Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guest post - Deendayal Sakal Dukhbhanjan

I just did a guest post yesterday at, a fantastic and regular blog for old Hindi film songs and their lyrics. Iam happy to say that I have now joint the group of writers, and will be doing posts for it from now on :) 

I have posted lyrics of the song 'Deendayal Sakal Dukhbhanjan' from Narsi Bhagat (1940) by Amirbai Karnataki Ji:

'Thanks to Atul Sir, now I have the pleasure of writing a series on songs by immortal singer Amirbai Karnataki Ji.
My first song will be the earliest among those not yet on this blog, and this is from Narsi Bhagat (1940), one of her early famous films'.....

For the full post:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Amirbai Karnataki - A Legendary Indian Singer

Friends, my section on vintage films does not have music and sound yet. So, I decided to make a musically aided (with audios - videos) post  - please check links :)  

This is in honour of Amirbai Karnataki Ji, a pioneer of Hindi film singing and especially playback singing. She was one of the earliest and most famous singers to do playback singing in films. She was a leading singer of 1930s and 1940s. Today, many of us may not be familiar with her work, but some songs may ring a bell, or well, for those far away from India, perhaps not. I hope that using this write up, I can familiarise my dear readers with this golden singer. Let us see the great work of this artist. 

My sincere thanks to YouTube uploaders.
Amirbai Karnataki
The early years 

Amirbai Karnataki was born Amirjaan around 1906 in a small town Bilagi of Bijapur district, in Karnataka, India. As her name suggests, the suffix of 'Karnataki' was quite a common practice in those days, that is artists had their native place as a suffix - this also helped differentiate between different persons with the same name. She belonged to a traditionally singing Muslim family, her father being a popular Tabla player, Hussain Khan. She had six sisters and a brother, and was the second eldest among them. So naturally, she had an interest for music since a very early age, and mastered Hindustani classical music soon. 

She and one of her younger sisters, Gauhar worked with 'Vanivilas Naatak Company', a Kannada theatre troupe. Meanwhile finishing her matriculation at 15 years of age (they did that very early in those days, didn't they!), Amirjaan was already working with the ruling recording company, HMV. She soon became famous as 'Baby Amirjaan' for her classical and semi - classical, Ghazal, Thumri, Qawwali, Naat singing. 

Two of her songs sung at an early age are: a Naat (Muslim religious song) 'Darbar-E-Mohammed Par' and a Dadra (semi - classical form) of Raag Piloo. The Naat is sung very earnestly in her sweet, young voice, and in such a high pitch! The Dadra displays her absolute classical genius and perfection, to imagine such a girl of 10 showing so much classical prowess, so lovely.
Gauhar Karnataki in Guru Ghantal (1937)
Marathi stage singer Shankar Nilkanth Thapekar advised them to go to Bombay and join the film industry. In 1931, Indian sound films had begun with 'Alam Ara', thus giving many opportunities for good singing actors. Soon Gauhar became a popular singing star of 1930s. Around 1930s, Amirbai married famous villian actor Himalayawala.

Entry into the film world as a singing star

Amirjaan debuted in a bit singing role with 'Vishnu Bhakti' in 1934, but unfortunately neither the film nor its music took off successfully. But the producers had faith in her ability and she did several films more in 1930s as a singing star: 'Bharat Ki Beti', 'Yasmin' (both 1935), 'Fida - E - Watan', 'Prem Bandhan', 'Pratima' (1936). 

It was probably in 'Pratima' that she gained prominence in films, her song 'Bhagya Ka Chakra Nit Chalta Hai', seems to have been popular. She started taking on leading roles probably in 1937 with 'Gentleman Daku', 'Dukhiyari' and 'Insaf', and in 1938, 'Zamana'. 

Two of her songs from 'Zamana' were popular - 'Is Paap Ki Duniya Se' and 'Ae Dard Zara Dam Le'. Both are melodiously melancholic (!) songs, and have an interesting cycle of copying. The first song is an exact copy of the same song in 'Dukhiyari', which in turn, is a tune copy of the above mentioned Naat (remember? I guess it was so popular) and the second was re - orchestrated by popular 1940s' composer Pandit Gobindram in 'Ghar Ki Izzat'(1948) as a radio song. 

The following year she did 'Baghi' (1939) and there ended her career as a singing heroine, since she was already 33 years old and that is by itself far too old for Hindi film heroines! :) She did important character singing roles in the following two years, 'Ek Hi Bhool', 'Hamara Desh', 'Narsi Bhagat', 'Sardar' and 'Vijay Kumar' in 1940 and in 1941, 'Darshan'. 
Amirbai in Narsi Bhagat (1940)

Among these 'Narsi Bhagat' was truly famous. A film about the Gujarati saint - poet Narsi Bhagat played by famous singing star Vishnupant Pagnis (who was famous for such roles) and veteran actress Durga Khote who is better known for her elderly roles, and apparently sang for herself when she was young. The songs composed by Shankarrao Vyaas and sung by Amirbai, Vishnupant Pagnis and Durga Khote were very famous. 

'Deen Dayal Sakal Dukhbhanjan' (by Amirbai - Durga), 'Jhulna Jhulave Nandlala' and 'Vaishnav Jan To' (an original Bhajan by saint Narsi himself) were sung by Amirbai and gained a lot of popularity. All were Bhajans (Hindu religious song) sung with great artisticity and sweetness by Amirbai.  But now, songs were mostly picturised on the leading pair, or some other young dancers/side artists, very rarely on middle - aged character actors. So roles were growing scarce for Amirbai. 

Becoming a playback singer
Playback singing in Indian films had begun in 1935 with the film 'Dhoop Chaon' by Parul Ghosh, Suprova Sarkar and Harimati, and gained popularity only since 1940. Thus Amirbai turned playback singer in 1941 with 'Mala' and 'Mere Saajan'. 'Mala' which was one of the earliest films of composer Naushad had 'Kaahe Barse Jaaye Badariya', a soothing, sweet, serenely sung and composed, melody by Amirbai which was probably sung for actress Daya Devi. 

'Mere Saajan' with music by Vasant Kumar Nayadu and famous composer of the decade Hafiz Ali Khan Mastana had a duet with composer - singer Rafique Ghaznavi, 'Raatein Theen Chandni'. Rafique was an excellent and famous composer of that decade, and a very good singer too, he and Amirbai made a melodious duet pair. 

In 1942, she sang playback for 'Baadal' (for heroine Urmila Devi), 'Choodiyan', 'Kalakar', 'Bolti Bulbul' and 'Basant' and sang - acted in 'Bharat Milap' and 'Station Master'. 'Bolti' Bulbul' had a beautiful duet, 'Shab-E-Visal Kaise Dil Ko Qarar Aaye', very well composed by K. C. Verma and wonderfully rendered by the duo of Amirbai and Rafique. 
Amirbai Karnataki in Station Master (1942)
'Bharat Milap' was a famous mythological film based on the Ayodhya Kanda of epic Ramayana. Great actor and 'Lord Ram of the silverscreen' Prem Adib after this film, played Ram in several films, and Shobhana Samarth played Sita, often together with Prem. Amirbai played the supporting role of Kevat Rani and sang two lovely duets with top 1940s male playback singer G. M. Durrani, 'Pehle Paanv Paharoon Prabhu Ji' and 'Aaye Raghuvir Aaye Ganga Ke Teer'. The songs were rendered with great skill and technique.

