Memorable Guitar songs

air guitarA Guitar is perhaps the only instrument that almost everyone “plays”. Quite often, we see someone “playing” an ‘Air-Guitar’ (acting as though you are playing the Guitar with both hands, but without any real instrument!). I am sure you would have “played” air-guitar at least a few times and perhaps often. I guess most of the songs accompanied by the air-guitar were lively and energetic ones!

Why is a guitar so memorable? A guitar generates notes that are distinct, strong and clear. Also, some types of guitar create sounds that are sweet and enchanting to the ears. Guitars stand out among all other instruments because of these qualities of clarity and enchanting sounds.

In addition to these qualities, a guitar is perhaps the instrument more strongly associated with ‘western’ than anything else. Thus, a number of western songs that are usually full of energy and liveliness feature a guitar.

As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I enjoy listening to songs on the radio or iPod. I only focus on what I hear in a song. So, when I use the term Guitar songs, I mean a film song where a guitar is heard in the song. To me, it does not matter whether someone in the visuals is actually playing the guitar. If someone is actually playing a guitar on screen, it is a coincidence!guitar

As an interesting ‘guess the song’ exercise for you, I created a medley of guitar pieces from 15 handpicked songs. If possible, listen to the medley and try and identify the associated song for each guitar piece. I hope you find this medley to be fun, interesting with quite a few ‘Aha….THAT song!’ moments for you. Enjoy the medley below and try and guess the songs. The medley runs for less than 5 minutes.

Of course, you can always listen to the songs on the player first or take a sneak peek at the commentary below. But, that would spoil the fun for you.

While all music directors in the 1940s, 50s and 60s used guitar extensively, it gained prominence with the catchy prelude in the chart buster song – Dum maro dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna) composed by the trendsetter R D Burman. Enjoy this lovely prelude here.

Several musicians were associated with Guitar in film songs. Prominent players include Dilip Naik, Boney D’Costa, D’Melo, Bhupinder (the singer), Bhanu Gupta, Sunil KaushikRamesh Iyer.

Enjoy some handpicked songs on the player below. I restricted myself to songs from the 1950s to early 80s since my familiarity with film songs is mostly from this period.

If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy these songs on the 8tracks player below.

(A tip to enhance your enjoyment of the songs. The players stops playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. To listen to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow on either of the players. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The players will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window). 

Lively Guitar

RD BurmanA Guitar is the obvious choice for lively club songs. Ravi, known for his simple melodies created songs that had lovely guitar pieces. Baar baar dekho (China Town) is one such lively number that was a big hit. Another unforgettable club song is O P Nayyar’s Mera naam Chin Chin Choo (Howrah Bridge) that features Geeta Dutt’s lively and energetic vocals and is perhaps a landmark song in her career.

Check out this link from Madhulika Liddle (Dustedoff) about her uncle Sammy Daula, who played the guitar in Baar Baar dekho.

Shanker-Jaikishen introduced new types of arrangements in Hindi film music. Several of their hugely popular songs were lively numbers with energetic guitar pieces. Yakeen karlo (Yakeen) features guitar extensively. Another lively number from Brahmachari, Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke also had delightful guitar in the prelude.

But the credit for the best lively guitar song goes to R D Burman. Dilip Naik played the guitar memorably in the unforgettable prelude in the trendsetter Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar teraa (Teesri Manzil). Music directors rely on computers today to help in music ‘composition’. But, nothing can beat the sheer creativity, talent, passion of the music directors and musicians of the 60s and 70s when songs were recorded ‘live’. Those were the days when composers and musicians relied and were inspired by creative forces, not computers. One can only bow in reverence to R D Burman and his team of musicians who created this song that will rank among the best guitar songs of all time and enjoyable even today in the days of computer programmed music. In fact, apart from the outstanding guitar, this song also features some of the best performances on other instruments including drums, the brass section, flute and almost every instrument used in this song.

Sad Guitar


Strange as it may seem, the Guitar also has a strong role in sad songs. Shanker-Jaikishen’s Ajeeb dastan hai yeh (Dil apna aur preet parai) appears lively but also has a hidden sadness. This is based on a western song, My lips are sealed by Jim Reeves. Karz featured a Guitar theme, by Laxmikanth-Pyarelal that can be heard throughout the film and leaves you with a haunting feeling. This tune too was inspired by a George Benson’s tune, We as love.

A Kalyanji-Anandji chart-buster, Mera jeevan kora kagaz (Kora Kagaz) features guitar that seems to blend with the rhythm and matches Kishore’s emphasis on the words.

Perhaps the best guitar song in the sad category is Kalyanji-Anandji’s O Saathi re (Muqaddar ka Sikandar). The guitar notes seem to blend seamlessly with Kishore’s humming in the prelude and you can hear the guitar as an undercurrent throughout the song without drowning the pathos filled vocals of Kishore. Kishore’s singing and the guitar blend to become one in this chartbuster. Ramesh Iyer played the guitar in this chartbuster.

Paul Mauriat, the world renowned French orchestra leader, selected songs from various countries to be played by his orchestra. He selected O Saathi re as his tribute to India. His arrangements for this song are different and can be heard in the following link.

Sweet & Romantic Guitar


Guitars like Acoustic or Spanish guitar creates sounds that are very sweet, romantic and enchanting. This is perhaps why you hear Guitar in the prelude in a number of memorable romantic songs.

Naushad used guitar to create an interesting ‘building up anticipation’ feeling with the opening strains of guitar in Mere jeevan saathi (Saathi). Though the guitar notes sound simple, the use of guitar in this song is certainly creative and different.

Shanker-Jaikishen’s masterpiece Yeh raat bheegi bheegi (Chori Chori) as well as the lovely evening song Raat ke humsafar (An Evening in Paris) feature sweet sounding guitars in the prelude. Another romantic classic by Kalyanji-Anandji, Pal pal dil ke paas (Blackmail) also starts off beautifully with guitar.

yaadon ki baraatR D Burman used guitar beautifully in Churaliya hai tumne (Yaadon ki baaraat) – guitar played by Bhupinder. However, this song is based on If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium. Bappi Lahiri (before he became the Disco man) created a lovely title song in Chalte Chalte. This also features simple, yet attractive use of guitar in the interlude.

But the best use of guitar in a romantic song is Ravi’s Aage bhi jaane na tu (Waqt). Sahir Ludhianvi’s wonderful ‘timeless’ lyrics about the power of Now were beautifully captured in this song. Asha Bhonsle sang her heart out in this song that will perhaps rank as one of her best. The guitar and the entire music create a romantic effect, though the visuals try to convey multiple stories.

Innovative Guitar

Kalyanji-Anandji composed a very unusual lively song Chup Chup Chup kyon baithi ho in Hamrahi. The unusual feature in this song is almost 100% use of guitar in the song. The prelude and interludes have nothing but guitar (except for a few seconds of the train whistle). This is indeed very rare and innovative in Hindi film music.

Top 3 Guitar songs


Apart from the best songs in lively, sad and romantic categories, I have selected 3 songs as the Top 3 guitar songs. How did I choose the Top 3?  This choice is based on the place and domination of the guitar in the prelude and interludes. Apart from the almost 100% guitar song of Kalyanji-Anandji that I highlighted earlier, here are 3 songs where the guitar totally dominates the prelude and interludes. I have used only this criteria to filter the top 3 songs. In each of the top 3 songs, you can hear the dominant guitar at least 80% of the time.

O P Nayyar created a memorable song in Laakhon hai yahaan dilwale (Kismet). Mahendra Kapoor’s soft voice and the easy paced sweet sounds of the guitar make this one of the most memorable guitar songs. Technically speaking, there is a lovely counterpoint (where two or more instruments are played at the same time but in different melodies or patterns) between guitar and viola in the interludes.

The other two songs in the Top 3 category have a lot in common yet are poles apart. You may be wondering how this is possible. Kalyanji-Anandji composed lovely and fast paced guitar pieces in Neele neele ambar par (Kalaakar). These guitar pieces have become so popular that most guitar students in India aspire to play the fast guitar pieces as a sort of ‘benchmark’. If you can play the fast guitar pieces of the song, then you have reached a milestone in learning guitar! The guitar notes played by Sunil Kaushik are also considered the fastest in Indian film music!

The song Neele neele ambar par is based on a song composed by Ilayaraja, the genius from South India. Ilayaraja, an accomplished guitar player himself, composed the delightful Ilaya nila (Payanangal mudivithilai) with acoustic guitar pieces that went on to Raja with guitarbecome an all-time classic in South Indian film music. S P Balasubrahmanyam, makes this an easy and soothing song to the ears with his mellifluous voice. S P Balasubrahmanyam also recounts an anecdote about the recording of this song. Apparently, this song was okayed after 16 takes because Ilayaraja, the perfectionist, wanted the right notes from the guitar and the guitarist Chandrasekhar. The delightful notes of the guitar that end this song are truly memorable. This song will rank as one of the best acoustic guitar songs in Indian film music. If anyone can share a better guitar song than this in any Indian language, I would be delighted to hear such a song.

Kalyanji-Anandji must be credited with retaining the base of the song, yet making it totally different with guitar pieces that are faster, delightfully composed and played.

You can hear the two songs below to appreciate the similarity and common base as well as the huge difference in the guitar pieces.

Some of the songs with guitar will remain etched in our memories forever because of the distinctive and sweet sounds of this wonderful instrument. We are fortunate that we had creative music composers and talented musicians who could bring out the best from the Guitar to give us such memorable songs.


Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Double delight with Fusion

In music, Fusion is usually associated with a performance that blends instruments from India or East with western instruments. Normally you would expect to hear a sitar or similar instrument being played as a lead to the beats of a drum or similar western percussion instrument (or the other way around). This type of fusion is instrumental fusion and is used more in non-filmy contexts. In the context of Hindi film music, one of the best examples of instrumental fusion is the song Ae naujawan (Apradh). In the grammy awardsinterludes, there is a beautiful amalgam of sitar playing to the beats of tabla and drums. This song incidentally was the inspiration for a song that won a Grammy award! (Black Eyed peas used this song as the basis for their song Don’t phunk with my heart. Black Eyed Peas acknowledged the original creators Kalyanji-Anandji in this song.). However, I will use the term Fusion in this post to mean something totally different from a mere fusion of instrumental music.

FusionIn the context of Hindi film songs, I will use the term Fusion to mean a mix of two different singing styles in the vocals in the same song.

As an example – Indian orthodox film music combined with a rock and roll style in the vocals in the same song would be Fusion for me. It need not necessarily be singing styles from different countries or geographies. A folk song from India can also be mixed with another Indian style in the vocals to make it a Fusion of two different singing styles from India.

What constitutes a specific singing style (like Qawwali, folk, Pop, Rock and roll and so on)? Technical definitions of singing styles tend to be dry, boring and sometimes debatable. Also, the creativity of music directors blurs the boundaries of different styles of singing, making it difficult to define a style clearly. Just use your heart and feel the songs. Your instinct will help you recognise the styles when you hear different styles of singing in one song.


This type of fusion of two different singing styles in the same song, creates its own set of challenges for the composer. The integration or handoff from one style to the other has to be smooth, the singing styles should complement each other in pitch, tempo, length of tune and the associated instruments and rhythm have to change according to the singing style without missing a beat.

There are many examples of Golden era stalwarts excelling in fusing two different styles. C Ramchandra, S D Burman and surprisingly, Roshan have experimented with this type of Fusion. And there are many examples of later year composers like A R Rahman also using Fusion to great effect and producing melodious results. Of course, in most cases, the fusion was required because the situation and picturisation called for two different styles in the same song. I have not considered Anthakshari songs as Fusion songs.

Enjoy these Fusion songs in the playlist below.

If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy 12 of these ‘Fusion’ songs (from 1950s to 2010) in the player below.

