Originally in Gujarati, by Piyush M Pandya
Translated by Ashok M Vaishnav
Evolution of Film Music
A school of knowledgeable people believe that the music came into being when an infinitely dense singularity exploded with a Big Bang to bring our universe into existence. That explosion is our primal sound. The spread of that sound on a wave of radiation brought rhythm into existence. Thus, the two basic elements of music – the note (melody) and the beat (rhythm) – also can be believed to have come into existence simultaneously with the universe coming into being. The blowing of winds, explosions of volcanoes, the thunders of clouds and the strong winds of tornadoes that kept happening throughout the chain of events on the earth brought in them vast range of sounds, The waves of oceans, flowing waters of streams, winds blowing through the woods, the chime of rain drops falling on the leaves blended variety to the diversity of sound.
Then, at some stage of evolution, human beings started recreating this ‘music’ of the nature into the languages that human beings understood. The process has been evolving over the path of millions of years of human evolution and shall continue as long as humans exists.
One of the paths that led to the development of a form is what we now know as film music. In the Indian context, along with the advent of ‘talky’ films, in the third decade of twentieth century, the songs also came into being in the films. That indeed was the dawn of a new era. By 1935, the playback singing also came onto field. The film music gradually, but surely, came out of the shadow of theater style music. New crop of music directors and singers entered the arena. Also came in the then modern recording technology as well.
In consonance with rule of market economy- more the decent returns, more will be the competent players in the market – the virtuous cycle of pull for different forces of the film music started gaining momentum. As such, between the period of second half of ‘40s to ’60s, many outstanding music directors, music arrangers, musicians, sound recordists, lyricists and singers emerged on the stage. As they kept getting favourable circumstances, they boldly tried new experiments that showcased the breadth and depth of their creative competency spectrum.
At this stage, we do have to recognise that an average listener of any form of the music hardly has inclination for the technicalities like raags or scale or rhythm. As such, it should be no surprise if they do not notice the subtleties of different music instruments or the variations in singing styles. For him, what pleases to the ears or what can be easily hummed is a good music. It was this effect that drew that average lay listener to the film music. Along with actor enacting a song on the screen, he could now recognize the singer and perhaps the music director. Some discerning listeners also started giving recognition to the lyricist. It may not be overstatement to note that film music played a very strong, even if unconscious, role in cultivating some rudimentary appreciation of the music per se at the mass appeal level.
But, alas, very critical link in the entire chain of a film song composition, that of music arrangers like Frank Fernand, Antonio Xavier Vaz (a.k.a. Chic Chocolate), Sebastian D’Souza, Anthony Gonsalves, and musicians ranging from ace accordionists Gudi Saravai and Sumit Mitra to classical flutists Pannal Ghosh and Hariprasad Chaurasia.and many other such legendary instrumentalists still remained unrecognised in terms of their contribution to the film music. Even this list would be grossly incomplete if we do not mention names of instrumentalists / arrangers like Dattaram, Basu-Manohari, Sonik-Omi, Babla, Uattam Sigh and the likes who ventured into the field of independent music direction but could not make, so called, successful headway.
To buttress the point of intention, a few examples will better serve the purpose:
- Who has played that master piece of saxophone just after the line Bhul Koi Na Jo Hamse Ho Jaaye in the famous song Roop Tera Mastana of Aradhana (1969)?
- Do you remember sweet pieces of flute in Main Piya Teri Tu Maane Ya Na Maane (Basant Bahar, 1956)? Who would have played such enchanting pieces?
- Or, that harmonium piece in Kajara Mohabbatwala from Kismat (1968)?
- Have you noticed the pain of loneliness in Tu Chhupi Hai Kahan (Navrang, 1958) being so effectively being accentuated by the Shehnai pitching in the music?
The role of music arranger was to shape the basic idea of the tune that.the music director has composed for the lyrics penned by the lyricist into a full-fledged song. It is the arranger who selects the correct rhythm and corresponding appropriate percussion instrument as well as the other melody music of prelude or interludes or countermelody support and the corresponding instrument(s). Each piece will be designed in detail, which instrument will play exactly when, in what scale and what style, who will play what etc. These details were all codified by the arranger and meticulously explained to each instrumentalist. Then, there would rehearsals to iron out the kinks as well as the need to tune in the different orchestra elements as one unit. Next, the rehearsal would be held with singer, usually, prior to the recording sessions. And when all was set to a level of acceptable standard, the final recording would take place.
Without taking away the due credit to music director for imagining such notes, the lyricist giving it a concrete body and the singer making it come alive, it is the arranger and the instrumentalist concerned who are the unsung cornerstones for that imagination to fructify into the reality of a glorious structure of art that we call a song.
With this prelude, we gear up to commence our present series of The Sculptors of Hindi Film Music, that would introduce us to some of the leading music arrangers and instrumentalists who played great role in shaping the music of the golden era of the Hindi film music.
