Category Archives: Indian Classical Music

Biographies of Maestros: What a simple list tells us about our attitude towards our heritage

I started this blog with a post on books on Hindi film music, written in English. The popularity of that post encouraged me to start a page with a list of such books, which I update regularly. The page and the post together account for the largest chunk of traffic on my blog, even today.

This is what made some friends suggest that I start a similar one on Hindustani classical music—another subject on which I buy and read quite a few books.

On the face of it, these tasks look similar. The objectives of both are the same; it is to help people who may not be pursuing any formal study of music or musicology but whose interest in music is a little more than just listening to good music. In reality, though, the magnitude of challenges is manifold in case of classical music books.

One, the universe is of a different magnitude. There are hardly 50 books on Hindi film music published in English. The list of books on Hindustani classical music, on the other hand, is far longer, considering it is a subject taught and researched formally in many universities across India.

Two, many of those books have been brought out by publishers in places like Pune, Kolkata, Baroda, and Lucknow— all centers of prominence in the evolution of the musical form. Many of them are small and even closed down. Getting anything from their side is next to impossible.

Three, many of these were published long back. Unlike Hindi film music, where there was little before 1980s/90s, some of the books on Hindustani music in English dates backs to 30s and 40s. Many of these books are out of print.

Finally, my reading is confined to two areas: history/evolution of the genres/sub-genres/different gharanas/instruments or biographies (they often overlap), whereas the area itself is vast.

I decided to create a list of biographies, to start with. Of course, that includes autobiographies as well.

After working for a few months on the list—getting essential bibliographic information about each book, such as title, ISBN, author, publisher, year of publishing—I now have a list of 66 such books. But the exercise gave me much more than a list. I observed clear trends; trends that say a lot about our collective taste, how we look at our musical heritage and simply what sells.

This post is actually about those observations and a little analysis of that. I will post the actual list in a separate page.

Here are the essentials. The books can broadly be categorized into three types: autobiographies (eight), biographies of single individuals (49), compilation of biographies of multiple personalities (nine). I have actually read a little less than half of them.

Whose biographies?
The composition of the list itself reveals a lot about what, according to the publishers, interests Indian readers.

Let’s start with numbers. Among biographies/autobiographies of single individuals, Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar is on top with six biographies on him—two of them autobiographies. He is closely followed by the another Bharat Ratna from the area of Hindustani music , Ustad Bismillah Khan—with five biographies of the Shehnai maestro in the list. All but one (that is an autobiography of Pandit Ravi Shankar) are published in late 90s or 2000s—after Hindustani classical music had attained an exalted status and these stalwarts had turned celebrities (read saleable). Most of these books are neither scholarly nor great narratives; they are either coffee table books or basic life sketches written for the completely uninitiated/children.

Baba Allauddin Khan, with five of his biographies in the list, seems to be the surprise in the list. The great maestro (and the guru of Pandit Ravi Shankar) has biographies written by his disciples and grand disciples such as Pandit Jatin Bhattacharya, Ustad Mobarak Hussain Khan and Anjana Roy. Begum Akhtar, with four biographies, is next in the list. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, credited with popularizing classical music among the masses, is the fifth in the list, with three books on him.

Most—if not all—of these biographies are basic treatments/coffee table books.

Another thing to be noted here is that except for Ustad Bade Ghualm Ali Khan, none of the above exponents—who are popular among biographers—are really what most call classical vocalists (exponents of dhrupad or khyal). While Begum Akhtar is primarily the queen of ghazals and somewhat known for her thumris, the rest are all instrumentalists. Labeling Baba Allauddin Khan as an instrumentalist may actually be a narrow view of this great master; nevertheless, the fact remains that most of his disciples are exponents of instruments—sitar, sarod, surbahar, even flute and violin.

But more than those who are on the list, notable by their absence from the list are a number of luminaries—Ustad Inayat Husain Khan, the founder of Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana; Sawai Gandharva, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Mogubai Kurdikar, Hirabai Barodekar , Pt D V Paluskar, and even among the later generations, Kishori Amonkar and Pandit Rajan/Sajan Mishra; not to talk of thumri exponents like Rasoolan Bai and Badi Moti Bai.

