Somsuj Presents CF Geetmala IV Part A : Copycats or Inspired

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Somsuj Presents CF Geetmala IV Part A : Copycats or Inspired

Postby Shalini » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:10 pm

Originally Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 -

OK - so this is my turn to present the Geetmala. Since my presentation is a large one, I am presenting first part today. Part B will follow either late Thursday night or Friday.



Bollywood and Music are inseparable. From the very first ‘talkie’ Alam Ara (1931), Bollywood has excelled with film music, providing entertainment for every occasion. De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe was the first amongst the seven songs composed by Ferozeshah and B. Irani for this film. Wazir Mohammed Khan and Zubeidaa were the first male and female playback singers.
[Trivia – it is the same Zubeidaa, actress, 2nd wife of Maharaja of Jodhpur Hanwant Singh, mother of Khalid Mohamed (film critic, journalist, screenwriter, film director). Based on Zubeidaa’s life written by Khalid Mohammed, Shyam Benegal made a fascinating film of same name. IMDb link]
Songs usually make Bollywood films rather long. Mehboob Khan's "Aan" was one of the few Indian films of the 50s to get a released in English theatres. This Eastman Colour swashbuckler, with Dilip Kumar (in his smiling, not soulful mode) as a Hindi Douglas Fairbanks, is a relatively brisk, buoyant affair. Yet a London reviewer couldn't resist sniding, "It goes aan and aan and aan". Well, we Indians prefer to have a full evening's masala and in case of Bollywood songs, most of the times, the more the better. ;)

Bollywood music and I are inseparable almost from my birth. My fascination with Bollywood music started even before I was 1 yr of age. When babies of similar age used to fall asleep, listening to lullaby, I preferred the gramophone of my uncle (my dad’s younger brother, who was occupying the spare bedroom of my dad’s house and was romancing with my future aunt in those days, working and earning money was of course secondary). My favourite, I am told, was Kishore Kumar’s Bengali song ‘Ogo Nirupama’. The fascination only increased with time – due to my parent’s fascination of Hindi movies. At that time, we used to stay in an area of Kolkata, known as ‘Laketown’ and there was a big cinema hall nearby, ‘Jaya’. My parents used to catch up with almost all major releases, and I used to watch the movies with all attention, without crying or throwing up tantrums, as other 2 or 3 yr olds used to do. On the way back, in the rickshaw, often I used to sing the songs I heard in the film, to the amazement of everyone. I still remember some of the songs vividly – like this one from Naya Zamana (1971)
and this from Apna Desh (1972) .
After watching Geet (released 1970, it is likely I saw it in 1971), one day, I sung ‘O More Mitwa’

to my nanny (maternal grand mother), as if she is my ‘mitwa’ (girlfriend ?). My grand-father became very angry, and told my mother off, ‘Your boy is never going to learn anything but film songs – you are spoiling him by allowing him to listen to this kind of music’. I wasn’t 3yrs yet and fortunately, my mother did not panic and rest, as they say, is history. The loss my singing voice, as I grew older remains the only regret.

During 80s, I was hugely disappointed after realising that the music scores of many songs that I doted were plain lifts from various originals. In my young impressionable mind, it was like a criminal offence. Not unlike many others, I thought that it amounted to bank robbery and not a petty theft. Over the years I have mellowed a little – I do not think it as a bank robbery any more. lol I still cannot stand a direct lift. I have tried to find out the originals of many ‘lifts’ and a great revelation has been Karthik Srinivasan‘s website, I have however, managed to find a few more myself. Nowadays, I try to distinguish between an ‘inspiration’ and a direct ‘lift’. While there can be no excuse for a direct lift, some of the tunes seem genuinely ‘inspired’ by a beautiful tune. I do not buy Anu Malik’s argument "Eventually all music is permutations and combinations of those same seven notes. No music director is original”. Come on man, there are actually few more notes, 5 more to be exact – and anyone good in maths can work out the probability (I can't anymore - I have not done this kind of maths for ages now!!) but I am certain that the possibility of two tunes created by two composers being exactly same is likely to be in one in millions or may be billions. I simply do not buy that argument.

In this presentation of CF Geetmala, I have tried to avoid giving examples of direct lifts for two reasons:
1. Usually lifts are very well known and just posting them here does not match the high standard set by other contributors to the Geetmala. However, in some places, I had to post the direct lifts, simply because the music directors were incapable of ‘working on’ the original tunes adequately. lol
2. At no point my intention is to show disrespect to any of these composers. Each one of them has created at least one composition that I have enjoyed and hummed . . . they gave me pure joy, many a times. Though I often felt betrayed when I found a tune is nothing but a direct lift, I have been critical, sarcastic but I do not intend to denigrate any of them. In fact, often, I have referred to one of those tunes, likely to be original, which I continue to enjoy.

