Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dulcet Discoveries

Music has always been a great passion for me. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I used to sing at one time. Perhaps it is because my father is an ardent fan of eastern classical music due to which I have always grown up listening to music. Whatever the reason, music is something i fall upon whether I am happy or sad.

I was not much enthusiastic about many of the musical "reality shows" hosted on TV over the past one decade or so (slightly less actually). Most of it, I felt, was nonsense. The unnecessary loads of lachrymose drama that unfolded almost regularly were most intolerable. Then there came a stupid trend of judges quarreling and fighting amongst themselves. But worst of all was the "voting" procedure which was a boon (boon?) of 21st century proliferation of mobile communications (read SMS). In the 90's there used to be music contests too (which, in case you are unaware, are responsible for spawning gems like Sunidhi Chauhan and even Shreya Ghoshal), but there judges had the final word. Although it sounds nice for people at large to be choosing the singers of the future, this is fallible to all the problems people with being, well, common and ordinary people.

We are bogged down by issues of regionalism and religion. We vote for singers that "look good", or, with "reality shows", the ones that appear most smart, lively and jovial. Hardly we give the fact a thought that these people are vying to become playback singers. Other than some basic smartness and good manners, nothing other than their voice and voice only should matter. But of course, thats asking for too much. Add to it the fact that you can send SMS'es voting for the same person multiple times from the same mobile phone. Oh cool. Given enough time, I alone can make someone win a contest, unless there are other dunces like me. Which there always are.

So I thought I would pay a back-handed tribute to the music shows of the 21st century by acknowledging some of their truly great finds. It happens that no matter how much shit you throw into a system, the gems still do stand out, at least to a certain extent. We IIT'ians know this too well (for completely different reasons though). So here are the top 10 best finds of musical shows who actually never won in the major contests. This if course means I'll have to leave out some really talented singers who DID win, like Abhijeet Sawant, Debojit Saha. But then everybody knows them anyway, so lets highlight those whom we might commit the mistake of forgetting.

As I have said before, I dont care about how a singer looks and all. So in all the list below, there will be no fancy pictures, not even a mention of where this person is from. I am sure you all understand.

10. Mauli Dave:

She participated in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007. Not a very top-notch singer, sings well on some typical styles (peppy and energetic songs in particular) and sometimes has an overly pompous diction. Nevertheless, there is one thing that catches my attention each time I hear some of her better performances. In the songs that she did, she can TRULY put emotions, and feel what and why she is singing. As a top example, I enclose this song below: Namak Ishq Ka from Omakara. Not a very remarkable song, but the way she puts it makes it special.

9. Abhaas:

You might know this guy if you watched the Amul STAR Voice of India, Chhote Ustaad. He was the anchor of the show. For many days I did not know where he dropped from, he did not seem a familiar face. Then I stumbled upon it on the net. Abhaas participated in the show Star Voice of India, which was a while before the children's version came up. Once again, not a consistently great singer, but at times, his performances were stunning. Specially this one, which was just after his elimination, when he was required to sing something in the lines of a farewell song (which I always found rather a cruel thing to ask of somebody). This is Nanina Thagg Lenge from Omakara:

8. Jayant Singh:

Dont fall for the name - this is just a kid. The only reason I had to place this guy at 8th was because he almst exclusivein one genre only - ghazals. Now comes the surprise. Ghazals? Very unusual choice at this age!! Indeed, and how!! You hear him singing and you'll agree with me that we have never seen a guy of his age sing with the mood and perfection that he does in this genre. And who are we to say it when the likes of Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan acknowledge his talent. Have a peek, this is in a ghazal special episode at Amul SVOI Chhote Ustaad. This is the very famous "Hungama Hai Kyun Badpa":

7. Amanat Ali:

Another one from the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007, but a bigger gun. Amanat is quite young, but sings really well on a wide variety of songs. He went quite far in the contest but did not manage to win it. This and another guy (named just after), however, made this contest worth remembering at least to me. Here is a sample of his singing, and judged by the masters themselves - Jagjit Singh and Pandit Jasraj. This is Albela Sajan Aayori from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam:

