Saturday, February 28, 2009

Famous Film Pairs

In some way Lata Mangeshkar changed the Indian music industry. She not only opened avenues for bright female singers but also helped in making film music more popular. Combing with other great male singers of that era, few decades from 1950s produced great music. Music composers were also ibstrumental in bringing out best music from these talented singers. S D Burman, Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikanth-Pyarelal, O P Naiyaar, Naushad etc produced melodious tunes. One interesting incidence was pairing of a particular singer with one actor. For example, Mukesh was always summoned for singing songs for Raj Kapoor. This combination gave us numerous hits that are still hummed today.

Who can forget, Dost dost na raha, Sajan re jhooth mat bolo, Jaane kaha gaye wo din, Mera joota hai japani and other such songs that sent public repeating those songs for many years. Mohammad Rafi sang numerous hit songs for Dev Anand and Rajendra Kumar (also known as Jubilee kumar). Baharo Phool mat barsao, Kim era prem patra padh ke and several other songs became a part of legend. One of the most famous combinations was Rajesh Khanna and Kishore kumar. This pair ruled the roost for almost 1-2 decades. They gave us songs like, Ye jo mohabbat hai, Roop tera mastana, Pyar deewana hota hai, Kabhi bekasai ne maara etc. Kishore kuamr also sang several hit songs for Dev Anand and Amitabh bachchan.

R D Burman completely changed the way Hindi music was played. He brought elements of pop, rock, cabaret and usage of new instruments. His music and innovative tunes was a turning point in Hindi music industry. We will know more about him in coming articles.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Arrival of Female Playback Singers

As we know India is primarily a male dominated society. This factor was so evident in Indian music industry as well. The initial burst of acting was already handled by Devika Rani who mesmerized the whole of India with her performance in ‘Achhot Kanya’. In female singers, Begum Akhtar and Shamshaad Begum had started to make waves. These two were classically trained singers. Along with them, Noorjahan also made public go gaga over her divine voice. Late 30s and whole of 1940s were dominated by these singers. The mix of classical element and typically different mellowed down film music was getting quite popular. Another facet was distinctly low usage of instruments.
That period was devoided of any great techno and gadgets instruments. Songs were primarily driven by lyrics. These lyrics used to be very meaningful. Soon, the concept of females not working in bollywood was breaking down. During the process, one did not witness silent arrival of a singer who was later known as ‘Nightingale of India’. Lata Mangeshkar came at a very early age. She did not become an instant superstar however she did not have to struggle that hard. Her talent was distinctly recognized by music composers and when she got a chance to sing for movie ‘Mahal’, all the records were rewritten. The song ‘Aayega aayega, aayega aanewala’ was a huge hit and she rose to stardom. Her melodious voice later became the voice of India. It was also a beginning of new dawn for Indian music.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Emergence of Playback Singers

The history of songs and music in Indian culture can be defined in just one word, glorious! We have already read and seen the rich traditions and the beauty of carnatic and Hindustani classical music. But if we look at popularity index then film songs rule the roost. These film songs are integral part of Indian movies. Indian movies thrive on film songs. It’s actually unimaginable to think of any movie without having dance and songs sequence in it. During the initial days the songs were sung by lead actors themselves. Playback singing was not known and technology for such was not available. But sooner than later, playback singing emerged and thus began a new era in the history of cinema and music. Both of them go hand in hand.

Amongs the initial legends, K L Sehgal can be said to be the singing and acting superstar. The previous generations used to feel nostalgic whenever they listened to the immortal song ‘Jab dil hi toot gaya toh’. This song was so deeply ingrained in the psyche of Indian public. Mr Sehgal was a great actor and also a singer of repute. He held sway with his brand of nostalgic songs. He also sang number of romantic songs but mostly he was phenomenal in tragic songs. His emergence paved new way for upcoming singers. His success and popularity among masses gave this belief that playback singing is an emerging and viable option for those who want to become singers.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hindi Film Music

Indian cinema is composed of numerous languages and popular film music. Normally, people associate film music with famed Hindi music but that’s not true. Numerous other languages are also an integral part of this fascinating aspect. But I general, Hindi film music is seen as the essence of commercial Indian cinema. During the initial era, Hindi films were made without any songs. That was also the era of silent movies. But once dialogues became integral part of Hindi movies, music also came in its own. Since the days Alam Ara, very few Hindi movies have been made without having delightful assimilation of songs. Most of the films that have been made without any songs come in the league of Art cinema that was started by movie Ankur (by Shyam Benegal).

The best feature of Hindi film music is assimilation of all forms and all genres of music in it. It’s a hugely compelling form of music that thrives on amalgamation of diverse culture and different types of songs. The concept of copyright has not managed to cater of film music as evident by adaptation of all forms of music. Whether it is classical music or devotional or folk music, Hindi film music has always taken inspiration from different sources. Film music has also been quietly influenced by foreign music like opera, Persian or Japanese music. Western style orchestras have been repeatedly used in Hindi movies since the time immemorial. Film industry has given us many quality playback singers that give their voice to the onscreen actors.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Great Names in Instrumental Music

There are numerous musical instruments that are played by greatest of artists. But few artists make themselves immortal on the sheer basis of their talents. Few of the musical instruments are solely attributed to one in a generation artist whereas some instruments got popularity because one single artist took the craft of playing the instrument to an altogether new height. Let’s talk about few such artists.

