Thursday, December 10, 2015

Coming in the front line

Death is a stranger to me. I haven't really had much to do with it. But now at the age of 34 I realise that soon enough we will be seeing more of each other. In the past three years or so I have lost a younger cousin brother, a dear uncle and my grandfather- Bauji. Perhaps his is the only death that can be called timely i.e. if there is a thing like that, calling a death 'timely'.

He hadn't been keeping well for years now the past couple of years being the worst. he had lost his hearing and appetite. In the last year or so I think he even lost the will to live. It was I think my nani's efforts that managed to keep his body function to the best of its abilities as much as it could.

I think all of us in the family were waiting to hear the news of his death. When Shaurya passed away in a car mishap, and my father called me up about his death, I couldn't hear his name in that one sentence that my father had to repeat over and over again. I think he became exasperated with my lack of attention and with yet one of the most difficult jobs assigned to him- announcing the death of this kid who was hardly out of his teens.

My mother one day said to me,"I have realised that with age as people ahead of you start to fall down you come to be in the front line. Gradually no one is left who will save you from heart break or hardships or bad news."

My family is slowly becoming more and more dysfunctional since these incidents, episodes. What do we even call these- tragedies? I am getting a sinking feeling. Nothing ever is going to work out for us. We will probably all turn into loonies and the world will laugh at us. We will not know any happiness. No more boisterous gatherings for us.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

On Indian pop of the 90s

I loved writing this piece. Loved it. Yeah. I said it again. Oops! Abso-the-lutely loved loved writing this piece.


Before embarking on this article I have a few confessions to make. For beginners let me acknowledge the fact that I haven’t worked so hard on an article before this. I don’t mean to boast but writing comes a wee bit easily to me then other numerous things. This one article took all my strength and by the end of it I was exhausted, bleary eyed and breathless. Also I must include that I was very close to being internet-broke.

Before your imagination takes off on wings and you imagine me running on a treadmill writing this piece, let me tell you why. I was exhausted by the rush of the numerous songs that filled my mind space gushing out like a river which is suddenly allowed to flow after its path had been obstructed by a big rock.

I was bleary eyed from seeing one video after the other on Youtube (which kind of left me internet-broke). I started with Colonial Cousins ‘Sa ni dha pa’ till the time I and Shankar Mahadevan both became Breathless.

Of course, that wasn’t all. I had to travel back in time and revisit Ila Arun’s Vote for Ghagra and Bichuda Bichuda. I had to put on my headphones for Thanda Thanda Paani and Amma dekh tera mundaa bigdaa jaaye. Sweet melody rang through the house as I raided a website for downloading Aryans’ Aankhon main tera hi chehra, Junoon’s Sayonee, Mehnaaz’s Mausam, Sahota’s Teri meri gall ban gayi. Daler Mehendi ‘tunak tunaked’ in my house and my 7 year added a few bhangra steps to her repertoire. Jassi sang Koka tera kuch kuch kehenda and Dr Zeus ‘Don’t be shy my honey’ (Yes there is a sweeter version which is nothing like the Bipasha Basu number from a recent horror flick). Then came a friend for a cuppa and we together ogled at Milind Sonam first in Alisha Chinai’s Made in India video and then in Sonu Nigam’’s Deewana.

Mother and daughter also sat down to gaze at the lovely Lisas Ray who starred in a few of my all time favourites. One being Daler Mehendi’s Har taraf tera Jalwa which has peppiest beats of all times and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s amazing rendition Afreen Afreen from the album Sangam. By the way did you know that Daler Mehendi , in his pop videos, has given a break to quite a few beauties in Bollywood, Priyanka Chopra being one of them.

Pop music short for popular music had started making its presence felt as early as 1950s and 60s when musicians began to borrow from almost all forms of music to churn something extremely eclectic. I think we can credit Pakistani singer Nazia Hassan for kind of bringing the pop music into our bedrooms and drawing rooms with song Aap jaise koi meri zindagi main aaye from the 1980 release Qurbaani. Hassan was all of 15 years and had met Feroze Khan, the film’s director, in UK at a party where he asked her to meet Biddu one of the pioneers of the Indian pop. And rest as they say is history. Biddu and Hassan came out with the smashing album Disco Deewane. The album featured Nazia’s brother Zohaib and it became the best selling album in as many as 14 countries besides India.
But it was the nineties which can easily be called the ‘it’ year for the Indian pop.

In that one decade Biddu launched many a talented artiste. He gave us Alisha Chinai and her debut album Made in India; launched Shantanu a.k.a Shaan and his sister Sagarika via the song Aisa hota hai and the heartthrob singer of that era Sonu Nigam.

Besides Nazia Hassan many other singers and bands can be credited with fanning the pop music fire in the Indian sub-continent and more so in our own country. Remarkable amongst those would be Vital Signs, Junoon, Strings and the likes. And who can forget the college anthem of all times Purani jeans and Ali Haider who also gave a sweet melody in Chuimui si tum lagti ho. Then there was Adnan Sami with lift karadey and tera chehra.