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As is most timely apt, we commence the series with Sebastian D’Souza (29 January 1906 – 9 March 1998), a successful Goan music arranger in the Bollywood music industry, who is largely credited with changing the entire harmonic structure of the Hindi film song to create an extremely listenable full body of sound behind the voice of the singer
Sebastian D’Souza spent his childhood and adolescence in his native Goa. His natural passion and inborn knack for the musical instruments were nourished in the tradition of Church music there. He easily went on to learn violin, cello and piano. While learning to play these instruments, he also learnt the writing of notations. It was during this time that he very attentively used to listen to the famous symphonies of well-known composers of the western world.
At the risk of a little digression, since we would be focusing more on orchestral arrangement of musical instruments in the present series, a word about the violin family of string instruments would be in order.
Quite easily recognised ‘violin’ comes in four different sizes. The violin, which is the smallest, viola, cello, and the biggest, the double bass, sometimes called the contrabass. (Bass is pronounced “base,” as in “baseball.”) The smaller instruments, the violin and viola, make higher-pitched sounds, while the larger cello and double bass produce low rich sounds.
After partition in 1947, Sebastian D’Souza decided to settle in Bombay and pursue his career as violinist in the film industry. Here he would play violin for many of the then stalwarts like Anil Biswas, Ghulam Haider, Sajjad Hussain, Vinod, Husnlal Bhagatram etc. In 1948-49, when O P Nayyar got his first assignment to compose a solo for CH Atma (Preetam Aan Milo), he assigned its music arrangement to Sebastian D’Souza. When O P Nayyar got his first film – Aasmaan (1952) – he again entrusted Sebastian D’Souza the responsibility of full-fledged music arrangement. O P Nayyar – Sebastian association prospered very well and continued till 1973. Their last film together was Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye.
Incidentally, the Filmfare awarded song of the film, Chain Se Humko Kabhi Aapne Jeene Na Diya, was recorded just before Asha Bhosle – O P Nayyar parted ways.
For our present purpose, listen to the effective the soft instrumental notes accompanying the song as counter melody has been in enhancing the pathos of the song!
In 1952, Sebastian D’Souza’s Sonny Castelino, a Shankar Jaikishan team regular, introduced Sebastian to the SJ duo. Daag (1952) marked the beginning of another unstinted long association in the film industry. Sebastian went on to arrange music for each of SJ film, till 1974, ending the run with Sanyasi., all songs of the film set to raag Bhairavi. As someone trained in western classical music, Sebastian faced the challenge of learning Indian classical raag structure, since both Shankar and Jaikishan markedly preferred their songs to be based on Indian Classical music.
Another major work of Sebastian was with Salil Chowdhury. Salil Chowdhury is well known to recycle his Bengali songs into Hindi films. Here is one illustration wherein the value addition that a music arranger fully entwined with style of the music director can make:
Dhitang Dhitang Bole – Awaz (1956) – Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, an unknown singer and chorus – Lyrics: Prem Dhawan – Music Salil Chowdhury | Bengali version – Singer: Hemant Kumar – Music” Salil Chowdhury
The creative use of counter melody, harmony and chorus in the music arrangement seems to make so obvious a difference between the two versions, composed by the same music director. The music arrangement of the Hindi version is by Sebastian D’Souza.
Before we take up some representative songs for a closer view, let us look at some typical songs exemplify the benchmark that Sebastian has set for the role of an ideal music arranger.
Bol Ri Kathputali Boli – Kathputali (1957) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music Shankar Jaikishan
Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu – Howrah Bridge (1958) – Geeta Dutt – Lyrics: Qamar Jalalabadi – Music: O P Nayyar
Ye Bansi Kyun Gaye – Parakh (1960) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: Salil Chowdhury
Mohe Laa De Chunariaya Lal – Char Diwari (1964) – Geeta Dutt, Suman Kalyanpur – Lyrics: Sahir Ludhiyanvi – Music: N Dutta
It can be so easily identified that first one is a SJ composition, second one a OPN composition, the third one a Salil Chowdhury composition and the last one that of folk tune composition of another western music trained music director, N Dutta. But what requires to be noted is the value that Sebastian as a music composer has added, by so intimately blending the musical score with the natural, unique, style of the respective music director. This was the role that a music arranger was expected was to play – addition of such richness that he enshrines in the songs, while remaining totally incognito.
In 1974, when Sebastian D’Souza could no more was intrinsically able to identify himself with the then new trends of song composition, he chose to go back to his native place and spent the rest of life in teaching music to the children.
We will take up a few of the most representative songs that he arranged for Shankar Jaikishan to showcase the versatility of Sebastian’s range of creativity and devotion as a music arranger.