Whenever you think of Shehnai, the only name that comes to the mind is Bismillah Khan. He has become a synonym for Shehnai. His popularity in India as well as abroad can be gauged from the fact that an Islamic country Iran has named one of its principal concert halls after the name of Shehnai maestro. Similarly, Tabla is associated with Ustaad Zakir Hussain whereas Sarangi is associated almost solely with Ram Narayan. This does not show that there haven’t been any other notable performers with the particular instruments but just the fact that one single artist has commanded utmost respect and love from people all over the world. Zakir Hussain is also associated with fusion music recordings. Notable fact is Tabla is an accompanying instrument yet he has the capability of commanding a performance by himself and that is no mean feat. Another such name that comes to the mind is Shiv Kumar Sharma, who is credited to bring Santoor in the drawing room of every Indian household. This is basically a folk instrument with more than 100 strings yet Pandit Shiv has managed to popularize it and made it a mainstream musical instrument.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Carnatic Musical Instruments

Our previous article talked about several musical instruments used in Hindustani music. Instruments play a major role in the final effect of musical performance. The charm will music will not remain the same without the usage of instruments. Talking about instruments used in carnatic music, there are quite a good numbers of instruments who are regularly used in the musical performance. Carnatic or South Indian music is a very rich traditional music of India. It has continued to exist since centuries and no wonder, it is popular across the many parts of the world. Many concerts of carnatic classical music have been organized in foreign territories. The most common and ubiquitous musical instrument used in carnatic music is Vina. This wonderful instrument has a long neck with seven strings. This fretted plucked lute is the most common instrument used in carnatic music concerts.

The Vina provides the effects of bansuri whereas Shehnai is replaced by a instrument named nagaswaram. The nagaswaram is a double red instrument with oboe-like looks and it also has finger holes. This is the primary instrument whereas Violin takes place as second instrument. In recent years violin has acquired a new fame thanks to some wonderful practitioners of this instrument. Apart from these several percussion instruments are used for providing rhythmic feel. One of them is Mridangam which is basically a two headed drum. It also has a double conical shape.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hindustani Musical Instruments

Instrumental music is a crucial element in overall scheme of music culture. It is not only a crucial part is any kind of music but also works independently on its own. The success of several instrumental music CDs and cassettes bear testimony to the popularity of this form of music. Musical instruments have always been an integral element of Hindustani as well as Carnatic music. Hindustani or North Indian music places a great emphasis on right use and combination of instruments. The most popular musical instruments in Hindustani music are; either the sitar or sarod. Sitar is basically a long-necked fretted lute whereas sarod is a plucked lute without the frets. Sarod also has a shorter neck compared to sitar. There are several other stringed instruments the likes of which include surbahar and sarangi. Surbahar is quite similar to sitar except the size element whereas sarangi is a short-necked bowed lute.

There are other types of instruments as well and none of them more impressive and appealing that wind instruments. Shehnai and Bansuri are the major wind instruments. Shehnai is without keys whereas Bansuri is played from the side and it is basically a bamboo flute. Bansuri has almost six to seven holes used for playing different music. Whenever a Hindustani music concert is played, few other musical instruments are also played apart from the above mentioned ones. Tabla is known for providing rhythmic complement whereas Tanpura gives drone. Tabla is basically a pair of small drums and is played using both hands.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Indian Fusion Music

Fusion music is an interesting concept which is quite popular in many parts of the world. Fusion as the name suggests, refers to mixing up of two different music. It is not only an innovative way to present class music but it also commands a world wide fan following. Fusion music in Indian context is not a very old concept. The first known fusion performance by an Indian musician was way back in 1955 when Ustad Ali Akbar khan performed in USA. That can be said as the beginning trend in fusion music by Indian musicians. Slowly the concept picked up and with opening up of numerous cultural collaborations, more and more fusion music performance started taking place. They say, music has no religion and no language. Fusion music proves this statement.

Indian music witnessed more fusion in 1960s and 70s when rock and roll was making waves. Renowned sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar was the chief protagonist of emerging Indian fusion music. Several stage shows were performed in places as far as Europe and North America. He also collaborated with famous music band Beatles. Other Indian musicians to perform fusion music were, Bihari Sharma, Khalil Bal Krishna, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Badal Roy. In popular category, Asha Bhosle and Shaan also performed with other western artists. In recent days, several filmy music and bhangra songs have been fused to create amazing music. With introduction of several new technologies in music equipments, this trend of fusion music is bound to be even more popular.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Carnatic Musical Performance

