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'Music industry needs revolution in composing'

Veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar feels that the Bollywood music industry is in urgent need of a revolution in composing to fish itself out of the slump.

music Updated: Mar 06, 2008 19:30 IST

The Bollywood music industry is in urgent need of a revolution in composing to fish itself out of the slump it has witnessed in recent times, says veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar.

"If things have to improve, one of the two has to happen. Either a new musical phenomenon must emerge in composing, or some playback singer or the other should get into composing, taking charge of the music they get to sing," a new book -- Bollywood Melodies - quotes Lata as saying.

But Lata is doubtful if either of these will happen. "For the sake of film music, I wish it did," she hopes. But according to the singer, dubbed as the 'nightingale of India', there is no dearth of talented singers in the country.<b1>

"It is just that there's no composer to test a singer's range; work on exploring the voice of the singer the way composers used to do in the 1950s."

Lamenting that the emphasis of present-day music is on instant popularity and not on creating something that is original, the book quotes, "Creative music is not happening anywhere - not in Mumbai, not in the south or even in Bengal. How can you blame the singers alone for it?"

The book, written by Bangalore-based organisation development consultant Ganesh Anantharaman, traces the evolution of the Hindi film song to its present status as the cultural barometer of the country, through an evaluation of the works of over 50 leading composers, singers and lyricists - from K L Saigal to Sonu Nigam, Naushad to A R Rahman, Sahir Ludhianvi to Javed Akhtar.

Poet-lyricist Gulzar says it's a challenge to write according to the present-day norms and new values. But he does not want to be bogged down by nostalgia.

"How can you expect the words to be similar to what was written two or three decades ago?" he asks.

"I don't want to keep going back to the 1960s and 1970s, because too much nostalgia for the past can make you miss what is good about the present."<b2>

Placing the song in the social context of the times, Anantharaman looks at the influences that shaped it in each era.

"If the 1930s were about the influence of Rabindra Sangeet from Bengal and Marathi Bhavgeet, the 1940s absorbed the best of folk music of north India. The 1950s saw the taming of Hindustani classical music and the 1960s Indianised pop and jazz. Though the nest three decades were not remarkable for their innovativeness or for attempts to enlarge the scope of this genre, they have nevertheless given us a steady fare of hummable tunes," the book published by Penguin, says.

Anantharaman terms 1947 as the "watershed year" of Hindi film music. "K L Saigal died early that year, succumbing to alcoholism, Lata Mangeshkar made her debut in Aap Ki Sewa Mein, Geeta Dutt gained stardom with the songs of Do Bhai, and Suraiya had her first big hit in Dard. Mohammad Rafi had his first hit in the duet Yahan badla wafa ka with Noorjehan in Jugnu."

The writer says the biggest blow of Partition to the world of Indian film music was Noorjehan's move to Pakistan.

But the good thing for the industry was that both Rafi and Naushad decided to stay in India, Anantharaman says.

According to him, 1970s were years when film music declined in quality and importance.

"The first generation composers, singers and lyricists were long gone, many of the second generation had all but retired. With Rafi's death in 1980, the best articulator of melody was gone."

He terms the 1980s as a decade music lovers dread to look back on.

The 1980s confirmed that melody had lost irrevocably though there were the odd hit or two, he writes. Anantharaman does not talk much about the music of the 21st century which he doesn't find "very appealing".

Over the years, the Hindi film song has travelled a long way, influencing and being influenced by popular taste.

Considered down market not so long ago, it is undoubtedly the most popular musical genre in India today, pervading almost all aspects of Indian life -- weddings, funerals, religious festivals, get-togethers and political conventions -- and emerging as a medium to articulate every shade of joy and sorrow, love and longing, hope and despair.

(About the book -- Name: "Bollywood Melodies"; Author: Ganesh Anantharaman; Publishers: Penguin; Price: Rs 295; Pages: 261)