Filed under: India
Kazi Aniruddha is mostly known – at least in the Western World – for his steel guitar versions of Bollywood songs. But to a large portion of the population of the Indian subcontinent, he was better known as the youngest son of Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Kazi Nazrul Islam was a Bengali poet, musician and revolutionary who pioneered poetic works espousing intense spiritual rebellion against fascism and oppression. His poetry and nationalist activism earned him the popular title of Bidrohi Kobi (Rebel Poet). Accomplishing a large body of acclaimed works through his life, Nazrul is officially recognized as the national poet of Bangladesh and commemorated in India.
This recording was to be Kazi Aniruddha’s last. He died in 1974, two years before his father passed away. As far as I know, this is the only recording Aniruddha produced of his father’s music.
Filed under: India
When most people think of the Pop music of India, they think of filmi – the music of India’s film industry. But there were a few other options – albeit a very small. There was a Jazz scene in Goa in the 50s and 60s. There were also a number of garage bands around the country like the The Mustangs, The Tremolos and many more who were featured on the Simla Beat compilations that were released in 1970 and 71. And then there were others – like Runa Laila (who was actually from Bangladesh), Nazia Hassan (who was from Pakistan) and Usha Uthup.
Usha Iyer was born November 8, 1947 in Madras (now Chennai), which is the capitol of the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. Her father Sami Iyer, later became the police commissioner of Bombay (now Mumbai). She has three sisters Uma Pocha, Indira Srinivasan and Maya Sami, all of whom are singers and two brothers, one of whom is named Shyam.
Usha’s first public singing occurred when she was nine. Her sisters introduced her to Ameen Sayani, who gave her an opportunity to sing on the Ovaltine Music Hour on Radio Ceylon. She sang a number called “Mockingbird Hill”. Uthup started singing in a small nightclub in Chennai called Nine Gems, when she was 20. Her performance was so well received that the owner of the nightclub asked her to stay on for a week. From there, she went to Calcutta (now Kolkata). It was there that she met her husband Uthup. Usha then went to Delhi, where she sang at the Oberoi Hotel. By coincidence, a film crew belonging to Navketan unit including Shashi Kapoor visited the nightclub and they offered her a chance to sing movie playback. As a result, she started her Bollywood career with Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Originally, she was supposed to sing “Dum Maro Dum” along with Asha Bhosle. However, as a result of internal politicking on the part of other singers, she lost that chance but ended up singing an English verse.
In 1968, she recorded covers of two pop songs in English, “Jambalaya” and The Kingston Trio‘s “Greenback Dollar”, on an EP, which she followed with the album Scotch and Soda. Her backing band on half of that album was called The Flintstones, who she also recorded a double single. Around this time, she often traveled to London. She was a frequent visitor to Vernon Corea‘s BBC office in London and was interviewed on “London Sounds Eastern” on BBC Radio London. Usha visited Nairobi as part of an Indian Festival. Singing in Swahili made her extremely popular, and President Jomo Kenyatta made her an Honorary Citizen of Kenya. She produced a record Live in Nairobi with a local band Fellini Five.
You can find two more tracks off this record over at Waxidermy.
Filed under: India
While plodding through Peter Manuel‘s “Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India“, I had a revelation: Filmi music makes up 72% of all music sales in India, but only 41% of the population speaks Hindi. So how did The Gramophone Company Ltd. – who at the time had a monopoly on record production in the country – get the other 350 million or so non-Hindi speaking Indians to buy Hindi language film music? Re-record the music without lyrics, of course.
Batuk Nandy – much like Sunil Ganguly – got his start back in the 78 era performing the music of Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore. But to the best of my knowledge, he only recorded two albums of Film songs, while the rest were Nazrul geeti and Rabindra sangeet. As of 2004, he was still releasing albums.
Catalog number 2392 928 on Polydor Records of India, released 1980.
Filed under: India
[Note: This is a re-print of a guest post that I wrote for Jonathon Ward’s amazing Excavated Shellac back in September of last year. For that post there is a song from one of Van Shipley’s earliest 78, where as here you have a song from the 70s.]
