New tricks, old tracks

Poorna Kulkarni
Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Bollywood music composers have been using the formula of rehashing old songs for a while now. 
But where is this trend headed now?

What makes Bollywood different from all the other film industries over the world? The song and dance. Be it a thriller or horror film, a comedy or a romantic one, the music is of utmost importance. Just like films have evolved over the years, so have their music. 

Of late, the seemingly fail-proof formula to make a hit song is to rehash an old number with electronic beats. But if there’s one thing that is constant in this ever-changing industry, it is the audience. Keeping up with what they like and what they reject, music makers are trying every trick in the book to come up with catchy tunes. 

Music composer Rochak Kohli, who started his career with the soulful hit Pani Da Rang in Shoojit Sircar’s romantic comedy Vicky Donor, speaks about how the way audiences consume music has changed, resulting in a whole new dynamic between them and music makers. “Earlier with cassettes and CDs, people paid for music. Now it’s available for free online, and they can listen to it anytime, anywhere. They have access to a wide range of music across various genres, that helps them develop their taste,” says he, adding that all genres are evolving simultaneously in the industry.

Every genre works in a different way. For instance, dance numbers are popular at parties, clubs or weddings to keep the audiences engaged. Soulful numbers have their own audience. Every type of song has a place in Bollywood.

But even with so much content being churned out everyday, rehashed old numbers are still making their way onto our playlists. “Old songs are reworked with new sounds and presented to new audiences who are liking it. But the recreation has to be done in a way that is relevant to today’s audiences,” says he, adding, “For so many, the new version is the only version of the song they know, totally oblivious to the original version. So if the original version was a hit with audiences back in the day, chances are high that if rehashed in the right way with sounds that work today, the song will be popular with the present generation as well.”

The trend of remixes begs the question — are there any original songs made today that will stand the test of time? Ehsaan Noorani, a part of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio, says, “If it is good music and easily relatable to the audiences, it is consumed for a long time. It is all about the depth in composition, music, lyrics and emotional content. When there is a take-away from the song, you feel like listening to it over and over again. That’s what makes the song evergreen.”

The ace guitarist explains that when the melody, emotion and lyrics of the song connect with the audiences, it will be evergreen. His popular album series Dance Masti was a tribute to the original evergreen Bollywood numbers. He says, “The new versions did not mess around with the original song. When rehashing an old hit, composers should recreated the same vision that the original composer had, and maybe introduce it with a more modern sonic sound for new listeners,” he says, adding, “I don’t think that remixing or rehashing is a lasting trend. I like to see ‘70s songs like Samne Yeh Kaun Aaya, Dil Mein Hui Halchal make a comeback. It is not necessary that the music should be old fashioned, it should just have more depth in terms of lyrics and meaning.”

Beats are made with clicks, pitch can be corrected with software and in general, music is mostly made electronically.  In an era ruled with EDM, where songs can end up sounding monotonous, organic and acoustic music can sound refreshing. Music composer Jeet Gannguli, who rose to fame by making music for Aashiqui 2, believes that organic music will soon make a comeback. “Many composers have used a live orchestra with various instruments to compose music in the past, and this is what shows their grit for their profession. After Bappi Lahiri, composers like Nadeem-Shravan, Anu Malik and a few like them brought some changes in music composing. They used acoustic instruments for composing. But in the early 2000s, when I started working, there were more programming or electronic-based music than live singing,””he says. 

“I feel that someday soon, organic music with live sessions like composers such as Madan Mohan, Shankar-Jaikishen, RD Burman organised to record their music, will make a comeback. Though we will require the electronic element in it too. The songs composed by these maestros are played even today, be it in concerts, clubs or reality shows. For the songs to have a good shelf life, we need to give audiences time to connect with the music. After a point, the audience will themselves decide the shelf life of these songs,” says he adding, “All that audiences want to hear is melodious music with good lyrics.”

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