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The listening ages of man

If you have a kid at home, you would have noticed his or her preferential attention towards television ads featuring other kids. Amitava Sanyal writes.
By Amitava Sanyal | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JUL 23, 2011 12:06 AM IST

If you have a kid at home, you would have noticed his or her preferential attention towards television ads featuring other kids. The moment a young voice is turned on, he or she automatically turns to the screen. To some extent, such age-consciousness remains among teens. It possibly begins to wear off in the late teens, when everyone is busy being an adult. But does our listening frequency narrow down again later? Let me know what you think.

It's difficult to miss the target in Chillar Party, a film for kids. How does Amit Trivedi import that into the eight songs? Mostly through the words.

'Tai tai phish', sung with gusto by Amit and Jaishri Trivedi, is a Bombaiya tapori number. A zoning bass lines the all-out dancing drums.

Mohit Chauhan's 'Chatte batte' is the one with kid gloves. After an intro of lipped rhythms, it goes on note by note like a nursery rhyme interspersed with a hilly, Mohit Chauhan-ish melody.

'Ziddi piddi' could be heard as a war march, complete with a horned invocation of hostilities. The warm rock guitars at the back keeps the mood dark.

A helicopter rhythm keeps constant company of Gaurika and Keshav Rai, Firoza and the students of the Ajivasan School along most of 'Ek school banana hai'. More than a prayer, it gets into a dreamworld of twinkle-top trees against which you can see a passing "sapnon ki cycle", somewhat like in the film ET.

Then comes a bit of adult-bashing. In 'Behla do', lyricist Nitesh Tiwari gets singers Armaan Malik and Firoza to groove to the words, "Na jaane kyun sabko lagta hai, bachchon ka dard koi dard hi nahin."

There's more about lack of innocence in 'Liar, liar, pants on fire'. Vikas Bahl writes how grown-ups deceive kids with a fairy-tale picture of this nasty world. A very adult sense of sarcasm cannot be hidden in the young voice of Keshav Rai when he sings: "I might just have to run before I even can crawl, since no one seems to be doing anything at all."

Like comedies, doing kids' films is serious business, or it isn't good business at all. So it seems with music. Why should we expect it to be anyhow else?

Beyond Coke Studio
After months catching bits of Coke Studio Pakistan on YouTube, we have an Indian version. I don't know whether it's as much a phenomenon yet this side of the border. I suspect the success of the Pakistani version had much to do with its producer Rohail Hyatt and his talented house band. Do we have such relentless instigators here?

To produce the music for the sequel to East is East, in which the dysfunctional family travels to Pakistan, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy has taken help from Coke Studio. There's Sufi singer Saieen Zahoor's 'Aik alif' in various versions. It's the second one, titled 'Numaishaan mohabbattan', that's from Coke Studio (see tinyurl.com/n3rbxv).

Among the few songs credited to Shankar, 'Kaala doriya' is the one that's likely to get you on the dance floor. Rob Lane's five background scores (aided by a large orchestra or sound bank) is peppered with a teensy pranksterism. To a large extent, that is.

Same voice, different genre
Back to the listening ages. I'll bet you my djembe that you wouldn't be able to make an under-16 sit through Shankar Mahadevan's rendering of Inderjit Nirdosh's ghazals. Mahadevan is no Hariharan, and the instrumentation on the album predates the Coke Studio sensibility by far. So it sounds like a competent singer's date with a competent Doordarshan band.

Comparative listening between the albums suggests a key to the ages question. A few do with words, fewer with tunes. It's mostly about the treatment, the arrangement. Would you agree?

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