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Rhythms of Shankar Jaikishan

April 26, 2018 | By

Legendary music composers Shankar Jaikishan created not only a mammoth repertoire of hit songs in Hindi film music, they also set many a style and precedent in the use of instruments to create sounds and rhythms. Anand Desai picks five songs from SJ’s ocean of music to exemplify their creativity in using classical Raags, Taals, acoustics, instruments and sounds to craft everlasting music.

Ghar aaya mera pardesi, pyas bujhi mere ankhiyan ki

SJ, Raj Kapoor, Hasrat, Shailendra

What a team! Hasrat Jaipuri, Jaikishan Raj Kapoor, Shankar and Shailendra – the coming together of amazing talents in perfect symphony (Pic: Cinema Sangeet)

Film: Awara (1951)
Lyrics Shailendra
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Raag: Bhairavi
Taal: Keherwa

This dream sequence in Raj Kapoor’s Awara is the first of its kind in Hindi cinema, with fog and clouds.

First, let’s look at the instrumentation used.  The Dholaki played by Lala Gangwane in this song marked his entry as a musician of high calibre and he went on to become a part of the Shankar Jaikishan team. Dattaram played the Dholak. And you have the Group Lead and Rhythm Violins, Big Duff, Manjiras, Mandolin, Triangle, Tablas, Dhol and Chorus (as apart of the rhythm pattern also).

SJ has infused emotions into the arrangement and the on-screen play out, starting with a long alaap by Lata backed up only by a Chorus. The Manjira and a Big Duff enhance the feeling of longing. Radhu Karmarkar’s camera captures all of this between the fog of uncertainty, which lifts as Nargis bends down to help Raj rise.

The fog of uncertainty lifts as Nargis bends down to help Raj rise.

Notice the significance of the costumes. All along Raj is in complete black and Nargis is in white, depicting the contrast between despair and hope. Interestingly, there are two sets of chorus dancers, one group wearing largely black attire and other wearing largely white. Initially, the ones in black are in the forefront and towards the end the whites come to the forefront, reflecting the changing situations in the romance. That’s Raj and Radhu Karmarkar in their glory.

The arrangement is superior with the Dholaki and its range of variations. One cannot help notice the excellent Laggis surrounding the score. One such example you can hear at 2.04 just after “ab dil tod ke mat jana and in between roti chhod ke mat jaana”. A set of 4 Laggis, dhirdhirgat ta…  dhirdhirgat ta exemplify fabulous finger work and timing.

The postlude and closure are one of the best in rhythm and arrangement. The Violins dominate all the way with excellent Tremolo’s and Arpeggios alternatively with the entire ensemble of percussion in a frantic state. Just listen to the Dholaki between 3.08 till 3.13 backing up the Chorus “Ooooo…”.  The song ends in a brilliant crescendo.

Shailendraji’s lyrics hit upon the heart, starting with a feeling of longing and despair and rising up to hope and happiness.

Ghar aaya mera pardesi  
pyaas bujhi meri akhiyan ki
tu mere man ka moti hai
in nainan ki jyoti hai
yaad hai mere bachpan ki
ghar aaya mera pardesi

Oo basanti pawan pagal na jaa re naa jaa…

Film: Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960)

Lyrics Shailendra
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Raag: Basant Mukhari
Taal: Rupak [7 Matra’s]

Shankar Jaikishan picked up the Filmfare award for Best Music Director for  this film and the reasons are obvious.

Morsing, also known as Mukharshankh or Jaw Harp/Jews Harp (Pic: Wikimedia CC 3.0 Charukeshi)

Before we talk about this song, let us note the use of the Morsing (or the Mukhar Shankh or Jaw harp), a Jewish instrument. It is almost the size of your palm and is played by holding it firmly in your mouth. The movement of your tongue and your throat modulations produce the various sounds. SJ made use of this as a dominant instrument all through the song in the vilambit sections.

A variety of instruments have been used in this song – Nagara, Violins, Duff, Sitar, Horn, Ghunghroos,  Morsing, Xylophone, Tablas, Pakhawaj and Cellos.

SJ begin the song with a 9-seconds Nagara and a Khanjari and then the ensemble takes over. The intro with Cello’s, Big Duff, a clear cut Theka with Ghunghroos and a Horn is very artistic. I am yet to hear such a clear theka in Rupak – it is magnificent and laborious.

Notice the small variation by the added “Tirkit”  from 1.47 – ban ke patthar hum padey thhey sooni sooni raahon mein [2] till 2.08. That is what SJ were famous for – the clever variations. Catch that 13 seconds piece in this song and you will be amazed at how they have introduced the tirkit in the third vibhaag of the Rupak.  Tara Dutt’s superb cinematography in such a rocky terrain adds more pathos to the environment.

Shailendra’s pen works as a tranquilizer

yaad kar tune kaha thha pyaar se sansar hai [2]
hum joh haare dil ki baazi yeh teri hi haar hai… 
sun le kya kehti hai paayal
naa jaa re naa jaa roko koi…. 

and Lata’s tremor whilst singing naa jaa re naa jaa.

When all the pleas fail, the Tandav Nritya rages, accelerated by the Violins, the Nagara’s, the Pakhawaj and the Sitar and with Padmini’s expressions of anger.  When Raj returns, her happiness does not need words to be described.

Ich leibe Dich…. I Love you….

