On Saturday evening, I went to a music concert Keep Alive, organised by Manohar Iyer. The theme was songs picturised on the heroines Nutan, Madhubala and Nargis. I had been to his concerts before a couple of times but I wasn’t impressed by the singers the reason being, they do not match up to the original singers (Lata, Mukesh, Rafi, Talat et.al). But this time, I couldn’t say no because it was dad’s birthday and he likes these concerts a lot. Even if it means travelling to the auditorium by trains and autos at odd hours in heavy rains. So, anyway, I went with a heavy heart and an already set negative bias towards the singers and the show in general.
They started with Jaago Mohan Pyare (Jaagte Raho). It took some time for all the singers to get into the rhythm and in tune with the instruments. But to say the least, I didnt like this one. The singer was shrill and it felt bouncy, not in one tone, one line like Lata sings it. But then she wasn’t Lata and nor was I expecting her to be. Then alternatively they sang songs of Nutan, Madhubala and Nargis. All of them were popular songs, some chorus, some duets with the heros and so on. The singer who sang Aayega Aanewala, absolutely butchered the song, specially the initial prose. Mom dad liked it and even enjoyed it. But for me, I have high standards and cannot accept anything below it. I enjoyed some of Asha’s and Geeta Dutt’s songs. But no, I can never enjoy songs sung by Lata from anyone else’s lips, sorry.
The men were singing better than the females. They have a different person, singing for either Kishore Kumar, Rafi, Talat and Mukesh. You can listen to them, even like them and enjoy their singing. These guys can go very close in mimicking the original singer’s voice. But when it comes to Lata, no one can touch her. They are several notches below her. Then came the song which I enjoy listening to a lot, the qawwali from Mughal-e-azam, Teri mehfil mein qismat aazamakar hum bhi dekhenge. When I listen to the original sung by Lata and Shamshad Begum, I feel Lata sings so well than Shamshad (obviously). But then when I listened to the singers in this concert, I felt, wow, Shamshad sang so well!
After a few songs, I stopped listening to the singers and paid more attention towards the musical instruments. The artists were playing it so well. This is one of the advantages when you watch a live orchestra. You can see all the instruments, how they are played and that is when you know what all instruments were played in the songs. Luckily, my favourite one, Sitar was there and they did take up a couple of songs in which there are independent music pieces of Sitar played. Next my attention was focused on the Tabla, which made up for most of the background music in the olden days. But a whole lot of my attention was attracted towards the percussion instruments, be it the Chimes, the Cymbal, the drum kit, the Hi-hat, the Marimba and the like. They were playing it live in front of my eyes and I was losing myself in the music.
I finally agreed the singers were not that bad and were able to hold a tune and carry it till the end of the song. But I was mesmerised with the effect the orchestra had created and some of the musical pieces played in between the songs were really beautiful. At one point, it all seemed like a larger than life experience with high notes, chorus songs, so many instruments playing together and creating music.
No doubt it reminded me of the original songs and how better they are but this live orchestra effect took me by surprise and I enjoyed it very much towards the end. After all music does have a soothing effect.