There is another point, I need to stress before I go any further – I have not attempted to rank the composers – the numbers 10 to 1 are used to present my Geetmala as best as I could. In my humble opinion, to rank these composers is another way of insulting them. You may noticed that I have not included many of the music directors well known for this trend. The reason is, I tried to look at the quality, not the quantity.

10. Bappi Lahiri :

Bollywood music, if we show from the angle of ‘inspiration’ can be divided into two periods – ‘Pre Bappi Lahiri’ and ‘Post Bappi Lahiri’. From the very beginning, Bollywood has drawn inspiration from the rich traditional music India possesses. Either from the classical ‘Ragas’ or from the folk music our composers freely borrowed. No one accused them of plagiarism since their inspiration was rooted deep within India. From 1970s, the situation started to change, first with RD Burman and then came Bappi Lahiri.
Bappi-Da(as he is fondly called)’s first song that I can remember vividly was “Bambai Se Aaya Mera Dost” from the film Aap Ki Khatir (1977). I remember being on a holiday with our extended family during Puja holidays at Chhoto-Nagpur areas of what was then Bihar and now Jharkhand state – we were staying at Mython . . . it was a moonlit night and we were all singing ‘Bambai Se Aaya . . .’. . . this one is from 'Disco Dancer' . . .
I did not realise then, but clearly this composition is heavily influenced by tunes popular in Goa (if I am not wrong). I later realized that Chalte Chalte from Chalte Chalte (1976) was in fact the first Bappi Lahiri song that impressed me.

In the beginning of his career, Bappi-Da tried his best to draw inspiration from rich musical tradition that India has and surely produced some original compositions. Unfortunately very soon, he moved to ‘Disco’ and started to lift directly from various foreign tunes. In his time, he has lifted from Neil Sedaka (One way ticket), Andy Williams (Raindrops keep falling on my head), Dr Hook's (When you are in love), Culture Club (Karma chameleon) Buggles (Video killed the radio star), Lambada and Ottawan (T'es OK, T'es Bath) – just to name a few. From 1980s, there has been an exponential rise in both ‘direct lifts’ and ‘inspirations’ in Bollywood music . . . . And the credit goes to Bappi-Da.

In 1984, Bappi-Da composed music for a prestigious film that had Amitabh Bachchan as the main actor, called Sharabi. Amongst other soulful compositions, one stood out to me. It was sung by both Kishore Kumar (for Bachchan) and Asha Bhonsle. The composition is “De De Pyar De” in Sharabi (1984)

It draws inspiration from Bengali folk song and he was not the first one to do so. About 20 yrs before Bappi Da, the great SD Burman composed “Allah Megh De” for the musical, Guide (1965)

What’s the origin of the song?

Abbasuddin Ahmed (1901-1959) folk singer was born at Balarampur in Tufanganj subdivision in the district of Cooch Bihar on 27 October 1901. His father, Zafar Ali Ahmed, was a lawyer. The song attributed to Abbasuddin. This song is rooted in traditions of the Muslim peasantry of Bengal. Gramophone Company of India first recorded the song in Calcutta in the 1940s and it was a big hit. In the 1940s, Abbasuddin's songs played a significant role in raising the Muslim public opinion in favour of Pakistan. Abbasuddin wrote an account of his life as a singer in Amar Shilpi Jibaner Katha (1960). His contribution towards Bengali folk song is invaluable. Here is a link to the original song (Audio)
Allah Megh De Pani De :band:
When I was a kid, I could not tell whether that song was a sad or a happy song. It’s meant to be sad but it almost sounds like magical chanting, almost hypnotic begging for rain through prayer. In the end I found out that it is a Jarigan (Persian zari, lamentation + Bangla gan, song) . . . so, it is sad.

Certainly not a 100% lift, but it is clear, that both composers have drawn inspiration from the same source - but SD kept it as a sad tune like the original, Bappi-Da tried to make it humorous and . . . succeeds very well in my opinion.

9. Anu Malik

Anu Malik frustrates me. He even changed his name a few times to confuse me (Annu Malek and Aanuu Mallik amongst others). He is eager to give interviews saying that there is no need to copy, . . . Why we cannot be originals . . . coming from Anu Malik, it just emphasizes the need for me to go into an anger management course. Son of Sardar Malik started young in 1978 and started well. But many of compositions are direct or partial lifts. Here I preferred to go for a composition where the similarity with original is clearly evident.
“El condor pasa” is a song from the zarzuela El Cóndor Pasa by the Peruvian composer Daniel Alomias Robles written in 1913 and based on traditional Andean folk tunes. It’s origin could be traced back to 18th century Peruvian folk melody. Then Simon and Gurfunkel used their genius to produce a cover version – keeping the original tune and adding new lyrics by Simon.

Simon and Garfunkel's 'El condor pasa'!

