Taare Ginn and all that jazz

Song:  Taare Ginn

Music:  A R Rahman

Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya

Film:   Dil Bechara

I thought of making another list of jazz based film music songs and including Taare Ginn in the list.  Because the idea of composing an entire write up for a song felt rather indulgent to me.  But then, I said to myself, that wouldn’t be true to the spark that prompted me to write this, which was listening to Taare Ginn in the first place.

So, as a compromise between honesty and guilt, I am going to write more than a few lafzon about Taare Ginn and then also supplement it with a list of other wonderful jazz based phillum songs that you may enjoy.

Back to Taare Ginn.

The general thinking about Rahman songs is they grow on you as opposed to grabbing you immediately.  But that’s not been my experience for whatever reason with exceptions like Udhaya Udhaya (and there were ‘mitigating factors’ there; I ended up loving the song when I heard Satyaprakash and Alka Ajith’s marvellous rendition of the song on Super Singer but still don’t dig the original vocal much).  For me, if a Rahman song doesn’t grab me, it means I will like it up to a point in the sort of ‘intellectual’ way that I learnt to appreciate a lot of classical music without falling head over heels for it. BUT, if I like it right away on the first few lines, it’s a keeper.

And when I heard the first time Shreya Ghoshal sings the Taare Ginn line in the song, I knew I loved this.  If the song had totally crashed down a cliff from that point, I would have still loved it for that one and a half minute of bliss.  Of course, nothing like that happens in the expert hands of Rahman, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Shreya and, yes, Mohit Chauhan.

Let’s finish the part about Shreya’s singing first as she has no lead vocals after the interlude.  She uses a breathy voice for the fast and bouncy verse to convey the excitement of love.  But the tone is far more wistful with a tinge of pain when she moves into Taare Ginn.  This is also not intended to be a loud song, so she drops the larynx a little on the word “Yeh” in “Maza Hi Ya Saza Hai Yeh”.  What do I mean by dropping the larynx? The best way I can explain is on the word Yeh, she sounds more elderly or authoritative.  By dropping the larynx, she reduces the possibly shrill effect of a high note on that word.

Now Shreya is a virtuoso singer who adapts to the needs of the song and focuses much more on phrasing and expression and subtle adjustments like above because she is not just a technician but a gifted aesthete.  Mohit isn’t quite all that.  But either by compulsion or choice, he usually practices restraint in his vocal delivery, which is perfect for this song.

And why do I say that?  Because the song is so delicately put together.  So delicate that when it plays, I fear, irrationally, that something may happen to upset the precarious balance and destroy the song!  It’s unlike any Rahman song I have heard in a long time.  Barring mild synth in the ‘antara’, the arrangement is very ‘acoustic’, comprising of beautiful piano, violins, woodwind and very soft drums.  This is the work of a mature composer who has put together music out of his sheer love of it, not because it has passed the focus-group test.  Every melodic line, every chord selection is just right.

At the same time, it’s not beautiful in a predictable way like a nice Carpenters easy-listening song.  During the antara, Shreya doesn’t disappear but offers beautiful vocal counterpoint to Mohit.  Note that instead of vocal counterpoint, there is a mild piano counterpoint in the first line of the antara.  Yes, this is actually the most Ilayaraja-esque song Rahman has ever done, without really sounding like him.  It’s Raja like in the fine sensibilities, the I-care-a-damn stand against the trendy brigade and the acute attention to nuance and of developing an arc that builds up to something intense while remaining very melodic.

So, from a quiet start, the vocal counterpoint helps build up the momentum in the antara.  You know it’s coming when Mohit starts sing Yeh Vaada Hai.

And then, Rahman reminds you why he is Rahman and not Ilayaraja with a key change as Mohit goes into Ya Irada Hai.  Whether or not for puritanical reasons, Ilayaraja always avoided the money note which Rahman has used before as well.  But this time, the change is, again, delicate and beautiful.  It’s not the obvious, big money note of say Can You Feel The Love Tonight.  Instead, it takes you by surprise and is super-exhilarating for that reason.  If you’re an old school music lover with a liking for jazz, you will gasp as that moment hits you. It’s so satisfying when a composer takes a risk and resolves the risk in a satisfying, nay, masterful way.

Rahman doesn’t try to resolve this moment back to square one and instead leaves the phrase hanging at Kabhi Yeh Aadha Hai.  And so, when you return to Taare Ginn, you don’t notice that the key has changed!  But go back and listen to the first Taare Ginn and you will see Rahman moved the cheese when you weren’t noticing!  Never before have I been offered so many surprises in a nice way in a conventional-sounding song of Rahman.