A tip to enjoy these songs even more

(The player stops playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. This happens because the player is embedded on this page. To listen to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow on the player. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The player will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window).

Early Fusion (1940s to 7os)chalti ka naam gaadi

Would you believe it, if I said Roshan used “rap” style of singing in 1951? Listen to Bogi Bogi (Humlog) and observe the lovely fusion of “rap” with Indian and western styles of singing. The pioneering composer C Ramchandra introduced a number of western style songs in the 40s and 50s. Aaja Meri Jaan Meri Jaan Sunday ke Sunday (Shehnai) is a fusion of western style of singing with orthodox style of Hindi film music. Chitragupt used a similar fusion of western and Indian styles in Jodi hamari jamega kaise jaani (Aulad), though it appears that the only change in the two styles is the accompanying instruments.


S D Burman composed the delightful Main sitaron ka taraana (Chalti ka naam gaadi) with Kishore Kumar singing in different styles. And not to be outdone, his son R D Burman came up with the all time classic – Ek chatur naar (Padosan) that mixed a ‘classical’ type of singing with Kishore’s style of singing that defies description and breaks all rules!

RaviAnother golden era stalwart, Ravi was known to compose simple and soothing songs. He challenged himself to come up with a lovely fusion that blends Asha Bhonsle’s fast paced party song style with Mahendra Kapoor’s slow style in Zindagi ittefaq hai (Aadmi aur Insaan). Ravi cleverly used the technique of making Asha utter words like “wah wah” during Mahendra Kapoor’s singing. These words and fillers by Asha ensure the transition from Mahendra Kapoor to Asha Bhonsle is smooth and not sudden or unexpected.

During the 1970s, Kalyanji – Anandji fused a traditional mujra song with Kishore Kumar’s alaap style of singing for a yearning feeling in Salaam-e-ishq (Muqaddar ka sikandar).

Later fusion (1980s onwards)

A R Rahman

There are excellent examples of fusion by later year composers. One of the best examples of outstanding fusion is the song O re chhori (Lagaan). A R Rahman not only mixed singing styles, he also varied the tempo in the accompanying orchestration as the visuals shifted from a village to the fort and ball-room settings. This is truly a superb piece of seamless fusion in vocals and orchestration. Of course, A R Rahman’s Jiya jale (Dil se) is also an outstanding example of fusion of a folk song into the main melody. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy did a wonderful job with the chartbuster Khaike paan banaraswala from the original Don. In the Don remake, they retained the joy and fervor of the original song and also added their own distinctive touch with Shah Rukh Khan’s singing that blends seamlessly into the original song. The resulting song bears the stamp of the original creators Kalyanji-Anandji and at the same time showcases the creative embellishments of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy as well.


Anu Mallik’s Tumse milke (Main hoon na) is also a good example of creativity. This is a lovely mix of different types of Sufi songs including a qawwali set to a fast beat. Jatin-Lalit perhaps had the easiest fusion song without any challenges in Jo haal dilka (Sarfarosh) that starts with the popular Eena meena deeka in rock and roll style and immediately transitions to the main song.

It is easy to dismiss modern day songs as more of “techno-noise” than melody. However, it appears that the challenge of a fusion song brings out the melodious talent in the currenshreya ghoshalt crop of composers. Pritam did a wonderful job with the melodious fusion of a western song with Atif’s singing in Tera hone lagaa (Ajab prem ki ghazab kahani). Shreya Ghoshal was delightfully sweet in Vishal-Shekar’s Bahara Bahara hua dil pehli baar ve (I hate luv stories). This song is a melodious fusion of folk and romantic styles and is very soothing to the ears. Among the many songs that have bits of folk songs mixed with the main melody, this song can perhaps be rated among the best.

Regional Fusion

morning raga

Apart from the 12 Hindi film songs in the player, here are two more great examples of Fusion in other Indian languages. Shabana Azmi starred in the offbeat film Morning Raaga that had the characters speaking mostly in English in addition to a few dialogues in Telugu. Shabana Azmi plays a classically trained singer in the movie. This movie had a lovely example of fusing a traditional Carnatic melody with a western style in the vocals. On top of this, there is a superb solo violin performance and the interplay of drums, piano and guitar supporting the Carnatic classical notes is also delightful. You can enjoy the fusion in the song Taaye Yashoda in the audio link below. I would strongly recommend this song as a ‘must listen’ song. Mani Sharma provided the music for this song.

Ilayaraja, the genius from South India, created a lovely fusion of light folk music with traditional Carnatic music. His Tamil song Paadariyen (Sindhu Bhairavi) starts off innocuously as a simple folk style song for the ‘masses’ and towards the end fuses the simple tune into a proper Carnatic classical song meant for the ‘classes’. Enjoy this wonderful fusion song in the audio link below.

A number of film songs are a delight to the ear. But when you mix different styles in the same song, your can enjoy the best from many worlds for a heady effect. Fusion songs truly enable you to double dip for double the delight.

Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Rhythm of Castanets


You may have heard Castanets in several songs, but you may not have recognized them as Castanets. They were used extensively by almost all music directors in the golden era of Hindi film music (1950s and 60s).

Dholak, Tabla, Conga, Bongo are called the ‘primary’ rhythm or percussion instruments and Castanets are called ‘side percussion’. However, once you enjoy a song that has Castanets, it is hard to imagine the song without them. They add a distinctive lively touch to any song. Listen to the rhythm of the Castanets in the audio clip below.

Castanets are relatively tiny instruments that fit into the palms of the two hands and were originally used in European music. They can be played quickly in continuous notes to create a roll type of sound, or they can be played with each click on the castanet being a discrete note. The pioneering musician, Cawas Lord was instrumental in introducing them to Hindi film music. He and his son Kersi Lord played the instrument in several songs. Later, percussionists like Homi Mullan also played Castanets in a number of songs.

While there are a number of songs that use Castanets, I tried to select 10 songs where the Castanets are an integral part of the song. Four of these songs feature artists dancing on the screen with Castanets in their hands.

Enjoy 10 songs with Castanets in the playlist below.

If you are based in USA or Canada, you can also enjoy these songs from the golden era by clicking the play arrow below on the audio player. On repeated plays, the player automatically shuffles songs.

A tip to enhance your enjoyment of these songs 

(The songs stops playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. This happens because the playlist is embedded on this page. To listen to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow on the playlist. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The playlist will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window).

Rhythm for Melody Makers


Castanets were primarily designed for rhythm. A composer like Naushad laid more emphasis on melody rather than rhythm in his songs. However, the talent in Naushad gave us some of most memorable songs with Castanets.  Lo pyaar ki ho gayi jeet and Jab nain mile nainon se from Jadoo are two of the finest examples in the use of Castanets. Naushad did not support blind copying or importing western styles of singing or instrumentation. These two songs were a strong statement about his belief that you can sound western even with Indian melodies, if you use western instruments with discretion. Both the songs are based on vocals that are essentially trademark Naushad Indian style melodies – long tunes with graceful undulations in the tune. Naushad blended these Indian style melodies beautifully with western interludes and outstanding use of Castanets to support the ‘western’ dances on the screen. If you listen carefully to these two songs, you will find that there is a lot of creative effort in the rhythm patterns and in playing the Castanets at various places in the song. Naushad also used Castanets in songs like Dhadke mera dil (Babul) and Tu kaun hai mera (Deedar). All these songs also show Naushad’s quest for excellence in all areas of his music. You can also enjoy other songs that showcase Naushad’s emphasis on excellence  and innovation in arrangements at Lively songs from Naushad.

S D Burman also laid more emphasis on melody in his songs. His tune Hai apna dil to awara (Solva Saal) has a lively touch aided by the rhythm of Castanets. And his superb melody Mora gora ang lai le (Bandini) uses Castanets extensively for a memorable effect.SD Burman Madan Mohan, the king of soulful melodies showed the ‘western ‘ side of his music in Thodi der ke liye mere ho jao (Akeli mat jaiyo) that makes extensive use of Castanets.

Other melody makers like Ravi also used Castanets in films like Dilli ka thug. Perhaps the beautiful use of Castanets by Naushad was an inspiration for his assistant Ghulam Mohammed. One of his popular melodies from Pakeezah, Chalo dildar chalo chaand ke paar chalo makes lovely use of Castanets.

Rhythm for Rhythm Masters


Any post on Castanets will be incomplete without the music of the ‘Original Rhythm King’ O P Nayyar. O P Nayyar was a trendsetter in rhythm based songs with his novel arrangements. Castanets were an integral part of his rhythm and percussion arrangements in a number of his hugely popular songs. Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan (CID) was one such number (based on a western tune ‘Oh my darling Clementine’) that made good use of Castanets. Aaiyee meherban (Howrah bridge) is a song in which Castanets play a lead role and can be heard clearly in the song. And the joyous Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra (Kashmir ki kali) makes use of Castanets to give a lively feel to the song.

R D Burman was renowned for having a superb rhythm section in his orchestra. Pancham’s emphasis on rhythm is evident from his early days. He used Castanets extensively in his debut movie Chote Nawab in the delightful Matwali ankhon wale. This song features Helen dancing with Castanets in hand. Lata glides through the song RD Burmaneffortlessly and Mohd Rafi sings with a twist in his vocals. R D Burman also contributed to this song with his claps in the prelude, which is a delightful mix of Arabian and Flamenco styles.

Though Castanets may be called ‘side percussion’, their rhythm in songs and creative use of Castanets by talented composers make these songs a lively and delightful treat for the ears.

PS: If you want to enjoy some songs featuring lead performances by primary rhythm instruments like Drums, Conga or Bongo see the previous post Enjoyable western beats.

Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Enjoyable western beats

In my childhood, western beats fascinated me. The sound of Kishore Kumar singing Mere saamne wali from Padosan would make me run to the radio. The ‘imagined’ sound of a comb on a broom in the song was fascinating. But, even more fascinating to my young ears was the sound of conga and drums that followed ‘baadal bhi garaj kar baras gaye’. As a child in the pre-teen years, the sound of bongos, conga or drums was exciting. They symbolized western, zestful and lively songs and not ‘slow or boring’ songs. And of course, the height of delight in my childhood was hearing the continuous roll of drums.



As I grew up, I started appreciating the finer nuances and the delights of other genres and styles in film music beyond the childhood fascination with bongos/conga/drums. I also started admiring and appreciating songs that I had earlier dismissed as slow and boring!

In this post, I will try and share the joys of western percussion instruments like bongo, conga and drums. I have compiled a special list of 15 songs on the player for your enjoyment. Almost all Hindi films, of course have songs with bongo, conga or drums playing the rhythm. But, I compiled this special list of 15 songs applying the following criteria:

You should distinctly hear the bongo, conga or drums played as a lead instrument for at least a few seconds, in some part of the song,



Here are a couple of examples of what I mean by lead instrument. (Normally, when rhythm instruments like bongo, conga are played as a lead instrument, they also have some backup rhythm that is normally played along with them on the banjo/guitar/maracas. Even for a few seconds, if you hear only rhythm and backup rhythm instruments playing and nothing else, I am calling it a lead performance by bongo, conga or drums).

Listen to the beats of bongo for 10 seconds from Raat ka samaa (Ziddi) by clicking the arrow below. (Bongo has a sharper sound than the Conga).


Listen to the superb beats of conga for about 15 seconds from Aaya hoon main tujhko (Manoranjan) below (backup rhythm by maracas).

I have also limited myself to selecting hindi film songs from the 1950s to the 1970s (with one song from 1980). This commentary therefore excludes the wonderful work of A R Rahman and the famous percussionist Sivamani, who played a lot for A R Rahman. A R Rahman is known for his heavy use of percussion (both literally and figuratively). Sivamani, a versatile talent on percussion, is known to play on anything he can lay his hands on (including a carton or bucket or anything else that is handy!). I may explore A R Rahman’s music in a later post. I use the term western percussion to include primarily bongo, conga and drums. These instruments had origins in Latin America, Cuba, Europe and parts of Africa.