Yes, I have still not come across any biography (in English) on each of these great masters. I will be happy to be pointed out if any exists.

There’s just one biography of Khansaheb Abdul Karim Khan, the founder of Kirana Gharana, written by ace discographer Micheal Kinnear. The book is out of print.

There’s one book on Ustad Faiyaz Khan, the most prominent voice from Agra Gharana in the 20th century, by his disciple Dipali Nag, published by Sangeet Natak Akademi. It’s not available in any book store or online shopping site.

There’s one biography (actually a kind of autobiography, as told to his great grandson) of Ustad Alladiya Khan, the founder of Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana, published by Thema, a Kolkata-based publisher, which is now reprinted and is available from publisher through direct order but is not available in any major bookstore or online shopping site.

There’s one small life sketch of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, the father of modern Hindustani music education and founder of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, published by National Book Trust.

Precisely one books each on each of these masters—and none of them available widely—that’s the state of biographic literature in Hindustani music.

Isn’t this a comment on our collective apathy towards our own heritage? Or is it worse? In the last few years, the country has conferred Bharat Ratna—our highest civilian award for individuals—on three later day exponents of Hindustani music. Is it hypocrisy, then? Is it that we want to show to the world that we are proud of our heritage whereas in reality, we care very little?

Authors and treatment
One question that follows is why is the market for such books so limited? Is it really that the average Indian reader is not interested in reading books on music? Ostensibly, that seems to be the answer.

It’s not entirely incorrect. But it is only half the story. A look at the author and treatment of these books tells us why it could be so.

Most of the books fall into one of the three categories—narrative biographies, basic sketches and well-produced coffee table books. The last two categories serve specific purposes. Coffee table books sell on the value of quality of production—and are used to showcase one’s love for Indian culture and heritage—while basic sketches are mostly for reference.

The large biographies with narratives are what should ideally reach out to the readers of non-fiction—a community that is steadily growing in India. The books will become mainstream and commercially viable only when it appeals to this tribe.

Today, that is hardly the case. Most of the narrative biographies—both compilations as well as individual biographies—are written by one of the two sets of people: critics and the disciples of the subjects.

Those written by acclaimed music critics and musicologists such as R C Mehta (himself an exponent), Mohan Nadkarni, Ashok D Ranade and Raghava R Menon—whether biographies or history—are for serious readers. The treatment goes more into the finer nuances of music and their analysis and hardly interests the common reader.

Those by the disciples and descendants of masters—such as Pandit Debu Choudhury (disciple and biographers of Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan), Ustad Mobarak Husain Khan and Pandit Jatin Bhattacharya (disciples and biographers of Baba Alllauddin Khan), Dipali Nag (disciple and biographer of Ustad Faiyaz Khan), Sumati Mutakar (student and biographer of Pandit S N Ratanjakar) and Shanti Hiranand (disciple and biographer of Begum Akhtar)— while providing great insight and anecdotes about their masters, are too laudatory and often lack basic objectivity needed in a good biography. Also, often the narrative is too linear and straight, which does not amuse and hence does not appeal to common readers.

There are a few notable exceptions—like Annapurna Devi’s biography by Swapan Kumar Bandopadhyay and Begum Akhtar’s biography by Rita Ganguly even though the latter is a direct disciple of the former—which are very interesting narratives.

The success of other books such as The Music Room by Namita Devidayal and The Lost World of Hindustani Music by Kumar Prasad Mukerji shows that people would like to read good narratives on Hindustani music (actually, on any subject). While the former is a very engaging account of the evolution of Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana and gives nice glimpses into the lives of Dhondutai Kulkarni, Kesarbai Kerkar and some insights into the persona of Ustad Alladiya Khan, the latter is arguably the most interesting narrative about the evolution of Hindustani classical music in late 18th and 19th century.