'Station Master' was another early Naushad film with Amirbai playing an elderly role. She sang 2 songs, a wedding song, 'Banni Tera Jhoola' with Rajkumari, one of her worthy contemporaries and Kaushalya, a singing star, and also 'Kabhi Na Himmat Haar Bande', an inspirational song that she has powerfully sung. 

'Basant' was a very famous musical and Amirbai sang two songs, very coyly and mischeviously for second lead Pramila (first Miss India), 'Balam Dheere Bol' (with Arun Kumar) and 'Huwa Kya Qusoor'. The second song was very famous. 

Around that time her husband Himalayawala was getting abusive and was torturing Amirbai, exploiting her by snatching away her income. Her elder sister Ahilyabai therefore helped her get divorce from him. Some time later, she married Badri Kanchanwala, editor of Gujarati magazine Paras.
Mumtaz Shanti in Qismat (1943)

Ruling the roost in playback singing 

But it was in 1943 that Amirbai was rediscovered. That year came the all time blockbuster 'Qismat'. It is the second largest budget film, after 'Sholay' (1975). Its leading pair was the acclaimed Ashok Kumar and Mumtaz Shanti. 'The father of modern Indian film music' Anil Biswas composed its songs, the lead singer being Amirbai. Its evergreen music is still listened to today, showcasing the outstanding vocals of Amirbai. The romantic soothing lullaby 'Dheere Dheere Aa Re' (Amirbai - Ashok ), the heart-rending 'Ab Tere Siwa Kaun Mera', the melancholic 'Ek Din Hansaye' (Amirbai - Arun), the intense 'Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali Hai' portraying first desperation, then frustration, then helplessness, and then happiness, the appealing patriotic 'Door Hato Ae Duniyawalon' all truly created history. 

Mumtaz Shanti also became very popular, and indeed Amirbai was her original singing voice, and they gave many, many more classic films in the coming years. After the phenomenal success of this film, Amirbai became the most renowned and sought after playback singer in Hindi films. She sang for most of the then top music directors: Anil Biswas, Shankarrao Vyaas, Naushad, Hafiz Ali Khan Mastana, Pannalal Ghosh, Gyan Dutt, C. Ramchandra, Ghulam Mohammed, Rafique Ghaznavi, Vasant Desai, Khemchand Prakash, Feroze Nizami, Bulo C. Rani, Ustad Allahrakha Qureshi, Pandit Gobindram, Saraswati Devi, Shyam Sundar, S. D. Burman, Husnlal - Bhagatram, Rashid Attre and Roshan, among others. 

She was the most favourite of Gyan Dutt and sang maximum number of her songs for him and maximum number of his songs were sung by her. 
Being a top playback singer, she sang for most famous heroines: Mumtaz Shanti, Nargis, Leela Desai, Vanmala, Shamim Bano, Munawar Sultana, Veena, Neena, Swaranlata, Monica Desai, Kamla Chaterjee, Mehtab, Ratnamala, Savita Devi, Geeta Nizami, Rehana, Kamla Kotnis, Indumati, Madhubala and Ranjana. 

She also sang with many great singers including K. L. Saigal, Surendra, Shanta Apte, Waheedan Bai, Rafique Ghaznavi, Arun Kumar, G. M. Durrani, Rajkumari, Parul Ghosh, Zohrabai, Hamida Bano, Khan Mastana, Naseem Akhtar, Zeenat Begum, Shamshad Begum, Kalyani, Lalita Deolkar, Binapani, young Moahmmed Rafi   and Manna Dey, Talat Mehmood, Hemant Kumar, Feroze Dastur, Suraiya, Uma Devi, Geeta Dutt, Meena Kapoor, Asha and Lata Mangeshkars.

From acting to focusing on playback singing - a voice to suit many heroines

The same year, 1943, she did only 2 more films as a singing star, 'Prithvi Vallabh' and 'Ram Rajya' to concentrate on playback singing. 'Prithvi Vallabh' was a classic historical of master filmmaker Sohrab Modi, Amirbai played a saint - singer Charini, and delightfully vocalised 'Hawa Ne Bandha', a war song boldly sung and 'Jeevan Ka Jug Aaya', a song encouraging the middle - aged leading pair to forget the world and continue their love. 

Acting wise, Amirbai was quite well suited to saintly roles. 'Ram Rajya' was yet another classic mythological based on Ramayana, starring Prem - Shobhana, and the only film watched by Father Of The Indian Nation Mahatma Gandhiji in his lifetime. Amirbai played a Dhobi's (washerman) wife and sang a duet with classical genius Saraswati Rane, 'Aao Ri Suhagana'.
Prem Adib in Ram Rajya (1943)

Thus began the golden period of playback career of Amirbai, for which she is best remembered. All actresses and composers of that period were very eager to work with her. 

The perfect voice
Amirbai had a very unique, heavy, powerful as well as sweet and very stable and pitch perfect voice. She was a maestro at classical music, was very adept at light classical film music and was unparalleled in her emoting of songs, be they melancholic, seductive, romantic, cheerful, patriotic, or vivacious.  

She had a very elastic and malleable voice, with a huge range of notes and pitches, never sounding shrill. Her range was so large that no composer thought twice about her ability to sing the highest note of a pitch. She did it with incomparable ease and grace. She was an extremely versatile singer, singing from classical to western to light music. She was one of the foremost choices for singing classical songs in films.

1943 also had her singing for 'Aankh Ki Sharm' (with some beautiful semi - classical pieces - here), 'Adab Arz', 'Aashirwad', 'Badalti Duniya', 'Bansari', 'Bhaktaraj', 'Koshish', 'Khanjarwali', 'Mera Khwab', 'Mohabbat Ki Jeet', 'Nagad Narayan', 'Najma', 'Panghat', 'Prem Sangeet', 'Rahgeer', 'Sawal', 'Shakuntala', 'Vish Kanya'. Popular songs from these films were: 
Playback singing became quite widespread and popular, and several female playback stalwarts including Amirbai, like Zohrabai, Rajkumari, Shamshad Begum, Parul Ghosh, Naseem Akhtar, Zeenat Begum, Hamida Bano, Kalyanibai, and later Lalita Deolkar, Binapani Mukherjee, Mohantara and Surinder Kaur excelled in films. Each of these singers had a very unique and distinct voice. 

Combination songs like duets are an absolute delight. The composers were extremely dedicated and the combination of singers and composers was simply unmatched. Here is a group photo!

