A number of Hindi Film songs are memorable because of the humming. When you listen to such songs, you realise that the humming is an integral part of the song. The humming part normally comes before the actual song, like an Alaap in classical music. However, there are also songs where the humming sequence comes in the middle of the song or at the very end.
Normally, people associate humming with a melody that is sung with mouth closed that sounds like ‘hmmm’. However, humming means any melody sung without the lyrics – this can include a melody sung with an open mouth like ‘aaa’ or ‘ooo’.
Humming generally makes a song charming. Sometimes, the humming adds an unforgettable haunting element to the song. Naina Barse Rim Jhim composed by Madan Mohan for Woh Kaun Thi, is one such song with an opening humming that is extremely haunting. Listen to the opening humming here.
And the full song here.
Another song with a very haunting opening sequence is Tum Mile composed by MM Kreem for the film Criminal. While the main singers were Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik, the humming sequences are sung by KS Chitra. Criminal is a remake of a Telugu film. Chitra had sung the humming sequences for the Telugu song and the same sequences were used in the Hindi version as well. Apparently, KS Chitra took many days to practice the humming before it was approved and recorded.
MM Kreem is known by different names in different languages. In Telugu film industry, where he spent most of his career, he is known as MM Keeravani. He composed the music for Blockbusters like Baahubali and RRR. Listen to the haunting opening of Tum Mile here.
And the full song here.
While there are countless songs with humming, I shortlisted only 15 popular songs and created a playlist. These songs feature humming by the singer. I did not include songs where the humming sequence is sung by a chorus. Also, this post does not include songs with folksy hums or classical sargam.
Click the link below to listen to the playlist on Amazon Music. The songs in the playlist appear in the same order as in the post below.
Link to Playlist on Amazon Music
Charming Kishore – The beginning
The Alaap is a key element of classical songs. Normally, the Alaap is a hum that sets the mood for the song. In film music as well, the opening humming sets the mood like an Alaap.
Kishore Kumar was a well known singer from the early days of his career. However, Rafi was considered the leading singer and was normally the first choice for a song on a hero. Aaradhana was the film that changed this equation in film music.
Rajesh Khanna makes an appearance in a jeep and stole the hearts of everyone with the help of Kishore’s booming voice and the charming humming in Mere Sapnon Ki Raani. This film and Kishore Kumar’s songs in this movie rocked the film world and Kishore shot to the top, displacing Rafi. SD Burman (assisted by RD Burman) created these iconic songs in Aaradhana that changed the landscape. Aaradhana is a key milestone in the history of Hindi film music.
Another song from Aaraadhana, Kora Kaagaz thaa yeh man mera sung by Kishore and Lata, also had a memorable and charming opening humming sequence.
Kishore’s voice was ideally suited for humming (of course, he was one of the rare singers who could yodel) and composers like RD Burman added several charming opening humming sequences in songs like O mere dil ke chain (Mere Jeevan Saathi), Tum Bin (Pyar Ka Mausam), Aane waala pal (Golmaal).
Kalyanji-Anandji also used Kishore’s humming memorably in Samaa hai Suhaana (Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani) and O Saathi Re (Muqaddar Ka Sikandar).
Hemant – the Haunting Hummer
Hemant Kumar was blessed with a deep bass voice. His voice was also well suited for humming. Two of his own compositions in his own voice, had haunting humming sequences – an opening one in Tum Pukaar Lo (Khamoshi) and one in the middle and end in Ye Nayan Dare Dare (Kohraa).
Apart from his songs in his own voice, he also composed a memorable haunting humming sequence in Lata’s voice in Kahin Deep Jale, from Bees Saal Baad. For many listeners, this song is an iconic song of the haunting type.
The Middle and End
There were quite a few memorable songs where the humming sequence was at the middle or end of the song.
Apparently, Shanker (of Shanker-Jaikishen duo) was playing the song Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua (Shree 420) for Raj Kapoor to approve. Instinctively, Jaikishen sang the humming sequence in his own voice in the middle of the song. Everyone liked the song with the hum and it was approved!
