Friday, June 8, 2012

Pathar Ke Sanam: Laxmikant Pyarelal, Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle, et al., 1967

Today's pick is the only soundtrack on this blog so far besides the very first post.  The movie is Pathar Ke Sanam, a Bollywood movie from 1967.  It's a light romantic drama complete with a love triangle and tensions that emerge over a dark past but are reconciled in the end.  From what I can tell the soundtrack might be the best part, buy you can read more about it here can decide for yourself.  The musical directors are the duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal, a force in Bollywood who composed the music for over 600 films according to wikipedia.  Both faced poverty as children and learned early on to earn money by performing, Laxmikant Shantaram Kudalkar on the mandolin and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma on the violin.  They met at a music academy for children and worked together as they practiced and networked.  When Laxmikant was 10 years old, he met the famous singer Lata Mangeskar, who appears on this album and on others of the duo's soundtracks for years and years.  She approached him the first time he played because she was so taken with the abilities he had managed to cultivate at such a young age.  Pyarelal sometimes practiced with members of the Bombay Chamber Orchestra and apparently knew Zubin Mehta, the conductor for life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and former conductor of the LA Philharmonic for 16 years. 

The singers on this album include not only the decorated Mukesh, but also Mohammed Rafi and sisters Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar.  These three are among the most celebrated playback singers in the history of Bollywood.  The role of a playback singer is to record the songs that actors and actresses lip sync to as they perform the film's musical passages.  I have an audio sample available from soundcloud but in the interest of giving you the full experience, I've also embedded a video clip of the song Mehboob Mere.  Keep in mind that these songs often became hits in their own rites and these musical sequences, especially more recent dance sequences, are one of a film's major draws among theater-going audiences.

Asha Bhosle has been featured on over 1000 soundtracks and is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recorded artist in music history.  She is also accomplished in a wide variety of South Asian genres, everything from qawwal to pop.  Her sister is also immensely successful and talented by any measure, and was actually well established as one of the leading female playback singers before Asha had been fully welcomed into that circle.  Internationally, Bhosle is the best known figure in Bollywood music.  Lata Mangeshkar has received the Bharat Ratna, the most prestigious civilian honor in India.  She started learning Hindustani classical music early and had to work diligently at the beginning of her career to eliminate her accent when speaking Hindi/ Urdu, the absolutely dominant language of Bollywood films at the time.  She relied heavily on her classical training and many of her film songs from the early period of her career are based on ragas. 

Mohammed Rafi has sung on thousands of film songs, a partial list of which you can find here, and also performs in an illustrious range of other genres.   He notably studied Hindustani classical singing under the widely renowned Ustad Bade Ghulan Ali Khan and the great Abdul Wahid Khan, cofounder of the Kirana Gharana.  This is the school that trained musical visionaries including Pandit Pran Nath, who spread the music in the West, Ram Narayan, and sarangi virtuoso Ustad Hafizullah Khan whose album Khalifa Kirana Gharana on La Monte Young's label is among the best Indian albums I own. 

The production of these soundtracks must have been streamlined in order that the same relatively small group of people could cut so many great albums.  To imagine these artists churning out beautiful music like this over and over, often together, is very inspiring.



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