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Classically yours

Bollywood has given us some of the best songs that are either purely or partly based on a classical raaga. Composing songs based on classical raagas was the forte of yesteryear composers like Naushad, S.D.Burman, Madan Mohan, Vasant Desai to name a few. Even R.D. Burman who first introduced us to western beats gave us splendid songs that were purely based on raagas. The era of classical melodies in Bollywood ended with the beginning of the late 70s action-oriented movies and later the advent of techno-pop and dhinchak beats. Nowadays, in most songs, it is the rhythm that lingers longer than the melody, if at all. Total Recall on Times Now this Sunday brought back the memories associated with those classical gems that were my best companion not very long ago.

Being born in a musical family and also a student of classical music, I was used to the game of "identifying/guess the ragam" of a song in my childhood. Mother would have a proud smile on her face when I'd hit the bulls-eye even with some difficult-to-guess ones. Later, when my interest in music bended towards light music/film music, I'd try to find similarities between the Carnatic and Hindustani ragas. Come any competition and my choice for song always tended to the ones that had a classical touch to it.

SA RE GA MA (of the times when Sonu Nigam used to host it) was the first music show that promoted real talent. I'd remain glued to the T.V set for the slotted hour, nodding away in awe at the extraordinary singing talent displayed by most of the contestants. The rounds were truly competitive at that time. Be it the classical song round, where the participants had to choose a song that truly tested their caliber in the song rendition while adhering to the sur and taal along with the finesse with which they handled the harkats (movements or variations). If they could bring in a touch of their originality, they got extra brownie points. The Taal round on the other hand was truly a mind boggling one that put even the top-notch contestants in a spot. The original taal would be changed (either in the tempo or the number of beats itself ) and the participant would be required to sing to the changed taal without making the song sound out of rhythm! Clearly, a test of how well a person understood the maatras and percussion. Every round would be a learning material for aspiring singers and the audience too.

And, when like-minded people got together during weddings or other occasions, we would spend many an hour debating on who was a better singer in a particular episode, the debate reaching ridiculous degree of intensity with each side passionately advocating their choice of contestant. I can still recall the names of many of the participants whose exemplary singing remained in my heart long after. Such was the high-standard. The judges were revered names from the classical and film industry and there were no staged squabbles among them to increase the TRPs.

The mushrooming song and dance reality shows that have come to replace shows like SA RE GA MA are an extremely watered down version with more emphasis on the TRPs rather than the actual talent hunt. The talent today is no less, on the contrary, is in on a all-time high. However, I feel, the bar to test them has been lowered many times over. Also, with new age technology, any blemish in the pitching or in the rendering of the song can be corrected. You don't really need to be a classically trained as every thing is digitized and an off-the mark note can be tweaked to attain the perfect output. On a recent interview of Shreya Ghoshal in a newspaper, she had remarked that during the times when she was a contestant on SA RE GA MA, they (the contestants) were free to choose a difficult song that none had heard of, for rendition, but now the songs have to be ones that are popular with the masses to gain viewership.

It is a pity that music of such kind is no longer a preferred option. Is it too technical for this generation to appreciate? Will melody slowly fade away into oblivion? Will classical music be left to be explored only on a pure platform through concerts? Can the present and next league of composers not recreate the confluence of popular and classical music like their predecessors? These are some questions that may perhaps be unanswered.

I'll leave you with some of my favourite songs that were played on this Total Recall episode:

Laaga Chunri mein daag based on Bhairavi in Hindustani or Sindhu Bhairavi in Carnatic music

Naino mein badra based on Ragam Aberi of Carnatic or Bhimpalasi in Hindustani

Raina beeti jaaye based on Todi of Hindustani or Shuba panthuvarali of Carnatic

Beeti na bitayi raina based on Yaman kalyani of Hindustani or Kalyani of Carnatic

The list can go on and on but since the post is already long enough, I'll put a stop here. Are you also a fan of classical based songs? Do share your views/favourite songs?


  1. I LOVE THOSE SONGS! All of them..coming from a family where the father is super musical and Amma is pretty much musical people always wonder how the offspring can be so un-musical :) When I sing, R cries a that shows my singing abilities..but I so agree with you Uma, on the fact that the bar has been dropped..totally dropped..

    Talent is definitely there, I am shocked infact to see the level of talent, but we are not really raising the bar are we?

    And then my favorite on the kids being in such programs..gosh! the other day, I saw one episode of Dance India Dance, and the judges were asking a 8 year old to show them how her mother keeps shouting at her :( it was pathetic, I felt like hitting the kid, the judges and the father who just stood there not even telling anything :(

    1. hey RM, you can dance well, right? so you are not un-musical at all..

      and yeah do even get me started on how the kids seem so unnatural for their age on these dance shows..
      "asking a 8 year old to show them how her mother keeps shouting at her"
      shocking!!! actually I blame the adults, no one else!

      the lil' champs Saregamapa is still much much drama as such

  2. I am far away from the music know how. But true, I am with you on the SRGM Sonu Nigam times. That was true competition, where music was the soul of the show. SRGM saw better days then. I hardly like to watch the modern version of the same show.

