It’s October and across the city of Mumbai, the past unravels like a series of melodious tapes. The sounds of thunder and beating of rain have been replaced by tablas, violins and sitars accompanied by singing voices. The keyboard might be a new player on the scene, but the tune it plays hark to an era often referred to as one ‘where melody was queen.’
Today, film music is mainly led by rhythm; foot-tapping and ear-popping music enhanced by digital sounds. Despite this, the magic of the songs of the yesteryears still lingers on. This is further proven by observing how on the radio, the music of the golden era, has its own dedicated stations like Vividh Bharti and Gold FM. Moreover, the 100 lines a minute RJs of new FM stations still have to make time for the likes of RJ Anmol or Anu Kapoor who host shows that play only retro music.
So it is not unusual or surprising to find musical shows in the city where voices mimicking legendary singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Md Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh and Hemant Kumar, take centre stage, belting out numbers that often have the audience singing along, between bouts of rousing applause.
While such shows do bring succour to the instrumentalists of the past whose career in the studios has been snatched away by digital instruments, they also help the organisers as it fills their pockets too.
But money is not always, I discovered, the main factor that unlocks these treasures of old songs.
Kaka JP has been holding soirees every weekend for the last 12 years. He puts in an ad with the theme of the event, adding that ‘all are welcome free of cost’.
“I spent the last 15 years of Naushad Sahab's life near him, as his fan, and Sevak, and on his 80th birthday regaled him in my own voice with all his songs, sung in his drawing-room,” JP said.
“ Today, I invite amateurs and singers like me, to come and share songs with each other.”
His soirees, besides Naushad, focus on lesser feted artistes like Usha Mangeshkar, N Dutta, Poet Ganesh, Hridayanath Mangeshkar, Dattaram, Jagjit Singh, the hall that holds 90 people “is always full.”
( Sanjeevani Bhelande will sing Lata Mangeshkar's hits at the function 'Lag Ja Gale' )
Quite on a different beat, Sapna Kar of Burgundy Consultancy entered this field after a chance evening spent listening to a musical presentation of Madan Mohan’s melodies, presented by his son Sanjeev Kohli.
Her idea of 'Lag Ja Gale' - a music show planned on Oct 13 at Rangsharda Auditorium Bandra, as a tribute to Lata Mangeshkar and the genius of the composer, has Sanjeevani Bhelande as the main voice, with a lot of old industry greats among musicians providing orchestral support.
Putting her marketing skills to use, Kar is hoping to break even on expenses and even earn enough from the gate money to donate considerably for the welfare of suffering and recovering alcoholics. ”The industry lost a great talent to this disease and we wish to save every life that we can. There are several who cannot afford the medical intervention required, and we hope to bridge that gap for as many lives as possible," she says.
Incidentally, shows revolving around the songs of Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Amitabh and Rekha, and Rajesh Khanna, as well as one with Amit Kumar performing live, are on this week.
Many others will follow through the months ahead. There is music on offer for every taste.