Some people say that there are two types of people in the world – those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t. I seem to fall in the former. Do you prefer the Mountains or the Oceans. Reading a book or watching the movie based on the book. Chocolate cake or Strawberry cake. Music or Lyrics. It is this last one that intrigues me the most. At this point, I must mention that I don’t see these as absolute choices, as black or white. Greys can exist but on a spectrum one tends to veer towards one preference more than the other.
So, is it Music or Lyrics?
When you listen to a song, do you sway to the melody of the music and the texture of the artist’s voice first or do the words draw you to them before anything else. It typically is an either or situation. Though, eventually they both come together in perfect unison for the ultimate sensory experience.
When one listens to classic oldies like ‘yeh raat yeh chandni phir kahan’ (this glorious night, this moonlight, won’t come again…), S.D. Burman’s music is so haunting and touches all the right chords so perfectly, that one is naturally drawn to the magic. So, one can be forgiven for missing the beauty of the Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics that add the sparkle to that magic – ‘aur thodi der mein thak ke laut jayegi, raat yeh bahar ki phir kabhi na aayegi’ (..and in some time, from fatigue and exhaustion it will recede, this night of beauty and love will not return again) or ‘..zindagi ke geet ki dhun badal ke dekh le’ (in the song of life, try and change the tune to see what happens..).
Or when one listens to Ghulam Ali singing with the classical music orchestra in the background ‘…dil ke lutne ka sabab poochon na sabke saamne…naam aayega tumhara, yeh kahani phir sahi” (don’t ask me the reason for this heartache in front of everyone…your name will come up…this story can wait another day), do the words strike you first or the music that brought them to life? Do we even remember who wrote these lyrics? (It was written by Masroor Anwar). In the ghazal form, the entire idea seems to be to give music to riveting poetry, so it can reach audiences in a more appealing fashion. In many ghazals, poets are known to write in their name, into the last sher (couplet), as it was their way of immortalizing their name into their works, which had a chance of being lost in time.
Sahir Ludhianvi is famous (or infamous, depending on how you see it) for his stubbornness of having the lyricist’s name mentioned on film posters and on the radio when his songs were played. He was the torch-bearer of lyricists’ claims, in his time. And today, Javed Akhtar has rightfully carried forward the mantle.
The Coke Studio series by MTV has been very successful in bringing classic poetry and lyrics to younger audiences, with more contemporary music and talent that connects with today’s generation. So the lyrics stay the same, but the music is changed. Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ‘Dasht-e-tanhai” (Solitude in the desert) is a brilliant example of this. The original, sung by Iqbal Bano is still so haunting, not just for the depth in the singer’s voice but also for the simplicity in the music. In contrast, Meesha Shafi singing the same song at Coke Studio Pakistan, is accompanied with heavy vocals and a contemporary music base, but still resonates so well. And the magic of the lyrics stand out in both. So then, do music and lyrics help each other? Are they inseparable?
Which one appeals to you first, the music or the lyrics? This week we leave you with something to ponder over…
– Urduwali Priya
Links to the songs mentioned above:
Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahan, music by S.D. Burman, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar, lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi from the movie Jaal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBw_JSiNF9c
Humko Kiske Gham Ne Maara, sung by Ghulam Ali, lyrics by Masroor Anwar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i9sVq8p_kU
Dasht-e-tanhai, sung by Iqbal Bano, lyrics by Faiz Ahmed Faiz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZvhgZRdnzg
Dasht-e-tanhai, sung by Meesha Shafi for Coke Studio Pakistan, lyrics by Faiz Ahmed Faiz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYB-6i_q4sU