and Hariharan got opportunities to sing in films.

However, one just couldn’t put in a ghazal everywhere for the sake of it. The song had to fit with the storyline and the situations. So while there were quite a few films that used one or two ghazals (like Jagjit Singh’s ‘Honto Se Choolon Tum’ in the 1981 film ‘Prem Geet’ or the couple of songs in Bhimsain’s 1979 venture ‘Dooriyan’), only a handful of them focused entirely on the genre. Of these, four starred Farooque Shaikh.

LET’S now look at the music of these four films, in the chronological order of their release. Needless to say, even today, their songs create the same impact, though it’s unfortunate that large sections of the younger generation are yet to discover them.

Gaman (1978): Directed by Muzaffar Ali, ‘Gaman’ had music by the great Jaidev. Two of the songs, written by the brilliant Shahryaar, were picturised on Farooque.

‘Seene Mein Jalan’ gave a huge boost to the career of Suresh Wadkar, and the lines “Seene mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai; Is sheher mein har shaks pareshan sa kyon hai” became a hit among Mumbai residents.

The second ghazal is an absolute beauty sung by Hariharan. Titled ‘Ajeeb Saaneha Mujhpar Guzar Gaya Yaaron’, it has marvellous lines like, “Woh kaun tha, woh kahan ka tha, kya hua tha usey; suna hai aaj koi shaks mar gaya yaaro.” Hariharan is a treat to hear, showing perfection in classical technique and Urdu diction.

The film has two other beauties. In ‘Aap Ki Yaad Aati Rahe Raat Bhar’, Maqdoom Mohiuddin’s lines are sung by the National Award-winning Chhaya Ganguli. The traditional semi-classical ‘Ras Ke Bhare Torey Nain’ is rendered soulfully by Hiradevi Mishra.

Umrao Jaan (1981): Music director Khayyam, lyricist Shahryaar and singer Asha Bhosle combine to make this an unforgettable collection of songs. For Farooque, Talat Aziz charmingly sings ‘Zindagi Jab Bhi Teri Bazm Mein’, which had those amazing lines, “Har mulaqaat ka anjaam judaai kyon hai; Ab toh har waqt yehi baat sataati hai humein.”

The other songs are picturised on Rekha, and in some cases Farooque, who plays Nawab Sultan. These include evergreen numbers like “In Aankhon Ki Masti’, ‘Dil Cheez Kya Hai’, ‘Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston’ and ‘Justuju Jiski Thi’. Poetry, melody and cinematic beauty at their best.

Both Khayyam and Asha Bhosle won the National Award for this film.

Bazaar (1982): Starring Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooque Shaikh and Supriya Pathak, Sagar Sarhadi’s ‘Bazaar’ made amazing use of the ghazal medium. Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s ‘Phir Chiddi Raat Baat Phoolon Ki’, sung by Talat Aziz and Lata Mangeshkar, is picturised on Farooque and Supriya, and Lata’s solo ‘Dikhayi Diye Yoon’, written by the legendary Mir Taqi Mir, is one of the best songs she’s rendered in that era.

Jagjit Kaur renders the touching Mirza Shauq-penned ‘Dekh Lo Aaj Humko Jee Bhar Ke’, which shows Farooque in an emotional scene. Finally, ‘Karoge Yaad Toh Har Baat Yaad Aayegi’, written by Bashar Nawaz and sung by the outstanding Bhupinder, is picturised on Naseeruddin and Smita.

Saath Saath (1982): With music by Kuldeep Singh and lyrics by Javed Akhtar, Raman Kumar’s film had some wonderful ghazals and geets sung by Jagjit and Chitra Singh, and filmed on Farooque and Deepti Naval.

Jagjit’s ‘Tumko Dekha Toh Yeh Khayal Aaya’ remained one of his concert favourites till the end, with lines like, “Aaj phir dil ne ek tamanna ki; Aaj phir dil ko humne samjhaaya” and “Hum jisey gunguna nahin sakte; Waqt ne aisa geet kyon gaaya.”

‘Kyun Zindagi Ki Raah Mein’, ‘Pyaar Mujhse Jo Kiya Tumne Toh Kya Paaogi’ and ‘Yeh Bata De Zindagi’ are still admired by connoisseurs, and the lighter ‘Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar’ has become a staple among newly-weds.

Of the four films, ‘Saath Saath’ had the most accessible music, attracting both serious ghazal lovers and lay listeners.

WITH these films, Farooque just had a wonderful repertoire of ghazals to portray on screen. Though the music of his ‘Noorie’, composed by Khayyam, was successful too, and other films like ‘Chasme Buddoor’ had a couple of popular songs, the ghazals recorded during that five-year span had a different class altogether.

Sadly, after1983, the ghazal fad slowly died down in films. In concerts and non-film albums, it lasted another few years, but by the second half of the 1980s, the overall consistency of the existing singers had declined, and the entry of too many singers had affected the quality. Only a few artistes survived, and continued to carry the baton for years.

As a tribute to Farooque, it would be ideal to get back into the music of these four films, and understand the beauty and depth of the ghazals. The actor will definitely be missed. But as that song said in ‘Umrao Jaan’, “Har mulaqaat ka anjaam judaai kyon hai; Ab toh har waqt yehi baat sataati hai humein.”

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