Here are two very well-known YT clips that further demonstrate how seemingly effortlessly Sebastian has enlivened Jaikishan’s vision of long preludes or highly experimental interludes and counters,.which we all know as the signature identification of music of SJ duo!
The magical violins of Shankar Jaikishan – Part I
The magical violins of Shankar Jaikishan – Part II
Raj Kapoor was also extremely fond of Sebastian’s work. He, SJ and Sebastian had so matching wavelengths that they could compose off the complete background score of RK’s magnum opus Mera Naam Joker in one week flat.
Normally to describe a piece of art, no words can ever do full justice. So, as we take up these illustrations, it would be better that we put on earphones and listen to the magic of SJ’s compositions and Sebastian’s immortal arrangements.
Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal – Daag (1952) – Talat Mahmood- fast and slow versions – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: Shankar Jaikishan
In the first slow paced version, just listen to the soft strumming of guitar giving rhythmic support with so faint instrumentation play of constantly accompanying countermelody, giving the unfathomable depth to the song. In the second fast paced version, simply listen to all the variations that Sebastian has arranged for V Balsara to play on harmonium (which sounds almost like piano accordion). These pieces of countermelody remain the cherished peaks of Mount Everest benchmarks for all the music arrangement practitioners to scale!
Ban Ke Panchhi Gaye Pyar Ka Tarana – Anari (1956) – Lata Mangeshkar, chorus – Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri – Music: Shankar Jaikishan
This is the song that has some wonderfully imaginative uses of chorus and choir. After brief prelude (till 0.44) the song begins with fast rhythm of dholak. When the initial lines get repeated at 0.35, chorus seamlessly joins Lata Mangeshkar, with choir supporting as countermelody. Then @1.02, the choir fuses with interlude music. that not only gives the effect of the song filling up the vast open space but also clear idea of the mood that friends have reached in their cycle journey. The choir countermelody comes back with chorus @1.44 again that helps recreates the divine mood that friends have now been enjoying. @1.55 when the line of stanza ends a the opening line closes the stanza in a classical mode of music composition again with soft choir countermelody. This experiment repeats @2.54. The song softly ends with chorus and choir support. Such minutely sculpted details, in an oft-used cycle-riding group of friends’ song situation, is one of the many unique facets of Sebastian’s finely carved music arrangements that can be said to be his own hallmark.
Ajib Dastan Hai Yeh – Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (196) – Latamngeshkar, chorus – Lyics: Shailendra – Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Waltz rhythm-based song has three interludes, each one being different than the other. The prelude opens with strings of guitar and the choir then joins in the main piece of orchestra, followed by easy strains of piano-accordion and guitar ending with violin ensemble, signalling beginning of opening lines @0.36. The choir, then, accompanies the singing as countermelody @0.39. The first interlude is fine mix of saxophone and choir, with violin ensemble playing its due supportive role. The first stanza plays with mix of guitar and choir as countermelody support. The second interlude, starting @ 2.26 is dominantly a guitar and choir composition. The countermelody support for the second stanza is by very soft saxophone strains with even more soft violin ensemble support to deepen the effect. The third interlude, from 3.40 to 3.58, is again a saxophone-choir orchestration arrangement but set to totally different composition. The last stanza has guitar as countermelody support. As an overall impact, song keeps on playing in your mind the mixed mood of pathos with soothing tranquillity of the serene night, even after it has formally ended.
Shankar Jaikishan’s dance songs had its own style of presentation.
Kar Gaya Re Kar Gaya Mujh Par Jadoo – Basant Bahar (1956) – Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Basant Bahar (1956) was the first major challenge the duo had boldly accepted to showcase their versatility. They had even succeeded in roping in no less vocalist than Pt. Bhimsen Joshi for, Ketaki gulab juhi, with Manna Dey – a duet based on raag Basant and Bahar. However in a fim like this too, they had used as much creative liberty they could enjoy in the orchestration of this dance song.
A sad dance sequence – Amrapali (1966)
However, Amrapali (1966), being a pure history-theme based story of a classical dancer, the challenge was even more demanding. The script of the film necessarily gave space for depicting pure classical dance sequences different, intense, moods. However, Sebastian D’Souza has so deftly crafted intricate play of Indian classical string instruments like Sitar and Veena in sync with various classical percussion instruments-based arrangement for such sequences as well as background score.
Tadap Ye Din Raat Ki – Amrapali (1966) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Weaving intricate multiple instrument-based large orchestra for highly emotional songs for such films is even more demanding. A highly committed and devoted music arranger like Sebastian D’Souza would not compromise a fraction of his own high standards even for such a less practiced field. Careful listening to the song clearly manifests unbearable pians of forced separateness in the form of rapid rhythm-based mix of ensembles of Veena and Sitars, which softly calms down after the outburst by slow-paced Surbahar strokes. Sebastian has used extremely soft violins support in the countermelody to impart the depth to the song but has studiedly used ensemble of Sitar as the lead instrument of the orchestra.
