Monday, June 26, 2006

rahul dev burman: june 27, 1939 - january 04, 1994

He would have been a merry 67 today. And the years since his passing have seen a lot change in Hindi film music. Regrettably, his presence and impact have grown so much since his death, one wonders if he would've enjoyed the same adulation and acclaim had he survived to pull a few more tricks out of his bag of music.

Technology seems to have replaced the need for innovations like the use of bottles filled with water to different levels, percussion played out on things as diverse as school classroom desks, spoons, tumblers, and an assistant's back, composite rhythms played out on an assortment of instruments; or for the seamless blending of raags in ways both evident and subtle; the ability to produce a cabaret boat song, a dance hall number laced with brass, funky guitar lines, crazy refrains and choruses, a club number that bore no structural resemblance to the mukha.Daa-a.ntaraa form. And yet with synthesizer tone and rhythm banks contributing to "music" the Pancham stamp has been undeniable in the Jatin-Lalit canon, in the endless attempts to mimic his trademark guttural caterwauling (khallaas in Company, for example). Modern tunes bear a striking resemblance to the tunes of a man who had his share of guilt for lifting tunes from all over the map (the variety in his influences remains unchallenged, IMHO): Anu Malik's merii chaahato.n kaa sama.ndar revisits gulaabii aa.Nkhe.n, Uttam Singh's bholii sii suurat retreads nashaa husn kaa utar jaayegaa. Sandeep Chowta even took churaa liyaa and turned it around to create an ethereal lounge piece called ayil aruhc.

The sultan of song would turn around from his peppy tunes and dig into the font of khamaaj, bihaag, jogiyaa, shivara.njinii, maalagu.njii, kedaar, kiirawaaNii, yaman kalyaaN, kalaawatii, bhairavii, piiluu, pahaa.Dii, to.Dii, miyaa malhaar and sha.nkaraa to produce a slew of memorable tunes. And his canon is laden with examples of the typical RDB rhythm. Songs like tujhase naaraaz nahii.n and raah pe rahate hai.n are good examples of this rhythm in use.

The L-P school of music had its Dholaks; most of Bollywood ended up providing the string section enough work for generations. RDB gave the shakers a new lease of life. His ouevre even sports rarities like chho.Doo sanam and har ek raastaa and jaane do naa that eschew the use of violins.

The days of collecting familiars no longer in circulation, rarities long forgotten, and unreleased nuggets are drawing to a close, but the days of rediscovering something interesting in his songs are in no such danger. As long as I can pick a song I've heard several times before and suddenly notice how the complex rhythm pattern breaks down or how the harmonic phrases are arranged, I don't think I'm getting off the RDB bandwagon. RIP Pancham.

ye zi.ndagii kuchh bhii sahii par ye mere kis kaam kii
ho jisake liye jiite hai.n log bas hai kamii us naam kii

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