Category Archives: Books

Good News: Michael Kinnear is Alive

On 10th April, I posted in this blog that Michael Kinnear, arguably the most prolific researcher on the history of recorded music in India, was probably no more.  It was based on information available from a few blogs such as this one. I am happy to know that he is very much alive. I just got an email from his wife that the news is not correct. My sincere apologies to Michael and his wife Janine.  I wish him a long life.  This is what she wrote.

I would like to inform you that the information regarding Michael Kinnear – no more – is totally false, and inaccurate reports circulated by Suresh Chankvankar are very disturbing and distressing to myself to have to read and then to try and rectify. Both Michael and I (I am his wife ) who is responding to your blog, would like to put the records straight that we are both well and very much alive living in Australia.

This is what I wrote:  “I just got to know from a few blogs that Micheal Kinnear, the author and researcher who dedicated a good part of his life researching on Indian gramophone records, and in fact published three books on the subject, is perhaps no more”

I have deleted the post as it may create confusion in future. Here I reproduce the rest of stuff that I wrote about him.

It is an irony that we, in India, do not even know about a person who has had immense contribution to the history of gramophone records in general and history of Indian gramophone records in particular. Though I have gone through only one of his books, The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings, his other two books, The 78 rpm Record Labels of India andKhan Abdul Karim Khan – A Bio-Discography are supposed to be based on great research material, according to experts and reviewers. Only the first one was published in India by Popular Prakashan while he himself published the other two in Australia. It is said that he became disillusioned after the books failed commercially.  So much so that, those who knew him, say he completely dissociated from Indian music about five six years back.

For the record, none of the books, including the one published in India, are available for purchase now, though it is in the catalogue of most of the popular online book sellers such as Flipkart.

Kinnear deserves a Padma award from the government of India, for his contribution to an area, which is still fairly under-researched and lesser-known.



Filed under Books, Music

Hanuman: The World’s First Writer

It is traditionally believed that Mahabharata is the world’s first written text. A new story told by Prof Philip A. Lutgendorf, Professor of Hindi and Modern Indian Studies, University of Iowa and the translator of Tulsidas’ Ramacharitamanas into French, suggests that it is not Mahabharata but Ramayana which was the first written text, though that text is no longer available, thanks to the great sacrifice made by its writer: no other than the popular Hindu God and one of the most important characters of Ramayana, Hanuman.  Prof. Lutgendorf  says that it is not Valmiki but Hanuman who wrote the first Ramayana. And while Valmiki composed for oral rendition, Hanuman had actually written down his Ramayana.  “In my story,” he clarifies, “Hanuman writes, Valmiki composes”

This is the story that he narrated in the Jaipur Literature Festival in January 2011, taking part in a discussion titled, Many Ramayanas.

Hanuman writes Ramayana out of boredom and sadness when Sita is sent away by Ram. He goes to the mountain and starts writing by his nail on the crystal floor (sphatik chattan) of the mountain. He writes this huge Ramayana and while he is writing Valimki starts composing Ramayan. In my story, he clarifies, Hanuman writes, Valmiki composes. Someone tells Valmiki that Hanuman has already created Ram’s story. Valmiki wonders: he is a eye witness, but can he write? So, he asks Hanuman about it and Hanuman carries the sage on his shoulders and takes him to the mountain and shows him what he has written. And then, he asks Valimiki for his comment on the work. Tears roll down from Valmiki’s eyes as he said it is so real, so perfect. “Now who will care about my Ramayana?” he says. Hearing this, Hanuman places Valmiki on one shoulder and all the crystal boulder on the other shoulder and flies out on the sea. He drops off the boulders in the sea and says to “Let it be an offering to Shriram.” An overwhelmed Valmiki says: “In Kalyug, I will be reborn and sing your praise and tell Ram’s story in the language of ordinary people. Thus Valimiki is reborn as Tulsidas and writes Ramcharitamanasa.

Prof. Lutgendorf’s session was both fascinating and moving. While his occasional jumping to chaste Hindi struck a cord with the audience, his recitation of Ramacharitamanas was soulful. Occassional humor added to the colors.

Here is the above story, in Prof. Lutgendorf’s own voice: hanuman-valmiki.

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Filed under Books, Culture, Mythology

The Pancham Note: A Book on the Composer

After reading my post, Not So Well Recorded: The Journey of the Hindi Film Song, a reader informed me of a forthcoming book on legendary composer Pancham. The book, R D Burman: The Man, The Music, is written by Anirudha Bhattarcharjee and  Balaji Vittal and published by HarperCollins. The book can be pre-ordered from Flipkart at a discount of 30%.

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Filed under Books, Hindi Film Music, Music

Not So Well Recorded: The Journey of the Hindi Film Song

(An updated version of this post is available here: Not So Well Recorded: But Now Well Recognized)

Nothing is as representative of the popular mass culture of India as the Hindi film music. Its appeal is pan-Indian and arguably surpasses that of the Hindi films per se. In the 2011 Jaipur Literature Festival, a discussion session on Hindi film music featuring lyricists Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi, drew so much crowd that the organizers had to repeat it, at a bigger space.

