Salil Chowdhury

September 24, 2015, Chennai

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There is a certain magic about the music of Salil Chowdhury.

 Something was markedly different about his melodies and his orchestration.


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The first time I heard the song ‘Jaane man’ in Chhoti si baat, I was struck at the difference. Here was Yesudoss singing in Hindi; the song was brisk, Asha Bhonsle was at her cheerful best. I saw the film in 1976 I think, when the other two songs ‘Na jaane kyon’ and ‘Ye din’ got to me right away. (janeman ended up getting Yesudoss to sing playback for most of Amol Palekar films that followed).

Where did Salil-da get his freshness from?

My reaction to almost all of his songs have been the same. There was something different that made the song stand out.

‘Suhaana safar’ from Madhumati made me stop dead the first time I heard it. The killer part of this song is when the crooning Mukesh emits a powerful ‘oho ho’ in the 3rd interlued.

‘Dil dhadak’, sung by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar was in the same league, except there was the additional polyphony on Lata Mangeshkar’s part.

‘Aha rimjhim ke ye’ by Talat Mehmood and Lata Mangeshkar was the same way.

All of these high energy songs are in total contrast to the sober ‘koi hota’ from ‘Mera apna’; in this the normally lively Kishore brings out passion in a totally different way.

Then there is the set of songs with classical orchestration such as ‘O sajna’,a tune with unexpected twists and turns, especially in the last stanza of the song. The use of the bass range of the sitar, two flutes in harmony, and the use of unornamented phrases in ‘terihi khwabon mein khoga’ and return to meends in the last part of the word kho gaye, is sheer genius.

All of these are songs that make me sit up and reminisce; I dont even have to hear them. I just have to think of them.

About the author

Kanniks Kannikeswaran
www.kanniks.com