From left to right: Zohrabai, Rajkumari, Amirbai, Hamida, Geeta,  Lata, Meena Kapoor,  Kishore, Durrani, Talat,  Rafi, Mukesh, Dilip Dholakia,  S D Batish, Sailesh

1944 - 1948: The glorious years of playback singing
1944 - 1948 were more glorious years in Amirbai's playback career. The senior-most among her peers, (most of them were in their 20s whereas she was almost 40) she was an ideal to other singers. Her voice sounds evergreen and young, truly for a heroine, one can hardly believe that she was 35 - 42 then. In 1944 she sang for 'Anban', 'Bade Nawab Saheb', 'Badi Baat', 'Bhanwara', 'Bhartari', 'Caravan', 'Geet', 'Ismat', 'Jeevan', 'Jwar Bhata', 'Kavita', 'Maa Baap', 'Mali', 'Pagli Duniya', 'Parbat Pe Apna Dera', 'Paristan', 'Police', 'Rattan' and 'Us Paar'.
Khemchand Prakash

The Musical Star

Amirbai had become so famous that there were films 'musically starring' her; In 'Caravan', 'Pagli Duniya' she sang 8 and 7 songs respectively! 'Bhartari' was a huge musical success, and had Amirbai singing for actress Mumtaz Shanti again, with excellent singing hero Surendra and also some beautiful classical melodies by 1930s singing star Kajjanbai. The music director was maestro Khemchand Prakash. 

The songs had a strong classical base; 'Chanda Des Piya Ke Ja', 'Mora Dheere Se Ghoonghat' were lovely Thumris, 'Soona Mandir Mera' was Khayal - based, 'Bhiksha De De Maiyya' (with Surendra) became so famous that it is till date certainly played in any Bhartari festival. The first was a very high pitched Thumri sung outstandingly, and she once more sings the highest note in the second and fourth songs. Indo - Pakistani composer Feroze Nizami  had Amirbai as his favourite female singer and she sang maximum number of songs in his pre - partition films, 'Iqrar Ke Parde Mein' from 'Badi Baat' was quite a famous Ghazal. 

Bulo C. Rani was also a very big fan of hers, and she was his leading voice in several films from 1944 to 1950. Some more famous song that year were:
Blockbuster 'Rattan' brought composer Naushad among the top composers; and also made the lead singer Zohrabai very popular. But Amirbai also had two very popular songs, 'Milke Bichad Gayin Akhiyan' and 'O Janewale Balamwa' (with Shyam Kumar) sung for a dancer. 

1945 - A memorable year

1945 films Amirbai sang for were, 'Amrapali', 'Chand Chakori', 'Chand Tara', 'Chamiya', 'Ek Din Ka Sultan', 'Ghazal', 'Ghar', 'Kul Kalank', 'Laila Majnu', 'Mazdoor', 'Panna Dai', 'Preet', 'Ramayani', 'Samrat Chandragupta', 'Sawan', 'Vikramaditya', 'Village Girl' and 'Zeenat'. She was the lead singer singing almost all songs of 'Amrapali' ('Ud Jaaon Re', 'Is Duniya Ki Pagdandi Par'), 'Chand Chakori' ('Jogan Banake Piya'), 'Chand Tara' ('Aaj Mera Man Dole Re') which were great successes. 

The film versions of the songs in 'Ek Din Ka Sultan' were sung by Shamshad Begum while Amirbai sang the recorded versions ('Saza Naseeb Ne De Di', 'Garibon Ki Duniya'). 'Laila Majnu' was a famous musical based on the popular folklore originating in the Middle East, starring popular pair Swarnalata - Nazir, and several singers Amirbai, Zohrabai and Naseem Akhtar sang for Swarnalata. 

Amirbai's mellifluous duets with Rafique Ghaznavi (he sang for Nazir) were famous, 'Kya Sitam Hai Zulm Hai', 'Duniya Hai Ab Mere Liye'. 'Village Girl'/'Gaon Ki Gori' was another famous film starring famous singing heroine Noor Jehan, but Amirbai's songs sung for supporting actresses were popular too. These were, a Bhajan sung for Durga Khote with the highest note 'Bansi Ki Madhur Dhun', an excellent Qawwali accompanied by Rajkumari, Zohrabai and Kalyanibai  'Tune Dekha Ik nazar', a trio with Shanta Patel and Rajkumari, 'O Pardesi Raja' and a peppy dance - song sung for Geeta Nizami, 'Saiyyan Salone Se Nain Milake'

'Zeenat' was another very famous film that year, starring Noor Jehan; Amirbai sang a fun - and - frolic swing song sung with Zohrabai  and Kalyanibai: 'Aaya Aaya, Sakhi Aaya Sawan Aaya'.
Geeta Nizami in Gaon Ki Gori (1945)

The favorite voice for most heroines

In 1946, she sang for 'Aath Din', 'Shikari', 'Arab Ka Sitara', 'Bhedi Dushman', 'Dev Kanya', 'Dulha', 'Hawai Khatola', 'Hum Ek Hain', 'Jeevan Chaya', 'Kamla', 'Qeemat', 'Kuldeep', 'Magadhraj', 'Maharani Minal Devi', 'Mera Geet', 'Nargis', 'Nek Parveen', 'Pujari', 'Kamra Number 9', 'Sona Chandi', 'Valmiki' and 'Wamiq Azra'. 

'Aath Din' and 'Shikari' were debut films of great composer S. D. Burman and, singing the heroine's songs, Amirbai became his first lead singer, giving him superhits: 'Pehle Na Samjha Pyar Tha' (both in 'Aath Din'), 'Har Din Hai Naya' (Amirbai - Ashok Kumar), 'Duniya Ne Hamein Do Din' (both in 'Shikari'). 

She sang a popular Raagmalika (song made up of multiple Raags) 'Piya Milan Ko Janewali' for Shyam Sundar in 'Dev Kanya'. The fabulous duo of composer - singer Gyan Dutt  - Amirbai made marvels again with 'Dulha' and 'Kamla'. 'Hum Ek Hain' was a musical masterpiece by first composer duo Husnlal - Bhagatram, Amirbai and Zohrabai combined to give memorable melodies: 'Na Jaane Mujhe', 'Wo Boli Koyaliya' (both by Amirbai), 'Meri Aayi Hain Teen Bhabhiyan' (Amirbai - Zohrabai). It is also the debut film of veteran actor Dev Anand, famous 1940s actress Kamla Kotnis ('Na Jaane' and parts of 'Meri Aayi' sung for her) and first leading role for then famous actress Rehana  (parts of 'Meri Aayi sung for her), and Amirbai sang for both of the latter.
S. D. Burman
'Qeemat' had Naushad using Amirbai as lead singer ('Man Dol Raha Hai', 'Sagar Mein Uthin' (with Amar), 'Kanton Se Chedte').

