Sounds of Music
Rubina P. Banerjee takes an overview of the emerging trends in Hindi film music, which is a true buffet for the ears!
When I ask Amit Trivedi; music composer, musician, singer and lyricist all rolled into one, what he feels are the new trends emerging in Hindi film music, he answers, “There’s a lot of mixing of genres… Indian folk tunes, classical bandishs and sufi nazms with western pop rock, electronic dance music, hip hop and reggae. We are basically taking our own indigenous tunes and rhythms and jazzing them up.” He pauses and adds, “Yes, it’s an alternative genre but Rahman has been doing this 25 years before us and better than us!”
And truly the first song which made Rahman’s music so refreshing was ‘Chinna chinna asai…’ or ‘Dil hai chota sa…’ from Mani Ratnam’s ROJA. The tiny peals of sound, the stark percussion augur in the dawn as the happy reggae beat celebrates the joy of life even as the lyrics emphasise it. As the song unfolds, a clap of percussion breaks into the happy rhythm of reggae. A fisherman’s soulful melody rents the air echoing over the waters. The soulful melody fades into the rhythm with the flute following in its footsteps, while a plaintive violin adds more pathos to the sheer delight of the song as the melodious Minmini sings on!
This is exactly what Amit Trivedi is talking about – mixing a rustic South Indian folk tune with reggae and creating a sound that is both unique, contemporary and oh so Indian! And this is what is trending in Hindi film music today: A new sound which is a heady mix of Indian tunes drawn from the vast treasure trove of folk, classical and devotional music and mixed with contemporary western music genres and instruments. Electronic dance music, beat-boxing are all now part of film music and make for a sound that is absolutely electrifying! Beyond becoming chart-busters and a favourite of the younger generation, this alternative genre of music is becoming a force to reckon with in the arena of world music as well. Indian film music composers no longer borrow; they create and are a proud tribe spearheaded by the Mozart of Madras!
I remember a time in the late Seventies and early Eighties when Hindi music was never played at parties and the songs of Pink Floyd, Dire Straits and Duran Duran upped the cool quotient. Today, parties are incomplete without music from our movies and make for the best dance numbers on the floor! Bollywood music is in. So, what makes for this magic mix? Probably, the sheer diversity of the elements combined…
Indian Folk Tunes & Instruments: A Treasure Trove
Today’s composers are stretching out to the far reaches of Indian folk music. It is no longer the Punjab’s Bhangra or Bengal’s Bhatiyali that makes its way into these magic mixes but Bihu beats from Assam, Lavni tunes from Maharashtra, Purvi, Kajri, Chaitis from UP, Baul and Chatka from Bengal, Kummiattam and Thappattam beats from the South and, of course, the Dandiya tunes of Gujarat and the Jhoomar tunes of Rajasthan, to mention a few! And the songs…Take the raunchy ‘Bedardi raja…’ from DELHI BELLY (Ram Sampath) with its harmonium and dhol fused with strident western beats adding to its seductive energy. Or the do tara introduction to the mellifluous ‘Monta re…’ (Amit Trivedi) with its Santhal rhythm or the Lavni folk song ‘Navrahi majhi…’ with its Marathi lyrics sung by both Sunidhi and Natali Di Lucio to give it the Indian abroad flavor. Or yet, the melodious Ghoomar ‘Dheeme dheeme gaoon…’ from ZUBEIDAA and the Punjabi folk ‘Ambarsariya…’ from FUKREY.
It would be wrong, however, to say that Indian folk has not played its part in Hindi film music of the past. Salil Chowdhury used the Bengali Bhatiyali in ‘Ganga ayii kaha se…’ in KABULIWALA (1961). ‘Mora gora ang lai le…’ from BANDINI and ‘Sawan ka mahina…’ are eternal folk favourites while Bhupen Hazarika sounded the Assamese chord with ‘Dil huum huum kare…’ from RUDAALI… These examples are but a few of the myriad film songs based on Indian folk songs.
With the rustic folk tunes come a plethora of folk instruments that add new textures of sounds to the film song. The morchang, algoza and kartal from Rajasthan, the Punjabi chimta, the ektara and duggi of the Bauls of Bengal, the riwana and kansi of Himachal, Uttaranchal’s hudka, matka and thali, Malwa’s timki, the Nadeshwaram from the South and so many more. Listen to the been in the evergreen ‘Man dole mere tan dole…’ or the dilruba, a cross between a sarangi and the sitar in Rahman’s ‘Dil se…’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ or ‘Yeh jo desh hai mera…’ from SWADES!
The beats of South India are here to stay, and songs like ‘Psycho re…’ and the chartbuster ‘Lungi dance…’ celebrate the fast and feisty tempo of the South!
