Voices with a difference

Author: Dr. Mandar

This is a time of flux in Bollywood music. Popular bastion of male playback singing tradition is slowly crumbling and a new sound of music is emerging. We have already analyzed the Himesh Reshammiya- phenomenon earlier (in the article ‘Reshammiya Rocks’) but even the super-success of songs like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Man Ki Lagan, Kunal Gajawalla’s Bheege Honth Tere, Kailash Kher’s Allah Ke Bande Hans De, Adnan Sami’s Meter Down, Zubin Garg’s Yaa Ali Raham Ali, Atif Aslam’s Aadat, Naresh Iyer's Rubaroo, James’s Bheegi Bheegi and KK’s Kya Mujhe Pyar Hai in recent times cannot be taken as some random, isolated selections by the audience. It is in fact a definite pointer towards changing tastes and trends in Indian popular music. Suddenly the conventionally accepted ‘perfect’ voices are finding themselves outshined by unconventional, ‘imperfect’ voices and that, too in a sustained manner. The ‘unconventional’ is in and the ‘conventional’ finds its days numbered!

Historic Perspective

Macho, melodious and musical – these three Ms have traditionally defined the qualities of an ideal leading man’s voice in Hindi film music for last 50 years. True, there were exceptions right from the beginning of these norms. Mukesh’s nasal voice, Hemant Kumar’s heavy bass voice, Talat Mahmood’s tremulous voice and Manna Dey’s classically trained open throated voice were variations of the set pattern. But none of these great singers really managed to create a successful vocal prototype, which would be followed by future generation of singers. (Singers like Manhar Udhas and Nitin Mukesh following in Mukesh’s footsteps was a short-lived phenomenon, not extending beyond a few years.) Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar were the only two real model male voices whose styles were later copied by dozens of playback singers. A typical ideal male lead playback should either sound like Rafi or Kishore – that practically became the norm over the years.

The male prototype voices

Rafi’s mellow, melodious virtuosity had carried the day in the 50s and 60s and Kish

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