The earliest known report of anyone playing slide guitar was Gabriel Davion, a native of India who had been kidnapped by Portuguese sailors and was brought to Hawaii in 1876. Of course, Indian string instruments, like the gottuvadhyam and the vichitra veena, use a slide are known to have existed since the 11th century. But it was not until Ernest Ka’ai and his Royal Hawaiian Troubadours’ toured in 1919 that the slide guitar was introduced to India.
Most people agree that Van Shipley was the first electric guitarist in India and the first to record instrumental versions of film songs beginning sometime in the early 1950s. Van was born in the city of Lucknow in Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. When most people hear his name, they say “But that’s not an Indian name!”. Well, that’s because not everyone in India is Hindu. Shipley was Methodist.
Inspired by his mother, who played the sitar, Shipley took to music at a young age. His first instrument was the violin. He attended Saharanpur to study Indian Classical music. There, he studied under Ustad Bande Hassan Khan and his son Ustad Zinda Hassan Khan, who were both famous Khyal singers from Northern India. At the same time, he took lessons in western music from an American identified as Dr. Wizer.
Shipley then returned to Lucknow to attend college, where he became involved with All India Radio. After college, we went to the city of Pune to work for the Prabhat Film Company before moving to the center of India’s film industry, Bombay (Mumbai). It was there that he caught the attention of producer and director Raj Kapoor, who spotted him performing on stage. Kapoor enlisted Shipley to play violin on the soundtrack for Barsaat (Rain) in 1949. The following year, Shipley added his electric guitar to a dream sequence in Awaara (The Tramp), which brought him to the attention of The Gramophone Co. of India. In 1955, Shipley teamed up with accordionist Enoch Daniels, who he had met while working for the Prabhat Film Company in Pune. This musical partnership ultimately lasted for many years.
Shipley set off the steel guitar craze in India. Other steel guitar players from the 78 era include Batuk Nandy, Brij Bhushan Kabra, Kazi Aniruddha, Mohon Bhattacharya, Nalin Mazumdar, Robin Paul, S. Hazarasingh, Sujit Nath and Sunil Ganguly. But most of these guitarists only recorded Tagore songs, with only a few (Kazi Aniruddha and S. Hazarasingh) recording Filmi tunes (Sunil Ganguly and Batuk Nandy would start doing film songs in the 60s and the 70s, respectively).
One of the most distinct things that set Shipley apart was that he played an eight string guitar, which he had designed and built to give him the drone sound that was more common in Indian Classical music than in the Film songs. Almost all of the other Indian steel guitarists played a National Dual Six Console guitar. Shipley also designed his own electric violin as well, which he dubbed the ‘Gypsy Violin’ and used on many of his later records.
Shipley’s first album, The Man with The Golden Guitar, a title that stuck with him the rest of his career, was released in 1962. He would go on to release an album every year until 1982, as well as a dozen or so EPs. He also tour the world, playing shows in Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean Islands, Suriname, Guyana and the U.S., including the cities of New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Buffalo and Detroit. Besides recording, Shipley acted in a few films as well, including 1964s Cha Cha Cha.
Filed under: India
Information. Much like history, it depends on who you ask. And everyone has different story. You know the saying, “written in stone”? Well, it’s not a solid thing. It’s very fluid. You pick up little bits here and there, learning as you go. And just when you think you’ve got it, something will come along and change what you think you know.
It goes completely against the obsessive compulsive nature of the record collector. There’s supposed to be a list. You get all the records on the list, and then you’re done. Mission accomplished. But when it comes to records from far flung corners of the world, it’s not that simple.
I thought I had all of the information I needed when I wrote the liner notes for the Bollywood Steel Guitar disc for Sublime Frequencies. I was positive that I had found every steel guitar player in India and had included them in the compilation. I was wrong.
Even though I asked everyone I could find about the players and their records, I still did not have all of the pieces of the puzzle. Since then, I have discovered a whole slew of other players – some only recorded Classical Tagore songs, but others recorded Filmi songs as well – dating back to the 40s all of the way up to the present. Besides Kazi Aniruddha, Kazi Arindam, Gautam Dasgupta, Sunil Ganguly, S. Hazarasingh, Charanjit Singh and Van Shipley – who were included on the Bollywood Steel Guitar disc – there was Mohon Bhattacharya, Himanshu Biswas, Barum Kumar Pal, Batuk Nandy, Ranjit Datta, Sujit Nath, Robin Paul, Dipankar Sen Gupta… And who knows? There could be more.
