Journalists often ask me—don’t you think times are a-changing with Indian film music becoming more experimental, more creative, less repetitive and open to using new voices and sounds? There’s this tinge of urgent hope in their voices that they aren’t addressing a dissenting voice. Methinks it is music for advertisements, jingles and commercials that seems to be changing, hopefully for the better.
From among the clanging, clashing, fiercely hissing and spitting sounds that are emitted round the clock from the much maligned idiot box that we nevertheless can’t do without are some really lovely sounds that make you sit up and listen. I stopped myself just the other day from muting the volume in a commercial break when I heard this beautiful, slightly childish voice singing a Rajasthani song for a really quirky moochhwali commercial where everyone from babies to sari-clad women seemed to be sporting a pair of twirled moustaches. Uncluttered and fortunately not over-produced, the confident little voice sang on to the accompaniment of only a manjira, or cymbal, and a dholak, stopping all too soon to endorse the trustworthiness of Fevicol adhesives.
Rajasthani music has, of course, been an all-time favourite for mixing, blending, appropriation, even plagiarism by musicians and composers working with film music, world music, New Age music, electronic music and what have you. But in most cases, the arrangement is “contemporarized” and souped up to such an extent that it loses its basic flavour and colour. This ad is clever by far in its use of music and in letting the music retain its pristine, unhurried and un-manipulated innocence.
Desert song: Rajasthani folk music has inspired many hit ad tunes. Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Then there is also this other impish little voice that sings Ye duniya badi majedaar (This world is very entertaining) at a crowded railway station, for an American Tourister commercial. The sound and the music for the commercial retain a real-life quality, with the singer’s sharp, slightly shrill voice pitched boldly enough to cut through the cacophony at railway stations and on trains. There’s something truly charming about the familiarity of the sounds that invariably make me smile when I hear the singer’s voice doing a neat cascading trill on the word “majedaar”. Take a look and a listen on YouTube.
But it isn’t just the novelty of hearing these fresh, unfamiliar voices that holds one’s attention. Playback star and composer Sukhwinder Singh’s brilliant rendition of Gulzar sahib’s lyrics and Vishal Bhardwaj’s music for the Bajaj Allianz Jiyo Befikar commercial did for me what a Dhan tan nan from Kaminey couldn’t—it made me sit up and wait eagerly for a repeat telecast, only to hear that quicksilver, quintessentially Sukhwinder Singh harkat, or trill, on the word “haraarat”.
To my ear it does seem that music for commercials has a head start over film music when it comes to using new voices and avoiding clichés. The only problem is that since mine is a musician’s ear, I remember the jingle and the music and the voices, but can’t for the life of me remember which product the music was promoting! Thank God for Google and YouTube and search engines.
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