Enjoy some of these songs in the playlist below.

If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy these songs on the player below. On repeated plays, the player automatically shuffles songs.

A tip to enhance your enjoyment of these songs

(The player stops playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. This happens because the player is embedded on this page. To listen to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow on the player. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The player will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window).

Early beats


The stalwarts of the golden era (1950s and 60s) mastered western styles as well as the use of western instruments including percussion instruments. C Ramchandra, the maverick composer used the conga, bongo beautifully as lead instruments in Albela in songs like Deewana Parwana. Naushad also made lovely use of western percussion in movies like Jadoo.

S D Burman, known for creating ‘light’ music, uses the bongos beautifully as lead instruments in the delightful classic  Sar jo tera chakraye (Pyaasa) to accompany the visuals of the ‘maalish’.

Shanker-Jaikishen who used Jazz and other western styles extensively have a lengthy prelude with a lovely conga piece in Sukku Sukku (Junglee). Ravi, known for his soothing and simple melodies, showed he is also a master of western instruments, including the drums in the lead in Zindagi ittefaq hai (Aadmi aur Insaan). Usha Khanna, who made her debut with Dil deke dekho featured the roll of drums as the lead instrument in the title song. Interestingly, this song has drums, bongo and also tabla at various stages.

Some of the golden era stalwarts who continued to enjoy popularity in the 70s as well used western percussion effectively in the 70s. S D Burman had a delightful little bongo piece in Choodi nahin hai mera (Gambler) and Madan Mohan had solo drums playing in Tum jo mil gaye ho (Hanste Zakhm).

Cawas Lord was the pioneering musician in Hindi films for western percussion. He used bongos and other percussion instruments extensively. His sons Burjor and Kersi Lord also mastered percussion instruments. Kersi Lord went on to became a famous arranger and musician, who introduced novel arrangements and new types of instruments and sounds in film music.

Pancham’s beats

RD Burman

R D Burman, created waves in Teesri Manzil with his trendsetting mix of rock and jazz styles. During his early years as a composer, R D Burman carried a strong image of being ‘western’ in his music. A number of his songs feature lovely use of bongos, conga and drums as lead instruments. Who can forget the silhouetted image of ‘Rocky’ Shammi Kapoor playing the drums in O haseena zulfon wali in Teesri Manzil? (The actor ‘behind the curtain’ who played the drums during the shooting for this song was Leslie Godinho, the drummer from Pancham’s orchestra who played the drums we hear in the song). Another early movie of Pancham, The Train features lovely bongos in Gulabi Aankhen.

The 70s saw the introduction of larger orchestras and more instruments (also louder!). Yaadon ki baraat, a super hit in the early 70s had O meri soni that had the roll of bongos that accompanied the visuals of rocks falling on the hillside (the roll you hear after the gasp by Asha Bhonsle was created using bongos as the main instrument). Though this song has only a fleeting roll of the bongos, it  highlights the importance Pancham attached to western percussion. 

Perhaps the best use of conga as a lead instrument by Pancham is in the Middle eastern music based song Aaya hun main tujhko (Manoranjan). This song has delightful and lengthy beats at 3 different places in the song, including a complex 32 matra pattern played by Maruti Rao Keer. I would rate this song as Pancham’s best in terms of complexity of the beat patterns, the skill involved in playing and our enjoyment of the beats.

Babla’s beats


Apart from R D Burman, who mastered western styles and orchestration, Kalyanji-Anandji also demonstrated mastery and sophisticated use of western instruments. Babla, the younger brother of the duo Kalyanji and Anandji was a child prodigy and a wizard in western percussion. As their assistant from late 60s, Babla managed the rhythm section in most of their songs, often playing percussion instruments himself as the lead performer.

The hugely popular Husn ke lakhon rang (Johny mera naam) features bongos as a lead instrument that play in tandem with trumpet and other instruments to gradually build up the tempo in the song. A similar song, Dil jalon ka (Zanjeer) features lovely roll of bongos. Babla also played the conga delightfully in Do bechare (Victoria no 203).

Babla introduced new types of percussion instruments in film music. He introduced roto drums in Muqaddar ka Sikandar in the song Pyaar zindagi hai and in Laila o Laila (Qurbani) he played them himself. Though the visuals in the movie show Amjad Khan playing on a normal set of drums, the song actually uses roto drums. I am sure Babla’s amazing beats in this lead performance along with conga will have everyone tapping their feet! Babla also introduced Laali, a new instrument from Fiji in the super hit Yeh mera dil (Don).

Innovative beats


You may be wondering what could be innovative in using bongos, conga and the drums. Plenty for creative minds like Naushad! Naushad departed from his usual classical and folk based style in Saathi. Saathi saw Naushad use western music styles and concepts like counterpoint beautifully. Kersi Lord (who did his initial work mostly for Naushad) explained how they used bongo and conga in tandem with the South Indian percussionmridang instrument Mridangam in Saathi for an innovative and different type of western beat. Listen to these delightful beats in Mera pyaar bhi tu hai (by clicking the arrow below). You can hear these innovative beats throughout the vocal melody sung by Suman Kalyanpur and Mukesh. I must admit that there is no lead performance by rhythm in this song. I included it only to demonstrate innovation in western beats.

The music of Ilayaraja, the genius from South India, defies description. Almost every song of Ilayaraja has something new. It is only Ilayaraja’s genius that can come up with a superb piece of innovation using western percussion instruments. Listen carefully to the Telugu dance song Raja Rajadhi Raja (Gharshana). Telugu is the language spoken in the new state of Telangana and the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. It does not matter whether you understand a South Indian language or not. If you observe, you will notice that throughout the prelude and the interludes, Ilayaraja used only western beats and nothing else! It is very unusual indeed to find that there are no instruments at all other than western beats. In fact, Ilayaraja also uses chorus to simulate western beats and other instruments! This is truly the hallmark of a genius. Ilayaraja also demonstrates in this song that you need creativity, rhythm and melody to create a great dance number. You do not need heavy thumping beats, loud music or high-pitched vocals for a dance song! Observe the innovation and enjoy this song by clicking the arrow below.

If you can listen to any music without language barriers, you will enjoy other innovative songs from Ilayaraja in my post, Hits of Ilayaraja, innovation.

The western beats are always a joy in most of the songs. But when you have songs that have a distinct and special place for western beats, it adds a special dimension to our enjoyment of the beats and songs.

Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Kalyanji-Anandji, the immortal duo

My earlier posts on Kalyanji-Anandji (see Kalyanji-Anandji in categories to your right) covered 5 different dimensions of their music. In this post, I will summarize notable films, songs, achievements and key recognitions that highlight their versatile talent. I will also discuss their distinctive composing style and more importantly, highlight their personal nature and why they are immortal.

Enjoy some of their best songs (not covered in earlier posts) in the playlist below.


If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy the songs on the player below. Click on the play arrow below to enjoy some of their finest songs from the 60s and 70s. On repeated plays, the player automatically shuffles songs.

A tip for enjoying the songs

(The player stops playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. This happens because the player is embedded on this page. To listen to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow on the player. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The player will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window).

Ascending 60s

From 1958 when Kalyanji started out solo, they delivered musical hits through the 1960s. Songs from their early movies like Samrat Chandragupt, Post box 999, Passport,  Bedard Zamana Kya Jaane, Satta Bazaar and Madari were melodious hits and continue to delight listeners even after 50 years. (Satta Bazaar was the first film in which Anandji joined his brother as the duo. Earlier, Anandji was assisting Kalyanji). They produced melodious songs in each film regardless of the hero or association with a big-ticket name. Whether it is Mehmood in Pyaase Panchi or Helen in Sunehri Nagin playing romantic roles, they composed memorable songs for them. A Sunehri Nagin duet Milke bhi hum features Talat Mahmood and his lovely dulcet voice. Dil bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere was notable for its poignant Mukesh numbers. Mehndi lagi mere hath, Ji Chahta hai, Saheli, Ishara, Purnima, Raaz, Parivar and Suhaag Raat also had melodious songs.

shashi kapoor

They were not the primary music directors for any of the top heroes like Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand. Despite this, they gained popularity with each passing year. When they got breaks to compose music for films starring the Kapoor brothers, they delivered musical hits – Chalia, Dulha Dulhan (Raj Kapoor), Bluff master (Shammi Kapoor), Dil ne Pukara, Haseena maan jayegi, Jab Jab phool khile and Aamne Saamne (Shashi Kapoor). Many piano and western numbers in these films added an alluring appeal to the image of sophisticated and good looking Shashi Kapoor. With Dev Anand as well, they had a musical hit in Mahal.

Their high quality, melodious and memorable music in Himalay ki goud mein, Upkar,Upkarfilm Saraswati Chandra and Vishwas gave them enviable recognition from peers and critics and provided additional momentum to their ascent to the top tier by the end of 1960s. They were focused on melodic content and lyrics in their songs in the 60s. Some of their songs in the 60s became iconic songs with immediate recall and association with popular festivals and national days that symbolized patriotic fervor (example: Govinda aa laa re from Bluffmaster, Mere desh ki dharti from Upkar).

Dominant 70s

Top 3 BW

As a carry over of the ‘non violent’ themes from 1960s, the year 1970 saw their movies like Geet, Yaadgar, Mere humsafar, Purab aur Paschim stand out for extremely melodious, soulful and appealing songs. Kalyanji-Anandji also rode the Rajesh Khanna wave in the early 70s with Safar, Sachha Jhootha, Maryada. Zindagi ka safar and Jeevan se bhari from Safar are among Kishore Kumar’s best songs. The haunting prelude to Jeevan se bhari is a great example of silken sitar melody, heavenly flute and superb orchestration.

Vijay Anand’s Johny Mera Naam was a big-ticket film in 1970 that set the trend for crime movies during the 70s. Kalyanji-Anandji showed that you can deliver a block buster musical hit even in a crime dominated movie. Apart from the songs that were hugely popular, Kalyanji-Anandji showed a distinctive flair for composing catchy title music. The title music of Johny Mera Naam stood out for its appealing tune and superb orchestration. They went on to compose appealing title music for a number of other movies like Dharmatma, Victoria No 203 and Professor Pyarelal. Kalyanji-Anandji also had another musical hit in Vijay Anand directed Blackmail as well as the Vijay Anand starrer Kora Kagaz.

During the 1970s, Babla (younger brother of Kalyanji-Anandji) added an attractiveBongo dimension to Kalyanji-Anandji’s music as their assistant. A wizard with percussion instruments and a master of rhythm, he introduced several innovative elements to their films. Instead of the traditional background music for suspense or crime scenes, Babla used bongo to provide a distinctive appeal in Victoria No. 203. In addition, a number of their movies featured haunting background music (Example: Dharmatma). In a later post, I will discuss more innovations by Babla.

Kalyanji-Anandji scored music for Zanjeer which marked the entry of Amitabh Bacchan, who became a one man industry for many years. They also scored music for many other Amitabh blockbusters in the 1970s including Don, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Hera Pheri. Kasauti stands out for an unusual Kishore number Hum bolega to bologe ki with interesting sounds and a different style of singing.


Even in the predominantly ‘crime movies’ trend of the 1970s, Kalyanji-Anandji were able to make their music stand out with a distinctive appeal. Johny Mera Naam, Haath Kigunsnhearts Safai, Apradh, Dharmatma, Banarasi Babu featured lovely duets that became huge hits. In the 60s, Kalyanji-Anandji composed melodies predominantly with an Indian base, at the same time scoring with popular western tunes (example: Nain milakar from Aamne Saamne). However, in the 1970s (especially after 1974) they adapted easily to the popular tastes and made their compositions predominantly western.