And that is where he has fooled some critics with the conventional appearance of the song with one noted critic comparing it to Disney musicals.  But this delicate poise is what a Disney musical ballad does not have.  That doesn’t make them bad; I am just saying Taare Ginn is a totally different trip.

And the way in which it is, is beautifully encapsulated by Amitabh Bhattacharya in a single lyric line:  “Ek Haseen Maza Hain, Maza Hi Ya Saza Hain Yeh”.  There was a similar sentiment expressed in Mazhaivarum Arugiri: “Kadhala Sadhala”.  But that song itself, the music, didn’t rise up to that sentiment.  This one accesses that elusive space where within the rumaniyat (romance) there is a dard (pain/sadness).  The beauty of this composition is in how it maintains the dard as an undertone that’s there but you can’t put a finger on it.  If you don’t pay attention, you will indeed miss it and take it to be a comfort-song, as some reviews seem to have.  Again, there’s nothing wrong if you think it’s just that; but my purpose here is to encourage anybody who’s reading this to just try digging deeper with this song for it may enrich your experience and increase the pleasure you obtain out of it.

Jazz is often thought as either dance-swing music (Ram Pam Pam/Kaisi Paheli Zindagi) or cool or sappy lounge music (Poo Poothathu/Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na) in the mainstream.  But it can be so much more.  Jazzheads know that jazz can be anything you want it to be.  And it’s so gratifying when Rahman himself introduces mainstream listeners to this magnificent side of jazz.

Here are some of the other jazz-based songs you may enjoy:

  1. Soja Soja Raat Ho Gayi (99 songs)
  2. Kalvane Kalvane (Megha)
  3. Dhinnakudha (Pizza)
  4. Dhadhaam Dhadhaam (Bombay Velvet)
  5. Kurangu Kaiyil Maalai (Mumbai Xpress)

There are others, too.  I mentioned a few of them in the rare Raja songs list.

But none of them, none ever, has scaled the heights of Taare Ginn, in my opinion.  Some were let down by lyrics, some by vocals (Day by Day), some by production (Niram Pirithu Parthen).  This is one song where it all comes together in a sumptuous feast for the ears.  I hope you have/will enjoy this song as much as I have.

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10 Responses to “Taare Ginn and all that jazz”

  1. Madan Says:

    Putting this and any future observations I may have in this comment rather than inflate the main article.

    1) On the second iteration of Ek Haseen Maza Hai, there is a beautiful string accompaniment which isn’t there in the first.
    2) There are subtle variations in the way Mohit sings the two verses of the antara “Roko Ise Jitna” and “Ismein Hai Jo Tera”. I don’t mean things like inflections or riffs, the melody itself is slightly different. This is a very jazz thing; no two phrases are intended to sound the same in jazz.

    Both 1 and 2 show an amazing intricacy in the arrangement that I have rarely come across in Rahman’s music. And I don’t mean that as a left handed compliment of any sort; I am really floored that he decided to do all this in this song now after a nearly 30 year old career. Really hats off.

    And a shout out to the very jazz-like loose timing in Mohit’s delivery.

  2. Jayram Says:

    Nice, Madan! I enjoyed reading it.

    And thanks for the cover. Your singing truly comes from the heart. The sangati for the first “mazaa” was good. In the antara before the key change, I could hear a mixture of Rafi, Kishore and Mohit, yet coming from you, it felt original and fresh. The key change in “Yeh Irada Hai” was well done. I agree that the breathy voice parts weren’t easy, but you didn’t sacrifice one iota of melody. You did go a bit off tune, but it wasn’t jarring and you rebounded back splendidly.

    You have a very good voice which has some similarities with some of today’s male playback singers, yet you stand out because of your respect and worship for the musical form and always aiming high. For example, you would not sing a mass song composed by Anirudh, because 1) it is a bullshit song which will be forgotten and 2) it goes against who you are as a music lover and singer. Instead, you would be at home with Unna Nenachi which you would have outshined Sid Sriram. I can hear you singing Nenje Ezhu as a power ballad which would make ARR weep!

    I think I speak for most if not all the folk at BR’s blog that you would be a perfect fit for the next album/soundtrack of Raja and/or ARR. One dream I have is that you would sing at least one song from MR’s Ponniyin Selvan.

    One day I hope to meet you in person whenever or wherever it may be. You can get in touch with me at jsataluri@yahoo.com.

    Please keep it the good work you do!