Lata’s song, Ab to hai tumse (Abhimaan) opens with a humming sequence. But, for me, the more appealing humming sequence is in the middle. It is one more example (among countless ones) of Lata’s mastery of the pitch and the outstanding quality of her voice. Listen to the humming sequence in the middle here.
Ravi’s iconic song about the joys of nature, He Nile Gagan Ke tale (Hamraaz) also has a lovely high pitched humming sequence by Mahendra Kapoor in the middle.
Lata’s Humming – no end
C Ramchandra composed an iconic song Yeh Zindagi Usiki hai in Anarkali. The humming in the opening sequence by Lata is like a signature for this unforgettable song.
One of the most charming songs with humming in the beginning, middle and end is Lata’s Yeh Dil Aur Unki from Prem Parbat. Jaidev composed this lovely song set in the hills and streams.
GK Venkatesh, a popular music composer in the South, composed an unusual song in Kannada and Telugu in the voices of SP Balasubrahmanyam and S Janaki. In this song titled Ravi Varma ki (the telugu movie name is a tongue twister – Raavanude Raamudaithe), the song is sung entirely by SP Balasubrahmanyam. S Janaki does not sing and only hums throughout the song. This is a well composed song that became hugely popular in the South mainly because of the charming humming melody and of course, SP Balasubrahmanyam’s singing. I added this song to the 15 Hindi film songs in the playlist above.
Hindi film music has countless songs with humming. I highlighted only a few popular ones. I am sure there will be many more that could potentially be a part of this theme of Humming. Hats off to the talented composers who created such charming humming songs – and some haunting humming songs too. I hope you enjoyed the songs and the commentary.
Long time since you wrote. I always wait for your posts. There are several duets where one singer only hums. You can call them ‘duets which are really solos’. I thought you would be mentioning those songs. Fitting with your list perfectly would be ‘Ye thandhi hawayein’. Humming is very prominent there. Then, ‘Kabhi to milegi, kahin to milegi, bahaaron ki manzil raahi’. Pankaj Mullick’s ‘Ayi bahaar aaj’. You rightly said there are a large number of such songs.
Thanks a lot AK…..Yes, there are several that can be called ‘duets which are really solos’. As you know, there are literally hundreds of songs with various types of humming. I barely scratched the surface!
Never knew that there were different humming sounds apart from the usual whistling and hmmm sound. Enjoyed reading and listening to the playlist
Thanks Sriram……Glad you enjoyed the playlist. I guess people have not found a name for sounds like ‘aaa’ ‘hey hey’ ‘oh’ and so on….So, all of them are called humming. I have seen MM Kreem (MM Keeravani) and KS Chitra on TV, discuss the ‘ah ah, ho….’ humming sequence in Criminal. They called it humming and several other TV shows also called such sounds humming.
I always thought humming only referred to ‘music’ made without opening the mouth. We live and learn, certainly! Thank you for this – interesting post, and yes, so many great songs with humming in them. One of my favourites (though the humming is there only briefly, in the beginning) is Hum bekhudi mein tum ko pukaare.
Thanks Madhu. Yes, there will be many more such songs like Hum Behudi mein. I only commented on a few. Among the songs that have ‘hmmmm’ humming, I like Hemant Kumar’s songs. He has such a deep voice and you can feel the vibrations when he hums.
Hi Ravi Nice to hear from you after a very long time .Yes the list of songs for Humming is endless and i am sure you will regularly write on various other musical notes which all of us will be eagerly awaiting..
Thank you Dinesh Bhai……
Nice post Raviji.
I was too under impression that humming involves singing with lips closed.
Thanks to your post.
Glad you liked the post Anupji…….
I missed this post due to work pressures, Ravi. Like Madhu, I had assumed that ‘humming’ meant the sound we make with our mouths closed. I wasn’t aware that the ‘wordless alaap’ sort of singing is also considered ‘humming’. Nice songs, indeed.
Thanks Anu for going through the post….Glad you liked the songs.
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