In the 1970s they had huge hits with Bollywood masala films or ‘pot boilers’. It would be a mistake to identify Kalyanji-Anandji only with these pot boilers, since the 50s and 60s saw them at their best with lovely melodies for social, romantic and family themes. Unfortunately, some people remember Kalyanji-Anandji only for their hits in the 1970s (and love them for it), but are ignorant of the duo’s melodious music of the 50s and 60s.

Like the 1960s, they also had iconic songs in the 1970s like Meri pyari behna (Sachcha Jhootha), which is normally played by bands in every wedding. Except for a couple of years in the 1970s, they had big hits throughout the 1970s. They dominated the 1970s along with R D Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal.

Retirement precursors


After their dominant run in the 70s, they entered the 80s with a block-buster hit in Qurbani. The trend of using instruments from the Middle East, which started with Dharmatma, continued in Qurbani. 1981 saw another block-buster hit in Laawaris. Vidhaata, Yudh, Kalaakaar and Jaanbaz were also notable for their music in the 80s. But then, musical hits became fewer as they progressed through the 1980s. Though their career technically continued till 1994, Tridev in 1989 can be considered their swan song. It is perhaps fitting that Kalyanji-Anandji chose to retire when they did, with pleasant memories in everyone’s mind.

Refreshingly different

Being different

While Kalyanji-Anandji delivered many memorable songs with Lata, Mukesh, Kishore and Rafi they composed lovely melodies for other leading singers as well. Suman Kalyanpur sounded very Lata like in Man mera tujhko (Paras). Two of Mahendra Kapoor’s best songs are the iconic Mere Desh ki dharti (Upkar) and Hai preet jahan ki reet (Purab aur Paschim). Nadiya chale chale re dhara (Safar) is a lovely wavy composition for Manna Dey with the pleasing sound of water. One of my favourite Asha songs is Ae Naujawan (Apradh) with lovely fusion music. In Bluffmaster, while Rafi was ‘Shammi’s voice’ by default, they used Mukesh and Hemant Kumar as well on Shammi Kapoor. And to top it all, in the same movie, they used Shamshad Begum also on Shammi Kapoor when he was disguised as a ‘woman’, making it a unique case of four singers for Shammi Kapoor in the same film!

They also composed unusual or different songs for some special situations. The song Yeh do deewane milke from Johar Mehmood in Goa is a comic situation with the jail referred to as ‘Sasural’. This song was on everyone’s lips for a long time. And in Ek tha gul aur (Jab Jab phool khile) they make a story recital very musical with lovely interludes, rhythm and words.

Distinctive style


Over their career, the duo composed innumerable songs in a variety of genres, styles and themes. Since their songs covered a wide range, we cannot pinpoint a common pattern that stands out distinctly as their style. Kalyanji-Anandji seemed to get absorbed in the situation and could compose simple and melodious songs that accentuated the emotions in the lyrics very well. Their sad songs were haunting and poignant. In other situations that called for expressions of joy, they seemed to revel in the mood and created breezy numbers and sometimes boisterous ones as well.

However, over the years, I noticed some distinct preferences that can be called their signature style. Apart from simple melodies that accentuated the lyrics, they paid close attention to instrument arrangements as well. Often, they would choose specific instruments that are very distinctive and delightful for the ear as well as on the screen. This combination of simple melody, touching lyrics and attractively orchestrated presentation  gave most of their songs a classy and sophisticated feel. Observe the instruments and effects in the two Mukesh solos inhimalayas Himalay ki goud mein or the hilly orchestration in Ek tha gul (Jab Jab phool khile). Also, notice how a lovely Indian melody in Wada karle saajna (Haath ki safai) was attractively presented with a touch of class using saxophone, piano and plucked string instruments.

A number of their songs had elongated notes at the end in the mukhda, antara or both(example: Babul Pyaare from Johny Mera Naam or O Saathi re from Muqaddar Ka Sikandar). These elongated notes, sometimes with a little murki at the end became their signature. In other inspired songs, they used a limited range of notes in the octave with a smooth transition from one note to the adjacent one (observe Ham the jinke sahare from Safar or Sama hai suhana from Ghar Ghar ki kahani). This made their songs soft, soothing and melodious. They maintained a fine balance between vocals and orchestration, Indian and western styles, and made their tunes simple and appealing. In earlier posts, I highlighted other distinctive features like their mastery over string instruments, the use of chorus for rhythm, the lingering preludes and the ‘pause-start’ tempo pick up, which are integral to their composing style. Rajan-Nagendra a famous composing duo in South Indian film music were called ‘Kalyanji-Anandji’ of the south because of the fine blend of melody, instrument arrangements, preference for string instruments and lovely orchestration.


Kalyanji-Anandji could compose delightful light classical songs and at the same time could turn out the most sophisticated western songs with superb orchestration. A number of their songs also had a lovely blend of rhythm and melody. Finely balanced and truly versatile, is an apt summary of their style.

Large hearts


There are innumerable instances of how they readily organized numerous shows to support causes like relief for victims of natural disasters like earthquakes. Kalyanji-Anandji would be the first name that came to mind for a charitable purpose. In addition, they also showed a large heart when it came to recognition for their core team. In the late 1960s and throughout 1970s, it was quite common to see the following as credits on a separate card in the movie titles.

Music assistant: Babla

Arranged by: Jaikumar Parte

Conducted by: Frank Fernand

These 3 were the foundation for their music hits. Sometimes the three changed roles, but together as a team, they provided Kalyanji-Anandji with innovative and ‘top of the line’ professional support to make their movies musical hits.

Another indication of their large hearted nature is their association with ‘first time’Feroz Khan directors. They did not see such associations as risky and guaranteed musical success for someone starting out on their first directorial venture. Manmohan Desai, Sultan Ahmed, Prakash Mehra, Arjun Hingorani, Subhash Ghai, Feroz Khan, Manoj Kumar, Chandra Barot had huge hits with Kalyanji-Anandji in their debut movies as directors. They were also associated with debutant lyricists like Gulshan Bawra, M G Hashmat, Anjaan. A majority of their soulful and popular numbers had lyrics by Indeevar though they also worked with other famous lyricists.

Kalyanji-Anandji also believed that they will receive whatever they are destined to and no one can rob them of their destiny. This philosophy made them large hearted, selfless. They did not push themselves or seek publicity or recognition by aggressive means. Perhaps this is the reason why they are the most underrated composers. They let their music and stupendous deeds do all the talking for them.

Multiple recognitions


Songs listed in the earlier posts and included in the player in this post total more than 100. All of these songs are high quality, hugely popular and evergreen that appeal to the old and the young alike. There are also perhaps another 100 or more songs that are also hugely popular, though I may not have listed them in this blog. These melodious, popular and chartbuster songs enabled Kalyanji-Anandji to gather several awards and recognitions, including peer awards and government recognition like the Padmasri.

But, perhaps their best recognition came long after they retired! The internationally acclaimed group Black Eyed Peas included tunes (with full credit to Kalyanji-Anandji) from two of their biggest hits (Yeh mera dil from Don and Ae naujawan from Apradh) in their song Don’t phunk with my heart. This song won a Grammy Award and Anandji was felicitated by BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc) on behalf of the duo in 2006, several years after their retirement! This perhaps is a recognition of the evergreen appeal of Kalyanji-Anandji’s music not only to the younger generation but also to a substantial international population. Several of their hits were remade in multiple languages, remixed, and featured in advertisements on TV.

Immortal duo


Kalyanji-Anandji were hugely popular as composers, but other composers were popular as well. While their shows for charitable causes are well remembered, they are not the only composers who helped in such causes. As they climbed the ladder of success, they achieved fame, popularity and of course material rewards for their hugely successful music blockbusters.


Alka Yagnik

But, Kalyanji-Anandji did not limit their vision to composing melodious music and steadily rising on the recognition or popularity graph. They had a broader vision of contributing with a permanent and everlasting legacy of spotting, grooming and providing singing talent for the music industry. They would encourage child singers and any other singer they spotted to hone their skills and talent to be among the best. Their commitment to this cause did not stop with mere advice or encouragement. They invested a substantial portion of their time, money and energy for the single minded purpose of promoting singing talent. They created schools, groups (like Little Wonders, Little Stars) that focused only on encouraging talent and giving them exposure through shows. It is this zeal, passion and vision to contribute to the larger music industry, which makes them stand out from the rest. Alka Yagnik, Sadhana Sargam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Kumar Sanu, Sapna Mukherjee, Manhar Udhas, Babul Supriyo are among the many singers who were spotted, encouraged, groomed and given a break by Kalyanji-Anandji. Some like Sadhana Sargam and Sunidhi Chauhan were children when their talent was spotted by Kalyanji-Anandji. As Babul Supriyo said in his Times Now interview on July 7 2013, it is this selfless sacrifice and commitment for the larger cause of the music industry that made Kalyanji-Anandji immortal.

The multifaceted talents of these two maestros created many unforgettable and impactful songs in film music. Their evergreen music lives on through their songs, but their legacy lives on throughout the entire film music industry through their protégés. My humble salutations to this immortal and cheerful duo who worked selflessly and put others before themselves.


Sunidhi Chauhan

Sadhna sargam

Sadhana Sargam

Posted in Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music, Kalyanji-Anandji, Orchestration and arrangements | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Lively songs from Naushad

Naushad’s music has many dimensions. Over the years, people have associated his music with classical base, purity and of course, chart busting popularity. Sometimes, he was labeled as the master of ‘sad’ songs. But, in reality, there were a number of lively songs from Naushad.

Indian film music encompasses several genres. However, two genres stand out as dominant pillars (among others) in Hindi film music (especially the pre 1970s music). One genre is based on classical traditions and the other on folk traditions. Classical music tends to be more intellectual and perhaps more ‘metro’ or urban in nature. However, folk music appeals to all tastes and is extremely popular among rural as well as urban folk. We are indeed blessed to have these two strong traditions enriching our film music. Naushad straddled these two pillars of classical and folk base like a giant and rode to the pinnacle of popularity during the 1940s, 50s and to some extent in the 60s as well.

folk music

With Rattan, he showcased the immense appeal of folk music very early in his career. In later years as well, he created a number of lively songs with a folk base and flavor that make them easy on the lips as well as ears. Even when a song has a classical base, he introduced elements of folk. One never knew where the classical ended and the folk began. He created two important milestones in Hindi film music – Rattan for folk music and Baiju Bawra for classical music. A common feature across most of his lively songs is a fine blend of rhythm and melody. The blend of melody and rhythm makes his songs flow in waves with the melody synchronized to go up and down in tandem with the rhythm. As a result, dances on the screen fit perfectly to the tune and are graceful, smooth and easy flowing like the tune they are based on.

This post is devoted to lively songs from Naushad that he composed through the 1940s, 50s and 60s. I have deliberately emphasized the word “lively”. By lively, I do not mean only songs that celebrate joy or abandon. I mean songs that have a (relatively) lively and attractive pace when compared to slow, brooding songs. Some of the lively songs from Naushad may actually be sad situations. But the songs may be lively with a relatively fast tempo or with lyrics, expressions or situations that appear cheerful!. For example, Afsana likh rahi hoon (Dard) is actually a sad situation but the song canters along at an attractive pace, much like any other joyful song.

Enjoy 30 of these lively songs from Naushad in the playlist below.


If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy some of these songs on the player below. You can skip a few songs, if required. On repeated plays, the player automatically shuffles songs. Click on the play arrow below and enjoy!

A tip to enjoy the music

(The playlist or player will stop playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. To listen to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow on the player or playlist. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The player or playlist will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window).


Awesome arrangements

western notes

Among the music directors of his era, Naushad spent a lot of time in mastering the finer points of instrument arrangements and overall orchestration. He experimented with western styles in Jadoo and brought in beautiful instrumentation in films like Dillagi, Dard and Uran Khatola. Uran Khatola is notable for many innovative and appealing features of Naushad’s music. Mere salaam le jaa is composed as a western song with western harmony and rhythm. Above all, notice the beautiful use of chorus singing in choir style (one chorus section singing the refrain, the other chorus section singing in choir style). He was also very innovative by using only chorus in Mere Saiyyanji in the musical interludes. There are no instruments at all! The overall appeal of song is enhanced many times with the use of western style chorus humming that blends beautifully with the Indian folk style ‘Haiyya ho’.