'Nargis' was another Husnlal - Bhagatram classic with exquisite melodies, and Amirbai was par excellence giving hits for then young heroine Nargis, 'Aankhon Mein Aa', 'Roti Aankhon Mein Teri', 'Main Kaise Kahoon Tumse' and 'Mile Sahara Koi Re'. The second one has her truly melting our heart and also reaching the highest note flawlessly.

'Pujari' was composer Hansraj Behl's first film and as the lead singer she sang beautifully, 'Bairan Nindiya Kyon Nahin' (with A. R. Oza), 'Nainon Ki Nagri' (with Feroze Dastur), 'Sanwariya Se Milaye' (with Hamida Bano) and 'Patanga Chala Hai' (with Oza). 

Indo - Pak composer Rashid Attre had used an excellent variety of singers during his pre - parition career very vividly and uniquely, and composed for Amirbai in 'Kamra Number 9'. The lovely songs by this combination include 'Mera Rootha Baalam' and 'Jiya Mora Bal Bal Jaaye'

'Sona Chandi' was one of the earliest films of Indo - Pak composer Tufail Farooqi and had a beautiful Amirbai - Rafi duet 'Man Ki Sooni Nagariya'. In 'Valmiki' she sang with maestro singing star Shanta Apte, a quad also including Zohrabai and Lalita, 'O Rani Dheere' and also with rising stalwart Manna Dey, 'Veeron Randheeron'.
Munawar Sultana in Elan (1947)

1947 - taking soulful singing to greater heights

The next year (1947) Amirbai sang in 'Angoorbala', 'Beete Din', 'Bhakta Dhruva', 'Diwani' 'Flying Man', 'Elan', 'Hatimtai', 'Kaun Pardesi', 'Leela', 'Mera Suhag', 'Qismat Ka Sitara', 'Rangeen Kahani', 'Samaj Ko Badal Daalo', 'Samrat Ashok', 'Sarai Ke Bahar', 'Sati Toral', 'Shehnai', 'Sindoor', 'Toofani Takkar', 'Utho Jaago', 'Veerangani', 'Zinda Dil'. 

She sang enchanting songs in 'Beete Din' for Rauf and Dinkar Rao ('Agar Tum Na Milte'), 'Diwani' for Gyan Dutt, 'Hatimtai' for Kumar ('Nazar Meethi Meethi'), 'Leela' C. Ramchandra ('O Preetam Pyare' and 'Main Jaanti Hoon Tum Na Aaoge'), 'Rangeen Kahani' for Feroze Nizami, where he proved that she was his favourite singer by giving her all songs! ('Man Baat Na Meri'). 

'Elan', 'Shehnai' and 'Sindoor' took her to the peak of her career. 'Elan' and 'Sindoor' portrayed socially significant issues about Muslim customs and Hindu widow remarriage respectively and were highly controversial. 

Amirbai is splendid as the heroine's singer, giving superhits, 'Insan Ki Tehzib', 'Aaine Mein Ik' (both with Surendra), the high pitched intense 'Allah Nigehban Tera' and 'Rote Huwe Aaye Hain' and 'Aayi Azal Ye Zindgi' all in 'Elan' and 'O Roothe Huwe Bhagwan', 'O Duniya Bananewale' and 'Koi Roke Use' in 'Sindoor'. She has truly highlighted the issues by aid of musical expression, leaving a great impact. 'Maar Katari Mar Jaana - video/ audio' (video) (audio) by her from 'Shehnai' with music by C. Ramchandra  was a chartbuster and her other two songs, 'Hamare Angna Aaj' (title song, with Shamshad Begum) and 'Aji Aao Mohabbat' (with Chitalkar) were superhits.
Amirbai Karnataki in Vidya (1948)
In 1948, she sang for 'Amar Prem', 'Bhakta Gopal Bhaiyya', 'Bihari', 'Didi', 'Ghar Ki Izzat', 'Gunsundari', 'Jai Hanuman', 'Khidki', 'Papiha Re', 'Raees', 'Rambaan', 'Ratan Manjari', 'Sati Vijaya' 'Shehnaz', 'Veena', 'Vidya', 'Yah Hai Duniya'. 

'Amar Prem' had a beautiful duet of her and Rajkumari, 'Basant Chaya Charon Or'. As mentioned before, 'Ae Dard Zara Dam Le' was re-orchestrated by great composer Pandit Gobindram for 'Ghar Ki Izzat'. 

A composing genius

Her composing genius was apparent in 'Shehnaz' for which she sang all songs, with the great Rafi. It is very surprising how such an excellent composer didn't compose for any more films. Her own composing - singing combination is truly superlative. Though the film was a flop, the songs were fairly popular: 'Mohabbat Mein Khudaya' (Amirbai - Rafi), 'Taqdeer Ne Hansake Hamein', 'Kuch Keh Na Sake'

In 'Veena' she sang a heart - rending song, 'Dard Mandon Ka Jahan'. In 'Vidya' she did an important singing - acting role after a lapse of some years after being the top playback singer. The heroine was great singing heroine Suraiya and Amirbai played her tortured mother. Both of their songs became famous, Amirbai singing beautiful songs for S. D. Burman, 'Jeevan Jyoti...Prabhu Ji', 'Bhagwan Tere Sansar', 'Meri Muniya Ke Akhiyan Mein'.

1949 - A Turning Point

In 1949, Lata Mangeshkar had become famous with 'Andaz', 'Barsat' and 'Mahal'. Shrill, light and somewhat falsetto singing was encouraged. The great singers of 1940s including Amirbai got lesser songs. Only stalwarts Shamshad Begum and Geeta Dutt continued to be famous even later. 

Amirbai sang for 'Chandni Raat', 'Jeevan Saathi', 'Nanand Bhojai', 'Narad Muni', 'Neki Aur Badi', 'Parda', 'Raaz', 'Roop Basant', 'Sawan Aaya Re', 'Vikram Shashikala'. 'Saiyyan Se Bichad Gayi' sung with Sadat Khan  from 'Chandni Raat' (music Naushad) was quite popular.

'Main Kaise Keh Doon' was a lovely duet of Amirbai and Rafi from 'Jeevan Saathi'. She was composer Roshan's first lead singer in 'Neki Aur Badi', singing for young Madhubala. The film was a flop but some songs were moderate successes: 'O Mere Chail Chabile', 'Chand Hansa Akash'. 'Sawan Aaya Re' had some famous songs, composed by maestro Khemchand Prakash. 'Main To Gawan Chali Hoon' sung for Sofia, the second lead and 'Sawan Aaya Re', the title song, sung with Lalita Deolkar and chorus for heroine Ramola were quite famous.

