The song from the hills

The song from the hills
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First Published: Fri, Dec 14 2007. 11 52 PM IST

Backstory: The song is about a corrupt politician
Backstory: The song is about a corrupt politician
Updated: Fri, Dec 14 2007. 11 52 PM IST
I really don’t know how you might be able to do so, but I would strongly recommend you give the song Nauchhammi Narena, or “Naughty Narayan”, a listen. It isn’t going to be an easy song to locate, I reckon, if the chase I had to give is any indicator. In fact, now might be the time to thank my driver, Suresh Kumar, for having found and bought the track for me for a meagre Rs54 (including taxes) at a store in New Delhi that stocks music from Uttarakhand.
Backstory: The song is about a corrupt politician
For those who are willing to take up a challenge, look for Nauchhammi Narena on a VCD called Uttaranchali Chitrageet, produced by Rama Cassettes and titled, what else, Nauchhammi Narena! And, oh yes, “Nauchhammi” is to be pronounced as you would nau or nine in Hindi, and chhammi to rhyme with Shammi. Sung by the hugely popular Uttarakhand singer Narendra Singh Negi, the album features eight Garhwali music videos, with an additional ninth track that contains the making of Nauchhammi Narena. Hailed in January as the Dylan of the hills by a Telegraph correspondent, Negi, also called the Mohammad Rafi of Uttarakhand, does what many an artiste would baulk at—he takes on the establishment in his title track with a blistering, scarcely veiled attack on the former chief minister of Uttarakhand, Narayan Dutt Tiwari.
Depicting him as a corrupt, flirtatious politician who neglects his duties as he whiles away his time in nefarious activities, the music video stars an actor with a striking resemblance to Tiwari. While Negi’s target is undoubtedly the Congress, he doesn’t have too many kind words for the Bharatiya Janata Party either. What’s more, he isn’t apologetic, even though the music video (now available on YouTube) starts with the declaration that all characters are imaginary and that resemblance to any individual is purely accidental. In an interview posted on a website, (younguttaranchal.com/uttarakhand-cinema/narendra-singh-negi-a-legend.html), Negi replies thus when asked whether his song upset Tiwari: “Whenever the truth is revealed, it is apparent that those affected by it would show their anguish. What I have communicated through the song are the feelings of the people of Uttaranchal, which they were otherwise unable to express openly. By doing so, I don’t feel like I have done anything wrong, and it is only the truth which I have communicated through this song.”
There is much that can be admired in Negi’s work. For instance, he uses the traditional devotional song form of jagar for his best-selling track and refuses to abandon folk instruments, such as the thali and damua, even while including the synthesizer that seems to have become part and parcel of Indian music from virtually any and every part of the country. Even his chorus looks like regular hill folk singing as they always would.
No makeovers, no wriggling, writhing cleavage-baring dancers in this music video, and that’s saying a lot these days. And there’s more that we can all learn from—he even takes care to acknowledge his team, including cameraman Ravi Bhatt, all the participating artistes, editor Kunal Vivek, and a music arranger with the most extraordinary name: H. Soni “Pum Pum”!
It has been a while since Nauchhami Narena was first launched and became a big hit. And I am relieved to see that Narendra Singh Negi hasn’t had to withdraw any offensive line from the song or edit any objectionable scene from the video. So what if the once feisty Taslima Nasreen has bowed to political pressure and promised to be a good girl and behave in favour of safe passage to Kolkata.
Write to Shubha at musicmatters@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Dec 14 2007. 11 52 PM IST