Naushad was among the few music directors who mastered western style notation. He experimented with new techniques of recording in Aaj mere man me (Aan). He is also credited with introducing the combination of flute and clarinet as well as mandolin and sitar. And who can forget the heavenly sounds of the flute in Mela and Dillagi? Just listen to Leke dil chupke se (Dillagi) and immerse yourself in the sweet sounds of the flute.

A perfectionist to the core, Naushad used percussion instruments beautifully. Notice the lovely rhythm of tabla and dholak that blends beautifully into the melody in Umango ko sakhi (Amar). And whenever I hear Dukh bhare din beete re bhaiyya (Mother India), I cannot stop admiring the beautiful roll of folk drums that elevates this lovely composition to an outstanding one.

Naushad never stopped experimenting and innovating. During the 1960s, Saathi marked a milestone in his career for songs that sounded totally different. He used western concepts of counterpoint beautifully in Mera pyaar bhi tu hai, among many other experiments in this song. (Counterpoint means playing two or more instruments simultaneously, with each instrument playing in different patterns, shapes or melodies).

He continued his innovative and experimental use of instruments in the 1970s as well. Rafi sang Ye naiyya meri beautifully in My Friend. This is the same tune that is heard many times as the background instrumental music of Pakeezah (Songs composed by Ghulam Mohammed and title, background music by Naushad). In fact, I found the background music to be more attractive than Mohammed Rafi’s Yeh naiyya meri. Pakeezah was a high point in Naushad’s skills in orchestration and background music. There are several attractive thumris in the background. However, Lata’s aalap in the title music, which is repeated throughout the movie, is hauntingly beautiful and is the highlight of his music. Even in a period film like Pakeezah, he used guitars and other modern instruments to superb effect to capture the dreams and yearning of Meena Kumari. In later posts as well, I will highlight more experimental and lovely arrangements by Naushad.

Sprightly solos

Noor jehan

Naushad’s sprightly solos (some folk based, some simple and delightful numbers) feature a number of singers ranging from Zohrabai, Suraiyya, Uma Devi, Noor Jehan, Shamshad Begum and of course Lata Mangeshkar. Jawan hai Mohabbat (Anmol ghadi) is perhaps top of the list in sprightly solos. This solo set the standard for many generations to come for such lively songs. Uma Devi (who later became popular on the screen as Tun Tun) had a limited range. But Naushad made the best use of Uma Devi’s voice in the chartbuster Afsana likh rahi hoon (Dard) as well as in the lively Kahe jiya dole (Anokhi Ada).

Suraiyya was given a break by Naushad and sang many lively and popular numbers for Naushad including Dil dhadke (Dard). Lata, of course, had the lion’s share of solos with Naushad. Kari badariya (Aadmi) is a lovely Lata solo that uses folksy lyrics in a classical base song.

Sensational Shamshad


Naushad laid particular emphasis on the lyrics and made the best use of Shamshad Begum’s impeccable diction in songs from Dulari like Chandni Ayee and Na bol pee. He brings back all our childhood memories of patangs and dheel in the delightful Meri pyari patang (Dillagi) that Shamshad sang with Uma Devi. And in the mukhda of Nazar mil gayee (Anokhi Ada), he brings out the coyness from Shamshad Begum’s strong voice and crystal clear tone.

Catchy chorus


Another admirable dimension of Naushad’s music is his use of chorus. In Uran Khatola, I showcased his use of the chorus with western styles of singing in two songs. There are also many other Indian style songs where the chorus is either a highlight or used with remarkable effects. Pyar kiya to darna kya (Mughal-e-Azam), the iconic song featured chorus that accompanied the visuals of a dancing Madhubala in multiple mirrors. This remarkable use of chorus made the song an unforgettable one. Apart from this defiant chart buster song from Mughal-e-Azam, observe the lovely use of chorus in two songs with a strong Indian touch – Ghar aaya mehman (Uran Khatola) and Udhi Udhi chaayee (Amar). The chorus sections are not mere repetitions of the main vocals. The chorus often sings a tune that is different from the main vocals as in Udhi Udhi chayee and integrates beautifully into the main melody.

Many of us may believe that creative powers of an artist may decrease with age. Naushad clearly is an exception. Around the ripe age of 84, he composed songs and background music that in relative terms (compared to other songs in those years) stand out for pleasant and novel orchestration and a simple and attractive flow. Taj Mahal – the eternal love story, released in 2005 featured a lovely qawwali, Ishq ki dastaan with Kavita Krishnamurthy and Preeti Uttam singing beautifully, accompanied by the traditional chorus in a qawwali. Even after many years in hibernation after his peak years, Naushad showed that age has not dimmed his enthusiasm and creativity.

Folksy fervour

HoliNaushad’s music carries a strong flavor of folk music from UP, Rajasthan, Punjab and other parts of the northern belt. Rattan was a super hit and its folksy music became the craze all over the country. One of the reasons for such popularity was Naushad’s use of singers with a folksy twang like Zohrabai Ambalawali. Her Akhiyan milake is hugely popular even today. Of course, in later years, Naushad employed mainstream singers like Rafi and Lata for folk songs like Tan rang lo (Kohinoor). It needed all the professional skill and talents of a singer like Rafi to sing Nain lad jaihen re (Ganga Jamuna) in a chaste local dialect.

Lazy lilt

PianoNaushad seemed to compose his songs with loving care. Being a perfectionist, he created songs that caressed the lyrics lovingly. Some of his songs were unhurried, languid spending a lot of time in bringing out the best in lyrics with an easy flow. As a result of this unhurried style, a number of his songs were graceful apart from being easy for the ears. Observe the two Dilip Kumar piano based numbers in Andaz (1949) and Ram aur Shyam (1967). Both Jhoom Jhoom ke (Andaz) and Aaj ki raat (Ram aur Shyam) seem to flow easily, lazily without any hurry whatsoever.

His musical interludes also had the same unhurried and smooth, caressing flows. Lata’s Jogan ban jaaongi (Shabab) also seems to flow gracefully and easily throughout the song accompanied by the delightful flute. Even in a predominantly western song like Mujhe duniya walon (Leader), the musical interludes and the song flow easily as if Rafi had all the time in the world to sing the song. Perhaps this style of music reflects Dilip Kumar’s acting and dancing styles – measured, unhurried. Also, like Dilip Kumar’s dialogues – the impact is mesmerizing.

My personal favorite in this category of easy flowing songs is Lata’s Tere sadke balam (Amar). I can hear it a thousand times, but each time I end up admiring the unhurried and easy flow that melds the interludes and vocals into a delightful ride on melodic waves.


I tried to highlight some of his “lively” songs in this post. There are many other facets of this creative genius who believed in excellence in all aspects of film music. It is not surprising that he was the epitome of perfection in all departments of film music and earned the respect of everyone in the film industry. Apart from excelling in multiple dimensions of music, his songs were attractive and appealing to all sections of people. With his versatile talent and skills, he imbued his songs with a ‘lively’ blend of classicism, folk, melody and rhythm. I can only bow in reverence to this master who created such lively evergreen songs that live in our hearts even today.

Posted in Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music, Naushad, Orchestration and arrangements, Top 3 composers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The haunting music of Hemant Kumar

‘Haunting’ is the first word I associate with Hemant Kumar (as a composer). I use the word haunting in a broader sense. Haunting does not mean spooky or ghost songs or ‘voices singing mournfully in the night’. By haunting, I mean songs that for some reason remain etched in your mind and you keep humming or visualizing the song often. Or, when a song conveys deep emotions that are unforgettable or which leave an impact even when you are not listening to the song.

In relative terms, Hemant Kumar composed music for fewer films when compared to other stalwarts of the golden era. But he left indelible memories of his tunes in movies like Nagin, Kohraa, Bees Saal Baad, Khamoshi, Anupama, Shart, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam among others. I am not knowledgeable about Bengali film music, so I will restrict myself only to Hindi films for which Hemant Kumar composed music.

I have discussed some of his best songs (as a music composer, not as a singer) in the commentary below.

Enjoy his songs in the playlist below.


If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy his songs in the player below.  You can skip a few songs, if required. On repeated plays, the player automatically shuffles songs. Click on the play arrow below and enjoy!

A tip to enjoy the songs

(The player stops playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. This happens because the player is embedded on this page. To ensure you can enjoy listening to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The player will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window).


All of us listen to songs all the time. But, when a song leaves a deep impact it can be truly haunting. Most Hindi movies obviously have the usual dose of love, romance and songs about love. To me, one of the most hauntingly beautiful love songs in Hindi films is a Hemant Kumar composition – Humne dekhi hai (Khamoshi).

Pyar koi bol nahin, Pyar awaaz nahin

Ek khamoshi hai sunti hai kahaa karti hai

Noor ki boond hai

Sadiyon se bahaa karti hai

Sirf ehsaas hai yeh, rooh se mehsoos karo

Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam na do

These lyrics by Gulzar for this song capture deep, caring and sensitive feelings of love. The lyrics, the simple tune and Lata’s magical voice express the finest feelings of unconditional love in a very mature way. To me, this is a gold standard or benchmark for songs about love. Every time I hear this song, it gives me goose bumps for the sensitive feelings expressed in this song so beautifully. This is truly a haunting song that remains etched in your entire being.

Resonance multiplied

resonanceThere are many other reasons why Hemant Kumar’s music is haunting. One obvious reason is Hemant Kumar singing his own compositions. Blessed with a rich, deep and sonorous voice, his singing left a deep impression. When you hear his songs, you can feel the vibrations and deep resonance of his voice. When such a rich and resonant voice sings songs of yearning, love, wistfulness the effect can be very haunting. There are several songs that Hemant Kumar composed where he sang songs that are full of resonant humming and stress on a few notes like Tum pukar lo (Khamoshi) or songs that touch low notes and accentuate his deep resonant voice as in Ye nayan dare dare (Kohraa). In Tum pukar lo, the music, the humming, the ‘whistle’ and the words leave you spellbound. Similarly, the humming in Ye nayan dare dare leaves you enthralled. These two are perhaps the best examples of his resonance where you can feel the vibrations and humming long after the song is over. A similar song, but without humming is Ya dil ki suno (Anupama). The song without any percussion has Hemant Kumar resonating beautifully with its heart tugging melody. These songs keep playing in your head over and over again long after you finished listening to the songs.

Hemant also developed a good association with Kishore Kumar. Perhaps their bond was the resonance in their voices! The extremely popular Woh shaam kuch (Khamoshi) is a memorable Kishore number. I do feel however that Hemant Kumar need not have used the chorus in this song since the words and Kishore’s deep resonant voice were enough to make an impact.

Lively dances


Hemant Kumar skyrocketed to fame with Nagin. This was a great musical hit. One of the reasons for the appeal of Nagin’s music is the seamless integration of the been sound with the main melody. Kalyanji (of the Kalyanji-Anandji duo), played a new instrument called clayvioline for the first time in Hindi film music to produce the been sound heard in the chartbuster Tan dole mera man dole. The been is constrained and can only move from one note to an adjacent note. It cannot jump suddenly from a note to another note which is not adjacent. Also, you cannot produce short, staccato sounds on the been. The main melody in Tan dole mera man dole also is composed like been notes with adjacent notes smoothly woven into one another without short notes or breaks. The effect of the been sound and the lengthy, graceful flow of the melody is very lively and depicts the dance movements beautifully. Ye mard bade dil from Miss Mary, set to simple dance steps is a lovely song of the teasing variety. In contrast, Chali gori pee se (Ek hi raasta) is a lovely song set to classical dance movements and Meri jaan (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam) is set to a mujra setting.