As I have said before, there is no book you can go look this stuff up in. Well, that may not be true. But if there is one, I’m not the only one looking for it – especially when it comes to records from India. Karl-Michael Schneider maintains a site that is trying to catalog all of the releases that were issued by the The Gramophone Company Ltd. While there were other small labels like Hindusthan and Megaphone up until about the 40s and then Concord, Polydor and Super Cassettes popped up in the 80s, The Gramophone Company of India had a virtual monopoly on recordings in India for almost all of the 1900s. According to the Society of Indian Record Collectors, it has been estimated that during the last century that about half a million different titles were released in India. And since they were pressed in numbers from as few five hundred to a few hundred thousand copies – many of these recordings remain unheard by more than just a few people.
As for Barum Kumar Pal, this seems to be his only release. Of course… I could be wrong.
Catalog number 2392 899 on Polydor of India, released 1979.
Filed under: India
Even though it is sometimes referred to as Hindustan, not everyone in India is Hindu. Granted, over eighty percent is Hindu, and another thirteen percent are Muslim. As of a 2001 census, only 2.341% are Christian. But, that’s still over twenty four million people. That being said, India is not exactly the first place that pops into your mind when it comes to Christmas Music.
All I have been able to find out about Jayram Acharya, is that he released an album entitled “Sitar Goes Latin” with Enoch Daniels (who is credited for the arrangements on this record) in 1969. Also, a single with “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town“ and “White Christmas“ was recently issued on the British Jazzman label.
Here are the liner notes to the record:
Come December, a strange spirit pervades in every corner of the globe – the spirit of Christmas. The universality of this spirit brings us closer to the oft dreamt concept of one world.
An integral part of Christmas is the Christmas music which, over a period of centuries, has also acquired global popularity.
Four of the most popular Christmas songs which, centuries ago, originated in the Western World, are presented on this disc on a musical instrument of India, the sitar, which is also originated centuries ago. While the Christmas songs reached India several centuries ago, it is only now, several centuries later, that the sound of sitar has reached the Western World and is considered the most exciting sound of today.
Christmas music on the sitar – a memorable presentation for a memorable occasion.
Filed under: India
Bollywood film music of India is commonly refered to as “filmi music” (from Hindi, meaning “of films”). Songs from Bollywood movies are generally pre-recorded by professional playback singers, with the actors then lip synching the words to the song on-screen, often while dancing. Playback singers are prominently featured in the opening credits and have their own fans who will go to an otherwise lackluster movie just to hear their favourites. Their songs can make or break a film and usually do.
Songs typically comment on the action taking place in the movie, in several ways. Sometimes, a song is worked into the plot, so that a character has a reason to sing; other times, a song is an externalisation of a character’s thoughts, or presages an event that has not occurred yet in the plot of the movie. In this case, the event is almost always two characters falling in love.
Bollywood films have always used what are now called “item numbers“. A physically attractive female character (the “item girl”), often completely unrelated to the main cast and plot of the film, performs a catchy song and dance number in the film. In older films, the “item number” may be performed by a courtesan (tawaif) dancing for a rich client or as part of a cabaret show. The dancer Helen Jairag Richardson Khan was famous for her cabaret numbers. In modern films, item numbers may be inserted as discotheque sequences, dancing at celebrations, or as stage shows.
As for Charanjit Singh, there is not a whole lot of information available. According to the liner notes of his “One Man Show” album which was recorded in 1977, he had apparently been playing live for two decades. But his first single was not released until 1973. Unlike other performers who chose to pay tribute to the songs of Bollywood, Charanjit played a variety of instruments. He would feature either bass, steel guitar, the electric violin or the Transicord electric accordion as the prominent instrument on each song. He would eventually switch to the synthesizer, covering entire soundtracks.
Charanjit Singh has been featured on Bombay Connection’s “The Bombay Connection Vol. 1: Funk from Bollywood Action Thrillers 1977-1984” and Sublime Frequencies‘ “Bollywood Steel Guitar”. In 2010, his only non-Filmi record from 1982 “Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat” was reissued by Bombay connection. If you any further information, please contact me.