Author’ Note – I have included a YouTube link of Appa’s top five songs. Do listen to them to fully be part of the music experience that was Appa.
With all the talents that Appa possessed that I’ve been going on and on about, it is no surprise that he sang beautifully too. He had a deep, baritone voice that echoed and resonated somewhere deep inside you. He didn’t just sing, he put all his emotions behind his voice and the result was pure magic.
Appa’s music collection was as eclectic as he was. Music became and continues to be an integral part of all our lives right from our formative years. Whether it is memories of Appa listening to Ceylon Radio every Saturday night in the 1960s and 70s, or the huge collection of long-playing records we had ranging from South Indian Carnatic music to evergreen Hindi and Tamil songs to even some English classics, we all developed eclectic tastes from his choice of music.
The thought of writing about this came to me when I was at work fixing myself a cup of coffee and I began to hum a song almost like a reflex action. That song is on top of Appa’s list of favourites and it even has a couple of stories associated with it that make me smile even as I write this.
The song was “Baharon Phool Barsao” from the 1966 movie Suraj. Thanks to Appa constantly humming this song, I would have heard it more times than I can count. One pretty predictable story associated with this song is that Appa used to hum this to Amma every chance he got. He was really something of a die-hard romantic!
The second, more funnier story was that he used to sing this at the top of his voice in the bus when he accompanied my eldest sister to drop her off to college. It embarrassed her so much that she often sought a seat away from him. The passengers were probably thoroughly entertained for that portion of their trip but my sister, not so much.
As soon as I finished humming this song, Appa’s second favourite song came to mind. This one reminded me of how Appa would constantly sing praises of Suraiya, her acting and her voice. Thinking back now, I think Appa had a crush on her!
This particular song from the movie Dillagi (1949) became so popular that it was remade in multiple languages, a sign of a song going “viral” in those times. The song was sung by the hero and heroine of the movie, Shyam and Suraiya who were also a popular screen couple at the time.
That song was “Tu Mera Chand Main Teri Chandni” and even when I hear it today, I hear Appa’s voice and not the singers. If I close my eyes and really focus, I can see him, eyes closed from the sheer wave of emotions this song brings with it, his deep, rich voice resonating inside my heart and rekindling love and romance all over again.
The third song that comes to mind on Appa’s Top 10 Playlist is a Tamil one. It has a soothing melody and brings tears to my eyes to this day. It is a beautiful uplifting song that encourages us to find a way out of our sorrows and sadness through a song or a dance. The song is “Thunbam Nergayil” and I am also including a link to the lyrics translation for those interested to explore this song further.
Coming up fourth on Appa’s list is a classical song about how the thought of Lord Krishna sends waves through the singer’s entire being. Many singers have sung this over time, but Appa’s favourite was the rendition of Maharajapuram Santhanam whose voice feels like a balm on your soul. The song I identify most with and was Appa’s favourite is “Alai Payuthey“.
Appa also loved to listen to ghazals, that lilting style of song that strings words effortlessly to form deep-meaning and evergreen melodies. One such ghazal that Appa listened to and hummed often was “Ulfat Ki Nayi Manzil ko Chala“. As is the case with Carnatic music, the same ghazal is often sung by different singers who add their own special charm into the mix. Appa preferred to listen to the version by Iqbal Bano. There is a line in the ghazal that roughly translates to “Oh you who broke my heart, watch where you go. I too stand on your new path.” Appa sang this line with so much fervour that words could not describe it. Maybe listening to Iqbal Bano singing it would help you understand the depth of emotion in this song.
The most special set of songs that Appa sang is one that every one of us in every generation of the family have heard. The sight of him rocking one of his grandchildren, crooning a lullaby was something deeply moving. He once sang a lullaby of my choice in a hospital room at my request, when I was just out of surgery, with no hesitation and no regard for becoming a public spectacle in the middle of a hospital.
But that story… is for another day!