1950 - A second innings in acting

From 1950 onwards, Amirbai sang very few songs although she performed supporting roles in a number of films. The films of that period with her singing are, 'Chor', 'Janmashtami', 'Preet Ka Geet', 'Raj Mukut', 'Samadhi', 'Shadi Ki Raat', 'Veer Babruvahan' (all 1950), 'Bikhre Moti', 'Ghayal', 'Jai Mahalakshmi', 'Lav Kush', 'Sagai', 'Sanam' (all 1951), 'Usha Kiran' (1952), 'Naghma' (1953 - version record), 'Shole' (1953), 'Maha Pooja', 'Mahatma Kabir' (both 1954), 'Silver King' (1956), 'Matlabi Duniya' (1961), 'Jisne Tera Naam Liya/Tere Dwar Khada Bhagwan', (1964) and a pre - recorded Thumri from 'Bankelal' (1972). 

'Janmashtami' had some beautiful Bhajans sung in duet by Amirbai and Rafi: 'Sanwariya Bansiwala' and 'Murliwale Ghanshyam'. 'Samadhi' is the film with the famous western tuned duet of Amirbai and Lata, 'Gore Gore O Banke Chore' in which Amirbai simply excels singing playfully, composed by C. Ramchandra.

'Bikhre Moti' also has a fairly popular and touching sad duet of Amirbai and Rafi, 'Aansoo Thi Meri Zindgi'. 'Sagai' had the second duet of Amirbai and Lata, 'O Babu Kaise Dil Karoon' in which Amirbai does a great job with buoyant singing. 

For 'Naghma' she sang a version song of that which was by Shamshad Begum for the film, 'Kaahe Jaado Kiya..O Jadugar Balma' in which she was splendid. Even in her last song 'Ye Kaisa Sansar Hai Tera' from 'Jisne Tera Naam Liya / Tere Dwar Khada Bhagwan' her age is unnoticeable

Her melodies in other languages

She has also sung for Gujarati films (like 'Sati Sone' - 1948), Kannada films, Marathi films ('Bhaktachi Mala' - 1944 as a singing star) and several other languages. 

'Jeevan Ka Saaz' (1946), 'Bambi' (1947), 'Kamyabi' (1940s) are unreleased films in which she has sung. 'Jeevan Ka Saaz' had music by renowned classical music exponent Ustad Jhande Khan, who, realising the immensely talented classical singer in Amirbai, made her the lead singer. And the hit music speaks for itself, 'Ban Gaye Naina Badra Kaare', 'Sansar Mein Dukh Sukh', 'Tere Khayal Ko Chaha'. She has sung a very popular Gujarati Bhajan 'Vaishnav Jan To' (by saint Narsi Bhagat) which was a personal favourite of Mahatma Gandhiji. During 1940s, she also sang several popular Hindi film songs, mostly by Asha and Lata Mangeshkars in Kannada versions, as 'Bhavageete'.

A major loss to the music world

On March 3, 1965 Amirbai had a paralytic attack and passed away, causing a great loss to India's music and leaving behind a rich legacy. Her music will always be heard and is most immortal.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How did talkies start in Indian cinema?

Have you ever wondered when and how sound was introduced in Indian cinema?
Today, let us take a look at the very beginning of Indian talkie films - and so, the beginning of film music as well. It is difficult to imagine a mainstream silent film, but that was the only kind of films made till 1931. But at first, let us take a peek at silent films and firsts in such films....
Did filming start right away as feature films or cinema? No, as you might have probably guessed, it began as a personal home project.  Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar was the first man to shoot a film of a wrestling match at Mumbai, titled "The Wrestlers", in 1896. He was a portrait photographer by profession.
In 1912, the first feature film, Bhakta Pundalik, was made by Dadasaheb Torne. But this film was semi - British made, released simultaneously with a English film, 'A Dead Man's Child'. The harsh censor board had not let this film to get released, and hence it lost the honour of being the first talkie film.
Dadasaheb Torne

Poster of Bhakta Pundalik (1912)
The first fully Indian full - length feature film was the famous Raja Harishchandra (1913) made by Indian film pioneer Dadasaheb Phalke, the first film director of India and also the film's hero. It was an enormous achievement by him. At that time, women did not act in films and the heroine's role was played by Phalke's male friend, Salunke. This was a marking point in Indian cinema and is remembered till date. Here is a link to the immortal classic, saluting the great Dadasaheb Ji and all of his earnest co - workers, and thanking the uploader of this footage:

 Screenshot of first Indian film Raja Harishchandra (1913)

Dadasaheb Phalke as Harishchandra , Salunke as Taramati & others in Raja Harishchandra (1913)
The great Dadasaheb Phalke continued his contribution towards films with many Hindu mythologicals like Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), Satyavan Savithri (1914), Lanka Dahan  and Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra (both 1917) and Shri Krishna Janma (1918). Mohini Bhasmasur (1913) was the first film to have true actresses - the first Indian film actress was Kamlabai Gokhale. Lanka Dahan (1917) was the first big box - office hit of India. Kaliya Mardan (1919) made by him starred his daughter Mandakini Phalke.
  Kamlabai Gokhale, first Indian actress who acted in Mohini Bhasmasur (1913)

Ganpat G. Shinde as Hanuman in Lanka Dahan (1917)

Mandakini Phalke as Krishna in Kaliya Mardan (1919)
Other significant silent films are: Sinhasta Mela and Sant Tukaram (1921), Sukanya Savithri and Brick Laying (both 1922), The Cathecist Of Kil Arni (1923), Prem Sanyas/Light Of Asia (1925), Murliwala (1927), Daughters Of Today and Shiraz (both 1928), Pitru Prem, Qaya Palat and A Throw Of Dice/Prapanch Pash (all 1929).
Now that we have gone through the development of some silent films, let us see how talkies came to the film arena. The first ever sound film was Alam Ara (1931), directed by Ardeshir Irani and produced by Imperial Movietone. This film was first released at the Majestic Theatre at Bombay, and became so famous that police had to be brought to control the crowd. But unfortunately, the print of this film is non – existent, even after several searches, after the 2003 fire at National Film Archive of India (NFAI). In fact, it is so unfortunate that not even a song sample is available. Recording of songs was not done for the first few films made, hence the film remains the only source, and is not available. This is a great loss to the cultural history and development of the industry and the country's achievements. The film had a story written by Joseph Munshi and Munshi Zaheer, edited by Ezra Mir and cinematography was by Wilford Deming and Adi M. Irani.
Movie poster of the first Indian talkie, Alam Ara (1931)
The sensational film starred Master Vitthal, Zubaida, Zillo, J. Sushila, Prithviraj Kapoor, Elizer, Wazir Mohammed Khan, Jagdish Sethi and L. V. Prasad. Music was by Pherozeshah Mistri and B. Irani. Zubaida Ji was the first ever heroine and played the title role of Alam Ara, and Wazir Mohammed Khan Ji, who played a Faqir (mendicant), was the first singer in India films, and sang the very famous “De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe”. It was a blockbuster and set up a trend for many talkies to come. Songs were recorded live because of the absence of playback recording system. All actors, of course, sang their own songs. It was mostly shot at night to avoid external disturbances, because there were no soundproof equipments.
Master Vitthal and Zubaida, leading pair of Alam Ara (1931)
Alam Ara was inspired by the first movie version of Jerome Kern's Show Boat (1929), released by Universal Pictures. The film’s plot was based on a Parsi play about the love of a prince and a gypsy girl, written by Joseph David, who later wrote stories for Irani’s later films. In this story, there is a historical, royal family ruling Kumarpur. The main characters are its king and his two  wives Dilbahar and Naubahar who do not go along well. A Faqir (Wazir) predicts that Naubahar will be the mother of the king’s heir and the tension among the queens increases. Vengeful Dilbahar tries to have an affair with the kingdom's chief minister Adil. The affair turns unsuccesfull and a Dilbahar imprisons Adil and exiles his daughter, Alam Ara (Zubaida). Exiled Alam Ara is brought up by Gypsies. Returning to the Kumarpur palace, Alam Ara meets its charming young prince (Master Vitthal) and falls in love with him. The story has a happy ending with the release of Adil, punishment of Dilbahar and marriage of Alam Ara with the prince.
Master Vithal and Zubaida in a still from Alam Ara (1931)
The music of this film was also very famous. Here is the list of songs:

