Friday, June 27, 2008

R.D.Burman lives on...

Had R.D.Burman been alive, he would have turned 69 today. Barely a month ago, i was digging out few songs of R.D.Burman and listening to them carefully. I was astonished to discover some of the phenomenal ideas which he had pioneered back then. Some of the ideas are still in vogue. Either he was too ahead of his times, or some of these current generation composers have not moved beyond such ideas.

There are/were/will be many composers whose music not only impressed me but also inspired and influenced me. If i need to list them, particularily from the Indian Film Music arena, the list would be really huge. Yet, R.D.Burman has a special place. There were better and more legendary composers than R.D.Burman, yet what sets him completely apart, in my perspective atleast, is the kind of eccentricity which drove him to create unusual music. It was an eccentricity which only the people close to whom understood, and that included his team-members. To think of it, he was probably one of the foremost composers to have a regular team of musicians around him. and people from that team were/are famously known as Pt.Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma or even Trilok Gurthu.

If we carefully study the works of all yester-year composers, we notice that every composer had a distinct style. I like R.D.Burman not only for his distinct style, but also his out-of-the-box-thought-process. His roots were his legendary father for sure, but he imbibed several other elements and forms thus creating a different brand of music. I usually give different key-words to different composers. if it is Hindustani Music to Naushad, then it has to be Western Classical + folk + Indian classical to Salil Chaudhary. If it is pure sensitive melody to Madan Mohan, then it is folk + indian classical + bengali music to S.D.Burman. Shankar JaiKishan for classical + commercial music and C.Ramchandra would get vintage melody. In the case of R.D.Burman, i do not have any keywords. RD itself is a keyword.

R.D's one of the biggest contributions to Indian Film Music is giving importance to sound. sound of a song or even an instrument. If today, RD's team-members assemble and play his music, it purely out of their love for the man who let them gain their stature, by emphasizing on the crispness of sound. And if we trace the sound of R.D's music, it has many phases during which it evolved. His early and mid 60s had vintage sound with lot of traditional instruments. the sound changed in early 70s. His innovative self broke open and he went on to create energetic numbers, one after another, amply punctuating them with wonderful classical numbers too. As 80s came, he began freaking with electronic instruments and a far crisper bass guitar (bass notes rock). The traditional instruments did not lose their place in his ensemble. it was only that he just went on adding things to his scheme of work.

Lot of people have a wrong notion about RD, that RD means only cabaret numbers or fast songs. One rarely talks about his classical songs or even the many other genres he experimented in. If his debut composition was in Raag Malkunji, his last composition was in ChaayaNatt and all that he created in between spanned variety of raagas interspersed with some brilliant ideas borrowed from either western music or baul music or even nature. There are some songs which run as long as 8 mins, with only a single lead melody phrase and yet the music keeps me engrossed.

During my recent tryst with his collection, i chanced upon many wonderful songs, Hindi and Bengali, which went unnoticed before...all carrying some brilliant ideas. Some composers today might be still groping for such kind of ideas. Incidentally, every decent composer of today, right from Shankar-Ehsan-Loy to A.R.Rahman to Shantanu Moitra to Vishal Bharadwaj swear by RD's music. Why not, when people still try to use his ideas. I recently read an interview of Vishal Bharadwaj in which he spoke about his Omkara's "Beedi" song. The song starts off with a "Di-Ding daang ding di-ding daang ding..." and Vishal remarked, "See, RD pops up somewhere or the other". How true? He was referring to the similar pattern RD used on guitar, with a flanger effect, in the song "Dhannon Ki Aankhon Mein" from the film "Kitaab". One might say that RD's era has ended. One might even say that RD was not that great compared to other composers. Yet, one cannot rule out the existence of RD in the pysche of any composer willing to experiment. R.D.Burman lives long as composers want to try something different. Because he dared to be different and he was and what kept him so was only his acute passionate attitude towards music. I am still discovering it all, opening album after album. I hope to write more about specific songs sometime soon.
I am eagerly waiting for a documentary, which was made by a film-maker who studied R.D.Burman's music. It is yet to the released.


Random Walker said...

Hey... cooolest write-up for the coolest composer. Your forte has always been the older era of bollywood composers besides IR. Wish you can write about that private album of Gulzar and RD. :D Bravo!

Aakarsh said...

My forte is any era, as long as the music is appealing to me. RD is special, as i said, because i discover many ideas which could be bohemian for those times, but very much in vogue today.There are some things which RD has started (taught) that were and still being emulated by even Ilaiyaraaja or A.R.Rahman or Vishal Bharadwaj. That RD-Gulzar album you are talking about, is itself an example.will write about it soon, probably taking each song.

Sonam said...

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