Anu Malik has lifted it twice – There was a reference to the film ‘Janam’ in this forum few days ago, and I confess that it has inspired me to post this ‘inspiration’:
Teri Chahat Ke siva : Jaanam (1993)
The other lift is Taaren Hain Baraati (Virasaat 1997)
And honestly - when I first heard this, I was very happy - such beautiful composition from Anu Malik . . . it was too good to be true. (I agree that this inspiration is slightly difficult to identify as it Anu Malik has laboured more on this adaptation)

I have not posted any composition from Anu Malik that I like in this segment (I like many of his compositions actually) simply because, I can never know if it is a lift or not. ;)

8. O P Nayyar

Opee was a class act. Rhythm was Opee's specialty, and no one sung his songs better than Asha Bhonsle. Some people even say that Opee composed ‘Anti-Lata’ tunes. Before RD Burman became famous, he was the most trendy music director. And, yes, he wasted his talent by backing wrong horses (I mean films)

I always hum this tune “Chainase Humko Kabhi”. It was meant to be included in the movie, Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye (1974) but it was left out – but it won Asha Bhonsle a Filmfare award. Unfortunately it was also the last Opee composition which Asha sang. Opee became very lonely (and bitter ?) in his later life and passed away in 2007. He was a great loss.

Opee did borrow liberally from foreign tunes – in this example Biswajit’s dancing completely spoils the song Lakhon hai yahan dilwale from Kismat (1968)

This song borrows heavily form Red River Valley. It is still widely believed to be a Texas re-working of a popular American song of 1896, "In the Bright Mohawk Valley"; however, research has found that it was known in at least five Canadian provinces before then. This finding led to speculation that it was composed at the time of an expedition to the northern Red River Valley in Manitoba, and depicts the sorrow of a local girl or woman as her soldier/lover prepares to return to Ontario. I have included an instrumental version.

7. Madan Mohan

Ah yes – Madan Mohan – I did not know him, though I hummed his compositions all along, until Gulshan Kumar brought out a cover version of Madan Mohan songs by Lata. The singer in the cover version was Anuradha Paudwal. Then I first realise what I was missing all along. Madan Mohan Kohli being son of Rai Bahadur Chunnilal did not need to earn money by composing – he wanted to be an actor, but music was his love of life. Madan Mohan was not formally trained in music yet his music was richer than the work of better-qualified composers. Madan's talent for ghazals was unmatched in the Indian film world; Lata Mangeshkar christened him "Ghazal ka Shehzadaa". This song Tu Jahan Jahan Chalega by Lata from Mera Sayaa(1966) is one of my favourites :

Like many of Madan Mohan’s songs, this one is firmly based on Indian Classical music. Raag Nand (or Kalyan Anandi) as rendered by Pundit Budhaditya will show how similar the compositions are:

Dil Dil Se Milakar Dekho from MemSaahib (1956) is one of the rare occasions where Kishore Kumar sings for Madan Mohan. This song clearly is inspired by "The Isle of Capri" by Greta Keller as rendered in1934

With the dominance of violence and vulgarity in films, tastes changed. The fusion of Hindustani music and western tunes resulted in producing ear-splitting rather than soul-strirring music. This embittered Madan Mohan who could do nothing to prevent the onslaught. He took to heavy drinking and died of cirhosis of liver on July 14, 1975, composing for Chetan Anand’s Salim-Anarkali. Another sad loss.

6. Pritam Chakravarty

Yes – Pritam is today’s equivalent of Bappi-da or Anu Malik – many of his compositions are direct lifts and in some circles he is referred to as ‘Music Arranger’ and not as composer. lol
I some how missed his beginning – but my dad often referred to Pritam as a good and upcoming music director. Though not musically trained, my dad can sing and understand Indian classical music better than many. If he says someone is good – then he is really good. So, I tried to listen to Pritam – and really liked his compositions. Though Pritam may have lifted one line from Waqar Ali's 'Mera naam hai mohobbat' in this composition, I think there is plenty of originality in this: 'In dino' from Life in a Metro (2007)

Another composition by Pritam that I really liked was ‘Ya Ali’ of Gangster (2006)

It unfortunately was found to be almost a direct lift from Ya ghaly by an Arabic band Guitara

Pritam’s reach is extensive – soundtracks of Korean tele series are where he draws his “inspirations” from at this moment. Good for you Pritam. Certainly Pritam is a genius for arranging music – to Pritam’s credit, most of his lifts sound significantly better than the original. I also agree that Bollywood music is not a place to create masterpieces – but we can expect some originality, can’t we?
Though I did not want to, but I had to tell my dad that many of Pritam's compositions are direct lifts . . . . . he obviously was disappointed.


[Part B to follow]

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Re: Somsuj Presents CF Geetmala IV Part A : Copycats or Inspired

Postby bharathh » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:27 pm

Wow.. Som puts in so much effort into all his geetmalas!

This one is awesome!