    • Madan Says:

      Wow, thanks Jayram not only for the extremely exalted praise which I am not sure I am worthy of but also for the very detailed feedback.

      The key change is tough and I am so glad you appreciated that aspect. That’s why I fell madly in love with this song. I have never even wanted to sing a song that was so new, let alone recording it and exposing myself to the world at large.

      I am just a humble amateur at the end of the day and as long as I, as in what little I can do with my voice, can fit in a song, I would be open to work with anyone. I am not even harbouring such dreams. I just keep singing and sharing. I do it more often since covid because it’s a good release for me and if people enjoy it, hopefully it helps them get some joy in these hard times.

      I would love to meet you too whenever that is possible (I mean, we are all isolated as of now). My email id is madwiz@gmail.com.

    • Madan Says:

      I do hear from many people – well many among the few who have heard me sing, lol – that I don’t sound like anyone in particular and that is gratifying. I don’t know how and why it is that way, but it’s just so. This may sound like I am demystifying singing too much but technically, it’s like driving a car. You decide which gear to step into depending on how fast you want to/can drive.

      So the below is a popular rock song where I am singing full tilt pretty much all the way:

      And this is Malare Mounama:

      I kind of adjust the diction and attack for the song and do emulate what the original singer did (with a song like Taare Ginn, maybe less because I am not so influenced by Mohit whereas SPB, Kishore, Rafi are massive influences) but I don’t try to change my tone as in my natural voice. I don’t think you SHOULD do that anyway.

      • Jayram Says:

        I would say there were times when I was younger when I changed my tone when I was singing older rock songs in the car (eg. Who are you?). Then I realized I couldn’t sustain it and switched back to my natural voice.

        Whenever I sing, I try to put my own spin on the song and try my best not to ape the original too much. There is a Rabindra Sangeeth that Kishore sang in the mid 1980s for Satyajit Ray in Khamaj which I listened to repeatedly until it was ingrained in my head and I could sing it (granted I don’t know Bengali, but did discover the meaning later on). In the beginning, I followed Kishore’s version, then in the coming years I refined it to fit my own range. Even for a Thyagaraja krithi I heard from BMK many times, I decided to sing it in a way that fit my voice and still maintained Thyagaraja’s soul.

    • Madan Says:

      Who Are You/Rabindra Sangeeth/BMK – that’s amazing repertoire. I would love to hear your songs too if you have recordings of them. We should do a skype or something soon.

  3. Anonymous Violin Says:

    After you mentioned Taare Gin on your post about “The Other Soundtrack of 1992” on BR’s blog, I finally decided to check it out (before, I only listened to the Dil Bechara title track from the album).

    You’ve echoed most of my thoughts about that song, and most of all, that key change! Wow. Reminds me a little bit of what he did towards the end of Ennodu Nee Irundhaal (from I) . Both cases, he chose to stay in the key until the end and leaves the listener (or maybe just me) with a deep satisfaction.

    I don’t understand Hindi, so I can’t comment on that aspect unfortunately.

    The melodic line right from after the interlude until the key change was a little bit hard for me to grasp in the first couple of listens, along with the additional complexity of the counterpoint. But everything else in the song made me need to hear it again and again.

    It might be my overexposure to Shreya Ghoshal compared to Mohit Chauhan, but I felt like it was his show all the way. There’s some je ne sais quoi to his voice.

    And finally, thanks for the other jazzy recommendations. Haven’t heard the one from Mumbai Express or the one from Bombay Velvet, so I’ll have to check those out.

    (side note, have you heard of The Piano Guys?)

    • Madan Says:

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for mentioning The Piano Guys. Haven’t heard of them, concept looks interesting. Albeit I will admit I am not THAT much of a classical music guy.

      And on that note, you might find my other post on jazz in general interesting:

      https://rothrocks.wordpress.com/2020/08/23/just-some-jazz-about-jazz/

      And a little self-plug if I may of my attempt at a famous jazz-pop/rock song from the most prolific purveyors of said genre:

      Regarding the key change, actually what I am trying to say is there is in fact a key change but it is not done in the typical money note fashion (Oo La La is the classic money note style and you hear it in many, many Disney songs). The key change in Taare Ginn happens right when you take off into Ya Irada Hai. So you have to be very careful when you sing the song that you move into a different key on that line. It is less intuitive than a classic money note where the accompaniment sets you up for the move and it’s much more predictable. It is also more satisfying, yes, for those reasons because it’s not distracting and calling attention to itself. It’s more of an ’embedded’ complexity, the sort of thing Raja would do. And I was really thrilled that Rahman did something like that on this song.

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