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What passion music can raise and quell my musical journey

Edited clip from Ashutosh Joglekar’s blog-mohanflora

I remember things vaguely; when I was maybe five or six, my mama from the US got a tiny toy keyboard for my elder sister and cousin. Being the irresponsible little kid in the house, naturally I was forbidden to touch it. However, my sister and cousin both did not show even the slightest interest in it, and finally, the ‘elders’ all acquiesced to let me play around with it. Nobody, and definitely not I, expected me to express interest in it for more than a few days, let alone play anything. So everyone was pleasantly surprised when I played the National Anthem on it. This was the start of my lifelong relationship with the keyboard; it was my first love, and will always be my inseparable companion. Here in Atlanta, I have bought a small but reasonably good keyboard, which I play almost everyday. Later on, in school, I started accompanying singers and musicians in about 4th standard; among other things, I remember playing for a nice Goan play, a few traditional bhajans and patriotic songs, the great song Ushakkal hota hota, and another very nice Marathi song titled ‘Udhalita Shata Kirana’. I still remember and can play the entire song, and I am ardently hunting for it on the internet or some other place; if anyone can point me towards a source, due returns are guaranteed to him or her. In 7th std., I also remember being the lead singer in a ‘Powada’, a traditional Marathi folk song, with the ‘feta’ (turban) and all, singing a song which had lyrics by Pu La Deshpande. (I believe it was from a piece by him called ‘Pudhari Pahije’). A photo taken during the performance perpetually elicits amused giggles.

One of the most important events in this regard was meeting a person who became my closest friend and musical companion. I met Anand in 6th std; he was very good at the tabla and bongo, and I still remember that we played together in that year’s annual social and immediately recognized our almost perfect musical compatibility. By that time, for some reason, someone also thought that I don’t sing very badly; I reckon it was because they couldn’t get anyone else to sing the lead part, and I and Anand ended up taking part as the lead musicians and singers in the annual social. In 7th std., we had to sing the really nice Quawwali song, ‘Pal do pal ka saath hamara’ from ‘The Burning Train’. Even today, it is one of my favourite Quawwali film songs. A photo from the program shows me and Anand in the front of the stage, dressed in traditional Quawwali clothes, and surrounded by a coterie of similarly dressed boys and girls, with their cheeks generously covered with pink talcum powder. The only catch was that while Anand was a plump little boy at the time, I looked like a Somalian refugee. Consequently, while the embroidered hat barely fit Anand’s head after valiant efforts by the staff members of our school, mine hung over my head like curtains. The photo is very enduring, needless to say! Even today, when we get together, a performance of ‘Pal do pal ka’ is a required rite of passage for us; he on the tabla, and me on the harmonium and singing. In 8th, we organized our first true orchestra as such, and played in the annual social in Tilak Smarak. One memory I have of this time was of a boy who was going to sing Sochenge tumhe pyaar from ‘Deewana’. When he started, he was frankly terrible, but our exhortations and his dedicated efforts finally made him sing a perfect rendition on D-Day.

Meeting Anand was one of the most fortunate events in my life, which gave vent to my musical emotions like nothing else. His father is a huge fan of Mohammad Rafi, and without a doubt has one of the rarest and biggest collections of Rafi songs in Pune, if not the country. He is a walking and talking dictionary of old hindi film music. Meeting him and Anand and playing and singing literally incessantly at their place became an almost weekly activity for me. It was then that I also got introduced to the brilliant Shankar-Jaikishen’s songs, and since then they have been my favourite music composers. Shankar-Jaikishen was a natural choice for a keyboardist like me; they were the first to introduce extended violin, piano, and accordion pieces with true symphony like musical accompaniment in Hindi film music, and started a revolution of sorts. Also, the ‘SJ-Rafi’ combination was always a bankable blockbuster combination. Consequently, their songs have very big musical preludes and fillers, with intertwining strings compositions. They are a definite and robust challenge for any musician. Reproducing ‘SJ’ songs (like we called them) became a big challenge for me. I started with one that was relatively difficult; Pyar hua ikaraar hua from ‘Shree 420’. I remember agonizing over it, sweating over every small jump between scales, obsessively playing the tape backwards for every small detail, practicing it late into the night…until finally, I got it. The joy that emerges from having successfully mastered a work of art, no matter of what kind and magnitude, has to be experienced in order to be described. After that, the next big challenge for me was ‘Ghar aaya mera pardesi’ from ‘Awara’. In many ways, this piece is also challenging. The main body of the song does not start until after 5-10 mins of violin and strings spiels. It was a real challenge for me; especially at that age. For this one, I decided to abandon the keyboard for the harmonium, as I thought that the more natural and fresher notes of the harmonium would do better justice to the song. Again, the incessant late night practice followed, until finally, I could play it without interruption. This was just in time for a program that was organized in honour of the death anniversary of Shankar, at the music studio of Suhaschandra Kulkarni, one of the leading musicians and music teachers in Pune. I was relieved that I could play it well at the moment of truth, and everybody liked it. Another extremely challenging SJ song that I learnt to play, with flourishing and long piano pieces, is ‘Dil ke jharoke mein’ from ‘Brahmachari’. In general, it’s always a challenge and pleasure for a keyboardist to play fast songs with piano or violin pieces in them. Yet another (non-SJ; C Ramchandra for this one) song that we play is the Lata-Usha duet Aplam Chaplam from ‘Azaad’.

