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In The Composers’ Voice – 1: R.D. Burman

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The Indian music industry and Hindi Cinema has evolved since its inception. This is the industry that thrives on the mantra – “Change is the only constant”. Initially, during early days of Indian Cinema actors sang their own songs, with not every actor being a singer, this later gave birth to the concept of playback singing. The playback singing, unlike these days, was a tough task and was flawlessly delivered by a few.

The main requirement for singing back then was sound knowledge of classical genre and a good voice quality. Of course enthusiasm, zeal and passion were few of the secondary things.This was followed by the advent of composers and music directors turning singers. However, it was evident that they chose to sing songs of certain style and theme. They were very peculiar in choosing the appropriate songs, based on their voice, and did not experiment in this department.

Many a times these days the composers and music directors sing the scratch for the film directors, and surprisingly sometimes the directors insist in retaining the voice of the composers. This makes it apparent that composition chooses the singer. After being successfully accepted by the masses, few music directors have composed songs keeping in mind their own style of singing and voice textures. Each song has a theme of its own. Traditionally the songs were written and the singers tried to sound more like the actor than the character in the song.

Over the years things have changed phenomenally and different music directors with varied approaches have entered the industry. In this series of Collection we will explore various composers who have given massive hits throughout their career, but this time participating as a singer as well. We begin with the legend R.D. Burman.


1. Piya Tu Ab To Aaja – Caravan (1971)

Piya Tu Ab To Aaja is a super hit song from the 1971 Hindi film Caravan.The song still remains one of the most popular and remembered cabaret number in Hindi Cinema. The song was performed by Helen. The progressive song was composed by R.D. Burman with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri. Asha Bhosle won a Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1972. The most famous part of the song “Monica, Oh My Darling” along with various musical notes in the form of cries through out the song was sung by R.D. Burman. It is very difficult to imagine the song without that part and in any other voice. It has been deeply installed i listeners mind and the impact is evident.


2. Samundar Mein Naha Ke – Pukar (1983)

It is a proven fact that R.D. Burman had a distinct voice. This song is the perfect example. This song gave a break from traditional voices that were used during the 70s and the 80s. The superhit song featured Diva Zeenat Aman share a sizzling on-screen chemistry with megastar Amitabh Bachchan. The lyrics of the song have been penned by Gulshan Bawra and composed by R D Burman.


3. Tum Kya Jano Mohabbat Kya Hai – Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977)

The soundtrack of the movie Hum Kisise Kum Nahin was a massive hit and this song became a chart buster. The song was featured in a dance sequence featuring ‘Chand Mera Dil’, ‘Aa Dil Kya’ and ‘Mil Gaya’ – four different sings sung by four different singers. R.D. Burman matched the mood to perfection and sang the song very organically. The song was written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.


4. Yamma Yamma – Shaan (1980)

Yamma Yamma is a top class typical R.D. Burman style dance number. The song is popular till date and enjoys popularity among the current generation as well. Such was the impact of the combined musical production including the vocals of R.D. BUrman that makes this song memorable.The song was penned by Anand Bakshi.


5. Dil Lena Khel Hai Dildar Ka – Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981)

Another great dance number with very powerful lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri. The composition and choice of instruments stand out. The song was sung flawlessly and apart from conveying the emotions of the character it also leaves a great impact on the minds of the listeners. Featuring Rishi Kapoor, the dance performance was the highlight of the video.

6. Mehbooba Mehbooba – Sholay (1975)

This track remains the most popular dance number in this collection. A classic, featuring Helen and Jalaj Agha. The video shows a gypsy camp set-up with Amjad Khan looking lustily at Helen. The song was written by Anand Bakshi and is still used in many movies till date.


7. Dhanno Ki Aankhon Mein – Kitaab (1977)

Written by Gulzar, this song is a classic hit in R.D. Burman’s voice. The song was shot on a locomotive engine. The song features Master Raju hurt by the harsh words of his sister and brother-in-law, he runs away back to his mother and boards a train but being ticketless, is told to get off at the next station.


8. Sapna Mera Toot Gaya – Khel Khel Mein (1975)

This is a fabulous song featuring Rakesh Roshan and Aruna Irani. Sung along with Asha Bhosle, R.D.Burman adds his style and makes his presence felt. The dreamy song was written by Gulshan Bawra.


9. Title Song – Bhoot Bungla (1965)

Who can forget this movie and this song? A classic masterpiece. This horror-comedy had Mehmood and R.D. Burman collaborating. The composition is awesome with all the modern day rock and jazz elements.


10. Sabko Salaam Karte Hain – Jagir (1984)

An out and out commercial track ahead of the time. It has all the elements of western classical music. Even the alaaps sung by R.D. Burman are in blues and pentatonic scales. Use of guitars fused with fabulous vocals are treat to the ears. Asha Bhosle sang along with R.D. Burman in this progressive track.

This concludes the first part of this series of collections. We know there are more songs sung by the legend. Do not forget to share more songs in the comment section. In the coming parts we will get to hear some contemporary composers. Till the, stay safe.

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