Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Song that Ushered in the Era of Classical Music in Bollywood


Classical Music is what gave Bollywood music its sustainability, popularity and greatness. It reached its zenith in the fifties, and continued till the early eighties even as composers experimented with various styles, fusions and orchestration and thereby innovated and developed new genres on its rich base. Interestingly, the song that can be credited as having this Era of Classical Music was sung by one, who never formally received a training in classical music ….

Origin of Songs & Music in Bollywood
Sound came to Bollywood in 1931 with Alam Ara. What followed soon after was a flood of songs and music. While Alam Ara had only seven songs, Shirheen Farhad, which was released a little later, had 42 of them. The cake, however, needs to go to Indra Sabha, which has 69 songs. The age of the musical arrived in Bollywood along with sound, and has stayed put ever since.

 Most of the earlier Bollywood movies had songs that were sung by the actors themselves. A few years after the advent of sound, playback recording also begin to get popularized, primarily out of convenience, as recording a song at the scene of enactment was often an imposing challenge for everyone. Yet, there was a singer-actor who insisted on recording his songs live. His name was Kundan Lal Saigal, a singer who joined the movie industry to become an actor-singer and went on to become its first superstar.

K L Saigal: One of the Greatest Classical Singers of Bollywood
Saigal, son of a Tehsildar, used to sing while accompanying her mother in religious congregations, and learn music from the common folk and natural sounds, while accompanying his father during his official tours to remote hamlets. He already had a few songs recorded commercially before he arrived in Hindi movies. Once there, his unique talent made him an inseparable part of Bollywood. He was not trained formally in classical music, yet, there have been few singers who have gained greater popularity singing classical based songs.
Classical Music in Bollywood
Bollywood songs are not classical music in the true sense. In fact they would be considered even flouting semi-classical tradition in the eyes of the purists. But Bollywood music, unlike the classical one, is not for the strictest purists or a few connoisseurs and masters of classical tradition. It is for the ordinary masses. Thus, songs based on classical music and catering to the tastes of the audiences are what one refers to as Classical songs of Bollywood.
Babul Mora: The First Great Classical Song of Bollywood
During the shooting of the movie “Street Singer”, which was released in 1938, Saigal insisted that the song be recorded live, with orchestra also moving along with the singer-actor, while he sings the song, and so it was done. The song, “Babul Mora…”, thus became an interesting milestone from many aspects. It is a great piece of Raag Bhairavi, a tune of Hindustani Classical music, and is pretty close to maintaining the integrity of its classical characteristics.
Babul Mora… is an interesting song. It was written by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, a ruler of nineteenth century kingdom of Avadh, when he was defeated by the British during the 1857 war, and sent into exile. The song expresses his sentiments on being exiled from his palace and kingdom. The lyrics of the song, thus have a rich history and depth of emotions that one can feel.
Babul mora… is also one of the first great songs in Raag Bhairavi, which has been the most commonly used raag during the history of Bollywood, and can be credited with more great gems than any other raag. In particular, Saigal himself has rendered many melodious songs in the same raag, making him one of the greatest singers of this raag. The fact that he did not receive any formal training in classical music appears incredible, when one hears the quality of his renditions. His acumen as singer of classical based songs remains unsurpassed even today, in spite of many great singers since his time, who have regaled Bollywood.
This song, composed by Rai Chand Boral, can rightfully be credited as being the song that ushered in the era of classical based songs in Bollywood, so unbridled has been its appeal and popularity over the three quarters of a century since it was recorded …. live !!!

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