Classical Raagas: Eons Of Heritage
Raagas have been a favourite in Hindi film music from the times of BAIJU BAWRA, MUGHAL-E-AZAM and ANARKALI. In the Eighties, Khayyam’s award-winning music for Muzaffar Ali’s UMRAO JAAN underlined the role of raagas in Indian film music. The tradition continues but has a great variety now drawing on light classical dhuns, teasing Thumris, delectable Dadras, all enhanced by the curious combination of contemporary music.
The Carnatic raga is a new entrant, although in PADOSAN it had been used to great effect in the song ‘Ek chatur naar…’. Now we have Ram Sampath’s ‘Aligiri Nandini…’ on Coke Studio which combines a Sanskrit shloka on Devi Durga by Padmashri Aruna Sairam and leads to Bulleh Shah’s epic love kalaam re-rendered in an intense progressive rock groove. The amalgamation of two unique and powerful voices in Aruna Sairam and Sona Mohapatra, creates a completely unique soundscape!
Rahman takes it one step further in Coke Studio when he combines the gayaki of the Rampur Sahasrawan gharana and its maestro Ghulam Mustafa Khan, with Prasanna’s dexterous Carnatic guitar in the song ‘Aao balma…’ (Coke Studio)
Alaaps and harkats are the order of the day and the new generation seems to love this version of Indian classical music. It is indeed a rare privilege to hear the great Rashid Khan singing ‘Aaoge jab tum O sajna…’ in JAB WE MET.
Thumris are the rage with the scintillating Sona Mohapatra’s ‘Bedardi raja…’ and ‘Piya se nayana ladaiike…’. But ‘Jiya lage na…’ from TALAASH showcases the sheer power of Sona’s soulful singing.
Another classic form, the Qawwali has come a long way from the ‘Parda hai parda hai…’ days of AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY. Amit Trivedi’s rocking Qawwali ‘Jhalla walla…’ from ISHAQZAADE gives it a seductive edge while Rahman’s ‘Piya Haji Ali…’ takes it to a new height of spirituality.
However, it is the Sufiana trend that has caught the fancy of the audience by its sheer sublimity with songs like ‘Kun faya kun…’ (ROCKSTAR), ‘Khwaja mera Khwaja…’ and the simple soulful ‘Iktara’ (WAKE UP SID) or the soul-stirring ‘Mitwa’ (KABHI ALVIDA NA KEHNA)!
The pioneers of western dance music in film songs were of course our very own Bappi Lahiri with songs like ‘I am a disco dancer…’, ‘Jimmy Jimmy aaja…’, and Biddu who produced several hits like ‘Aap jaisa koi…’ for the film QURBANI (1980).
The infusion of electronic beats in Bollywood music has been the trend of recent times and the audiences have embraced the beats and vibe of the EDM scene as their own. Only a decade ago, there were very few soundtracks that featured House influenced sounds.
From 2010, however almost every movie has some sort of song that incorporates aspects of electronic dance music. The song that introduced this trend was ‘Fanaa…’ (YUVA) by A.R. Rahman. While it did create some ripples, it wasn’t until later that this definitively electronic sound emerged. The soundtrack of KARTHIK CALLING KARTHIK brought EDM to the ears of the masses. The composers of the movie soundtrack were MIDIval Punditz and Karsh Kale and it was a serious departure from the usual remix culture in Bollywood. With it, EDM arrived on the stage previously reserved for other genres of Indian music and people liked what they heard. The soundtrack received great reviews from a variety of producers and is today an essential part of party and dance songs. Examples are ‘Oh balma…’ (KHILADI 786), ‘Dilliwali girlfriend…’ (YEH JAWAANI HAI DEEWANI and ‘Party all night…’ (BOSS).
Part of the western influence includes using western voices like Snoop Dog in ‘Singh is king…’, Akon in ‘Chamak challo…’, Egyptian singer Maryem Tollo in ‘Maiya maiya…’ (GURU) and yes, even Kylie Minogue with her ‘Chiggy wiggy…’ (BLUE)! The vast range of voices makes for interesting voice textures and ensures versatility of pitch range and dialect. And again this trend was started by none other than Rahman. It was he who introduced new voices and dialects which were not pitch-perfect studio sounds. Hark back to ‘Rukmani Rukmani…’ from ROJA and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Over time, Rahman has introduced several new singers such as Blaaze, Sukhwinder Singh, Srinivas, Harini, Madhushree, Dominque, Unnikrishnan Bombay Jayashree, and Nityashree Mahadevan, to name a few.
