Wednesday August 26, 2009

I love Indian Film Music!

Posted by Karthik

Ever since I remember, I’ve always been fascinated by film music. Having lived in many Indian states (my Dad was a banker; meaning, a transfer every 4/5 years!), I’ve acquired a taste for listening to film songs in any Indian language – regardless of whether I understand the lyrics or not.

My interest in Western music (the pop/ rock/ reggae/ metal kinds) started rather late, while in college. And, it started with what many consider an embarrassment now – the George Michael/ Richard Marx variety. So, while I do appreciate legendary bands like U2 or Queen, I may not have the complete historical perspective to add to, say, a particular song, since very frankly, I haven’t grown up with them.

I used to be thoroughly conscious and ashamed of this fact; that I cannot participate in a discussion on say, Floyd or CCR. Thankfully, when the internet arrived, I used that opportunity to brush up on long-overdue backgrounders on iconic bands and their music. But after a point, the effort seemed pointless. I was trying hard to impress my peer group and was actually hiding my real passion – Indian film music.

The result…is this blog. Milliblog’s sole intention is to celebrate and opine on Indian film music, across languages. Beyond my own rants about plagiarism (via ItwoFS) and sub-standard (a personal opinion) music that occasionally seeps into our films, I simply love the fact that we have an almost endless source of music that showcases such a wide variety of genres. We have a tremendous history of film music, across Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi…you name the language – we have tons of music.

These are by composers, legends in their own right, given the output they have generated over the years. Forget the inspirations – just think about a normal western artist. How many albums do they produce in their life time? How many tracks in each album? I recall seeing a Michael Jackson discography recently – it had less than 100 songs. Agreed – each song may have gained far more popularity than any other Indian song, but that is solely due to the limited reach of Indian films. Our marketing has largely focused on our own people and we had truck load of languages to deal with too.

Thanks to recent successes like Rahman’s Oscar, there is increased focus on Indian film music as a genre and I love this trend. We’re finally gaining legitimacy for an often ridiculed musical genre. I have nothing but total respect for our composers. You may have noticed my steadfast love to credit composers even for Indipop albums – I strongly believe that the music composer is the soul of music. O P Nayyar did have a different opinion and had given 50% of a song’s credit to the lyricist – he was one of my favorites too, but I beg to differ. My take is that a composer is the soul of a song – that is why I personally refer to a song as a Pancham song or a Rajesh Roshan song – not as a Rafi song or a Sonu song.

I’m never enamored by singers since I believe their role is only a small, albeit a very external part of the song. The unsung heroes are the composers who do not have an external face – the singers, through their voices and the actors, through their actions, take most of the credit for film songs. That is quite an unfortunate situation for composers.

The composers – good or bad – slog with the directors to come up with tunes, either out of thin air or a Middle Eastern/ Korean CD, and that process of building on arrangements and vocals fascinates me endlessly. When I listen to the works of Pancham or Ilayaraja, the first thing that strikes me is the background with which they conceptualized a tune! I mean, what would the director’s brief be…how did the lyricist adhere to the situation…how did the composer get his tune?

These questions are the reason why I love managing ItwoFS for over a decade now. It gives me a rare peek into the thought and mind behind a composer’s work – it’s just a glimpse, that too with uncredited sources, but it’s a glimpse nonetheless.

You may be wondering…why this lengthy post! I actually heard someone speak about Indian film music in a derogatory manner recently – I did not go up to them with my side of the story because they’re entitled to that opinion. It’s just that we have every reason to be very proud of our film music legacy, much like people outside India take pride in announcing their U2 or Beatles allegiance!

The other factor is language. We Indians seem way too preoccupied with our own language and perhaps even ridicule music from other states. The first thing people ask me, when I explain that Milliblog reviews music across any language, is if I know those languages. Such people just do not realize the treasure trove they are missing. My concern is solely with the musical aspects of film music and if I do not understand the meaning, that’s definitely my loss – but imagine others’ loss when they do not even listen to the music! So, my humble request to any Milliblog visitor is to be curious and expand your horizons…and listen to music across languages. I can assure you, the experience will be immensely satisfying!

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