Kundan Lal Saigal and Jim Reeves
A SPIRITUALLY INCLINED FRIEND WHO had an excellent music system installed in his NGO office created a WhatsApp ground called’Jim Reeves Club‘ and added all his friends to the group, whether they had any interest in music or not.
I had none. Never heard of Jim Reeves.
I was about to write to him that I had not heard of him and am not apologetic about it, just as most JRC members ecstatic about him may not be about not be knowing K. L. Saigal, C.H. Atma, Pankaj Mullick, Mukesh, Jagmohan or Talat Mahmood (to name only those of the past) who sang soulful Hindi songs that move me. Many others are equally talented.
There was nothing wrong about the interest in and admiration for Reeves, a famous Texan singer killed in an air crash at the young age of 40 near Nashville, Tennessee. What I was concerned about was those Indians who think they are ‘modern’ or ‘educated’ only if they knew Western pop singers and not the ‘backward’, old-fashioned ‘desi’ Indian singers.
Some . and I do NOT mean JRC members – go ga ga over Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Beyonce Knowles, Beetles or Frank Sinatra (a few whose names I remember) just because they are Western and it is fashionable to imitate the West. Mention any Indian classical singer and they would not even have heard of him – like uncouth ‘desi’ me being ignorant Reeves.
As I was thinking on these lines I played the video of a Reeves song sent online by a JRC member and my 8-year-old grand daughter came running and wanted to know the name of the song. She is interested in Western music, especially the lyrics. When in a school in Canada briefly and the teacher sang a song, she told her it was by Abba and knew the lines.
It was then it struck me that music has no nationality. Indian music need not be looked down upon because it is ‘desi’ or Western music considered great because it is English. Though much smaller in number than the Indians knowing Western music, there are many in Europe and the US who appreciate Indian music and even know the Ragas.
In a Delhi daily where I worked, we had a music critic who was also a classical vocalist, though not a very reputed one. He was invited for a performance tour of England and on return told me that he was surprised at the number of small groups of English persons attending his concerts, usually in basements and attended by a score of people or less. Most of them were Whites and could discuss the Ragas and their interpretation by him.
A cousin’s daughter, a Sitar player gave performances all over the US, where she was then staying, and in Europe. Her website has many American and European visitors who knew, and could discuss, the finer nuances of Indian classical music.
Such music elevates, takes you to another (and better) world, which the cacophony that goes by the name of popular music today cannot.
The lyrical depth of “Kiska Roke Ruka Hai Savera? Raat Jitni bhi Sangeen Hogi Subah Utni hi Rangeen Hogi” (Who can stop the dawn of the Sun? The darker the night, the more colourful the morning ) may be thrill my heart, but every language may be having lyrics of equal depth. No translation (except, perhaps, of Edward Fitzgerald’s version of ‘Rubaiyat‘ of Omar Khayyam) can bring out the original beauty.
‘Aey Khatib-e-Takdeer Kya Maine Kiya Hai, Kyon Mujhse Khafa Hai’ by K.L. Saigal, Mukhesh’s ‘Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De‘ or ‘Dil-e-Nadaan Tujhe Huva Kya Hai‘ by Talat Mehmood may be among many songs that move me to tears. And ‘Distant Drums‘ by Jim Reeves can have the same effect on many.
Music is the language of emotion with no (cultural) borders.