6. Mussarat Abbas:

Mussarat has been accused of the same problem that I mentioned with Jayant above - he sings in only one genre (almost). But when he does, I promise you, your jaw will drop to the ground. Mussarat specializes in Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's songs, and can murder any contestant when it comes to this. The power of his voice and his intricacies of tune are so well set in him for this style that he is, at least in my view, unbeatable in this genre by anyone I have seen. Numerous samples are there on youtube, I chose this one in particular. This is Saanwre from Bandit Queen:

5. Hmm, now we are really heating up...

5. Hemachandra:

Hema was a contestant in Zee TV's Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005. This particular installment of the contest was a truly killer one, with some of the best singers on this list coming from here. Debojit Saha won this finally, and I cannot say that he did not deserve it, but the competition was unbelievable. Among them was this guy, really young, but with a truly unique voice, wonderful sense of tune and the courage to do things out of the ordinary on live performances. Many of his songs have been lauded considerably, but perhaps this one takes the crown. This is Nahi Samne from Taal:

4. Nihira Joshi:

Nihira is also from the same contest as Hema. As I said, the competition was killer. This girl has an accuracy which is almost unbelievable. Nothing seems to go wrong with her voice. Every turn, every nook and every intricacy is perfectly rendered, its like a painting. Its really sad she (and the others I name here) had to get eliminated, most probably for some rather stupid reasons. But people did take notice. At least I most definitely did :) Many wonderful sampler from her too, almost all equally precise. But I decided to put this one. This is Rangeela from Rangeela (and please dont compare to Asha Bhonsle, its utterly stupid to compare one who is singing for 6 years to someone who's been in the industry for almost 50):

3. Now we are down to the top 3.. the creme-de-la-creme...

3. Rahul Vaidya:

Rahul is so insanely dynamic (forgive me, I had promised I would not mention personal traits) that although he lost the first installment of India Idol almost nobody could forget him. A brilliant singer, with a rich variety in voice, style and diction, he was one complete singer among his contemporaries. Sometimes tends to get a little to peppy, but that can forgiven given the fact that he sings soft, emotinal, or sad numbers with equal beauty. I can imagine that Rahul did give Abhijeet a run for his money every time he took the stage. This is one sample performance from a later contest, Jo Jeeta Wahi Superstar (which he won, but then I said no "major" contests). This is Ramta Jogi from Taal:

2. Himani Kapoor:

Himani too (phew) was in Zee TV's Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005. I mentioned Nihira to be accurate. In that scale, Himani qualifies as a cardiac surgeon. Her voice is SO DEADLY accurate and precise .... I have no words to express it. I feel a strange sense of security when I click on any link leading to her song. Its like, when I click someone else, I wonder whether this is one of his/her better performances or a not-so-memorable one. With Himani it never fails. Everything I click, its the same accuracy and same unfaltering voice. Its amazing. Or even more. The rare few songs where she does not sound THAT good is only because her voice is powerful and has a sharp edge to it, so certain songs are not so suitable. Here is a sample among many (they all seem equivalent to me, as I already said).This is Chitthi Ye Le Jaa from Heena (that's name of a movie):

1. So who's the winner among people who never won?? Before that, just a "commercial break" - an on-the-spot improvised rendition of Dam Mast Qualandar by Nihira and Himani together:

1. Anwesha Dutta Gupta:

She's a kid. But that is perhaps as wrong an adjective can get. Prodigy would be somewhere closer. I could not mention Aishwarya in parallel with her only because Aishwarya won, and she did not. But for over a month (or more) the two of them contested each other, and no one seemed better than the other, at least to me. At this age, the performances they gave were just unbelievable. We are truly fortunate to have singing talents like these 2, and we can imagine what is to come in the years from this star-studded collection I have enumerated. No, nobody's gonna forget them, their talent is too great for that. Here is Anwesha singing on the final say of SVOI Chhote Ustaad one of her most famous songs on the contest, Mere Dholna from Bhulbhulaiyya: