January 21, 2005

Hey My Heart, Show Me

What might possibly link Louis Armstrong, Portuguese fados and Geeta Dutt singing Aye Dil Mujhe Bata De (what a gorgeous song) in the 1956 film Bhai Bhai? Ah, for that you'd have to have been at Naresh Fernandes's delightfully thought-provoking lecture on Thursday evening, on the coming of jazz to Bollywood. What's more, he began with a clip of Amitabh Bachchan belting out My Name is Anthony Gonsalves from that mouth-watering bell-bottomed '70s classic, Amar Akbar Anthony (Parveen Babi AND Shabana Azmi AND Neetu Singh ... be still my thumping heart! And hey, bring back the multi-starrer!)

It should be no surprise if you think about it, but it still is: the way musicians trained in Indian classical traditions teamed up with (mostly Goan) others trained in Western styles, and produced a flowering of music for Hindi films that is unparalleled anywhere. This was fusion before there was bad fusion, East meets West on an intimate, almost unconscious level. Even non-Hindi film buffs like me (scorn all you want, but I couldn't tell Mohammed Rafi from Mukesh from Manna De to save my life) look back a generation to what was a definite golden age of film music; and Aye Dil Mujhe Bata De came from right in there.

Anthony Gonsalves is relevant because there was a real Anthony Gonsalves, a man who both played the music of his Goan roots and understood raags; he composed using both strains (he had a "Sonatina Indiana", among others). From the 1940s on, he was part of the Hindi film music scene in Bombay. In particular, he taught the violin to Pyarelal (of Laxmikant-Pyarelal), who wrote My Name is Anthony Gonsalves. Pyarelal's own fond tribute to his guru. Who would have thought it, watching Bachchan do that mad top-hatted bop?

Listening to all this, I thought of the innumerable other cross-culturally influenced songs from our films. Aao Twist Karen pays tribute to Chubby Checker and the rocking, twisting '60s. Tere Liye is Abba's '70s hit Mamma Mia reworked. Yeh hai Bombay Meri Jaan is Oh My Darling Clementine, made more interesting. Tere Mujhse Hai Pehle is from that folk classic, The Yellow Rose of Texas. On and on. Where else has there been this rich mixing and remixing?

And yes, what does link Armstrong, the fado and Aye Dil Mujhe Bata De? Well, Bombay had its own Louis Armstrong, a trumpet player called Chic Chocolate (!) who consciously modelled himself on the great American but was no mean musician himself. He was part of the Hindi film music scene too, till his death in 1967; melding jazz and blues, and his Goan Catholic traditions, into melodies for the screen. And in Aye Dil Mujhe Bata De, he inserted a phrase from the fado "Coimbra".

What a smorgasbord to feast on! And for me, the talk had another dimension to it because of someone I met in the audience -- of that, next time.

But here, read what Naresh said yourself. Don't let my far less interesting post dilute that pleasure. And for you non-Hindi types, Aye Dil Mujhe Bata De translates approximately to the title of this post.


Quizman said...

Hmmm..pretty old hat that. (says I sniffing my nose) For a comprehensive list see this site. Do note that a lot of contributions came from the usenet newsgroup rec.music.indian.misc [you can access the group from http://groups.google.com]

Dilip D'Souza said...

Quizman my man (or should that be Quizman my quizman?):

An interesting list no doubt -- I've seen it in the past, but thanks for reminding me. But Naresh's lecture, and what I was trying to get at in what I wrote, was not about lifting songs, but about the melding of musical styles. Which Hindi film music did to a satisfying perfection.

I've learned some music and am nuts about the blues and early rock. So I'm constantly hearing riffs or phrases in film songs that I know are inspired by some other bit of music -- so I was particularly pleased to find that Naresh had actually tracked down one such phrase -- the bridge from "Aye Dil Mujhe Bata De".

Speaking of lifts, this is one more such from one of my favourite old rock tunes: Koi Nahin Aisa from the 1999 Dillagi is lifted from "Mony Mony" by Tommy James and the Shondells. Both fine songs; but Dillagi was a lousy film.

Question: has anyone lifted "Little GTO" by Ronnie and the Daytonas yet?

Nanana said...

Eh... sorry to be an obstinate ass Dilip,
but could you find out about VB?

Ramesh Gandhi said...

My husband insists that the waltz was invented in India, because so many Hindi film songs - perhaps older than Amar Akbar Anthony - are written in waltz-time (one example: 'yeh hai Bombay meri jaan').

Dilip D'Souza said...

Tanuj, of course you're right about show vs tell. I should have translated it as "Tell me", but there you go, it's my Bambaiya upbringing.

Rishi, I did write to VB, and got a note back from her saying "Thanks, Dilip. And a Happy New Year to you." I presume that meant she would write to yo directly. But since she hasn't, send me a note at ddd AT rediff DOT co DOT in and I'll send your email address on to her.

Nancy, but tell your husband that "Bombay meri jaan" is itself a copy, from "Clementine".

And Aswin, Anthony G's following, as far as I can tell, was the musicians he taught. Like Pyarelal, Burman.

Anonymous said...

I run the i2fs site mentioned by quizman. The reason I do is partly 'cos I love digging up the roots of a song and try to know something about what was on the composer's mind while he was composing it. Turns out that most composers didnt have anything in their minds but something in their LPs/ music systems! But there was hope in the likes of RD Burman. While most of the instances you have mentioned in the comments are listed in the site, check out something really interesting like Pancham's 'Tum ho meri dil ki dhadkan' that has been inspired by the prelude of Procol Harem's 'A whiter shade of pale'. Now thats unique!

Also, if you're wondering why Madhumati's Dil tadap tadap sounds Foreign...wonder no more. It is Polish! Check out the Salilda page.

Frankly Hindi music is the last place to look for genuine, fascinating associations. It's seeped in plagiarism in a level beyond what you can actually imagine. So, the minute you wonder why a tune sounds arabic and wonder if there could be a link between Middle Eastern music and Indian culture, check out i2fs, to check whether its a direct lift!

Its a different thing that an Arabic/ Polish tune goes so well in Indian movies and thats something we can ponder upon!

And finally, this site would make a good read, in this context - if you havent seen it already.


Anonymous said...

I just read your comments about "Dil tadap tadap ke" (Madhumati song) as a lift from a Polish folk song. Before we accuse Salilda of plagiarism, it should be noted that Salilda on many instances had mentioned specifically that the songs on Madhumati have been adapted from Hungarian and Polish folk songs. He said he was experimenting with East european folk music and decided to modify some of these songs and try them in the Indian music world. If he admitted it, I think it will be a stretch to acuse him of plagiarism,