Carnatic music is full of quality and history. Despite western music getting increasing popularity in India, this form of music has managed to hold on its own. Carnatic music represents Indian culture and heritage. Many south Indian families still dream of having their kids mastering nuances of carnatic music. Music legends like Muthuswami Dikshitar completely changes the way the music was played. Here are several other prominent contributors who enriched the carnatic music traditions with their valuable contributions. Some of them are; Narayan Tirtha, Annamacharya, Papanasam Shivan, Swati Tirunal, Arunagiri Nathar, Gopala Krishna Bharati, Bysore Vasudevachar, Uttukadu Venkatasubbair, to name a few.
Carnatic musical performance has many sections, all performed according to rules. When the recital begins, Varanam that is basically a composition is played. The word refers to description and this consists of two parts of Purvanga (first half) and Uttaranga (second half). Ragam is another crucial section where artists get the freedom to indule in creative aspects. Ragam is also a free melodic composition that allows singer to improvise using his/her creativity. In similar mould is tanam, which is free rhythm. Rag has some fixed compositions that are called kritis. When ragam is introduced to audiences, a certain way is followed and that is known as alapana. Carnatic music theme uses amazingly developed theoretical system. The main ingredients are Ragam and Thalam also known as raga and Tala. Raga is the scale and classified into different modes.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Carnatic Music

Carnatic music is also known as the south Indian classical music. Carnatic sangeet or carnatic music developed in the southern states of India. Carnatic music along with Hindustani classical music make up for the two basic forms of classical music in India. Indian states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala are known as the originators of this form of music. Carnatic music boasts of rich culture and glorious history. It has not only managed to survive the onslaught of time but also flourished with the passage of time. It is renowned all over the world and several carnatic music concerts have taken place in major cities of India. The origin of carnatic music is credited to Purandardas who is also known as father of carnatic music. During his life time (1480-1564), he completely changed the way this form of music will ever be played by the future generations. He created thousand of music gems. He solved the method of playing carnatic music.

Another famous name associated with carnatic music is Venkat Mukhil Swami. He was a great exponent of carnatic music. If south Indian ragas are found to be classified in different categories and names then the credit goes to Venkat. He gave it a new form and made it much easier. The present form of carnatic music can be ascribed to developments in 18th century. The holy trinity of carnatic music Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shamashastri came up with their invaluable compositions. Since then, the form of carnatic music took a drastic turn and it became even more popular.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hindustani Music - Ragas

To continue with elements of Hindustani classical music lets talk about different vocal forms. Khayal is considered as one of the most important elements of classical music. It has also managed to replace the traditional style of singing Dhrupad. Compared to dhrupad, khayal is more of a free form style and it is also more flexible. Dhrupad is associated by pakhawaj and tanpura and performed by men. It is very traditional in nature and the lyrics used in dhrupad often consist of gallant themes. Medieval form of hindi is used in dhrupad lyrics and if you listen to it you will find these lyrics are dedicated to deity.

Tarana style of singing is very enjoyable and coveys feelings of happiness. Often perfomed at the end of a concert, tarana is a sheer delight. Dhamar is quite decorative in nature and one of the basic styles of singing. Khayal originated during the rule of Sharqui dynasty in 15th century. Hussain Shah Sharqui is credited to give shape and form to this classical singing style. The further popularity of khayal is ascribed to Mohammed Shah who ruled in 18th century. Usually, 4-8 lines of lyrics are used in khayal. These lines are set up with tunes. Khayal encourages improvisation and that’s why the performer uses few base lines for the purpose of improvisation. A more adorned form is called dhamar. The place of dhrupad has been taken by somewhat less austere and more free-form khayal. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah also known as the Nawab of Oudh is credited to encourage thumri which is basically an informal vocal form. There are several great vocalists in hindutani classical music the likes of which include, Bhimsen Joshi, Ajoy Chakraborty, Nagraj Havaldar, Mashkoor Ali Khan, Kishori Amonkar, Ulhas Kashalkar, Pandit Jasraj, Prabakar Karekar, Rashid Khan, Aslam Khan, Shruti Sadolikar, and Chandrasekhar Swami etc.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hindustani Music - Origin

Hindustani classical music is a wonderful facet of Indian classical music tradition. Hindustani music belongs to North India. Originated during the period of 13th and 14th, this form of classical music is a fascinating combination of ancient Hindu musical traditions and Persian music. It is most popular Indian classical music. Vedic philosophy has also played a great role in shaping Hindustani music. South Indian classical music or also known as Carnatic music is truly Indian in sense of origin. But Hindustani music allowed other forms of music to influence and integrate in the main stream.

Hindustani classical music is based upon vocals. Raga system plays the primary role in this form of music. Music terms like dhrupad, tarana, khayal, dhammar, ghazal, thumri etc belong to Hindustani music. Ghazal is definitely the one with Persian influence. Ghazal also symbolizes the beautiful amalgamation of Hindustani and Persian music. In classical Hindustani music, raga is also referred to melodic scale. It has seven basic notes. Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni are the major notes. These notes play a crucial part in assigning characters to different ragas. Other crucial factor is ascent and descent of the notes that is very crucial in determining the form of the raga. It is not necessary for the notes to be in linear form. All the vocal forms of Hindustani music have different characters and singing style. They are unique in terms of notes, performance and singing styles.