    Judges and their decisions were respected. Now they have become overtly friendly and contestants (esp. the bratty kids) talk to them in an arrogant manner. And such kids are being applauded too for being audacious.

    Not to mention the crying drama... I agree one might have financial/ domestic problems, but this stage is hardly for you to lay your problems. All in the name of TRP! There is so much glamour in the show the it tends to be gross!

    and do you think the voting system is the correct manner to announce the winner? The votes are totally based on the contestants' PQ (Popularity Quotient) no matter how badly one sings. And anyway, I guess nowadays no one needs to sing in tune since there are techniques to correct singers faux pas.

    Siiigh! I wish those days of pure music would come back.

    1. I don't understand the compulsion to cry after every elimnation, especially the tears even from the ones that remain on the show!!!
      the tearful farewell might seem as though the person is bidding goodbye to the world!
      and the voting system is completely flawed. Why have judges if you want some tom dick and harry to have the final say???!!!!

  3. I love all these songs! I don't have much knowledge about music but yes, I am a great bathroom singer and I loveeeeee listening to songs. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa used to be my favorite shows. The reality shows these day suck. It looks completely scripted. They even add so much of emotional drama to it!

    1. you love them too?? good! :-)
      Most bathroom singers are good singers, just that they are modest.
      These shows are all emosanal atyachar!!!

  4. Thanks for sharing the songs! Promise to listen to them :)) I am very non-musical and go totally by recommendations! I used to watch Saregama of Sonu Nigam's time, but yes, find the music and dance shows nowadays too loud and distracting from the basic premise, so quite a put off, yes!

    1. Hey Uma, do excuse! I did not realise I was writing from the husband's login. Looking for some suggestions for Bollywood dance numbers for Big G's school, do suggest if something comes to mind. Thanks!!

    2. and here I was rejoicing about having a new reader who also commented :-((( :-)
      oh! dance numbers??? maybe am not the right person then..
      but I'll try..are you looking at old ones or new?? considering they are to be choreographed on kids and it is a school function, am assuming they have to be "decent" ones :-)

      guys, do help if you can think of some good songs..meanwhile I'll put on my thinking cap too...

    3. Anything melodious, yes, new I think. No videos required. Just have to give the teacher a couple of songs to play for some music theme this week. I was thinking of Mahi Ve/It's the time to disco, they have lots of beats. But any other suggestions most welcome, I am rather challenged in this area :)

    4. how about Ekadantaya vakratundaya, the invocation song from Viruddh??..saw a group dance performed on it in our society..
      songs from the new Devdas like Dola re dola re..
      Radha kaise na jale from Lagaan?
      these are not very new movies but they are melodious..
      let me know :-)

    5. Thanks so much, Uma! Will look these up, I mean listen to them and decide.

    6. Totally loved the first song, Uma, had never heard it before! Thanks again!

    7. glad you liked it, Vibha! hope you like the others too and you are welcome :-)

  5. I feel these days this reality shows have hampered the quality of competition very badly. Children want to dance - not because they enjoy it because they want to be on TV. And what dance - something like adults. The movements are sometimes so cheap. A child looses all its cuteness while trying hard to be an adult and be selected there.

    Having learnt classical music for 6 years, I can understand when you say it is lost. Leave alone the songs, even the lyrics have become so meaningless. No doubt we forget the latest songs so soon but still hum the old ones daily!!

    1. yeah,Me, I agree. Children behaving like adults really put me off..makes me want to scream too.
      wow! you've learnt classical music? that's great!
      Bad lyrics seem to have tough competition..each to outdo the other!
      really, very few songs linger on our minds these days. Sigh!

  6. I do love classical-based songs and sing pretty well too. But, I am not trained. I hope to train in Hindustani Classical music someday. I just love the songs that you've shared.

    1. wow..I hope your wish is fulfilled soon. Happy to note that you sing well :-)
      the songs seem to have a huge fan base :-)

  7. Wow,you are a carnatic music singer.I spend a large portion of my time even as I work on computer listening to the great concerts that Keep loading in my iTunes.Anything with a classical base,carnatic or Hindustani,is riveting.
    I used to follow Sony Nigam's programme of those days.
    Sadly as you have rightly said the bar has been lowered even in music shows as in every other sphere to make the music possibly inclusive.But the casualty is the purity and creativity.
    Nevertheless I am amazed at the incredible talent in some youngsters today.

    1. well, I did learn carnatic music for many years but am so jaded now that I feel ashamed to call myself a trained singer :-(
      I assumed you have good taste in music, going by the song selection on the sidebar of your blog.
      The talent is definitely there, sir. Somehow these shows don't do enough justice to raise the level.

  8. How do I provide for email subscription in my blog?
    Please give step wise directions.Someone wanted this provision in my blog.