  • “De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe" by Wazir Mohammed Khan
  • "Badla Dilwayega Ya Rab Tu Sitamgaron Se" by Zubeida
  • "Rootha Hai Aasman Ghum Ho Gaya Mehtab" by Zillo
  • "Teri Qatil Nigahon Ne Maara"
  • "De Dil Ko Aaram Aaye Saqi Ghulfam"
  • "Bhar - Bharke Jaam Pila Ja Sagar Ke Chalanewala"
  • "Daras Bina Mare Hain Tarse Naina Pyare"
    Miss Zubaida in a still from Alam Ara (1931)
    As some readers may have guessed, all of the songs are in Urdu. Master Vitthal Ji did not know Urdu well and was to be substituted by Mehboob Khan (who later became a famous director). Vitthal Ji filed a case against the director and won it, willingly learnt Urdu and contributed to the film’s success. But this film was only the beginning, there was much, much more to come from the great Hindi/Urdu film industry of Bombay, its films and music….we will talk about these in the posts to comeSmile 
    Wazir Mohammed Khan singing first Indian film song, "De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe"
    Still from Alam Ara (1931): Master Vitthal, Wazir Mohammed Khan and Zubaida in the climax scene
  • Friday, June 29, 2012

    Book Review Children Who Made It Big

    I recently read this lovely and inspiring book and here is the review. I enjoyed it and strongly recommend it to people of all age groups. This book has already been translated into various Indian languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Assamese, Marathi, Oriya, and Tamil. In fact, some schools are using in their curriculum. The second part is also in the making, I certainly do look forward to reading and reviewing that.


    Author: Mrs. Thangamani
    Publisher: National Book Trust, India
    Pages: 164
    Language: English
    Price: Indian Rupees 45.00
    Illustrator: Mr. Partha Sengupta

    Whether you want to learn an academic concept, a new language, an art form, or anything, even if it is something trivial, you need to make an effort. This effort requires interest in your work and a true desire to do that, being sure that you will do it. This quality is determination. You also need to have the passion to continue with something and do it well till its completion. This other quality is perseverance. To be successful at anything, these two qualities go hand in hand, I am sure you'll agree.

    What is this book about?

    This book tells us in a friendly and exemplary manner how sublime this truth is. There are true life incidents of twelve Indian post-independence era maestros of different fields - most of whom are world famous, many of them being completely different from each other. We realise how these great personalities were once just ordinary people who, with determination and perseverance have achieved great heights, in their respective fields, be it science, industry, arts, social work, judiciary or films. The author has very vividly captured the lives of these greats by actually interviewing them and providing beautiful glimpses of their lives.

    Nani Palkhivala, an eminent lawyer and human rights champion, overcame his major stammering problem, which deterred him from reaching his goals, and learnt the importance of sharing and kindness at crucial moments.

    Medha Patkar, a voluntary organisation worker, who learnt ideal moral values from her parents but realises that it was up to her to take the initiative and act when a poor old man is ignored by all.

    Satish Gujral, the famous artist and painter, who is jeered at and made fun of because of an accident and some other differences but finally manages to make ends meet and achieve great heights.

    Justice Leila Seth, who realised the importance of priority and education at a very early age and also the happiness and enjoyment involved in it.

    Rahul Bajaj, the heir to the famous Bajaj transport company, who is a good student and excels in all subjects. He learns English as a challenge, and successfully unites Indian tradition with modern technology.

    World chess champion Vishwanathan Anand is an excellent example of determination and perseverance, who as a child is unable to win anyone at chess, and goes on to become World No. 1.

    Physicist and developer Yash Pal who was very curious from the age of two. This helped him learn many things.  He was very successful at school even if he missed a year because of a disaster. He further facilitated education for all with his inventions.

    Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, a stalwart at Hindustani classical music and the heir to the clan who introduced the instrument Sarod, who had to work very hard to reach basic heights and through sheer perseverance, perfection.

    Mrinalini Sarabhai, a member of a family and region which hardly encouraged dance, struggling to learn dance from someone and finally succeeding because of her relentlessness and making a mark in not only Indian dance forms but also Greek dances.

    The great writer and poet Ruskin Bond, who had a very harsh and tough childhood, losing his father at a young age.His early works were totally scorned, destroyed and dumped by his mates and teachers, but he finally emerged as a great writer.  

    Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, the great agricultural scientist behind the Green Revolution of India, who was very intelligent and dedicated his life to bringing up agricultural genetics and improving irrigation facilities and technology.

    Sai Paranjpye, a creative genius and film maker and a very important contributor to various film genres, who learned to respect books since she was very small. She also published a fairy tale book when she was barely eight!

    What I liked about the book:

    These true - life incidents illustrate the lives of the greats very well. They animate the effect and importance of determination and perseverance. This is the simple truth. We know it most of the time, yet ignore it. This book is a great read for anyone looking for inspiration be it a child dreaming of becoming great things, or an aspiring youngster, an adult looking for a success solution, or even an elderly person, unhappy with the present status looking for new hope.

    I personally found the book very inspiring. The book is very well-written and the portraits and biographical illustrations for each achiever has been very well done by the illustrator.

    "Children who made it big" is recommended for audiences of all ages. 

    I would like to express my gratitude to the author, Mrs. Thangamani for her generosity in sending me a copy of this book.

    You can buy this book: at Amazon, or Abebooks, or Flipkart. You can also find it at Google Books here.

    Saturday, June 2, 2012

    Nigerian folktale - the Baboon and the Tortoise

    Dear friends, today Iam sharing a lovely folktale from the West African country of Nigeria. Thanks to and the Punchontheweb archive for providing the folktale idea, image courtesy of the above 2 websites and several more with animal pictures. It is a trickster moral story.

