Friday, February 10, 2006

Diverse voices in Indian music

Today, I was reading about the legend that is Lata Mangeshkar. I am a fan of Lata Mangeshkar
and Asha Bhosle myself and I think they have been blessed with divinely melodious voices.However, I feel that the current crop of abundant talent crooning away the latest numbers from A.R. Rehman and Shankar Ehsaan Loy and other new music directors is really good. Good for the confidence of youngsters, good for Indian music in general.
I could sing well but always had a complex about my voice not being on the more feminine
side. A deep, low-pitched voice is typically not suited to many of the numbers sung in old
Hindi film songs by melody queens such as Lataji and Ashaji. But a lot of Western pop
singers on the other hand had completely distinct voices. Just listen to Beyonce, the Spice
Girls, Celine Dion, Cher, to name a few. Ditto goes for those deep-voiced expert voices in
Carnatic or Hindustani. MS Subbulakshmi and Kishori Amonkar have their own place in the
music world. I started to think - well, if the Western pop singers can belt out great tunes,
then so can we deep-voiced ones back home and I don't mean me (as of now, I have no
intentions of becoming a professsional singer, pop or otherwise). There is plenty of talent
in this country (India).
Just as a fair-complexion was the ideal of feminine beauty, so is the high-pitched, tender, thin as a silk thread female voice. But this is not taking away from Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle's achievements in any way. Listen to the high notes in "Dil hoom hoom kare" from 'Rudaali', "Aapki aankhon ne samjha pyaar ke kaabil hame" from 'Anpadh' or "Ajee roothkar ab kahaan jaayiegaa" from 'Aarzoo' to name a few. They are mind-boggling. The voice stretches like a malleable, molten metal over the high notes and is as agile as an Olympic gymnast when it comes to the "aalaap" (stretching the voice over a particular note).
But I am just glad that we have begun to recognise voices such as the full-throated Sunidhi
Chauhan who is also very melodious and handles the high pitch with aplomb as also Vasundhara
Das, Alisha Chinai, Suneeta Rao and many others. Remember the "Deewane deewane to deewane hain" number by Shweta? Indian pop gave a lot of the husky-voiced singers a chance to showcase their talents and we have numbers that rock such as the above mentioned one and
those such as the "Made in India" title song by Alisha Chinai. I am happy to hear diverse voices and see diverse faces such as Kajol (totally unconventional) who burst on the scene with her magnetic on-screen personality, expressive eyes, bubbling enthusiasm and an individuality that set her apart from all the slim and/or fair typical Hindi heroines.
The bottom line is that talented people in India today have many more options and opportunities available to them than even a generation ago. More power to them!

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