Haunting melodieshaunting

Hemant Kumar’s haunting songs are also of a different variety – the expected ‘lone voice singing mournfully in the night’ type. Lata and her voice are truly captivating in Kahin deep jale kahin dil (Bees saal baad). The instrumental music and arrangements, the voice and the ebb and flow of the lovely composition make this song a really memorable and haunting one.

Lata’s Mera dil ye pukare raja (Nagin) and another ‘lone voice singing mournfully in the night’ song  – Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat (Kohraa) are also extremely haunting. Jhoom Jhoom dhalti raat (Kohraa), perhaps added to Hemant Kumar’s brand as the composer for ‘haunting’ (as in spooky) movies. Unfortunately, Bees saal pehle dissappointed with westernized tunes that were a big let down for heightened expectations of a repeat of the haunting effect from Bees saal baad.

Many moods of love

Among Hemant Kumar’s ‘love theme’ compositions, Beqarar karke hame (Bees saal baad) is the one that stands out. This number is cheerful and set to a catchy rhythm that captures the playful and teasing mood beautifully. Raah bani khud manzil (Kohraa) is another lively number set to great music that again plays on your mind mainly because of the sound of the instruments and Hemant’s voice. This song expresses the comfort and and the joy of being with a loved companion. His duet with Geeta Dutt in Fashion, Tum aur hum is also a lovely number that captures joy, optimism and hope. Dheere dheere machal (Anupama) is a well composed tune that expresses beautifully the longing, waiting associated with love.

Perhaps another reason why his music is haunting is the use of singers like Geeta Dutt in songs like Piya aiso jiya or Na jao saiyyan (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam). Geeta brings out the anticipation, desires, pathos, longing and unfulfilled desires so beautifully with her rich voice.

Moonlight vigilmoon

Hemant Kumar songs seem to take on an additional allure when it comes to moonlight settings. Miss Mary is a remake of a block-buster Telugu hit, Missamma. Miss Mary is a delightful family movie full of situational and light-hearted comedy. This movie has a lovely song asking for the moon to mediate in a couple’s tiff – O raat ke musafir, that is easy flowing and a delight for the years. And how can one forget the promise of undying love so beautifully captured in another moonlight song – Na yeh chand hoga (Shart). Jadugar saiyyan (Nagin) is another delightful tune composed for a night setting. Khoyi khoyi akhiyan (Chand) flows easily and is set to silken notes in the moonlight setting.

Natural settingsnature

Apart from moonlight, natural surroundings also seem to bring out the best in Hemant Kumar. My personal favourite is Hawaaon pe likhdo (Do dooni char) with its soft instruments and music complementing Kishore’s lovely voice. Bheegi bheegi faza (Anupama) and Sanwale salone (Ek hi raasta) are two other delightful numbers with natural ‘tours’ in two different modes of transport – a bicycle and a car! But, the song that perhaps takes the cake for natural setting songs in Bhanwra bada nadaan (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam). Asha Bhonsle is truly a delight in this song. She sings in a variety of tones, sometimes teasing, sometimes endearing about the bhanwra. Though the lyrics are about gardens and bhanwra, Waheeda does not venture out of her room while singing this song!

Hemant kumar

Hemant Kumar also groomed music composer Ravi, who went on to become one of the stalwarts of the golden era.

Hemant Kumar is obviously well known as a singer and he used his resonant voice to great effect. He was also a gifted composer. He would choose the right instruments to produce the desired sounds and tone and focus on making the melody touch the right notes to leave an everlasting haunting impression. Hats off to this gifted composer who left an indelible mark with some of the most haunting songs in Hindi film music that keep reverberating in our minds, hearts and soul.




Posted in Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music, Lata melodies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Magic of Raj Kapoor and Shanker Jaikishen

The very mention of Raj Kapoor and Shanker Jaikishen conjures up images of beautiful scenes, dances, lighting and unforgettable songs. Raj Kapoor had a knack for mastering and getting the best from every aspect of filmmaking – story telling, drama and emotions, photography, visual effects, choreography and music. After Shanker Jaikishen’s debut in Barsaat, the team of Raj Kapoor and Shanker Jaikishen went on to create songs that are magical and evergreen. Some of the most popular songs in the 50s and 60s were the result of the magic of Raj Kapoor and Shanker Jaikishen. There were several reasons why this combination delivered unforgettable songs.


Raj Kapoor had a keen sense of the mood of the general public and wanted to ensure that the common man could identify and emote with his films and songs. He saw songs as the medium to appeal to the common man. This keen sense of the public mood enabled him to ask for and choose songs that could connect instantly with anyone. It is said that Shanker-Jaikishen used to offer at least 5-6 tunes for every situation for Raj Kapoor to choose the best. Raj Kapoor had a keen ear for music and his music sensibilities could identify a ‘hit’ when he heard some of the tunes. Along with Shanker-Jaikishen, lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat also made their debut with Barsaat to create a formidable well-bonded team. As a team, the lyrics found a chord and the tunes were simple, appealing and catchy.

Raj Kapoor was able to blend multiple emotions through his story telling, visuals and songs. Most of his films feature a fine blend of joyful and lilting songs, well-choreographed dances, sad songs full of yearning and wistfulness that viewers and listeners could relate to and connect instantly.

Raj Kapoor

Shanker-Jaikishen’s extensive orchestration and an appealing style of composing ensured that most of their songs were hits and stayed high on the popularity charts. In this post, I will highlight some songs that showcase the distinctive Shanker-Jaikishen style and techniques used by Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen to make their tunes catchy and appealing.  These songs were in films that featured Raj Kapoor in a main role and are not limited only to films produced under the Raj Kapoor banner.

Enjoy the magic of Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen in the playlist below.

If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also click on the play arrow on the player below to enjoy some of these magical songs.

A tip to enjoy the music

(The player stops playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. This happens because the player is embedded on this page. To ensure you can enjoy listening to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The player will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window).

Signature preludesprelude_1

Shanker-Jaikishen used preludes (music before the vocals start in a song) extensively, sometimes creating lengthy preludes. In a majority of cases, this prelude created the mood for the song visually. A number of their preludes feature a tempo that is picked up quickly at the beginning of the prelude and is maintained throughout the song as in Woh chaand khila (Anari).

Other advantages of a prelude include setting the stage for a dance on the screen like in Sab kuch seekha hamne (Anari). Sometimes, the preludes became ‘signatures’ where you instantly recognize the song on hearing the prelude as in Mera joota hai japani (Shri 420). Also, repeating a certain piece of music in the prelude as in Mera joota hai japani firmly planted the tune in the listeners mind. Sometimes, the prelude became an integral part of the film and became a sort of visual story. Yeh mera prem patr (Sangam) shows different seasons and passage of time to the strains of the prelude to depict the growing love between Rajendra Kumar and Vijayantimala.


RK and Nargis

Shanker-Jaikishen’s orchestration was a fine blend of western and Indian. Their orchestration ensured that the instrumental effect around the vocal melody created a fine harmony (prelude plus interludes). This balance between harmony and melody gave their songs a sense of completeness and an integrated feel. One feature that stands out in their orchestration is their preference for ‘full-bodied’ sounds. They would make extensive use of a number of violins and other instruments to get this full-bodied effect. When you combine a full-bodied feel and a lively tempo, the result is a tune that captures the imagination of the listener immediately and holds his attention and interest throughout the song. Dattaram (their long time assistant since Barsaat) said that they strived to create tunes with uninterrupted rhythm.

How can one forget the stunning visual of Nimmi with her fluttering dupatta in Hawa mein udtha jaye (Barsaat) that made you feel the wind in the lovely locales of Kashmir? Observe the use of violins and instruments in the prelude to create a full-bodied effect. This song was set to a lively tempo like the other hit Jiya beqarar hai in Barsaat.  I must confess that in my younger days, I was often confused between these two lively songs in Barsaat with the song Jawaan hai mohabbat  (Anmol Ghadi). To me, they sounded alike when I was too young to know the difference. Later, I was able to identify the composers and the films to which they belonged.  Luckily the other lively Lata solo in Barsaat, Mujhe kisise pyaar did not create any such confusion. Shanker-Jaikishen’s lively tempo was not restricted to solos. They created a lovely tempo and used the flute for a lively effect in the rain in the evergreen duet Pyar hua ikraar hua (Shree 420).  In all these songs, the full-bodied orchestration and the brisk tempo are very appealing parts of the song, apart from the lovely melodies, of course. (Interestingly, later day composers did away with the techniques of violin background for vocals and as fillers in vocal pauses, a style so prominently used by Shanker-Jaikishen)

Descending notes Descending_notes_1

The descending notes are perhaps the most easily identifiable Shanker-Jaikishen style. Even composers before Shanker-Jaikishen produced songs with descending notes. But this style came to be more closely associated with Shanker-Jaikishen than anyone else. Shanker-Jaikishen start a mukhda line in the higher notes and gradually make each line of the mukhda end on a lower note. Sometimes, only the main line of the mukhda had descending notes. This style also complements their preference for full-bodied sounds. The lower notes in the octave obviously sound more full bodied than higher notes. The two lovely duets in Chori Chori, Aaja sanam madhur chandni and Yeh raat bheegi bheegi are outstanding examples of this style (The opening lines of Aaja sanam madhur chandni resemble portions of the Italian folk song Tarantella). Shanker-Jaikishen used this style extensively and were not averse to using it in ‘sad ‘ situations like in Tera jaana (Anari).

Another well remembered descending notes song is Sajan re jhoot mat bolo (Teesri Kasam).  Yeh raat bheegi bheegi also features interesting vocal counterpoint. (Counterpoint means two melodies being sung or played at the same time but with different shapes and contours). Lata’s lovely introduction into the song when Manna Dey is singing his melody is a “vocal counterpoint” treat for the ears, albeit a short one. Notice also the repeating words bheegi bheegi, dheere dheere and pyaara pyaara lend a beautiful rhythm to this song and a sense of completeness.

Touching lyricsheart_1

Raj Kapoor movies often featured emotional elements full of pathos which brought out the best in Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra.

Jo tumse hai mere humdum, Bhagwan se bhi woh aas nahi and

Yeh dharti hai insaanon ki, Kuch aur nahin insaan hai hum

were heart tugging lyrics in O mere sanam (Sangam). Shanker-Jaikishen captured the pathos of the lyrics beautifully in this well composed tune. Hoton pe sacchaai (Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai), touches the heart with the simple, patriotic lyrics with Raj Kapoor’s special emphasis on simple words for a theme song. Mera Naam Joker may have been a box office failure, but its music was spectacular especially for the two tunes with heart tugging lyrics – Jeena yahan marna yahan (“Shaily” Shailendra) and Jane kahaan gaye woh din. Often, Shanker-Jaikishen would choose to compose the mukhda in a ‘short’ line to make the mukhda easy to sing. They would also make the tune into a ‘straight’ tune without too many undulations or curves to enable even a common man to sing.  Jeena yahan marna yahan is a great example of heart touching, unforgettable and simple lyrics that everyone could sing in a short, straight tune.

Jaane kahaan gaye woh din also features a lovely arrangement of full bodied violins that start the ‘signature’ prelude to pathos filled strains. Though this may have nothing to do with music, I remember a brilliant piece of direction in this movie. On board a flight, we are shown Rajendra Kumar with a FORTUNE magazine, Padmini with a LIFE magazine and Raj Kapoor with a TIME magazine.  The camera closes in with the 3 actors burying their faces in the magazine.  This symbolism depicts the nature of the 3 characters beautifully.