    Once a baboon and a tortoise were friends. They spent time happily stealing figs from the farmer's tree and daring his gun and fierce dogs. Doesn't this seem like an odd pair? Do you think both of them were happy with this kind of life? No....not so much for the tortoise, well. He didn't like this very exciting kind of life. So he told the baboon that one day they should plant their own fig trees, without worrying about the farmer, his gun and dogs. The baboon agreed happily seeing that the plan was much safer, but he was a lazy fellow and didn't care much about growing his plant. Though, the tortoise earnestly grew his plant, watering it regularly. Naturally, it was he tortoise's tree which grew well with tall branches and green leaves, but the baboon's ignored tree was withering and falling dead.
    Finally figs sprouted on the tortoise's tree and the tortoise was attracted to the delicious figs. Being a small animal, he couldn't climb the tree, and asked the tall and tree - inhabited baboon for help, to which he replied, "Oh, sure, why not." But would the baboon be so kind to selflessly help the tortoise. Of course not, he was a trickster. He ate the figs and relished them till finally the tortoise saw its juice dripping out of his mouth. He shouted from below,", Hey, you are finishing off my figs, give me some!" The wily baboon said,"Of course, I'm looking for fully ripe figs for you, wait for a tad more", and so he went on munching. At last, he said,"Oh, sorry, there were no nicely ripe figs to give you", and with a jump, hop and somersault, he went away merrily with a hearty laugh.
    Just as the tortoise was looking woefully, a cheerful robin redbreast came that way, and inquired,"Why do you look so glum? What has happened?", and the tortoise told him all that had happened,"Please be kind and give me some figs". Even the robin was not so kind; he offered the tortoise ripe figs, and when he agreed, the robin said there were only unripe ones left. Then, when the tortoise asked for the unripe ones, the robin said there were no figs at all, and flew away with a chirp. Ever since, tortoises are believed to look sad and never have smiled. 
    The next day, the baboon gulped down more figs and mocked the tortoise, making him furious. The day after this, the shepherd came, and offered to help the tortoise avenge the mean baboon. He was a kind lad, and after giving some figs to the tortoise, and loading his gun, placed it high in the tree. Tied to its trigger was a long string that hung to the ground. Soon, the baboon came back, and asked the tortoise about the string. He replied,"If I pull the string one way, it will bring down ripe figs, but if I pull it the other way, it brings thunder and lightning in the clouds". The baboon was astounded and pulled it in disbelief. The gun shot with thunderously loud bangs, and appeared like lightning, thunder and clouds. The frightened baboon ran off, and ever since, baboon are said to have been frightened by guns and even looking at one. The tortoise, who was always sad, laughed inside himself. But he wasn't just as innocent and naive, in fact he was so angry with the baboon that he wanted to further punish him.
    So, when they met the next time, the tortoise stood listening to a beehive. When the baboon asked him what he was doing, he replied,"I'm listening to the music that is coming out from this hole". But the baboon thought it was too soft and inaudible and was very disapproving. The tortoise said that it was a church and if the baboon wanted a louder hum, he needed to bang the hive with his fist and shake its hole with a nearby stick. When the foolish baboon did the same, the bees hummed louder and angrier, stinging him with rage. The baboon ran away painfully and jumped into a river to escape the bees. But each time he put his head out of the water, the bees stung him, and eventually their anger eased off and they returned to their hive.
    The baboon scratched out the stings and baboons are believed to scratch themselves ever since. He was furious and wanted to bite the tortoise, who was now staring at a mango tree. The baboon screamed angrily, but the tortoise replied, though nervous,"I didn't tell you to hit and punch the hive so hard and almost pierce a hole on it. He was staring for so long that the baboon became curious rather than angry. When asked about it, he said,"Iam looking at the delicious mangoes which I wish I would eat". The baboon had swellings on his eyes and didn't realise that the tortoise was actually pointing out to a wasp-hive. The fat-headed baboon tried to pick the 'mangoes' and got badly attacked by the wasps. This made him extremely furious and he wanted to eat the tortoise now. The tortoise defended himself saying that he was pointing out to a mango tree and the baboon had handled a wasp nest, so it wasn't his fault. A cricket came chirping by and, because baboons love to eat crickets, the baboon chased it till it went into a tree-hole.
    The baboon boasted that he could catch the cricket and in the attempt, caught a snake by mistake, which bit him. The snake was so angry on being disturbed that he bit the baboon hard. The tortoise was content with his revenge. From that day, tortoises, snakes, wasps and bees are said to have been good friends. And because the bees enjoyed the sweet figs, they have been crazy about any sweet thing and fruit. The snake decided to live on the branches of the fig tree instead of his old tree hole, since he could watch out for any approaching enemy. The baboon is also believed to have changed to a much less active creature. 

    This folktale shows us how people may have made folktales, they would have wanted to explain why many things are the way they are (take a look at the 'ever since' - es...) and not knowing a scientific explanation, would imagined up the 'why' as stories which were later verbally passed and cherished by the folks. 

    However such explanations may often be evil beliefs superstitions and should never be accepted to be true.

    Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    Happy May Day!

    Happy May Day and Labourers' Day to all! Long live workers!

    I prepared a speech on May Day for my assembly program, and here I share it. Hope workers will be treated well and given their due respect. The world functions only because of workers, so workers deserve a day to be praised and appreciated. Let us all commemorate workers' day and realize the importance of workers.

    So here's the speech:

    Labour Day is celebrated on 1st May in order to honour the contribution of working men and women. Labour Day also known as the May Day. May 1 corresponds to the International Workers’ Day which is celebrated around the world in around 80 countries including India.

    The history of the Labour Day dates back to May 1, 1886. On this day, labour unions in the United States of America decided to go on a strike with the demand that workers should not be allowed to work more than 8 hours a day. This strike was followed by a bomb blast in Chicago’s Haymarket Square on the 4th of May. This led to the death of several people and police officers. In addition, more than 100 people were injured in the blast. Although the protests in the U.S. didn’t lead to any immediate result, yet it helped establish the 8-hour work day norm in India and other countries in the world. Since then, the Labour Day is observed as the day for parades and demonstrations all around the globe.    

    The Labour Day is celebrated as the day for protests not only in India but around the world. This is when the working men and women participate in processions to defend their rights and safeguard their interests. Various labour organizations and trade unions come up with their processions so that the economic reforms they’ve proposed become effective in a short period of time. Other than processions, contests are also organized for children to participate and understand the bond of togetherness. This way the children can understand the strength of unity which is the essence of the processions that are a part of the Labour Day celebrations. In addition to processions, there are public speeches held by leaders of various political parties in order to celebrate May Day.

    Labour Day in India or May Day was first celebrated in Chennai on May 1, 1923. The initiative was taken by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan. The leader of the party, Comrade Singaravelar arranged two meetings to celebrate this occasion. One meeting was held at the Triplicane Beach, and the other took place at the beach opposite Madras High Court. On the meeting, Singaravelar passed a resolution which stated that the government should announce a national holiday on the May Day or Labour Day in India. He also emphasized the need for non-violence within a political party. This was the first time a red flag was used in India. This is the day when Maharashtra and Gujarat attained statehood in 1960 once the old Bombay State was divided on the basis of language. Hence, the May Day is celebrated as the Maharashtra Diwas and Gujarat Diwas in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat respectively.