This trend is what has caught on with music composers today and we have a vast pool of voices in addition to our amazing playback singers. Among the top ranking new voices today are Shalmali Kholgade (‘Pareshaan…’ ISHAQZAADE), Arijit Singh (‘Tum hi ho…’ AASHIQUI 2), Shilpa Rao (‘Ishq shava…’ JAB TAK HAI JAAN), Zubeen Garg (‘Dil tu hi bataa…’ KRRISH 3), Mika Singh (‘Gandi baat…’ R…RAJKUMAR), Honey Singh (‘Lungi dance…’ CHENNAI EXPRESS), Benny Dayal (‘Badtameez dil…’ YEH JAWAANI HAI DEEWANI), Papon (‘Maula sun le re…’ MADRAS CAFÉ), Ravindra Upadhyay ‘Ankhon mein sapna…’ IQBAL), Clinton Cerejo (‘Kaali kaali…’ EK THI DAAYAN), Harshdeep Kaur (‘Katiyan karoon…’ ROCKSTAR) and so many more. The surili voice of Rekha Bhardwaj, the seduction of Sona Mohapatra, the husky sensuality of Papon…the list is endless and the flavours of these different voices are all there for us to enjoy!
Whacky LyricsTo add to this heady mix are the whacky lyrics that film songs have today, which seem to boil over with laughter!
Imagine Gulzar composing ‘Oye boy oye boy charlie tune dil ki baazi marli/ Oh my dolly dolly meri vitamin ki goli/ Oh my baby baby tera chakkar chala jalebi…’ (MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA).
This, by the same Gulzar who has written immortal lyrics for films like AANDHI and GHARONDA and who was reprimanded by R.D. Burman for the lyrics of the song ‘Mera kuch saamaan…’. RD had scoffed at the lyrics and had told Gulzar, ‘Tomorrow you will get me a page from the Times Of India and tell me to compose music for it!’ Today the same lyricist is getting his own back and enjoying himself!
Or yet the lyrics of ‘I am a hunter…’ (GANGS OF WASSEYPUR) by Varun Grover and Piyush Mishra… ‘I am a hunter and she want to see my gun? When I pull it out boy, the women start to run! She beg me to see it, She beg to show it, When I reveal it, All woman want to hide!’
It was really ‘Why this kolaveri D…’ that made waves with its whacky lyrics and southern accent and made of Dhanush a household name… ‘Yo boys I am singing song, soup song, flop song, why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di, rhythm correct, why this kolaveri kolaveri kolaveri di, maintain please, distance la moon-u moon-u, moon-u color-u white-u, white background night-u night-u…’
And of course the lyrics of ‘Emotional atyachar…’ (DEV D) by Amitabh Bhattacharya… ‘Tauba tera jalwa, Tauba tera pyar, Tera emosanal atyachaar! Ho gai dil ke paar tragedy…tragedy, Lut gai re bahaar, Gul sukh sukh murjhae…’
Amitabh Bhattacharya is one prolific lyricist. His versatile writing covers most of the hits last year, ‘Ghagra…’, ‘Balam pichkari…’, ‘Dilliwali girlfriend…’ and ‘Badtameez dil...’ The last, in particular, proves that he seems to have monopolised the world of the whacky lyrics… ‘Paan me pudeena dekhaa,?Naag na nageena dekhaa,?Chikni chameli dekhi,?Chiknaa kaminaa dekhaa, Chand ne cheatar hoke cheat kiya, Toh sare tare bole, Gilli gili akka…’
Or then again, ‘I hate you like I love you…’ (DELHI BELLY)… ‘Dil todhu, haddi bhi, Kung fu khelun, kabaddi bhi, yeah I hate you, like I love you, love you, love you…’ Amitabh Bhattacharya again!
Ace Of All Trades!
What is even more fascinating is that music composers, lyricists and singers today are so talented that often they are an all-in-one package. Whether it’s composing, playing instruments or singing, they do it all. Rahman has sung on many of his compositions like ‘Luka chupi…’ (with Lata Mangeshkar in RANG DE BASANTI) and ‘Dil se re…’ (DIL SE) while Amit Trivedi has sung for ‘Zinda…’ (LOOTERA), ‘Manjha…’ and ‘Meethi boliyan…’ (KAI PO CHE) and Ram Sampath for ‘Lakh duniya kahe…’ (TALAASH), ‘Bhaag DK Bose… ‘(DELHI BELLY) and ‘Fuk fuk fukrey…’. Vishal Dadlani, of the composer duo Vishal-Sekhar, has become a playback singer in his own right and a very popular one at that, belting out one hit after another. Shankar Mahadevan was always a singer and composer and Pritam often renders his hit numbers himself as in LIFE… IN A METRO.
Musically speaking, 2014 sure has a lot to look forward to and it’s all happening here in Indyah!
…Thanks, guys. You truly add a song to our hearts and to our lives!
This article first appeared in January 2014 issue of Cine Blitz magazine