The answer, then, lies in actually getting good writers of narrative non-fiction interested in the subject. Who will do that is anyone’s guess. Good publishers can certainly play a role, but are they themselves interested in the subject?

Who are the publishers?
After going through the above, the list of top publishers should not be too much of a surprise. Roli Books, which started as a coffee table book publisher on art and has since then has published some good books on Indian heritage as well—like music, travel, food and festivals—sits right there on top, with nine titles to its credit.

Hindustani classical music is now enjoying a kind of exalted status; with the exponents being projected with a larger-than-life image. This has created a market for well-produced books on these personalities with high quality photographs—which has worked very well for Roli. To its credit, it has steadily focused on getting better writers and has even brought in small innovations like collaborating with music publishers like Saregama to bundle music CDs with books. This has created a niche market for such books, which are highly priced and are the more respectable versions of yesteryears’ somewhat dumber coffee table books.

Rupa has always published some of the most unique non-fiction in India and it extends to this area as well. But it must be pointed out that the number that it has comes from the fact that it has published some small life sketches of famous exponents—such as Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Begum Akhtar—as well. Popular Prakashan, another Indian publishing house, with a track record of music books, with four titles, is the only other publisher which has a significant presence in the list.

General publishers such as Penguin/Viking, Harper Collins, UBS and Orient have token presence, while academic publishers such as Oxford University Press, Permanent Black, Three Essays Collective etc have token presence.

The rest are either smaller niche publications, local publishers or the government publishing units such as Sangeet Natak Akademi, Publication Division and National Book Trust.

In fact, the subjects, the treatment and the publishers are completely in sync and tell a story that is loud and clear: that the commercial market for books on Hindustani music is restricted to coffee table books and basic life sketches. The individuals who have written because of their passion (such as many exponents themselves) without much commercial considerations have been published by smaller publishing houses. Government publishers too have not done enough; i.e, how can you reconcile to the fact that Sangeet Natak Akademi has not published monographs on say, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan or D V Paluskar?

So, what is the way out? It is well beyond the scope of my post here; but just some thinking aloud. In the short run, government initiative could help in researching the subject. Even if a fraction of the research fund that music research is getting is diverted to research on musicology, we will see tremendous result. For the commercial publishers—while they will be cautious about the acceptability—it makes some sense to try roping in good writers to create a commercially viable market for such books.

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The Great Masters: A Timeline View of Top Hindustani Vocalists

Indian music in general and Hindustani classical music in particular is a seamless journey. The musical repertoire is often passed from generation to generation within the family as well as to chosen disciples, within the school of music, called Gharanas. Musicians often amalgamate their learning from the gurus, components from other gharanas, and their own creative inputs to develop what becomes their own distinct individual style, while following not just the rules of ragas but also the traditions of their gharanas.

Time, hence, is an important component of the musical evolution. A broad idea about the times of great masters—when they lived, learned, performed and trained—surely helps appreciate the finance nuances of Hindustani music. This helps the discerning listener to spot trends—how the styles have evolved over years—as well as have a perspective on how different musicians have influenced each other.

Presented here is a simple chart that shows when exactly did the great masters of modern times—the later part of 19th century to today—lived, in comparison to each other. The visual will help understand who was a contemporary of whom, while the colors denote the gharanas to which they belong.

Will appreciate if you point out any major name that I have missed. Please note that, to keep it manageable, I have done this for only the vocalists. I have also included top Thumri singers.

The Life and Times of Top Hindustani Vocalists

The Life and Times of Top Hindustani Vocalists

 

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The Millennium Thumris of Hindi Cinema

(Updated on 14 January 2015 with addition of a few new songs)

I was sifting through a lot of new Hindi film songs to create a small dance playlist for my seven year old, based completely on his farmaaish, as my own knowledge in the area is next to nothing. I stopped suddenly—hamari atariya pe aaja re sanwariya dekha dekhi tanik hui jaaye. Is it a film song? From 2013/14?