Film: Sangam (1964)

Lyrics: Anonymous
Singer: Vivian Lobo and Chorus

Raj Kapoor’s sense of music as well his effervescent zeal to experiment with music and lyrics resulted in this gem. The words “I love You” have been used in three different languages – German “Ich liebe dich”, French “Je vous aime” and Russian “Ya lyublyu

The song starts with a lovely Mandolin Khanjari and a single Triangle. A solid Drums roll at 0.09 through 0.11 sets the pace. The Bongos add to the flavour and the meter is fairly regimented. Remember these were the early days of using Chorus with Group Violins running parallel.

Vivian Lobo and Chorus sing the word “Remember my Brudder” with an almost Mexican slant in the pronunciation.

Hum pyaar ka sauda karte hai ik baar

Film: Zindagi (1964)

Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Raag: Mishr Pilu
Taal: Dadra

I cannot stop speaking about SJ’s and Dattaramji’s rhythm arrangement in this one. It is severe and impact full.

The 9-seconds intro of a wailing strain of a Sarangi reminds you of the opening of Rasik Balma (Pic: Wikimedia CC 3.0)

The instruments include Tambourine, Big Duff, Dholak, Sarangi, Chimta’s, Ghunghroo, Tablas, Shehnai, Clarinet and Picollo Flute.

The 9-seconds intro of a wailing strain of a Sarangi reminds you of the opening of Rasik Balma, again a SJ-Hasrat Jaipuri combo. SJ has made use of two percussion instruments belonging to the same family, the Tambourine and the Big Duff.

After the 9-seconds intro we go into a 2-seconds ad lib followed by the two Thapis that start the frenzy. The Dadra breaks into a Drut in the cross lines. A combination of the Shehnai and the Clarinet create the main refrain. A Piccolo flute bridge follows. The entire rhythm then becomes standard for the song.

Hasratji in his own style pens romance:

chhahe badle asmaan
aur chaahe badle yeh zamin
aankh neechee ho  wafa ki  aissa ho sakta nahin
hum toofan mein daal ke kashti doob ke paar utar jaaye
hum pyaar ka sauda karte hain ik baar……

This is preceded by the heroine’s sweeping commitment:

ishq tera aag hai toh isme jalte jaayenge
maut ho ya zindagi hum saath chalte jaayenge
hum woh nahi hai pyaar ke rahi joh duniya se dar jaayenge

Tumhe aur kya doon mein dil ke siwa

Film: Ayee Milan Ki Bela (1964)

Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Raag: Bhairavi
Taal: Khemta

SJ’s 16-seconds intro leaves one spellbound. The intro group Violins playing in Demi Semi value, reminding one of a Raag-based Layakari. And then all of a sudden SJ introduces a Sitar with a “Jhod Jhalaa” and a bandish, a pause for the transition at 0.16 where Lata in a high note enters with Tumhe aaur kya doon mein dil ke siwa, tumko hamari… at this juncture the ad lib breaks into the rhythm, exactly at the end of the word hamari.

What is baffling and a treat to hear is how SJ use a 4/4 Taal Keherwa tempo in the intro [no rhythm has been used] while in the main song they adopt Taal Khemta in a 6/8 tempo. That’s why one hears a pause at 0.16 for the transition of the Taals.

Hasratji has evoked romance in its purest form:

The ad lib breaks into the rhythm, exactly at the end of the word hamari

Tumko hamari umar lag jaaye…
Mujhe jo khushi hain tumhe kya bataun 
bhala dil ki dhadkan ko kaise chhipaoon

See the poetic license to rhyme chhipaoon with bataun. Truly, a khushi to die for!

Lata has sung it with a lot of love, notice her masti bhari murki at 3.25 – tumko hamari umar lag jaaye.

SJ’s brilliance comes to its fore at the opening with a fantastic mix of rhythm instruments. There is a 17-seconds Group Violins build up with Sitar and sympathetic strings, played by Rais Khan.

Dattaram has mixed the Dholak with the Pathani Dholak. The interlude from 0.47 to 0.56 has a standalone Sitar dominant with a Dholak. Then Miskin Khan’s Tota from 0.57 is uniquely used to extend the interlude as a bridge.

Then a beautiful Orchestra flute plays in bursts between 1.23 to 1.25. As a follow up the very next interlude is the Sitar and Mandolin at 1.37 to 1.40. This is SJ’s musical imagination at its deadliest.

Towards the end, around 4.29 onward, notice the Ghisa’s on the Dholak all through. Again Lata has playfully given a sudden 2 seconds pause at 4.45 tumko hamari umar lag… [pause] jaa-aaye.

Saira’s dancing leaves much to be desired. She is static at times and a bit inflexible and one can see she is not comfortable doing this stuff.

Hasratji further does a razor sharp surgery of emotions:

sitaaron se uncha ho, rutaba tumhaara
bano tum har ik zindagi, ka sahaara
tumhen jis se ulfat ho, mil jaaye tum ko
samajh lo hamaari, dua ka ishaara
muqaddar tumhaara, sada jag magaaye
tum ko hamaari umar lag jaaye-2
tumhen aur kya dun main dil ke sivaay
tum ko hamaari umar lag jaaye-2


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After qualifying as a CA, I worked in the field of Investment Banking for around 18 years wth JM Financials and Kotak Mahindra and did a stint in the media with SONY. I now run a business advisory firm and I am an independent director on the Boards of companies. Music consumes a large part of my waking hours and keeps the fire in me alive.
All Posts of Anand Desai

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6 thoughts on “Rhythms of Shankar Jaikishan

  • Ashoke Mahtani

    Not an SJ fan by a distance but very disappointed for your having omitted –
    Rasik Balma
    Yaad kiya dil ne kahaan ho tum
    Manzil wohi hai pyaar ki

    Any Lata solo from Amrapali.

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