Composing words for its essence

Sudhirendar Sharma

My obsession with understanding the nature of playback music/songs continues. The trouble is that there are no straight answers, and that is what makes it all the more interesting. (1) Some songs stay alive for the tune and music arrangement; (2) others for beauty of words; and (3) still others for how music enhances the meaning of the words. As you recall some of your favorite songs, try to figure out the ‘why’ of it from the ‘three’ possible aspects I have identified.

It is almost four decades since I first saw Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Razia Sultan’ at Delhi’s Sheila theatre, but its songs have stuck with me ever since. ऐ दिल-ए-नादान, आरज़ू क्या है, जुस्तजू क्या है has haunted me ever since, though many of its words were beyond my comprehension (then). Had it not been for it’s musical rendition, this ghazal by Jaan Nisar Akhtar would have remained trapped in some collection of ghazals.

I was particularly intrigued by how ‘loneliness’ was dealt in words. हम भटकते हैं, क्यों भटकते हैं, दश्तो-सेहरा में questions human predicament. As you listen to it further, you encounter ‘silence’ of a kind that I have yet to encounter in any musical composition. ये ज़मीं चुप है, आसमां चुप है; फिर ये धड़कन सी, चार सू क्या है. It is undoubtedly a masterpiece in musical composition by Khayyam that allows the ‘meaning of words’ to reign supreme over music.

A musician with love for literature will treat words on their merit, accentuating its essence while playing strings of the instruments to the minimal. Listen to Bashar Nawaz’s ghazal from film ‘Bazaar’ – करोगे याद तो, हर बात याद आयेगी – to get a suggestive feel by the protagonist to recall all that is gone by. As you listen to it, past memories will begin to involuntarily play in your mind. These and some other songs composed by legendary Khayyam fit into category 3 (enlisted above), and therefore last for forever. That is how I understand it!

ये क्या जगह है दोस्तों, ये कौन सा दयार है from ‘Umrao Jaan’ is another notable composition in the category. Written by Shahryar, the ghazal by Asha Bhonsle doesn’t miss out on pain and pathos. As you begin to read into the mind of the composer, Khayyam, you find that he may have given expression to how he may have experienced pain and loneliness at a personal level. Else, it could have been composed differently. Isn’t it?

I return to ‘Razia Sultan’ again, I relate to Razia as I spent my school days in Bhatinda where I passed by the historic fort that has her historic imprints. Nida Fazli’s तेरा हिज्र मेरा नसीब है, तेरा ग़म ही मेरी हयात है captures the feeling of slave Yakut for the enigmatic princess.

The choice of Kabban Mirza to sing this ghazal must have some interesting story to it that I am not aware of, but I like the intensity with which the singer justifies each word. As we remember Khayyam and his work, this couplet from this song is perfect tribute to the very sensitive music composer – मुझे तेरी दूरी का ग़म हो क्यों, तू कहीं भी हो मेरे साथ है.

Understanding words and it’s meanings contribute to composing ever-lasting songs, argues Sudhirendar Sharma.


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