Sunday, November 29, 2009

Collectors Items: Vintage Video Recordings of TMS

Finally after years of effort and deliberating I'm able to retrieve two recordings of TMS performance, one in 96 Spring Fest and the other in 98 (I'd already left KGP by that time, so can't say exactly about the background of the event). I'd got the Spring Fest 96 program recorded but had lost the original VHS tape. Kanishka luckily had a copy of the recording and also a recording of the other show. I collected both thetapes from him last year but never could play on my 15 year old VCR. Finally I could clean the VCR head, play the tapes and more importantly convert the VHS indo DVD!! My project of more than a year has finally concluded successfully!! And wow, what a nice thing to see the recordings 13-14 years old. And the most interesting thing is that I'm just amazed by the quality of our shows back then. Many of us manage to do shows even now and I'll link all those recent recordings also to the TMS blog site. But you can yourselves make out we did better back then - and the reason may be very simple - we practised for 4-5 hours every night for a month for the shows and now we meet barely for a few hours once a week only a few times!!
I'll slowly upload the recordings of the 96-98 shows slowly to youtube. If you have links to other TMS shows please let me know. You toube already has some recent shows, but I'd like to get some old recordings too.
BTW, why don't you all invite all your juniors and seniors you know to this mailing list. I think if each of us get our own juniors we can surely get everyone till the recent batch!!
Happy musicing!! Watch out how you looked like more than a decade!!

Sudipto (96, RK)

Friday, January 16, 2009

The ultimate site for Hindi songs

I don't know if you're aware of this site called I'm just thrilled to get this site. I feel it's no doubt one of the best and most comprehensive sites for Hindi songs. You would just freak out once you see it. It has downloadable MP3 for a wide range of songs. The search engine is just awesome. It has songs by almost anyone you can think of. You can search for any combination, say songs written by Sahir, composed by R D Burman and sung by Kishore Kumar. That's an easy one. You may try for a song composed by Rahman and written by Rabindranath Tagore - well there are in fact two - Rahman's version of Jana Gana Mana and Ekla Chalo
Re (from the movie Subhas Chandra Bose).

Also it has a classification based in raagas. That's really cool.

Do you guys know of such an exhaustive site for English songs? I'd be interested to know sites that have good MP3 of the Rock-n-Roll, Jazz, Blues Age. My dad used to have a good collection of long play records of Harry Belafonte, Pat Boon, Nat King Cole, Elvis, Jim Reeves, Paul Robson, Pete Seger and many more. I grew up with these songs and hence still have a special feelings for them, though very few people listen to all these now-a-days!! Even I don't get good collections of these songs in any store in India. Though I'm against piracy, but then when the only place to get these songs is perhaps internet I can't help!! If you know of a really good site for listening and downloading English/Latino/Spanish/any Western songs please let us know!!

Thanks & Regards,

Salzburg in India??

