Sunday, December 3, 2023

Lata’ death: Dearth of good singers

Lata Mangeshkar

Nirendra Dev

(Khush rahenade shkepyaro, hum toh safar karten haen….)

“Be happy my countrymen, let me go along my journey”
The end of a musical era. The end of an era in a true sense.
Music is once again in social media. This time it’s in pain and sorrow the nation and the music world is mourning the demise of Lata Mangeshkar.
But thankfully the discussions are on good music, soothing music. Not the lyrics of today’s generation nor loud and sound and fury signifying irritation.
But as this write-up pays homage to legendary Lata, we must also celebrate the good music or Bollywood.
Some years ago, people in the media and elsewhere would openly debate about the absence of soothing music and the dearth of good singers.
In the 1990s, there came an artiste by the name of Kumar Sanu. This is not to discredit him.
He gave some memorable numbers no doubt.
But the fact of the matter is he actually copies or apes late Kishore Kumar. There has been so much shortage of good singers that Kumar Sanu went on bagging Mumbai’s prestigious Filmfare awards for 5 times in a row.
Kumar Sanu’s Jab koi baat bi gadjae… of course stands out as a memorable number.
There came in other ‘clones’ too. Vinod Rathod was one. Even Kishore’s son Amit Kumar could not make it big though he too gave a number of good songs in the era of stars like Kumar Gaurav.
Mohammad Rafi’s clones too have been many. Shabbir Kumar, Mohd Aziz, Vipin achdeva and even Sonu Nigam. Of course Sonu Nigam in later years could make a name for himself by some quality works.
Rafi too was a legendary star in his own illustrious merits. A veteran music columnist Amod Mehra used to say: “Rafi was the only singer who could maintain his own individual style and yet would sound different for every actor he sang for”.
Perhaps it was only in ‘sad’ songs that Kishore Kumar could beat him. It needs to be stated here that Rafi had actually done playback singing even for Kishore Kumar.
Rafi has the credit of displaying unique vibration in his voice for Shammi Kapoor. Two numbers here are worth mentioning, aaja aaja mein hoon pyar tera and Yeh chand saroshan chehra (filmed on Shammi Kapoor and Bengal beauty Sharmila Tagore).
One important fact that needs to be pointed out here is that unlike these days, Lata Mangeshkar and other playback singers of that era could not have the luxury of so-called ‘dubbing’ and so on.
In 1960s and also ’70s, singers would be expected to enter the studio and record the song synchronising with the musicians at one go. Only luxury to attain perfection was rehearsals more than once or twice.
Lata Mangeshkar and others such as the illustrious Mukesh deserve all the more accolades because of these factors.
Raj Kapoor was too right to describe legendary Mukesh as his ‘soul’ and that without Mukesh’s voice, he would have been just a moving man.
Manna Dey was always the first choice of the composers for classical songs. Rafi also excelled in some of his master pieces in this category too. Not many can forget the maestro’s Madhu ban mein Radhi ka nacherey (Madhuban).
Talking about Lata, one should not forget her sister Asha Bhosle.
OP Nayyar and Asha team gave a number of good songs. It used to be said in ‘Bambai’ (now Mumbai) that Rafi had competition also from Asha.
She was equally at ease doing romantic numbers as well as some much popular cabaret numbers.
It perhaps goes to the credit that though was always overshadowed by Didi, Lata, Asha did not let her sister’s works or style influence her style of singing and developed a unique style of her own.