Rich instruments


In keeping with their preference for full-bodied sound, Shanker-Jaikishen also specialized in the use of certain instruments that had a rich and full-bodied tone. They made the rich sounding accordion an integral part of the catchy Awara hoon (Awara) tune.  This song showed that the Shanker-Jaikishen magic could cross national boundaries and appeal to people in other countries as well. My personal favorite in the use of accordion is Har dil jo pyaar karega (Sangam). The beautiful accordion elevates this well composed tune to a different level of melody.

Mera naam Raju (Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai) features daf (percussion instrument) with its rich and full bodied sound played beautifully by Dattaram (Dattaram, their long time associate was a ‘sitting’ musician, assistant and rhythm player who took care of the rhythm section while Sebastian D’souza, the other assistant took care of the other arrangements and conducting, for most of their films, though not all). Jaane na nazar (Aah) and Duniya banana wale (Teesri kasam) feature beautiful use of the flute. Notice that they used clarinet to add more ‘body’ to the flute in Jaane na nazar and used a rich sounding flute in Duniya banana wale. Diwana mujkho log kahe (Diwana) features lovely use of the resonant bagpipes with their rich tones.

Appealing folkfolk

Raj Kapoor movies invariably had a common man dance scene or situation that lent itself to a folk based tune. Lata Mangeshkar’s Panchi banoon udthe (Chori Chori) is one of the finest Shanker-Jaikishen compositions with a lovely folksy touch. Chalat musafir (Teesri Kasam) stands out for rustic flavor. Asha Bhonsle’s classical base enables her to straddle all the notes effortlessly in Paan khaiyye saiyyaan (Teesri Kasam). Shanker with his Andhra Pradesh upbringing set the Telugu words Ramaiyya vastavaiyya beautifully to dance music in Shree 420.

SJ, RK,Mukesh and lyricists

Raj Kapoor was the visionary, Shanker-Jaikishen, Shailendra and Hasrat were the creative spirits, and the legendary singers delivered to perfection.

Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen wrote a magical chapter in Hindi film music. In my view, this magic ended with Mera Naam Joker (although, later Shanker-Jaikishen were also in Kal Aaj aur Kal). To use a cricket analogy, Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen opened the innings and went on to score double centuries each in a 500 run opening partnership, before Shanker-Jaikishen were “out”. Later Raj Kapoor went on to play some more with others but his and the team innings ended at a score of 600. While the total score was 600, one only remembers the great stand of 500 between Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen and their double centuries. It is pertinent to note that later Raj Kapoor produced movies like Henna, Ram Teri Ganga Maili also featured Ravindra Jain composing in typical Shanker-Jaikishen style with descending notes (Main hoon khush rang henna, for example was trying to emulate the descending style).

During this glorious innings together, each success took Shanker-Jaikishen further on their rise to dizzying heights of popularity. Shanker-Jaikishen also received enviable recognition from peers, industry and the listeners for their appealing and popular scores. There were several other interesting innings in the illustrious career of this charismatic duo who brought a distinctive style to their music and made Hindi film music so memorable. Stay tuned for more posts on this ‘larger than life’ magical duo.

Posted in Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

The best of S D Burman, the charming ‘Dada’

Sachin Dev Burman (Dada) brought a unique style of composition to Hindi film music. It was said that in his early years as a composer in Mumbai, he was in a market when he heard songs being played on a loud speaker and people enjoying them. He was disappointed that the songs being played were not his own, but were composed by other popular composers. He was impressed by the popularity of the songs he heard and was determined to make his songs popular as well. He was a reasonably well known composer in Mumbai by then who brought with him a rich legacy of folk music from Bengal, Tripura and Eastern India. He did not believe that films are a medium for classical music and wanted to create songs that even his servants could enjoy. To this end, he made his songs simple, easy and hummable through his own, unique composing style. There are several features that make Dada’s songs unique. One of the main features is his style of weaving notes in quick succession to each other in a song. This style of quick weaving of notes with hardly any pause to ‘linger’ on a note is something unique to him. This style (let us call it ‘Dada style’) makes his songs cheerful like the bubbling waters in a creek flowing quickly downstream. His use of instruments like flute and santoor, also with quick notes, gives his songs a light, sweet touch and a breezy tempo. He was not averse to composing tunes in ‘short’ lines to make the songs hummable and easy to sing. Listen to bits of two of the ten songs from Baazi (1950) in the player below to observe the quick ‘Dada style’. Click below for the first bit.

And listen to the other bit by clicking below.

Most of the songs in Baazi were in this style. This ‘Dada style’ was perfectly suited to fit the image of Dev Anand as a playful, romantic hero with a touch of mischief in his eyes and his charming smile. There are other features of his music and composing style that I will touch upon in the discussion that follows. His deep knowledge of folk music, classical music and his quest to be a perfectionist made him create many hummable and extremely popular melodies over the years. Quite early in his career, he was able to adapt and embrace western music. His breezy style created a musical hit in a comedy like Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. On the other extreme, he excelled in scoring beautiful theme music in brooding movies like Pyaasa, Kagaz ke phool. His music in Guide stands out as among his best theme based scores. And with Aradhana, he changed the landscape of film music with Kishore Kumar becoming the #1 singer.

Click on the play arrow on the player below to enjoy 25 of Dada’s best songs. These 25 melodies are a subset of the songs discussed below. The player shuffles songs automatically and the order of the songs may not be same as in the discussion below. You can skip songs if you like, but I am sure you will not feel like skipping any song. (A tip to enhance your listening pleasure. If you want to browse further on this site or any other site, open a new window (not a tab) for further browsing. The player will continue to play songs while you browse in the new window)

Lively duets


Most of the duets in his films have some elements of his breezy and lively ‘Dada style’. Chod do aanchal (Paying Guest) is a perfect example of this lively style. Choodi nahin yeh mera (Gambler) also has some elements of this style. Notice how he makes Lata and Kishore sing in two different styles for the same words in both the antras in Hey maine kasam lee (Tere Mere Sapne). Lata’s singing is free flowing whereas Kishore is more restrained. And in Dil pukaare aare aare (Jewel Thief), Dada creates a beautiful atmosphere of mountains and the hill side with his lovely folksy instrumental music.

Earthy folk

folk drum

Dada’s deep knowledge of folk music from Eastern India was a perfect complement to his quick and breezy style of compositions. Hoton me aisi baat (Jewel Thief) is an outstanding example of his knowledge of folk music. The use of multiple types of drums, percussion and the beautiful use of chorus are a real treat for the ears. It is said that Dada had a peculiar habit of crouching on the ground and cupping his hands to his ears during rehearsals and recording sessions. Apparently this technique enabled him to hear each instrument clearly. This clarity of each and every instrument is evident in this Jewel Thief beauty. Dada used his famous and unique voice for many memorable background songs in movies. Mere saajan hai us paar (Bandini) is one such memorable number in his voice. In the same film Bandini, we have another lovely folk based song  More gora ang laile. My personal S D Burman favourite is Ayega re udke mera (Talaash). This beautiful folk based song has lovely undulations and a touch of grace beautifully rendered by Lata.

Lilting Lata

Lata and Dada

If there is any instrument that can capture the ‘perfect’ voice, then it would show 10/10 for Ab to hai tumse (Abhimaan). To me this song is a fine example of everything that is great about Lata’s voice. Hear this lovely song yourself here by clicking the arrow below.

Lata’s voice is crystal clear and yet has a deep richness and strength. Above all, the ease with which she flows through the ups and downs in this song (in the prelude as well as before the second antra) takes your breath away. I cannot imagine this song in any other voice.

Dada had many endearing songs with Lata. Thandi hawaein (Naujawan) is one of his earlier Lata hits. Lata’s voice has a wonderful lilting touch in Kaanton se keench ke (Guide). This song is notable not only for the lovely composition and singing, but also for its structure. Unlike the traditional Mukhda, Antra structure of film songs, this song has only Antras and no mukhda. O jogi jab se (Bandini) is another beautiful blend of ‘Dada style’ and folk base.

Silken Rafi

moolit night

While Kishore Kumar sang many songs for Dev Anand, Dada had a special place for Mohammed Rafi. Dada had a unique gift for composing songs that seemed to fit perfectly into the visuals. He would start a song without any prelude music or with minimal prelude to ensure the song ‘fits’ into the visuals. Rafi’s Tere mere sapne (Guide) is one such example. When you see the film, the silken smooth voice of Rafi seems to be a natural fit for the scene. Rafi glides effortlessly through the song and leaves you with a soothing, caressed feeling. Two ‘moonlight’ numbers, Khoya Khoya Chand (Kala Bazaar) and Tu kahan ye bataa (Tere Ghar Ke Saamne) are delightfully light and easy with memorable flute interludes. Dil ke bhanwar kare (Tere Ghar Ke Saamne) seems to blend Rafi’s voice with the flute.

‘Right’ singers

hemant and Geeta

Kishore Kumar recounts days when Dada would ask Kishore to sing songs during their jogging and walking stints. This was actually Dada’s ploy to ‘test’ the quality of voice at that point for a recording the same day or the next. Dada ensured that he chose the right singer whose voice was best suited for the song. In the same movie, he often used multiple singers for the same actor.

Apparently, Sahir Ludhianvi laughed when Dada said he will pick Hemant Kumar to sing Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni (Jaal). Dada was right and this song went on to become a super hit. Hemant was also at his resonant best in another super hit Hai apna dil to awara (Solva Saal). Dada got Geeta Dutt to sing at her seductive best for Jaane kya tu ne kahi (Pyaasa).  Apparently, Dada would also call a singer on the phone to judge the quality of his voice at that time. Talat Mehmood must have sounded great to Dada on the phone for him to sing with his unique sweetness in the telephone song – Jalte hain jiske liye (Sujata).

Dada was equally at ease in movies that required serious, sombre music. Dada created an evergreen classic in the smooth voice of Talat with Jayen to jayen kahaan (Taxi Driver). His Poocho na kaise (Meri Surat Teri Ankhen) showcases the classical voice of Manna Dey. Guru Dutt created landmark classics whose music will live forever. Dada was at the height of his powers with Jane woh kaise log the (Pyaasa) and Waqt ne kiya (Kagaz ke phool). With minimal use of instruments, he brought out the pathos of the words beautifully. The deep voice of Hemant is one of the many highlights of the music in Pyaasa. Waqt ne kiya will remain etched in everyone’s memory for the beautiful haunting effect created in Geeta Dutt’s voice and for the great lyrics.

Kishore mania

Kishore and Dada

Kersi Lord (well known musician, arranger, conductor and music director) said that Dada, despite his age, ‘was young inside’ and had a ‘youthful fire’ in him. Perhaps this is the reason that Kishore Kumar took the Indian music world by storm with Mere sapnon ki rani in Aradhana. Kishore’s voice seemed to be perfect for a youthful, romantic image of Rajesh Khanna. The movie and the music were a landmark that dethroned Mohd Rafi and made Kishore Kumar the #1. While Kishore Kumar sang a number of hits for Dada before Aradhana, to me some of Kishore’s most melodious numbers came after Aradhana. Khilte hain gul yahaan (Sharmilee) is one such melody. It does not have a ‘Dada style’ but is composed in a much more normal style. Phoolon ki rang se (Prem Pujari) is another sweet melody which has only antras without any mukhda. And with Meet na mila re (Abhiman) Dada adds a touch of class with the quick variations in the ‘aaa’ sound in the lines. A notable feature of Dada’s music is his arrangements and orchestration. His arrangements would always support the vocals and were neither too heavy nor too light for the song. They happened to be just ‘right’ to add a pleasant feel without losing the focus on the strong vocals and main melody.

(As an aside: It is interesting to note that Kalyanji-Anandji composed Ankhon Ankhon mein on Dev Anand in Mahal in a slow, lingering style. This song went on to become a hit. Anandji (the younger brother of the duo) said in a televised interview that they deliberately decided to depart from this lingering style in Vijay Anand directed Dev Anand starrer Johny Mera Naam. They chose the quick ‘Dada style’ for two Kishore numbers – Nafrat karne walon and Pal bhar ke liye – a style that suited Dev Anand very well).

