Hindi film music is primarily about conveying emotions. The tune, lyrics, vocals and the variations in vocals are all creative processes to convey the emotion. Apart from these creative processes, the instruments in the accompanying orchestra also have a key role to play in conveying the emotions. Music composers normally choose instruments based on the range of the instrument and how it can support and convey the primary emotion in the song. Most instruments serve a single purpose and primarily support a limited range of emotions. However, a Saxophone is a versatile instrument and composers have used it effectively to convey many moods with Saxophone.
It is easy to confuse the looks and sound of a saxophone with the looks and sound of a trumpet. However, there is a distinct difference. Trumpets are classified as ‘brass instruments’ and saxophones are classified as ‘woodwind instruments’ (though both of them are made mostly from metal). A saxophone is played by blowing into a plastic mouthpiece against a reed (mostly made from wood – hence the term woodwind).
A trumpet, on the other hand, does not have a reed and is played by blowing air through the lips into a mouthpiece (that is mostly made of metal with a round shape). Check out the differences in sound below.
Here is the sound of a Trumpet.
And here is the sound of a Saxophone.
There are many types of saxophone that enable a composer/musician to express many moods with saxophone. Check out the medley of 15 saxophone pieces from hindi film songs (runs for about 4 minutes) to understand how composers created many moods with saxophone. Click the arrow below for the medley.
While each of the saxophone pieces in the 15 songs is a delight, there is one composition by the genius Ilayaraja that elevates the saxophone into a different level altogether. His theme music in Cheeni cum is a lovely instrumental saxophone melody. If you were not aware, you may think that this melody was composed by a western composer. Ilayaraja’s mastery of western music enabled him to create this outstanding melody – check out the theme music from Cheeni kum below.
This article is not about deep, technical analysis of moods or understanding the psychology of the actors in the song. It is a simple commentary on how composers created many moods with saxophone, nothing else. I, therefore, took the liberty of commenting on the songs by grouping the songs according to the ‘feel’ of the song.
Enjoy the playlist below of songs that used saxophone. These songs are mostly from the 60s and early 70s and are in the same order as the medley above. Apart from the 15 songs, the playlist also includes Ilayaraja’s instrumental saxophone melody from Cheeni kum.
It is not a coincidence that a number of songs by SD Burman and RD Burman featured saxophone as one of the main instruments. Manohari Singh, a musician, was proficient in many instruments, but was a genius with Saxophone. He was a key member for both SD Burman and RD Burman as Assistant, Arranger, Key musician and a number of their tunes contained wonderful saxophone pieces by Manohari Singh. Gaata rahe mere dil (Guide) has superb joyful tones of the Saxophone. The playful duet, Choodi nahi hai mera (Gambler) also featured Saxophone.
Manohari Singh on Saxophone and Kersi Lord on Accordion also combined to come up with brilliant interludes in Roop tera mastaana (Aradhana), but that is a different story.
Kalyanji Anandji created a wonderful, innovative effect with Saxophone in Lata’s expression of joy in Mere dil ne jo maanga (Rakhwala). The Saxophone plays with a echo like trailing effect that was innovative and catchy. Salil Chaudary, the master of arrangements created a joyful but difficult to sing song in Gujar jaye din (Annadata). The arrangements in this song are truly a delight and sound fresh even today – this song can fit into most joyful situations in today’s movies and will sound far better than the percussion heavy cacophony in current movies.
Shanker Jaikishen introduced new types of arrangements into Hindi music, the trumpet and saxophone were prominent in many of their songs. Aaj kal tere mere (Brahmchari) contains extensive and joyful tones of the Saxophone to accompany the playful dance on the screen.
Sad, Wistful, Nostalgic
If you followed the saxophone medley above closely, you may have observed that the two adjacent Saxophone pieces (the third and fourth pieces) sound similar. These two pieces are from two popular, wistful and nostalgic songs – in Tumhe yaad hoga (Satta Bazaar) and Woh bhooli dastaan (Sanjog). The raag base is also similar though these were composed by two different composers, Kalyanji-Anandji for Satta Bazaar and Madan Mohan for Sanjog.
Salil Chaudary made unusual use of Saxophone (apart from haunting use of Picollo) in Jaa re Jaa re (Maya). Apart from the interludes, the saxophone also provides an eerie, wistful background tone when Lata sings the antras. Shanker Jaikishen again used Saxophone extensively in the sad and hugely popular song, Bedardi balmaa tujhko (Arzoo).
Perhaps one of the best uses of Saxophone for sad moods is by Kalyanji Anandji in Zubaan pe dard bhari daastaan (Maryada). The low, resonant notes of the saxophone are really heart tugging.
Romantic, Tender, Affectionate
Naushad experimented a lot in Saathi, especially with arrangements. He created a soft, romantic and tender mood with Saxophone in the prelude to Mere pyaar bhi tu hai. SD Burman was a master in creating tunes that reflected the scene, visuals and emotions beautifully. The tender Tere Mere Sapne is a lovely soft song in Rafi’s silken voice and the soft, low tones of the saxophone supplement the tender mood beautifully.
In all the moods, you will find a Shanker Jaikishen tune that uses Saxophone extensively. Janam Janam ka saath hai (Tumse achaa kaun hai) also has extensive Saxophone to convey the romantic and affectionate emotions.
A bar is a place where one holds forth on one’s views about life (especially after a few doses of the good stuff). I call this Bar Philosophy. Indian actors often expressed their views (mostly remorse) about love in particular and life in general, in a bar setting.
OP Nayyar made the Saxophone play the same tune that Rafi was singing in Hai duniyaa useekee (Kashmir ki kali). This accentuates the reflective mood of Shammi Kapoor.
Mujhe duniya waalon (Leader) is one more song of the Bar philosophy type, reflecting Dilip Kumar’s views on Life.
There are innumerable instances of Saxophone in Hindi film music. I selected only a few songs from 60s and early 70s to highlight how our creative composers and musicians used it effectively in a variety of situations to convey many moods with Saxophone. The saxophone is truly a versatile instrument and a delight to the ears. Hope you enjoyed this article.