The first Hindi film song that I explore has to be of A.R.Rahman. A lot has of course been already said about the legendary composer, nevertheless I would just like to make one small point. I believe that his greatest strength lies in finding beauty in simplicity. He often has simple melodies but the instrumental extravaganza that he proficiently constructs around it accentuates the melody in just the right proportions.
The song Shauk Hain strongly demonstrates the above mentioned aspect of Rahman Sir: A composition with simple instrumentation, vocals and yet it moves the soul, stirs something deep inside. This is an unreleased song from the movie Guru and hence not very popular. It was supposed to be picturised on Vidya Balan, but ultimately did not make it to the movie, nor its music album. Anyway, the film already has an amazing set of songs, even excluding this and the speciality of Guru is the versatility of the track. From a monsoon song to an Arabic item song to a soft wake up song to a slow romantic song, the track has it all !
The spirit of the song:
An awesome thing about Rahman Sir’s songs is that they gel extremely well in the movie, they perfectly capture the essence of the movie and can be just thought of as musical dialogues.
This song was meant to be picturised on Vidya Balan, a song which expresses her emotions. Her character in the movie is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and she is on a wheel chair all the time. She has a lot of unfulfilled wishes in life due to her illness and this song talks about her desires, her shauk in life. The mood has been beautifully balanced, not to make it a sad song but still to bring out the the feeling of longing, the unfortunate nature of destiny in front of which we are sometimes just helpless.
The song starts off with simple piano chords playing repeatedly, occassionally with the harmonic chords as well. The rhythm used is also very simple and initially the only instrument used to give the rhythm is the bass guitar. In other parts also, the bass adds to the effect and to the mood of the song. Second stanza has a small guitar solo as a prelude.
Each stanza sounds as a discrete piece in itself, rather than a whole continuous song. This is because the picturisation was planned to be discrete in the movie.
I feel the vocals by Soumya Rao are not really great, in fact they are slightly out of rhythm in some places. But definitely, in terms of the emotional content, Soumya has done a good job. At the end of most of the lines in the song, the notes have been extended and it adds a sort of soothing and calming effect. Echo effects and chorus is also used beautifully in many places.
For the more interested listener..
- A similar song
The song Meherbaan from the film Ada is kind of similar to this song, especially the use of piano is quite similar. The chords are used in a repeated fashion and with harmonic chords adding to the effect. Many of the songs of Rahman Sir seem to be inspired from each other, I don’t mean to say that they copy elements from each other but they seem to be outcomes of the same creative mood.
Another example of songs in which I find creative similarities is Maiya Maiya from Guru itself and the song Satrangi from Dil Se. They both have a sort of Arabic influence in the music and are loosely based in Raag Bhairav of the Hindustani classical style. There must be several other examples too and I think each one will find similarities in a different pair of songs according to his/her creative sensibilities 🙂
- Piano styles: Ostinato
The chord patterns used seem to be influenced from the concept of ostinato which stands for a musical phrase repeating itself, usually in the same pitch. A primitive form of ostinato is the same chord being repeated, like in this song and an advanced version can be thought of as a riff which is a melodic pattern repeating itself. In fact the guitar solo in this blog has a riff which is played four times. This is a beautiful example of an ostinato played with some improvisation.
In Hindustani classical music, a concept similar to ostinato is the Lehara played for Tabla solo performances. It is a melodic pattern which keeps on repeating with no variations so that the intricacies and ingenuities in the Tabla performance can be appreciated. Usually a Lehera is played on the Harmonium or the Sarangi. This a beautiful piece by Ustad Zakir Hussain where the Lehera is played by none other than the maestro himself: Pandit Ravi Shankar.