Yes, it is; from the 2014 movie, Dedh Ishqiya. And thankfully, the voice is familiar. Or let me put it this way—the only voice in today’s Hindi films, that is familiar to me: Rekha Bhardwaj, a sort of enfant terrible of experimentative Hindi film music of today. The composer is Rekha’s husband, Vishal Bhardwaj, a hugely talented composer, who after so many successful film scores, is still, in my mind, best identified as the composer of jungle jungle baat chali hai, patta cala hai; arrey chaddi pehne ke phool khila hai phool khila hai, from Hindi Jungle Book aired on Doordarshan in my childhood (mid-80s).

Since my pleasant discovery about a month back, hamari atariya… from Dedh Ishqiya has caught the imagination of general public. The media is full with stories on how this “Begum Akhtar thumri” has managed to “revive” an interest in thumris, whatever that means. Yes, for most of us, this is a Begum Akhtar thumri, even though many thumri singers, including thumri queen Shobha Gurtu have sung it. Yet, Rekha holds on to her own; as hers is an open-throated rendering, in contrast to Begum Akhtar’s silk smooth flow. Her mature but rustic voice makes it a different piece altogether. And don’t fail to notice the slight but impactful difference in mukhda. In Begum’s version, it is, hamari atariya pe aao sanwariya dekha dekhi balam hui jaaye; what Rekha and Shobha Gurtu sing is hamari atariya pe aaja re sanwariya dekha dekhi tanik hui jaaye. The more sophisticated aao goes well with the Ghazal style singing of the Begum.  

Though hamari atariya… has managed to catch the attention of the public, it is not the first time that a film thumri has become so popular; neither is it the first time that an already popular thumri has been used in films in the voice of a playback singer. [Throughout this piece the word thumri has been used as a generic name for thumris, dadra, kajri, hori, chaiti and all such sub genres.]

Thumris have been used in films right from the very early days of talkies. Rajkumari had sung a number of thumris in the 30s. K L Saigal had sung a popular thumri, piya bina nahi aawat, way back in 1935, in Devdas. And who can forget, Saigal’s baabul mora naihar, in 1938 movie Street Singer? Ask anyone about the song; though the Wajid Ali Shah thumri has been sung by maestros down the ages—from Malka Jan to Alisha Chenoy, and many in between including Pt Bhimsen Joshi, Girija Devi and Shobha Gurtu—it is Saigal’s version that most identify with. [Here is my earlier post on Babul Mora…]. Without taking away credit from Saigal Saab, films do make it reach the mass and help in popularizing. If today people know so much about this song and its history, it is a lot because of it being made popular by Hindi cinema.

There are many traditional thumris that have been sung by playback singers in movies. Bajuband khul khul jaye, one of the most widely sung thmris—by such greats as Ustad Faiyaaz Khan and Sureshbabu Mane—was sung by Lata Mangeshkar in a movie and the same was used in a 2006 movie. Kahe ko jhooti banao, another favorite of Ustad Faiyaz Khan sahib, was so beautifully sung by Manna Dey in Manzil, while Yesudas did a soulful rendition of one of the signature thumris of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saab, ka karoon sajani aaye na balam, in Swami. In addition to playback singers, classical singers, right from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan to Shobha Gurtu and Begum Parveen Sultana have all lent their voice to thumris in films.

The idea behind this piece is not to list thumris in films and get onto a history of that. There is a good piece on that topic here, which contains a fairly comprehensive list of film thumris. However, I am yet to see a title from Saregama, called Thumris from Films, though there are many such compilations, on say Ghazals or simply Classical Songs or theme bases songs such as monsoon songs.

The objective of this piece is two-fold.

First, it is to point it out that the use of thumris has not gone out of favor with our music composers even today. Here, I list of thumris used in films post 2000, with information on films, singer and composer, with links to those on the web. I do not claim it to be a comprehensive list but is just enough to prove the point. The format is Song, Film, Singers, Music Director, Year. I have given links to the songs on the web.   

While the title of this post comes from the fact that all these thumris are from Hindi films in the new millennium, from there too is derived my second point, or rather a set of questions.