Yet, it is surprising that so little serious work has been done to record this incredible journey. As someone interested in the history of Indian music, I have often proactively looked for books on Indian recorded music, classical music and fim music. Recently, while researching, I discovered something that I did not know whether to feel good or bad about. I realized that I have read most of the books on the subject, published in India.

That prompted me to prepare a list and publish for those who would like to follow the subject. I am not an expert on the subject and this is just a labor of love for fellow Hindi film music lovers who would also like to know the stories behind the songs, singers, composers and the lyricists. I have added brief comments for the ones that I have read and have also provided links to buying those online in India, whereever I could find.

So, here is the list in this format: Title, Author, Publisher

1. K L Saigal: Piligrim of the Swara, Raghava R Menon, Hind Pocket Book. One of the earliest books on a singer to be published in English, the virtuosity of author Raghava Menon is evident, as it captures the evolution of Saigal as a singer. But strictly speaking, this is more around Saigal, right from his childhood days, and not really so much about film music. Could just find it now in Amazon for $173. I had bought it for Rs 30 in 1991/92!

2. Lata Mangeshkar: A Biography, Raju Bharatan, UBS Publishers & Distributor. Probably the best book on Hindi film music written so far, Raju Bharatan, arguably the most prolific writer on Hindi fim music presents a great history of the film music with Lata at the centre. All his pet topics–Kishore/Rafi choice of Dada Burman, Lata-Rafi rift and the likes–find place in it. Also gives a great portrait of Lata as a person. If you have to read just one book on Hindi fillm music, read this one. Unfortunately, could not find it in any site.

3. Yesterday’s Melodies, Today’s Memories, Manek Premchand, Jharna Books. It is more of a compilation, without neither serious analysis nor any great new anecdotal info. It is nevertheless a good short encyclopedia of music personalities. Could not find it any e-stores. I had procured it from the author directly when it was published around 2003.

4. Hindi Film Song: Music Beyond Boundaries, Ashok Da Ranade, Promila & Company. A serious analysis of Hindi film music and its doyens, it is a great book for those who want to seriously learn the subject. Not really for light reading. Ranade is a well-known writer on music and has written extensively on Indian classical music, instruments and musical traditions. Buy: Landmark

5. Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song, Ganesh Anantharaman, Penguin Books India. Again devoid of any original research, but very smoothly written, a good read for the flight, if you want to learn about Hindi film music’s journey without getting heavily into lots of information. Published about three years back, it is widely available, thanks to its publishers, Penguin. Buy: Flipkart, Landmark

6. The History of Indian Film Music: A Showcaseof the Very Best in Hindi Cinema, Rajiv VijaykarTimes Group Books. Yet another book on Hindi film music in a semi coffee table format, this is, however, widely available. Buy: Flipkart, Landmark

7. A Journey Down Melody Lane, Raju Bharatan, Hay House. This is the latest (2010) from Raju Bharatan and is far lighter to read than his earlier book. If his biography of Lata was meant for more serious readers, this is for everyone. If you want to pick up a first book on Hindi film music that is smooth reading and still want to be delighted with great pieces of information, then this is it. Just beware of one thing: some of the anecdotes are a little overplayed. Buy: Flipkart, Landmark

8. Notes Of Naushad, Shashikant Kinikar, English Edition Publishers And Distributors. A book for those who cannot stop humming those Rafi-Shakeel-Naushad tunes.  Buy: Flipkart

9. Memories Come Alive: An autobiography of Manna Dey, Sarbani Putatunda (translator), Penguin Books India. A great book for Manna Dey fans and those who want to learn how the music happened in 40s. The chapters on K C Dey, with whom the young Manna worked as an assistant are a rare treat. No other published source can give that information. Buy: Flipkart

10. Mohd. Rafi: The Great Immortal Singer, Mohd. Saleem-ul-Haq. Published by the author himself, this book is actually a list of all the Hindi film songs of Rafi Saab, with a small biography. Comes with a CD of some rare songs including Rafi’s English songs, Although we hail from different lands and the She I Love. It was never available in the market. I had gone to the author’s house in Hyderabad to get it, some six years back.

11. Hindi Film Songs And The Cinema, Anna Morcom, Ashgate. I haven’t read the book but here is a good review. Buy: Flipkart

12. Lata Mangeshkar In Her Own VoiceNasreen Munni KabirNiyogi Books. Buy: FlipkartLandmark

13. K L Saigal: Immortal Singer and Superstar, Nevile Pran, Nevile Books.  Buy: Landmark

14. Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance, Sangita Gopal & Sujata Moorti (Editors)Orient Blackswan. Buy: Flipkart, Landmark (After writing this post, I did buy this book, originally published in the US, but it is too academic and is a collection of few independent articles. )

15. A R Rahman: The Musical Storm, Kamini Mathai, Penguin Books India. Buy: Flipkart

I have not read the last five books. The ones by Morcom and Pran are published outside India.

Needless to say, will love to listen from anyone who can help me add to the list. Only books in English.


Filed under Books, Hindi Film Music