Anand and me have played and sung SJ’s songs so many times and so relentlessly, that SJ and Anand have become inseparable in my mind. Songs like Aji aisa mauka from ‘An evening in Paris’, ‘Kaun hai jo sapano me aaya’ and ‘Ghar aaya mera pardesi’ have become almost our theme songs; I don’t remember a single time in the last twelve years when we have met and not played songs like these three. I remember so many late nights, with the rain pounding outside, when we were enraptured in performing and playing these timeless classics, that the songs elicit memories in a manner vivid as none. A mere sampling of those unforgettable songs that we played and continue to play takes me back memory lane such as nothing else. These songs have become almost physically engraved in my mind, and when I play one of them today, I can’t stop myself from playing ten, or twenty more. Just a small sample:

  1. Aaja sanam from ‘Chori Chori’
  2. Kaun hai jo sapno mai aaya from ‘Jhuk gaya asmaan’
  3. Who chand khila woh tare hase from ‘Anari’
  4. An evening in Paris from…’An evening in Paris’!
  5. Badan pe sitare lapete hue from ‘Prince’
  6. Sab kuch seekha hamane and Kisi ki muskurahaton pe from ‘Anari’
  7. Geet gatan hu mai from ‘Lal Patthar’
  8. Jiya o, jiya o jiya kucch bol do from ‘Jap pyaar kisise hota hai’
  9. Aaja re aa jara from ‘Love in Tokyo’
  10. Main chali main chali from ‘Professor’
  11. Har dil jo pyaar karega from ‘Sangam’
  12. Bol re kathputli from ‘Kathputli’
  13. Cheda mere dil ne and Tujhe jeewan ki dor se from ‘Asli nakli’

And many many many more…

Our practice sessions were enduringly memorable. One time in particular stands apart, sometime when we were in 9th or 10th I think. My parents were out of town, and we decided to play and record as many SJ and Rafi songs as we could, with songs by other music composers and singers added in for good measure. I remember that we started at 6.00 in the evening, and almost without a break, continued till 3.00 in the morning. We played every song that we could remember and that we had ever played. At the end of all that, we were hungry as wolves. What to do? Having promised my mother that we would eat outside and lacking the most elementary culinary skills, we fortunately remembered the one ‘restaurant’, that would be open at that hour; a dilapidated but popular shack on JM road. We had a nice ‘dinner’ there, and then realized we were short of 2 RUPEES to pay the bill! Cursing ourselves, I ran home and got the money…to this day, we remember the ‘2 rupees episode’.

With time, Anand exceeded his abilities as a percussionist (although he is still an excellent one) and he became a splendid singer. Needless to say, he revels in the golden tones and voice of Mohammad Rafi, and it is my greatest pleasure to accompany him when he sings these songs. In my opinion, for sheer melody, there was been no male singer in the annals of Hindi cinema, who beats Mohammad Rafi. Among female singers, the pure melody in many of Lata’s songs is fabulous, but I think that for variety and sheer, supreme vitality, nobody beats Asha.

Anyway, some of the classics which Anand sings, and which I keep on playing and singing over and over again, include:

  1. Tumne mujhe dekha from ‘Teesri Manzil’
  2. Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare from ‘Chitralekha’ (This one is a true melodious masterpiece)
  3. Din dhala jaye from ‘Guide’
  4. Hum bekhudi mein ‘Kala Pani’
  5. Bade he dil ke kale from ‘Dil deke dekho’ (A classic duet)
  6. Akele akele kahan jaa rahe ho from ‘An evening in paris’
  7. Yaad na jaye from ‘Dil ke mandir’
  8. Aap ke pahalu mein aakar from ‘Mera Saaya’
  9. E door ke musafir from ‘Udan Khatola

And countless others

Over the years, I have accompanied him so many times at so many places, that our musical compatibility has become fine tuned to a fantastic degree. Even now, when Anand and I are ten thousand miles apart and don’t play or practice for a year, when we get together, we can still put up a performance and sing and play these songs, without needing to practice a single time. That is exactly what we did when I visited India last December. We put up an informal program at my sister’s place and relived all those moments. Anand’s father is an audio equipment manufacturer and so we are never at a loss for speakers, amplifiers and microphones. I am proud to say, that on the 29th of last month, Anand’s aspirations and efforts borne fruit, when he put up a professional performance in the Yashwantrao Chavan auditorium in Pune, where he sang a variety of Rafi’s songs, on occasion of Rafi’s 25th death anniversary. I wish him the very best in all his endeavors.

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2 Blog Comments to “What passion music can raise and quell my musical journey”

  1. Binu Nair says:

    pune unit of rafi foundation is formed recently and the first musical evening is on : october 4 a saturday. pls sms me or write to me for further details of the musical evening.

    we will send you personal invitations to the function.

    binu nair, rafi foundation, mumbai : 9833 250 701,

  2. rajendra says:

    can you help me with keyboard

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