    The Labour Day is a special occasion when people worldwide celebrate the true spirit of the working class. It’s the day when workers get together and showcase their strength which indicates how effectively they can struggle to bring in positive reforms for the working class of the society. So, let us celebrate this day as the day to commemorate the workers' efforts and aim towards global equality.

    Saturday, April 14, 2012

    How our universe began

    Today I write about the very beginning of all that is known, the big bang. This is what created the universe, and all of space and time as well. There is nothing known before this happened. This is the fundamental base of astronomy (the science of celestial objects and their study) too. This created all existing matter.

    Billions of year back, our universe did not exist the same way it does today. Much happened to form the universe we presently live in. Let me make the process simple, in steps.

    (Image courtesy:

    1. 14 billion years - The earliest thing known to exist was a tiny, red, extremely hot (4 trillion degrees Celsius) ball. This singularity was the earliest stage of the universe.

    2. Within a fraction of a second, the ball grew to the size of a football. Due to a super-force it expanded within a tiny fraction of a second to the size of the universe. This is called inflation. As it grew in size, it got cooler and cooler.

    3. Forces separated from the ball and created a huge cloudy and soupy material made of very tiny particles (smaller than atoms), like quarks.

    4. Quarks and anti-quarks which make matter and anti-matter respectively, destroyed each other and some of the matter survived at the end.

    5. Quarks combined to form subatomic particles, and these subatomic particles fused (joined) to form the simplest atom, of Hydrogen. Hydrogen atoms fused to form Helium atoms, which in turn fused to form Lithium and so all gases were formed.

    6. Due to expansion of universe radiations are stretched and diluted to exist in the form of microwaves which  are present throughout the universe.

    7. These gases curdled into strands with black holes (empty spaces which suck up everything) in between.

    8. Clouds combined to form galaxies and stars were created.

    Our sun is a medium - sized star. All stars have their respective systems, and our sun's system is known as the solar system. The sun, the 8 planets, their moons, the asteroids, meteors together form the solar system.

    (image courtesy:

    Here's a timeline of the big bang:

    1. 10-43 seconds - the universe starts as a little hot ball
    2. 10-35 - 10-33 seconds - inflation of the ball and cooling down
    3. 10-6 seconds - separation of forces and tiny particles formed
    4. 3 seconds - formation of hydrogen and helium atoms
    5. 10, 000 years - radiations form microwaves
    6. 300, 000 years - electrons link with hydrogen and helium atoms to form neutrons
    7. 300 million years - formation of stars and galaxies

    What would be the future of our universe? The universe could either continue expanding, or it would experience a 'Big Crunch', which is the opposite of a big bang. Isn't it surprise to imagine our universe in such a way? Life itself appeared on earth much later. I will post about that another time :)

    Sunday, April 8, 2012

    Have you heard 'Hindustani' Raags of 3 minutes?

    Indian classical music is of two kinds, Hindustani of north India and Carnatic of south India. Though these have many distinguishing features, many concepts are shared, the main difference being the way they are presented. They are dominated by Raags, melodic moods with fixed features for each one. These are explored and their beauty is displayed through various slow and fast speeds. There are 3 main octaves, the Mandra (low), Madhya (middle) and Taar (high) Saptaks (collection of seven fundamental notes Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa Dha, Ni, Sa equalling the western Solfège - Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti). These are explored along with restrictions like leaving behind a few or using Komal (note below its natural position) and Teevra (note above its natural position) for particular notes, depending on the Raag.

    Hindustani music has many kinds of 'main' songs from various Raags, which go along with various combination displays of notes, etc (all from the same Raag when one Raag is sung). Everything depends on the restriction of the Raag. The most popular usage in vocal Hindustani music is of Bandish. Consisting of:
    • a kind of main song, a Khayal - usually with poetrydisplaying intense feelings using good lyrics. The slower one is Badakhayal (generally sung first) and the faster one the Chotakhayal. Usually 4 - 6 lines.
    • Alaap, slowly exploring the Raag with its combinations and displaying its beauty, generally sung using some phrases like Aa (called Aakar), Nom, Tom, etc.
    • Swar Alaap, showing note combinations of the Raag using the respective note - names. Generally a bit faster than the slow Alaap.
    • Bol Alaap, matching note - phrases with beginning words from the Khayal and using words to show note combinations.
    • Bol Taan, matching speedy trills with beginning words from the Khayal.
    • Taan, speedy trills using various note patterns. 
    In the above, all Alaaps begin from lower octaves and slowly proceed towards higher octaves. The mood and feeling of the Raag is explored slowly and with various combinations are listed above created by self - thinking (etymology of Khayal/Khyal: either Khel i.e. game in Hindi Khayal in Hindi or Khayal = thinking in Urdu from Farsi), understanding the Raag and its restrictions. The best possible combinations are used and bring out the Raag beautifully. Hence it takes a lot of time, and usual concerts/performances last upto 2 hours.

    At the beginning of recording in India (the first Hindustani recording dating to 1902), records were limited to 3 minutes and the like. So long performances were not possible. But vintage music was predominantly classical (apart from semi - classical music and folk music, the latter being quite limited to local folk). So the earliest records were classical and semi - classical. As far as Bandishes are concerned, Chotakhayals which were faster were generally sung. Bol Alaaps and Taans were the common parts to go along with these. But still, limiting it to less than 5 minutes was something really difficult, but an art which few great classical singers were quite adept at.

    This is quite an impressive feat and some artists like Gauharjaan Ji, Zohrabai Ji of Agra, Jankibai Ji of Allahabad and Malkajaan Ji of Agra among others, who were paid princely amounts for performing for a period of time for the first recording company in India, HMV (His Master's Voice). They were famous for showing the best possible substance of the Raag within a limited period of time. The artists had to announce their names at the end for technicians to produce it on the records. These date back to the period 1900 - 1930.

    Listen to some mellifluous renditions by the above mentioned sweet and powerful voices. Video courtesy of respective uploaders from Youtube.

    Gauharjaan Ji - Raag Bhoopali - Chotakhayal
    Gauharjaan Ji - Raag Multani - Chotakhayal
    Zohrabai Ji of Agra - Raag Bhoopali - Tarana
    Zohrabai Ji of Agra - Raag Sohni - Chotakhayal
    Jankibai Ji of Allahabad - Raag Bhairavi - Chotakhayal
    Jankibai Ji of Allahabad - Raag Sohni - Chotakhayal
    Malkajaan Ji of Agra - a Hori (a kind of song dedicated to the Indian festival Holi)

    In the last video's page wrong information has been given that Malkajaan was Gauharjaan's mother whereas they were just contemporaries.