Rhyme or rhythm?

Anjali Jhangiani & Anukriti Sharma
Tuesday, 20 June 2017

On World Music Day today, we seek two opinions on the age-old debate — what is more important — words or tunes?

You may love a song for the lyrics, you may love it for the music, or both. Sometimes, the music may speak louder than the words and at other times, words may get all your attention. At a time when EDM is spreading its influence into every genre of music, we ask two professionals from the industry to explain the importance of lyrics and tunes to a song. 

“If you talk about India, you have to consider Bollywood. Even though EDM has taken over Bollywood, traditionally the industry has had melody-driven songs we can hum. We remember lyrics of old songs more than anything else. And there have been great lyricist-composer partnerships, look at Amitabh Bhattacharya and Pritam,” says singer-songwriter Nirmika Singh. 

The lyrics, she says, gathers the crux of the song and gives it a certain identity. “The words in a song are the only way of conveying something that goes a little further than the tune and the music,” says Singh, adding, “It is the bond of language which can make you feel something familiar.”

Talking about how important words are to a song, she points out that Bob Dylan, a lyricist, was honoured for his work with a Nobel Prize for 2016. “Bob Dylan was honoured with a Nobel Prize because his lyrics were recognised as literature. There are songs that define a generation because of their words. Can you imagine the importance of a songwriter?” rhetorically asks Singh. 

She goes on to say, “People were confused about the Nobel Prize for Literature being given to a songwriter. But he explained how Shakespeare wrote his plays to be staged and the lines were meant to be spoken. He didn’t realise what a contribution he was making to literature. Such is the case with songwriters, you don’t know how they make and define history.”

Summing up, Singh believes that songwriting will never die and will always have the power to connect with human beings from all cultures across the world. 

“An instrumental track can tell a story that lyrics cannot. When there are no lyrics, the music lets you interpret the song in any way you want to, depending on the mood you are in and the thoughts in your head at that time. When the lyrics are absent, it allows the track to have multiple different interpretations instead of setting a certain tone or creating a picture in the listener’s head,” says Kunaal Gurbaxani, aka Gurbax, music composer and DJ. He shares that it depends on the maker of the song whether they want lyrics in it or not. 

But on the other hand, Gurbax admits, “Vocal-centric music definitely has a higher chance of reaching out to more listeners. People do like to sing along to the song. Lyrics stick to the mind more than a catchy melody. It is easier to make a lyrical song more popular than a song without lyrics.” Which is probably why Alan Walker decided to re-release his song Fade with remastered vocals and made a phenomenal hit with Faded. 

Gurbax reveals that he personally likes to include lyrics into the songs he creates. “My kind of music, EDM, has no boundaries. So when I say I like to include vocals, it may mean anything from incorporating a proper verse or just a chorus or hook line, or just an expression like ‘oh’, ‘aah’. Snippets of vocals can take the beat to the next level. There is so much scope for experimentation with vocals. You can chop it up, engineer it to sound like something else and create something new,” says Gurbax, as he cites the example of Justin Bieber and Diplo’s Where are you now.

In the track, the unique sound, which is somewhat like a flute, used in the chorus along with the hook line ‘Where are you now’, is actually Justin’s vocals which have been engineered to be high pitched and strained to sound like a new kind of instrument.

“You can always take the human voice and reintroduce it. It is the human voice that resonates with people, it might not necessarily be the words. It adds a vibe to the feel of the song and takes it to the next level,” says Gurbax. 

Music on your mind
Anukriti Sharma

People talk about their favourite music genre and its impact on their life

Rapper Macklemore spoke what was on everyone’s mind when he said, ‘Music is therapy. It moves people and connects them in a way no other medium can. It acts as a medicine’. Music has the power to move you, make you feel and sometimes even express multiple emotions. This World Music Day, we ask people about which genre has won them over and its impact on their lives.

Different genres shape one’s perspective and world views significantly. For a connoisseur of jazz, it might give them an impeccable sense of noticing the minutest details. It is also a music form that delivers in spades for those who are patient. Metal helps dealing with depression or aggression. It is one of the most uplifting genres. Blues is the moodiest of all genres, with its roots in pain and salvation from the cotton fields of America. Its depth makes this genre commiserative to the listeners’ feelings. EDM is for mindless drones, hiding in quiet desperation, seeking validation, adulation and acceptance amongst their peers.
Arindam Sen, Engineer

Retro it is!
I usually listen to various genres of music as I work for a radio firm but I like listening to the classics, retro, both Hindi and English, because I feel those are the gems of music today. The compositions, the lyrics bring back so much in life and I feel the beauty of music. It definitely influences me in a positive way whereas music today just leaves bad marks on today’s generations! I’d say old is still gold!
Anurag Prasad, Music Producer

Depends on the occasion
Well, music gets me a lot of peace, especially when it’s touching your soul. If I listen to lounge, I feel calm and peaceful. If I want to dance, I listen to house progressive. House music makes me feel elated. Different genres for different occasions make your life easier. When I’m travelling, music makes me enjoy my journey.
Suchit Sarsar, marketing professional

Music bands for me
We have always had a variety of non Bollywood music genres, like the distinct folk, classical and devotional music. Back in the ‘90s, bands such as Indian Ocean, Indus Creed tried to make a mark, but their act was loved by their limited followers. The reincarnation came to us in the form of unprecedented music festivals. I absolutely love the feel and vibe of these bands because of how enchanting they are. The lyrics and the experimentation with the music is just other worldly. 
Jeshlin Jacob, student

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