Shankar Jaikishan’s penchant for experimentation and inherent leaning towards Indian classical raags, and by now Sebastian D’Souza high confidence in his ability to do full justice to Indian classical music as much as western classical music fructified in the form of NFS Long Playing record Raag Jazz Style (EMI,1968; ECSD-2377) in collaboration with sitarist Ustad Rais Khan. SJ-Sebastian roped in such top-notch musicians like Bass – Eddie Travass, Drums – Leslie Godinho, Electric Guitar – Anibal Castro, Dilip Naik; Flute – Suman; Piano – Lucilla Pacheco; Saxophone – Manohari Singh; Tabla – Ramakant and Trumpet – John Pereira for the project. The disc had three of SJ’s favourite raags – Jaijivanti, Shivranjini and Bhairavi – along with challenging raags like Todi, Bhairav, Malkauns, Kalavati, Tilak Kamod, Miyan Malhar, Bairagi and Mishra Pilu.. I have picked up Shivranaini here to showcase the high level of performance by the whole team, and intricate arrangement by Sebastian D’Souza.
One can keep recounting such nuances in each of music arrangements composed by Sebastian. However, we will limit our exploration to one more song that fully depicts the width of Sebastian’s spectrum of creativity, passion, and commitment.
Jhulmi Sang Aankh Ladi – Madhumati (1958) – Lata Mangeshkar, chorus – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music; Salil Chowdhury
The signature Salil Chowdhury composition opens with joyous mood of string and percussion instruments. The pure folk-effect chorus intensifies the mood. Sebastian has carefully crafted intricate pieces of flute ensemble in the entire arrangement thereby making out the entire outcome as unmistakably Salil Chowdhury composition. No wonder Dilip Kumar is shown mesmerised by the charm of the setting with vivacious Vyjayanthimala in the centre. So are we, too. with the magical environment that the entire song sequence creates.
Apart from the breadth and depth of virtuoso of Sebastian. these illustrations also demonstrate the pain and effort that the composer, the lyricist, the singer, the arranger, the musicians and each one associated with song recording used to take for each of the song. In return apart from the relatively paltry monetary rewards, the only recognition that the music arranger would get is small fine print mention in the credit titles of the film. However, in the hindsight, the ageless affection that these creations got that has not abated even after passing through so many generations seem to be the most invaluable rewards for their selfless devotion.
One of the rare photographs of Sebastian D’Souza conducting a live public concert performance speaks volumes for the role of the music arranger in selecting different instruments, selecting the right musician to play notes of particular standards, right positioning of the instruments w. r. t. each other and the microphones so as to yield a perfect harmony, whether in a studio recording or a live public performance.
We end our tribute to one of such great artists, Sebastian D’Souza, by recalling his one of the most iconic compositions that has all the hues of his creativity encapsuled for the future generations to savour –
Aa ab Laut Chale – Jis Desh Mein Ganga Baheti Hai (1960) – Mukesh, Lata Mageshkar, chorus – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Credits and Disclaimers
- The song links have been embedded from the YouTube only for the listening pleasure of music lovers. This blog claims no copyright over these songs, which vests with the respective copyright holders.
- The photographs are taken form the internet, duly recognising the full copyrights for the same to the either original creator or the site where they were originally displayed.
The article is originally published on Songs of Yore as The Sculptors of Film Songs (1): Sebastian D’Souza
2 thoughts on “The Sculptors of Film Songs – 1 – Sebastian D’Souza”
Wonderful initiative Ashok, to showcase the work of Arrangers in Film music. They played a critical role in how the song sounds to our ears.
As I understand, each instrument group plays notes in certain ways – A specific note in one instrument, may be played entirely differently on another instrument. I understand the technical definition of an Arranger is a musician who is able to translate a given set of music into the correct set of notes to each instrument or ‘section’ of the orchestra.
In Hindi film music, the role of the Arranger goes well beyond mere translation of notes for each section of the orchestra. Selection of instruments, creating vocal harmonies, grouping instruments and ultimately ensuring low frequency, middle frequency and high frequency ranges have the right set of instruments and combinations requires a high degree of skill and imagination.
One great feature of Arrangers like Sebastian is that they never ‘drowned the main vocal melody’ with too much of arrangement – they worked behind the vocals selectively and ensured the preludes, interludes seamlessly intertwine with the vocals.
Thank you so much for your generous appreciation of the series.
The role of an arranger is more or less similar to that of the conductor of an orchestra.
The arranger while planning, designing and conducting the individual elements into a holistic melody, also assigns the role to an individual instrumentalist that brings out his/er very unique playing abilities and styles.
The subject is too complex, involving as much of science as of art for a novice like me to dabble much. I can also appreciate the effort s put in.