Prior to our Europe trip a few years back the most difficult task before me and my wife was to decide on the number of places we should visit with a small baby of one and a half years. Our itinerary finally had only a few places in Switzerland, Germany, and yes, Salzburg in Austria for sure. To anyone interested in Western Classical Music the name Salzburg is synonymous to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, perhaps the most well known composer world wide. He has composed 626 pieces including 24 operas, 41 symphonies and over 40 concertos. Salzburg was also the place of the Von Trapp Family whose escapades were immortalized in the all time favorite 1965 Oscar winning Hollywood musical “Sound of Music”. I have been stuck with awe ever since I first saw the movie. Its songs like "My Favorite Things", "You Are Sixteen, Going on Seventeen", "Do-Re-Mi," and "Edelweiss" have been part of my growing up. Salzburg has been a fantasy land for me since childhood. I always wanted to see the edelweiss flower, the abbey, the castles, the river the trees and everything that featured in the film. Hence a Europe trip would have been meaningless for me without a visit to Salzburg. After reaching Salzburg I found that it’s not only me who’s obsessed with Mozart and “Sound of Music”, but the entire Salzburg is so. Salzburg eats drinks and breathes Mozart and “Sound of Music”, on which depends the majority of tourism. Numerous streets, university, museum, airport, a very famous international Music Festival and even a chocolate brand, Mozartkugeln, are named after its most glorious child. As per Lonely Planet a tour even includes a visit to Mozart's birthplace, his home, the grave of his father and widow, and the house of a person who once knew someone who knew someone whose great-great grandfather once played second bassoon in a Mozart opera. There are also innumerable “Sound of Music” tours showing different spots where the movie was shot. But the irony is that though born in Salzburg in 1756 Mozart felt stifled during the years that he spent as an organist and orchestra director for the Archbishops of Salzburg. He finally quit his palace job and fled to Vienna, where he died in poverty at the age of 35. But today's Salzburg residents, or at least those in the tourist business, have made up for the sins of their forefathers. Equally ironical is that most of the local people haven’t even seen the movie “Sound of Music”. Our tour guide mentioned of an anecdote that in some international seminar in China the host delegates had greeted the Austrian team with the song “Edelweiss” assuming that it might have been a very popular song in Austria. But none of the Austrian delegates had ever heard of that particular song. Whatever be the case I enjoyed the every moment in Salzburg. I put my ears on the walls of the house where Mozart was born to find out if it still reverberates with the strains of music. I bought so many mementoes bearing the name Mozart. I idled across the old downtown, entered into every possible alley and corner trying to grasp the aura of music that prevailed everywhere. In the train while returning to Frankfurt from Salzburg I had a thought.India has a rich and very long legacy of classical music. There have been so many stalwarts in Indian music, both in present times and in past. But is there any Salzburg in India? The name that’s perhaps most widely associated with Hindustani Music is Tansen, who was born in a place near Gwalior in 1520 AD. His tomb located in Gwalior is the site of the famous Tansen Music Festival. But can we call Gwalior the Salzburg of India? In Gwalior there’s a hotel run by MP tourism named after Tansen. There can be some streets or some organizations named after Tansen. But I can’t say that Gwalior has kept Tansen alive as Salzburg has kept Mozart. Amir Khusru, considered to be the father of Hindustani Classical Music by many, or Baiju Bawra, a great proponent of the Dhrupad Style of music, has a much worse fate than Tansen. I couldn’t remember of any Music Festival or street or organization named after either of them. I argued that Tansen is almost two hundred and fifty years older than Mozart. It might have been easier for Salzburg to keep alive a more recent person. Then I recalled my only trip to Jorasanko, the place where Rabindranath Tagore was born in 1861, more than a hundred year after Mozart’s birth. Apart from the national anthem of two countries he had also composed the music of “Vande Mataram”, which was perhaps the biggest ammunition for a nonviolent India during her struggle for independence, and innumerable other songs. I wanted to feel the ambience of the house where Rabindranath grew up, walked, slept, sung and composed his music. Apart from a few rooms of the huge palatial Thakur Bari, the name by which the house of Tagores used to be referred, the rest is in shambles, like dilapidated debris of something unworthy of remembrance.I also recalled that a few years back Delhi Development Authority had a very embarrassing moment when they found that they had created a public urinal beside the place where Mirza Ghalib had lived. Even the birth place of Gandhi seldom features among popular tourist destinations in India. If not for the sake of tradition or culture can’t we have a Salzburg in India even for the sake of business?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rahman's experiment in creating Symphony for Indian Music

I don't know how many of you have listened to the music of the recent movie Yuvaraj, composed by Rahman. Though the movie didn't create much of a mark, neither did the songs become chart busters. But there's indeed some thing very special about the songs composed by Rahman. I feel this is the first time that a proper Western Classical Symphonic orchestration, arangement and composition has been used in Hindi movie.

Use of Western Classical Music is quite insignificant even in the Hollywood movies or Western music albums. I feel in Hollywood it is restricted mainly to the background scores or opera based songs in period movies. But quite interstingly Bollywood has quite a few instances of using Western Classical music - works of various composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi etc in songs. Perhaps the extensive use of songs in Indian movies provide more scope to incorporate Western Classical Music than Hollywood. Even then, the proper use of Symphonic orchestra and symphonic style of compositions in Hindi movies was perhaps never attempted before Rahman.

I should acknowledge that there have been some significant efforts in the past in bringing Western Classical Music in mainstream Indian music by people like Anada Shankar (son of legendary dancer Uday Shankar and nephew of Ravi Shankar and perhaps the first Indian to attempt fusion music successfully) and Ilyaraja (the first Indian to compose for Philharmonic Orchestra London), but still Western Classical Music has always been a niche and elite thing, not quite within the reach of the mass. Over the years the Indian Classical Music has been able to penetrate more into mass listeners, to a great extent due to movies using various forms of classical and semi classical music in songs and also due to the glamour and aura created by many leading performers like Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar, Amzad Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain, L Subramaniam - to name a few - all of whom have also created a significant market for Eastern Classical Music in the West. In this context, Rahman's effort is really commendable. In India movies play a great role in popularizing any form of music. I'm sure the present popularity of Ghazal, Sufi music or folk forms like Bhangra won't have been possible without significant patronage from movies.

