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Classical-sounding rather than classical

Classical Favourites
Rs 50

Early film songs were invariably influenced by our classical music, and most songs were based on ragas.

Lata's father, Dinanath Mangeshkar, was a classical vocalist, and she did learn from him, although she might never have performed a classical concert after she became known as a film playback singer.

This tape offers a collection of songs which Sanjiv Kohli, the compiler, considers "classical". His classification includes light dance songs based on some raga or the other. "Classical" does not mean a khayal or dhrupad here. At best, some songs come close to the romantic thumri-dadra tradition.

At no point does Lata's voice sound "classical" -- it does not deviate from the so-called "sweet" timbre that is expected of heroines in Mumbai cinema. In a male-oriented industry where a thin voice is equated with feminity, Lata's voice always tries to fit the bill.

True, singers grounded in classical music may find it difficult to negotiate the variety of styles that film music demands, but what passes off for a good female voice is often shrill and lacking in depth. Classical training, as we see it in a Nusrat Fateh Ali or Shubha Mudgal, need not be an impediment to good popular music.

One would expect a tape offering a classical collection to at least mention the ragas on which the compositions are based. This tape doesn't, and shows the lack of meticulous documentary effort that ought to go into the production of such an album. This tape is "digitally mastered" too, and that doesn't necessarily mean better sound aesthetics. In a song like Baiyan na dharo, for instance, the tabla stands out unnecessarily.

Lata got to sing under the direction of such classical maestros as Pandit Ravi Shankar. His composition from the film Anuradha -- Sanware sanware -- features in this collection. This is based on raga Bhairavi, and is beautifully composed and executed.

A rare full version of the song Vikal mora manwa, from Mamta (1966), with shades of ragas Kedar, Jogiya, Basant and Bhairavi, is also included. But O sajna, barkha bahaar aaye, Kuhu kuhu bole koyaliya, O basanti pawan pagal, some of Lata's best songs with classical overtones, have been left out. Other songs, which are not strictly in a raga but are grammatically free flowing, find a place.

The orchestra of these songs doesn't vary at all -- it's the same violins, bansuri, tabla, dancing bells, and the sitar playing together. This collection includes Aye ri jaane na doongi from Chitralekha and Jao re jogi from Amrapali.

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