    1. 1. Go to settings on the dashboard of blogger.
      2. Click on layout, then on "Add Gadget"
      3. Select follow by email option.

      Do let me know if you face any issues.

  9. The bar to test talent has certainly lowered... Today's music is very short lived... Songs with loud beats and non sense lyrics become popular all of a sudden and are soon forgotten as well... But I still feel that people genuinely like "musically" good songs even today... whether the songs are old or new, they are remembered only if they are "musically" good..

    1. Isn't it surprising that inspite of many young people liking the older songs, the blame for composing bad songs is put on the demand-supply logic??

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. True.. But such songs become popular all of a sudden.. in a way, they become the selling point of the movie which benefits the producers as well.. It's all business..

  10. naino me badra a very beautifully song and picturised equally well..

    1. yes, beautifully taken and also sung extremely well.
      Welcome to my blog, Renu! Hope to see you around :-)

  11. Dear Uma,
    My Amma loves classical music. I love listening to classical music. I need music at the background while writing a post.
    There are so many touching songs....!Thank you so much for sharing this musical post !:)
    Hearty Congrats...!
    My Amma always tells music makes one closer to God !

    1. Hi Anupama,
      glad to know a fellow music lover of classical music :-)
      Welcome to the blog and thanks so much for reading and commenting :-)
      my amma says the same :-)

  12. this was an interesting piece because i simply have no idea whatsoever of ragas and so to see the raag behind some of the musical gems you showcased here was so nice

    1. Thanks, Sujatha! Am also not so knowledgeable, just shared a few things :-)Glad you liked it!

  13. Classical music based songs are music and melody unlike jarring noise from plagiarized music now, :)

    1. True, Rahulji. Today's music is more of noise than melody. There are a few songs that do have a little melody in them, but unfortunately drown in the sea of mindless stuff.

  14. I love to hear these songs but dont knw ABC of it. And tht is why the details u wrote here were so interesting. Tell me wht really makes a song a classical one fr a normal one???
    I like most of Gulzars songs, a few Pankaj Udhas, Tujhse naaraaz[but I dont knw if its classical...well its slow so I thought;-D], Naina barse.....

    I dont like watching reality shows, I cringe at the way the judges sit on their high horses and criticize small kids. I love the singing but bcoz of this I avoid....[inside me I know if I ever sang on stage & somebody criticized I'd be crushed & never ever muster the courage to sing again:(]. But seriously children these days are so competitive and GOOD at it.

    1. umm..classical ones generally have distinct notes of some raagas. Some stand out in particular with the presence of the sargam, aalap, etc.
      The ones you've mentioned as your fav are of the Ghazal genre.
      Err..I hope I've have answered your query..:-)

      The reality shows look staged and the format doesn't do any justice to the true talent. I agree with you on the comment part. I would be crushed too! Children these days are more talented and sound like a pro, sometimes more than the adults, IMO.

    2. Thanks, I got the jist:-))!!!!!
      Aaaah yes ghazals....I knew tht;-D

  15. Lovely songs , I must say.
    I think first time I am coming here .. reading where you said when some musical minds got together at wedding and all the discussion..
    Well I must say it reminded of an uncle and aunty, They were like made for eeach other , They knew exactly what the other was going ot od and they usually made the ladies sangeet so beautiful.. you know they did their own thing and I ma sure it was not rehearsed as they just would start at any time ..

    I am more of a gazal person..


    1. Hey Bikram, firstly welcome to my space! Gr8 to have you here.

      Wow, they sound like a perfect match. Such people are usually the soul of any get-together.
      I love ghazals too! A fan of Ghulam Ali :-)

  16. I must admit that you have an impeccable sense of music! It is indeed sad that we don't have much emphasis on the talent hunt. One of my friends was also a participant in Sa Re Ga Ma. I think music is an integral part of our lives and classical music is best explored when it is aligned through film music as it ensures a wider reach.

    1. Hi Akshay, welcome here and thanks a lot for your lovely comment!
      Wow, your friend was a participant? He must be surely a good singer for in those days, the audition was far more stringent. You are right but in the times of Munni and Sheila, I am afraid if true music will ever get its due.

  17. Have just started to read the backlog posts and what a post I come to... I absolutely LOVE those songs..and almost all songs with the "classical" element (I have no training in music but I can still enjoy them, right? :P). Incidentally I fell in love with all these songs from Saregama when Sonu Nigam was hosting it. I loved that show so much... There was true passion for singing and the judges gave their judgments based on talent alone. Sometimes it makes me sad how the show has currently become and with the sprouting of shows like Indian Idol where there is more drama, insults and sympathy votes rather than genuine passion for music. Lovely post Uma and thanks for rekindling the memory of such an awesome music show. Wish music today had such melodies.

    1. Hey Namratha, so glad to see you here :-)
      Hope all's well at your end.
      Sa Re Ga Ma had it's own charm and Sonu Nigam added to the charm by being a charming host himself ;-)))
      Thanks, Namratha. Hope to see you often now :-)


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