Bollywood has always attracted the best of the talents from all over India. This has created a very cosmopolitan and enriched form of popular music. Many regional flavors amalgamated into a pan Indian form. In the earlier days Bollyood was mainly driven by people from Bengal, Punjab and Maharashtra thus bringing in rich elements of literature, culture, folk, devotional, traditional, classical and semi-classical forms of music from all these regions into Bollywood. During the earliest phase of Hindi movie production in Calcutta in 30-40s under New Theatres, Bombay Talkies' Devika Rani, Himanshu Rai, Ashok Kumar, Filmistan's Shashadhar Mukherjee and music composers like Anil Biswas, Timir Baran, Pankaj Mallik and K C Dey, Rabindranath Tagore was still alive and his influence in any form or art and culture was really unavoidable. Interestingly till date the format of any movie song in any language in India still follows the format of a Rabindra Sangeet with the duration of 3-4 minutes and consisting of sections like Mukhra, Antara and Sanchari. Rabindra Sangeet itself has many ingredients of an Opera. The later Bengali composers like Salil Chowdhury, S D Burman, Hemant Kumar also used folk elements of Bengal and Assam like Baul, Bhatiyali, Kirtan and Bihu widely in Hindi movies. The trio Raj Kapoor-Dilip Kumar-Dev Anand along with composers like O P Nayyar, Roshan, Madan Mohan, Khayyam, Shankar (of Shankar Jaikishan duo) and above all the most famous singer of the time Mohd. Rafi brought in Punjabi elements in music and movies. C Ramachandra and off course the Mangeshkar sisters Lata and Asha, with genes deeply rooted in Marathi Natya Sangeet brought another dimension to Hindi movies. Naushad brought elements of Uttar Pradesh. Apart from the regional flavors in Bollywwod the undercurrent of classical and semi classical music was also quite predominant because most of the composers had deep roots in Indian Classical Music. But throughout the Western Classical Music was always little ignored in Bollywood. Even the usage of Western Classical instruments like Cello and Viola reduced considerably after the 60's. Who can forget the Cello in "Waqt Ke Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam" and "Woh Shaam Kuchh Ajeeb Thi"? That's why Rahman's experiment in Yuvaraj is really a great thing for Indian Music.

Just listen to the song "Dil Ka Rishta" from Yuvaraj. Apart from the incredible background score with pure symphonic or philharmonic style, there's also a fast Jhala style fusion of vocals, rendered by Rahman himself, and the orchestra. Though Rahman seems to go off tune at times, still the effect is quite good. Rahman has recently started the KK Symphony Orchestra, the first full fledged philharmonic orchestra in India. It's really a great effort to bring Western Classical Music to India in a big and far reaching way.

Also listen to the other song "Tu Muskura" from Yuvaraj. The female portion, sung by Alka Yagnik, is very much like a vocal rendition of a symphony. I personally liked the music, more because of the effort that Rahman is putting in creating a new style in our music. I hope that he can really popularize styles of Western Classical Music for Indian mass listeners.

Rahman has always brought new styles in any music he has composed be it the highly classical "Hai Rama Yeh Kya Hua" from Rangeela and "Tu Hi Re" from Bombay or the peppy "Pappu Can't Dance Saala" from Jane Tu Ya Jane Na and "Humma Humma" from Bombay. He brought a totally different dimension in Sufi and Qawal styles when he composed "Haji Ali" for Fizaa or "Khwaja Mere Khwaja" for Jodha Akbar. He even used Qawal style of composition for "Mehendi Hai Rachne Waali" in Zubeidaa in the backdrop of a Royal Rajasthani Hindu Marriage or the "Tere Bina" number in Guru in the background during potrayal of a very important phase of life of a Guajarati couple. He has elevated an Islamic devotional form of music to a level which was never heard of. Not for a moment did these Qawal numbers seem to be misfit in a totally different type of sequence in the movies. His use of folk elements of Bengal in "Kabhi Neem Neem" in Yuva, typical Central Indian village style "Mitwa" in Lagaan and off course the unforgettable Bhangra style "Rang De Basanti" in Rang De Basanti sung by Daler Mehendi and himself are just incredible. He has the capability to put his own unique stamp in whatever he composes and at the end of the day reach to the mass. Almost all his compositions are chart busters. One of his first compositions, "Dil Hai Chhota Sa" from Roja is my Rahman's favorite. I still can't forget my excitement and enthralment when I first heard the song in 1992. It has a totaly fresh set of sounds which created Rahman's signature for ever.

In this context it might be interesting to know about K M Music Conservatory founded by Rahman with a mission to provide students with a strong artistic, intellectual, and technical foundation for pursuing professional careers in music which will be facilitated by creating a learning environment that will provide the highest order of education in all major aspects of music and music technology, offer programs/courses that are contemporarily designed and foster a cultural exchange between students from different parts of the world.

Rahman Favorites