If Pakistani singers kind of started it, our Punjabi artists residing in UK, USA and Canada took it to the next level. Steven Kapur better known as Apache Indian who mixed reggae and bhangra beats to give hits like Chok there, Don Raja, Arranged marriage in 1993 and Boom boom shaka laka, released in 1997, is one of the pioneers of Punjabi pop music.

The year 1998 saw Rajinder Singh Rai known by his stage name Panjabi MC give the world the super hit bhangra track Mundiyan to bachke rahin. Baljit Singh ‘Bally’ Sagoo broke onto the scene with his remix of Asha Bhonsle number Chura liya hai tumne from the film Yaadon ki Barat. The remixes were just another extension of the booming pop songs and soon we had DJ Aqeel shaking us with remixed version of many popular movie songs like Nahi nahi abhi nahi, Tu , tu hai wohi, and so on. Bombay Vikings brought us retro numbers like chod do aanchal and kya surat hai in a new avtar.

While the Punjabi men and women were readying the stage, the language was gearing up to hit us like a tornado. On the scene arrived Malkit Singh, soon joined by Harbhajan Maan, Sukhshinder Shinda and Jazzy B besides Daler Mehendi, Jasbir Jassi and Dr Zeus. Armed with the dhol, tumba and the algoza they gave us upbeat, frothy, foot-tapping numbers in heaps.

Women too weren’t far behind. Anamika moved into our hearts with her take on Kahin karta hoga wo mera intezaar. Suneetha Rao huskily sang Pari Hoon Main and serenaded us. Shweta Shetty with her Johnny Joker and Anaida with Oova Oova were full of oomph. If Raageshwari was all sweetness in her ’97 relese Duniya, Suchitra Krishnamoorthi was innocence personified with Dole Dole and Dhoom tara. And who can forget the variety of moods created by the music of such stalwarts like Parvati Khan, Sharon Prabhakar and Ila Arun all in the decade of 90s.

 Soulful music also flowed aplenty in that decade. For me the top of the line is KK with his ballad singer’s voice. Remember Pal and Yaaron? While comedian Mehmood’s son Lucky Ali sang Teri yaadien aati hain, ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas intoned Aur Ahista Kijiye Baatein and Chupke Chupke sakhiyon se wo baatein karna bhool gayi. The lady with the mellifluous voice Falguni Pathak sang Maine payal hai chankayi. Silk Route gave us Dooba dooba rehta hun, Euphoria created Dhoom, and Colonial Cousins Leslie Lewis and Hariharan assembled all the ‘saat sur’ in that one song Sa Ni Dha Pa. While Shubha Mudgal ‘s Abke Sawan was energetic yet soft, her collaboration with Sukhwinder Singh for Pyaar ke geet suna ja re was full of all things Indian. Bali Brahambhatt gave us Tere bin jeena nahi and Jojo sang Woh kaun thi. The nutty Devang Patel with reworked international hits was a class apart. Kamal Khan descended on us with Oooo jaanejaana and Shibani and Aslam crooned Ho gayi hai mohabbat.

The term pop music is inseparable from Bollywood music. Some people would rather argue that the term could possibly be used exclusively for music and songs used in the Hindi films. According to Simon Firth a renowned sociomusicologist who specialises in pop music , pop music is created to please everyone and not as an art form. He goes on to add that pop music is driven by profit and commercial reward. This purpose is served well by the films wouldn’t you agree? Shankar Jaikishan, C Ramchandra, SD Burman and many others too employed the principal of harmony and simple verse which forms the base of pop music in times gone by.

Singers of great acclaim like Asha Bhonsle and Alka Yagnik also sang pop numbers like Janam Samjha Karo and Saare sapne Khain Kho Gaye while Sonu Nigam and Shaan belted out Deewana, Bijuriya and Loveology. Remo came with Hamma Hamma in Bombay but before him Baba Sehgal had come with Aaja meri gaadi main baith ja in Miss 420. And of course there is Anu Malik and Sunidhi Chauhan too deserves a mention here though she arrived a tad bit later.

Various music competitions has brought in many fresh sounds to the fore like Abhijit Sawant, Rahul Vaidya , Vasundhra Das etc. These and many more such as Rabbi Shergill, Chinmayi Sripada, bands like Indian Ocean and composers with Classical as their backbone are at the helm of things and I am sure we have much to look forward to.

(The edited article appeared first in The Indian Trumpet in the GROWING UP IN THE 90s/ Winter edition under the title Indian Pop is the Best )

What should not be forgotten

I am staring at this screen. Some time has gone by. I meant to restart the writing process. Often during the day I have these amazing thoughts that I have left unattended for a long time. Now I want to take charge and start gathering them. 

This happened after I read a quote somewhere. Isabel Allende's. Write what should not be forgotten. Now when I am trying to write that which must not be forgotten I forget already what it was to be.

Some gyaan. That I am sure of. 

Some random thought that I have been cud chewing. Some which take a shape. Gather weight. Form. See the light of the day or evening via a conversation. 

It could be that or some guilt pang looking for an escape of a expression about the way I am raising my child. Or how she is turning out to be without my assistance.