Should film thumris in the new millennium be restricted to use in traditional settings, as most of these are? After all, are thumris not the songs of love, separation, longing, and even desire? Aren’t they the perfect choice to be used as background scores in even urban set ups, urban themes, targeted at discerning audience?

My thought is not completely new. The song, aane do, from film, Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye as well as aiyo piyaji from Chakravyuh are examples of what I am talking about. Yet, both the singers, Soma Ghosh and Ustad Rashid Khan are accomplished classical singer. Does one need to have an ear for classical music to appreciate these songs?

I believe in the new experimentative cinema, with a balance of sensibility and entertainment, thumris— especially those in the slower Benaras style—can be a perfect fit to create that mood of melancholy to passion; restlessness to just sublime desire.

Some purists may not like the idea. But isn’t it the purists on the other side—some khayal singers—who are responsible for the second class treatment given out to thumris today with a “semi-classical” tag? Aren’t thumris rich in their expression of moods rather than just musical showmanship? Can that not be the perfect accompaniment for a visual medium like cinema?

I am not an expert to offer my conclusive judgment on this; but as a listener and lover of thumris, I would like the genre to reach and be appreciated by a wider audience. Cinema is a perfect medium to achieve that objective. With directors who are challenging all known boundaries in cinema, and talented musicians like Vishal and Rekha Bhardwaj, there has never been  a better time to try this out.

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Babul Mora: The Queen Among Thumris

(Updated on 15 February 2015)

Babul mora naihar chhooto hi jaye…argubly, no other song represents the early Indian film music (of the 30s and early 40s) as this one in K L Saigal’s voice does. After close to 75 years of it being released (for the 1938 movie, Street Singer), this still remains a favorite of the discerning listener of vintage Indian film music. Many dub it as Saigal’s best. But few would know that this Bhairavi thumri, composed by Wajid Ali Shah, has been one of the favorite thumris of many a singers over generations—from Ustad Faiyaz Khan—the most well-known singer of Agra Gharana and arguably one of the best voices on record—to Alisha Chinoy. Wajid Ali Shah, to the uninitiated, was the last Nawab of Oudh (Awadh) who was exiled by the British to Metiaburz in Calcutta by the British. The Nawab was a great patron of art and music and was himself a good singer and composer. A book by Abdul Halim Sharar, Guzishta Lucknow, gives a very good account of his life in exile at Metiaburz, where he continued his indulgence in art, music and food. An English translation of the book, published by Oxford University Press titled Lucknow: The Last Phase of An Oriental Culture, is available. It is said that the Nawab composed the thumri when he was exiled by the British. While the literal meaning of the poem indicates the sadness of a newly-wed bride leaving her father’s home, many interpret it as the feeling of the Nawab when he was forcibly sent out of his beloved Lucknow to the distant Calcutta. The Nawab was sent out with a generous amount of wealth and people accompanying him—the decorated doli of the bride is supposed to be a metaphor for this. Here is the lyrics.

Babul mora, naihar chhooto hi jaae 
Babul mora - mora, naihar chhooto hi jaae
Babul mora, naihar chhooto jaae
Babul mora, naihar chhooto hi jaae

Char kahaar mile, mori doliya sajaaven re
Char kahaar mile, mori doliya sajaaven
Char kahaar mile, mori doliya sajaaven re
Mora apana begana chhooto jaae
Babul mora, naihar chhooto hii jaae

Aangana to parbat bhaya aa..
aur deharii bhayii bidesh
Aangana to parbat bhaya han
aur deharii bhayii bidesh
Je babul ghar aapano main chali piiyaa ke desh
Babul mora, naihar chhooto jaae
Babul mora, naihar chhooto hii jaae