The typical ‘Dada style’ of weaving notes quickly helped Dada a great deal. There was however a downside to this. Sometimes, the songs may sound repetitive and in a few cases may appear to be too ‘casual’. There was a marked decline in his standards in the 70s before his death as his health began to fade. However, Dada’s songs will be fondly remembered by many. Hats off to this unique composer who carved a name for himself and charmed his way into millions of hearts with his special type of evergreen music.

Posted in Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music, Kishore Kumar, Lata melodies, Mohammed Rafi | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Top 3 composers of the golden era – rationale & conclusion

top 3

As mentioned in Top 3 composers of the golden era in Indian film music – part 1, I ignored several popular criteria to filter the top 3.  The only two criteria I used focused on the melodic content and challenge of composition. Naushad, Madan Mohan and Roshan, in my view, created most of their songs with a lot of melodic content and challenged themselves to create memorable songs despite the level of difficulty and hard work involved.

Together, the top 3 composers of the golden era created some of the most memorable songs and enhanced the beauty of the songs with nuances and elements of classical music. At the same time, their songs enjoyed tremendous popularity.  They stuck to the pure style of composing songs, despite the temptations to ‘go western’ or to adopt other techniques for gaining immense mass popularity. All 3 composers had a strong grounding in classical music, which shaped their composing style.  Their focus was mostly on singing and melody and not much on instrument arrangements and orchestration. Among the 3, Naushad laid more emphasis on arrangements and instruments. They could appreciate similar composing styles and the greatness of each other.  Naushad of course, enjoyed tremendous respect of his peers. Naushad in turn was a great admirer of Madan Mohan and Roshan.

With similar ‘purist’ composing styles and focus on melodic content, the 3 brought out different effects. Naushad was classical and purist, Madan Mohan soulful and mesmerizing and Roshan was sweet and enchanting.

Their foundation in the purist style of composing helped them to excel in a variety of situations. Hear a medley of 18 songs that includes folk songs, classical tunes, western feel, Ghazals, Qawwalis, Bidaai and of course romantic songs. The medley also includes a song from the 1970s. I selected some lively songs that make you feel good. 6 songs each from the Top 3 composers make up this medley of 18 songs.

If you are based in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy these 18 songs on the player below. Click on the play arrow below and discover the joys of these evergreen songs. Enjoy!

( A tip to enhance your listening pleasure: When listening to the 18 songs in the player, if you want to browse further on this site or another one, open a new window for further browsing. The player will continue to play the 18 songs in the current window while you are browsing)


But, what is the purist style that helped these composers to excel?

Purist style


All melodic lines start with one note and end with another or the same note. But what is important is how the starting note leads to the endnote and how gracefully each note is woven into the next till the tune reaches the endnote. In maths, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But in music, a straight line between two notes is not melodic. Composing straight tunes is relatively ‘straightforward’ in terms of composition and does not present too many challenges to the composer. In music, a lot of graceful and smooth curves, undulations, wavy movements, stressing and accentuating a specific note or sur and melodic weaving of one note to another till the endnote is the hall mark of a good composition. You can feel the contour and shape of the tune (curves and undulations or relatively straighter) only when you listen intently and follow the tune closely.


In dance, we appreciate graceful and fluid body movements that make the dance beautiful and aesthetically appealing. Do you like dance with jerky steps and jerky body movements with hands and legs protruding at odd angles? Do you like dance where the dancers make mostly ‘straight’ movements with no grace or fluidity? In music as well, we need fluidity, smooth movements and grace to make the song aesthetically appealing.

Also, in dance, a long series of graceful and fluid movements is more difficult than one or two graceful or fluid movements. Similarly, in music, the longer the distance between the starting and ending notes of a line, the greater the challenge of weaving notes melodiously with grace, undulations to create a wavy effect. In other words,weaving together a number of notes in a longer line is more difficult than weaving them together in a shorter line. Among tunes with undulations and variations, it is easier to stretch the end note and build undulations in the end note. However, the real challenge is in building undulations, variations and graceful touches in the notes that precede the end note.


In sculpture or in art, we admire the skill, talent of the artist based on clarity, attention to detail and many finer points in the sculpture or painting that are apparent only when we examine them closely. Similarly, in music, when we play close attention to the shape and contour of a song, we can discern and appreciate the grace, undulations and wavy effect in each line of the song – through the voice or through the instruments.

Let me illustrate what I mean by some examples. I gave some examples in Part 1 of this series. I will add a few more examples here.

Curvy examples!

Examples of curves and straight

Here are some examples of songs that are popular, but with different shapes and contours of the tunes.

I have embedded audio players with bits of the songs that play from about 20 seconds to 50 seconds each. If you listen intently to these bits, you can notice and feel the differences I describe in the accompanying text.

1) Madan MohanMeri awaaz suno (Naunihal) is a relatively straight tune with very little undulations and variations compared to Aap ki nazron ne samjha (Anpadh). Listen to the Naunihal bit below.

Now, listen to the Aap ki nazron ne samjha bit below and observe the beautiful undulations, curves and stretching of notes in almost every line.

Meri awaaz suno was hugely popular and has its own appeal. But, the Anpadh song scores higher in terms of richness of melodic content.

2) R D BurmanRaina beeti jaaye (Amar Prem) is a tune with lovely undulations, mini tones (technically called gamaks or murkis, a term for vocal curves), stressing and stretching of notes. Notice especially, the beautiful stretching of notes and undulations in each line before reaching the end note of that line. Listen to some bits of this song below.

Compare this tune with Tere bina zindagi se from Aandhi. Listen to the Aandhi bit below.

The Aandhi song is relatively straight compared to the Amar Prem song. There is hardly any undulation or variation except for the ‘nahin’ in ‘kamee to nahin‘ towards the end. The Aandhi song may be hugely popular, but in my assessment the Amar Prem song is more aesthetically attractive, difficult to compose and sing than the Aandhi song. Everyone can relate to both these R D Burman songs as ‘classical based’, but there is a difference in terms of adherence to classical base, purity of composition and overall melodic content.

3) Kalyanji AnandjiMera Jeevan kora kagaz (Kora Kagaz) is a relatively straight tune. Listen to the bit below and look out for undulations, stress on notes.

Compare this song to Nadiya chale chale re dhara (Safar). Listen to the Safar tune below.

The Safar song has variations and smooth curves in almost every line sung by Manna Dey or the chorus. The entire bit is also like a ‘wave’ with graceful ups and downs. I would rate the Safar song higher in terms of melodic content (undulations, wavy effect) even though the hugely popular Mera jeevan kora kagaz finished on top of Binance geet mala in 1974.

Straight lines and curves

curve and straight line

The song Swapn jhare phool se from Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasl serves to highlight the difference between a musical composition and ‘straight’ type of composition. This tune is relatively straight, has very few variations and undulations and sounds very much like a recital of poetry. This ‘straight, recital, no undulations’ style was required because the poetry was so strong (considered the best) and required this treatment. But if all types of songs were to be composed in this style, there is no need to have music directors with knowledge of music! Most of the songs I featured in my lists for the top 3 composers are more of musical tunes and not straight tunes. If you notice all the songs by Mannadey, Asha Bhonsle, Mohammad Rafi and Lata have more undulations, variations than tunes sung by relatively straight singers like Mukesh or Hemant Kumar. This is what I mean by style of composition – straight compositions are required in some situations, however the beauty of a composition is enhanced many times by adding classical touches like minitones, stress on notes, variations in flow, undulations and wavy type of compositions.

At one extreme of this desired ‘purist’ style is ‘pure classical songs’ composed by music directors like Roshan, Naushad or Madan Mohan.  (Laaga chunri mein daag, Kaun aaya mere man ke dware, Madhuban mein radhika nache re are examples of ‘pure classical songs’). These types of songs are also likely to be very popular. But then, these are very difficult to sing for the common man. Hence we need musical compositions of varying degrees to make film music accessible and enjoyable by the common man.

The other extreme style of composing is to compose in short lines and relatively straighter tunes. This style will appeal to the common man because these types of songs are easy to sing (Imagine mukhdas of Awara hoon (Awara), Mere joota hai japani(Shree 420)). These are relatively straighter and shorter tunes which can straightaway appeal to everyone because these are simple (the mukhdas). While it is easier (in relative terms) to compose shorter, straighter tunes, there is also an additional element of inspiration, creativity and skill that is needed to make such shorter, straighter tunes popular.  There is also the difficult to define element of “appeal to the soul” which can make a short, straight tune appealing to almost everyone. The mukhdas of Awara hoon and Mere joota hai japani  may not be ‘purist style’, but they are creative, inspirational and skillful and of course, extremely popular. In fact, most music directors try to make the mukhda catchy, easy to sing. If you have a catchy and simple mukhda, the antra could be more complicated but no one cares!

As you can see from the above examples, the popularity of a song has no connection to the melodic content in the song. Whether a song is relatively straight or not, may depend on external factors like the situation for which it is composed, the lyrical content, the singer’s ability and other factors. However, for filtering the top 3 composers of the golden era, I am assessing the songs and the composers ability and talent purely in terms of melodic content and not any external factors.

So we have two extremes – pure classical film songs that are difficult to compose and sing on one extreme and on the other extreme we have shorter and straighter songs that are appealing to everyone. Between these two extremes are songs with varying degrees of melodic content – based on length, stretch, stress on notes, mini tones and undulations. This is illustrated in the picture below.


As you can see from other posts on this blog, I enjoy a variety of songs in multiple languages without being restricted to only the ‘purist’ style all the time. Like most people, I do enjoy popular songs as well and like Awara hoon and Mera joota hai japani types of songs immensely. But when it comes to filtering top 3 composers, I prefer to use difficulty level and melodic content to filter them.

The predominant and preferred style of the top 3 composers is “more difficult to compose”, musically pure, aesthetically correct, ‘purist’ types of compositions.  Not all of their songs are of this ‘purist’ type. However, they have used this style much more than other composers since this style of composing comes more naturally to them. The melodic content is more in these types of songs, in my view. I therefore used the two criteria to filter the top 3 composers.

Lenses and filters


As I mentioned in part 1, this selection of top 3 does not mean that Naushad is #1, Madan Mohan is #2 and Roshan is #3. It is unfair to compare stalwarts like this, especially since comparisons are based on personal preferences and likings. I therefore prefer to call them the top 3 as a group.  There is no right or wrong about these lists or groups. My selection of the top 3 does not make me right and others wrong about their choice of a top 3.

Also, the fact that these 3 are in the top 3 does not diminish the greatness of other composers like S D Burman, Shanker Jaikishan, Salil Chowdary or anyone else. Each of these composers brought their unique talents, skills to film music and they were great as well. All of us have many lenses, which we can use to look at film music selectively. I happened to pick up a lens and used the filters of ‘pure style of composition’ and ‘length of tune’ to select the top 3. The color of the lens we use is based on our personal preferences and the type of music that appeals to ‘something’ within us.  You may use a different colored lens to filter and you would be right from your own perspective.

This blog is only to share my views and preferences. It is not necessary that you share the same views and preferences. I am of course looking for endorsement and acceptance of these views from as many people as I can reach out to.

What I described above is only one dimension of composition – pure classical, high melodic content or short, straight tunes. I am using this single dimension to assess and filter the top 3. There are other more complex, feel factors such as the ability to appeal to the soul or ‘dil’ of a person. These songs appeal immediately to emotions. It does not matter whether the tune is a straight, short one or a lengthy, pure classical one. All that matters is emotional appeal to the dil.  This of course cannot be felt by anyone else other than you. Your soul or ‘dil’ is the king and the ultimate judge of music !

Note: Here is the link to the preceding post “Top 3 composers of the golden era – part 3

Posted in Classical base in film music, Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music, Madan Mohan, Naushad, Roshan, Top 3 composers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments