A Catch Line, A Hook, But What Happens To The Rest Of The Song?

Posted on April 19, 2013 in At The Crossing

By Lata Jha: 

It’s strange but all my life, I’ve sought solace more in music than in any individual. This probably bears testimony to my introversion and the fact that I rarely open up to people, but this is as true as it can get. And I realized it only a couple of months ago, that it just takes an old favourite to cheer me up or calm me down. Worth some thought, but that is how it is. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that music lets me be, without questions like ‘What happened? When? Why? How do you plan to go about this now?’ or worse still, making me feel apologetic about taking up its time to whine and crib.

My days often begin with music, and end with them. I listen to music while I’m out for walks, while I’m travelling, or while I take a break from studies. I turn to it, every time I’m low, distressed or upset.

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I listen to a lot of Hindi film music. I don’t know why, but it’s always been like that. Pop music or English albums come with an inexplicable vibe of detachment and unfamiliarity. So, inevitably I end up listening to most Hindi songs very carefully. And I come to realize increasingly how shallow most of our contemporary music is. It’s all about one hook line. The rest just doesn’t matter. You know the badtameez dil will melt a lot of hearts, and you kick off your shoes and sit back to relax once you’ve gotten that in place. The rest of the song is a baffling conundrum of incoherent lyrics and painful music.

This is not one song I’m disappointed with. Despite the FM invasion and the iPods swarming our collections, I wonder how many of us remember or would be interested in knowing the later bits of some of our most popular numbers, no matter how enticingly badmaash the likes of Babli make them out to be.

Songs, today are about grabbing attention by shoving things into people’s faces. Through technology, through publicity, through widespread access. Why bother about painstakingly composing three equally hummable stanzas when only the chorus is to be played at parties and award functions as part of some mammoth medley? That producers and channel owners have already bought time slots for. Nobody has the time or patience to listen to all of it and appreciate your genius. It’s all about finding your little space under the scorching radio sun.

Despite the many arguments I’ve had with people who look down upon our generation’s films and work, I agree that songs earlier had longer shelf lives. I can listen to all of an Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se over and over again without feeling like I’m wasting my time. A Rimjhim Ke Geet Sawan Gaye makes someone as unromantic and unimaginative as me feel, for as brief a while as that may be, that rains are beautiful. A Mujhe Aisa Mila Moti makes me wish I were a singer after I’ve heard it incessantly and know the lyrics by heart. There is nothing more fun than an item number from the 70s, which so many of us, think is a phenomenon of our times. They are not just catchy, the tunes and visuals stay with you, even if the dancer’s vital statistics were more than that of Sheila and Munni combined.

The radio and downloads on the Internet have given an entirely different meaning to songs. Along with short attention spans, there is the bid to compete with everyone else who is just as accessible and owns just as much space in the market as you. So, we decide to substitute quality with sensational, spicy and often scandalous frills. The revamped version of Dum Maaro Dum would be a classic example.

I haven’t named every song that I felt was painful, attention seeking and a complete waste of time, because I don’t see the point of it. They fulfil their tasks of making it to the top of music charts, and I don’t think any of us has the time to question their success, as ridiculous as it may be. I’ve also tried to restrict my examples of older melodies to songs that are fairly popular, to the best of my knowledge.

I don’t judge people’s choices. Nor do I impose mine over others. But I do know that like me, there are people who look forward to things other than all that is sadly run-of-the-mill. Not all is lost yet, I assure you. I still believe in and look forward to the song shows on a couple of channels. Sony Mix’s Raina Beeti Jaaye deserves special mention for its unusual choices, especially after 10 in the night. So does 9X Jalwa, a channel entirely different from the insufferably banal 9XM. Masti’s The Golden Era with Annu Kapoor also springs up a few surprises now and then.

My only regret is that even these channels restrict their prime time slots to latest releases. I’m not sure how many of us would tune into these channels after 11 in the night or early morning. I’ve managed to catch some delightful songs only if I had a late class some day and was leaving around 10. I don’t think these are hours that bring in substantial traffic. And I have a feeling these songs are played only to fill in air time, thus unconsciously doing people like me a favour.

I don’t know if I’m obsessed with the old world charm of things. But I definitely despise the trend, now almost a norm, of everything being instantaneous. Runaway success is rarely sustained. Even a monkey on the road makes you stop there for a couple of minutes. I don’t think its attention one should strive for, but approval, and in the long run, love and admiration. Attention comes with the territory then.

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