The thumri has been song by many maestros of Indian classical music. I have read in many places that Ustad Faiyaz Khan used to sing it quite frequently in concerts. When I first wrote this, I could not locate the recording but I found it subsequently and have added it here. Among other singers of earlier generations, it has been sung by Gauhar Jaan and Malka Jaan. I give here a list of links to the song in the voices of some of the greatest singers in Indian music. Many others have sung it. The other great singers who I have read/heard have sung the thumri but I could not find them anywhere include—apart from Ustad Faiyaz Khan and Gauhar Jaan—Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Siddheswari Devi, Begum Akhtar, and Naina Devi. Here is the list

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New Indo-Chinese Movie Around Odissi: Appreciations & Apprehensions

Finally, we have a Bollywood movie centred around Odissi. Desire: The Journey of a Woman, is a new Indo-Chinese movie that revolves around Gautami, an Odissi dancer, portrayed by Shila Shetty. The male lead role is played by a Chinese actor Xia Yu who falls in love with the dancer during one of her visits to Malaysia for a program. The movie stars Om Puri, Jaya Prada, and a host of other Indian actors. Produced by Shilpa’s mother, the movie has been directed by R Sarath, with music by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy and background score by Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the classical guitar maestro.

The Odisha connection comes in form of an Odissi dance sequence enacted by Shilpa Shetty and Jaya Prada, to the Odissi song,  Shyama lagi mu pagali,  penned by noted Odia poet Gopalakrushna Pattnaik; and also, one of the two choreographers for the movie being Ratikanta Mohaptra, noted Odissi dancer and the son of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

I am happy that finally Odissi has caught the imagination of filmakers. But I am also apprehensive that like some other such efforts in the past, most notably, the movie Asoka, it does not do a wrong portrayal of Odisha, Odias and their culture. The reason for my apprehension is that the no Odissi musician is involved in the music of the movie. While I have all the respect for both the S-E-L team and Pt Bhatt, Odissi music has its own distinct characteristics and to try it out on a global scene without the involvement of an accomplished Odissi musician may be a litte too much of an adventurous experimentation.

Also—it is my personal opinion, though—putting Odissi in the centre stage without that extremely endearing face of Kalia (Lord Jagannath)–is not a great sign. The movie has not been shot in Odisha at all. And that is okay. Our art should not be restricted to the geographic boundaries of the state, but to dissociate Lord Jagannath from Odissi is inexcusable. I did not notice it anywhere in the promo and website of the movie. I just hope that it is there in the actual movie.

I am sincerely hoping that my apprehensions are proved wrong and the world sees Odissi in all its glory, especially that it has been choreographed by no other than Ratikanta.

 

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The Maestros’ Cameos: Classical Vocalists in Hindi Films

In the last eight decades of its evolution, Hindi film music may have grown to be considered as a genre by itself. But in reality, Bollywood has been a great melting pot of various traditional genres of music–both Indian and Western. From among all genres, Hindustani classical music has had arguably the greatest impact on Hindi film music. Thousand of songs have been composed based on Hindustani ragas. While most of them have been sung by the popular playback singers–most of whom were trained in classical music–once in a while, the composers have turned to the classical vocalists to render a song or two for them in the films. Great Hindustani vocalists, right from Pandit D V Paluskar to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Amir Khan have lent their voice to the Hindi films occasionally. Despite the advent and popularity of Western music, the trend continues even today with recent hits such as Jab We Met and My Name is Khan containing a few such numbers.

The list of such songs, however, is not too long. My estimates are that if we exclude the Ghazal singers, number of songs rendered by classical vocalists for Hindi movies is not more than 100-120. This is excluding some more regular names like Shubha Mudgal and from an earlier period, Nirmala Devi. There are many good discussions and lists of such songs available  on the Net.  This is one such good discussion. And this is a good attempted list. My idea is not to create yet another list, though if you want to have a fairly long and organized list of such songs, I have one for you here. This excel sheet, which you are more than welcome to download, gives each song with film name, year of release, music director’s name, and the film’s director’s name. Also, for beginners, I have mentioned the name of the Gharana that each of the vocalist belongs to, against his/her name. An album, released by Saregama, called Aalap, also has a good selection of such songs. But I could not find in their new site, so I give here this link of a third party site where you can buy it. There is, however, another rare collections album, called Classics from Films: Rare Collections which you can buy from Saregama. But unless you are really into it, you may find it an odd album because except for rarity, there is nothing common to the tunes that are there in this album.

