2006: The Three Aces

Manek Sabhagriha, Mumbai witnessed the coming together on the stage of three Legendary musical stalwarts – Manohari Singh, Kersi Lord, and Ustad Rais Khan. The occasion endorsed the organizing group Swar Aalap’s dedicated commitment to the cause of promoting and supporting musicians. Musicians who arranged and played thousands of Hindi film songs, infusing their own fervor and Zeal to create the enduring appeal that music lovers have grown and lived with. Shankar Iyer re-lives the charisma of the mega evening that had the 800-odd audience in rapt attention.

Manohari SinghMusic and songs have forever been an integral part of Bollywood films. Audiences have been wooed time and again by the ageless magic of innumerable celluloid melodies. Rightly enough, enormous praise and acknowledgment are due to the frontline performers involved – the movie director, the on-screen artists, the singer’s lending vocals, the songwriter, and the music composer. It would only be fair to say that song lovers may never have experienced the same beautiful melodies had it not been for the individual passion, dedication, and commitment of these instrumentalists.

Taking this noble intention forward, Swar Aalap brings on stage acclaimed Sitar player Ustad Rais Khan, versatile arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Kersi Lord, and music director cum saxophone maestro Manohari Singh. The event’s theme hinged on lucid chat sessions with the three artists, presented along with living orchestral performances of their evergreen songs from Hindi films with band leader and Rhythmists Girish Vishwa & Anup Shankar.

The curtains symbolically opened with septuagenarian Manohari Singh playing the Key Flute on stage to the lively beats of the 1972 blockbuster hit ‘Saamne ye Kaun Aaya, which Dada had arranged for RD Burman in ‘Jawani Deewani’. “Gaana sajaane se wo ubhar ke aata hai” explained Dada, elaborating on what music arrangement meant. Dada playing his original pieces live on stage like ‘Gar tum Kersi Lordbula na doge’, ‘Jaa re ud jaa re’, ‘Tum bin jaaun kahaan’, ‘Hai duniya usiki zamaana usi ka’ and going on.

An interactive quiz with the already charged audience based on Dada’s live Saxophone renditions for various music directors followed. Dada’s renditions in ‘Awaaz deke Humen Tum’ (Professor), ‘Tumhe Yaad hoga’ (Post box no.999), ‘Dil jo na keh saka’ (Bheegi Raat), ‘Aji Rooth Kar ab’ and ‘Bedardi baalma Tujhko’ (Aarzoo), had the whole gathering further exited, ready to lap up everything that was on offer. Truly, this globally acclaimed saxophonist had not only delighted his old fans but also added many more names to his never-ending list of admirers that evening.

The immortal Accordion pieces of ‘Roop tera mastana’ from S D Burman’s ‘Aradhana’ played live by the orchestra welcomed the living legend and the second star of the evening on stage. His multiple achievements covered a wide array of instruments like the Piano Accordion, Synthesizer, Organ, Drums, Bongos, Congos, mallet instruments Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, xylophone, etc., and last but not least the ‘Minimoog’ Synthesizer that he had introduced to India in 1973.

The curtains re-opened with the Sitar maestro Ustad Rais Khan taking the center stage accompanied by his son cum disciple Farhan Khan. Farhan emphasized Ustad’s unmatched ability as a musician with extraordinarily deft fingers.

Ustad Rais KhanAlthough the world at large recognizes Khan Saheb as an extraordinary Indian classical soloist, few music lovers actually know of his Sitar adorning countless Hindi film songs like ‘Nagma-o-sher ki baarat’, ‘Dhoondo dhoondo re saajna’ ‘Ishaaron ishaaron mein’ etc. Underlining the contributions of hundreds of music artists, the Ustad stressed that both ‘filmi’ and ‘ilmi’ singing are equally demanding and specialized and that they deserved equal respect.

The Karachi-based stalwart was not only a staunch supporter of Swar Aalap but had waived off his entire performing fees [a feat which was emulated by many musicians including Manoharida as their contribution to Swar Aalap that evening]. Starting with ‘raagdari’ music, khan saheb moved on to lighter stuff comprising hit film songs that he had played for.

The icing on the cake was the autograph session thereafter, where fans, old and new, clamored for the autographs of the stars on the rare photographs of the Swar Aalap calendar. Pandit Zarine Sharma and Pandit Ashok Sharma having featured on this collector’s item readily joined the signing session.

I am compelled to think that a divine hand ‘upstairs was involved in the supervision of the show, perhaps firmly vindicating Swar Aalap’s selfless and ongoing efforts in the field of Hindi film music. The sequence of events progressed smoothly and grandly to conclude a memorable evening that is forever etched in the memory of the music lovers.

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