Some of the songs such as aaj gawat man mero in Baiju Bawra by Pt D V Paluskar and Ustad Amir Khan;  jhanak jhanak payal baje by Ustad Amir Khan from the movie Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje, the title song in Geet Gaya Pathoron Ne, sung by Kishori Amonkar; and Humein Tumse pyaar kitna in Kudrat sung by Begum Parveen Sultana are known to one and all. A few others–such as prem jogan banke by Ustad bade Ghulam Ali Khan from Mughal-E-Azam and Ketaki Ghulab Juhi by Pt Bhimsen Joshi in Basant Bahar–are well-known to the connoisseurs. But many others, some of which are equally good, are hardly known. Very often, that is because the movie was not a success or even never released. The objective of this piece is to identify and create a small list of such hidden gems. For the  long list, you can always refer to the excel file I mentioned above.  Since this is my personal selection, you may or may not agree with it. And if you think I have left out a particularly good one, you will do a great favor to me and the readers by pointing that out.

So, here I go.

#1 On top of the list should be this beautiful jugalbandi rang raliyaan karat sautan ke sang from Birbal My Brother, sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Pt Jasraj. The 1973 movie was a passable film and hardly known. But the song is an absolute masterpiece and has no parallel in the history of Hindi film music. The last time two such greats came together in a song was in aaj gawat man mero jhumke. It is rare, but here is a link.  It is also there in the album, Classics from Films: Rare Collections. This has also been sung by Asha Bhosle in a recent (2003) movie Khwahish, with music by Milind (of Anand Milind duo, son of Chitragupta) but with all respect to Ashaji, the jugalbandi is in a class of its own.

#2  Another great number is suno re bhaila from the 1998 movie Godmother sung by Pt Sanjeev Abhayankar. Vishal Bhardwaj, the music director of the movie has used Pt Abhayankar’s voice in more movies like Maachis and Maqbool.  But I feel this is the best.  Unfortunately, I could not find a link to this song anywhere, despite the fact that this song won the National Award for best male playback singer.

#3 Another one that I like is jabse tune bansi bajayi re, a song sung by Lakshmi Shankar of Patiala Gharana, for movie Aarop, set to tune by Bhupen Hazarika.

Some other rare but great songs in no particular order are

#4 Megha jhar jhar barsat re by Kishori Amonkar for the 1990-Govind Nihlani directed  movie Drishti. She herself had scored music for the movie and sang two more songs in the film. Here is a link to all the songs.

#5 Vandana karo archana karo by Pt  Jasraj for a 1966 movie Ladki Sahyadri Ki, made by his father in law V Shantaram with music by V Shantaram favourite Vasant Desai.

#6 Ram prabhu aadhar, a soulful  bhajan by Pt Bhimsen Joshi for a movie called Sant Tulsidas.

#7 Marmuwa kahepe bawre, a song by Hirabai Barodekar, the noted exponent of Kirana Gharana and daughter of the Gharana founder Ustad Abdul Karim Khan in the movie Pratibha. I have listened to this song once but have not been able to get it after that.

# 8 Yeh hai shaan Banaras ki, a song from a 2006 movie called Banaras with music by Himesh Reshamiya.

There are many more, but this is my first cut shortlist. I have, obviously excluded the more known songs from more well-known movies.

While Naushad started this trend with Baiju Bawra, Mughal-E-Azam and Shabab, most popular directors like Shankar-Jaikishen, Laxmikant Pyarelal and more recently Vishal Bhardwaj have turned to classical vocalists for some of their songs.

Though the association of classical musicians with Hindi music is broader, with maestros like Ustad Allah Rakha, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia scoring music for movies and many playing instruments in some songs, I have kept the list restricted to only vocalists. Also, I have kept out songs from Marathi, Bengali and other language movies to which some of these maestros have lent their voices.

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