For eighteen years, I listened to nothing but old Hindi film music. Here are the songs that made me expand my playlist:

1. Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo – Farida Khanum.

Recorded live by Pakistan’s Mallika-e-Ghazal. Sparingly accompanied by harmonium and tabla. Punctuated by enthusiastic wah-wah’s from the audience. I am always moved by its soulful lyrics:

Waqt ki qaid mein zindagi hai magar

Chand ghadiyaan yeh hi hain jo aazaad hain

Inko khokar meri jaan-e-jaan

Umr bhar na taraste raho

Aaj jaane ki zid na karo.

2. Ekla Chalo Re – Kishore Kumar.

We were taught to sing this in school, and the meaning of its sweet Bangla words (penned by Rabindranath Tagore) has stayed with me since:

If they answer not thy call, walk alone

If they are afraid and cower mutely, facing the wall

Open thy mind and speak out alone.

3. Disla Ga Bai Disla – Usha Mangeshkar.

Rendered with Lata’s skill and Asha’s energy, it captures exuberance in a tune. Earthy, vibrant and wild, it is the first of many Marathi songs I have come to hear and love.

4. Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler.

Never before had I taken note of songs from movie soundtracks. Played at the end of the chick-flick Beaches, this full-throated number goes to show how a strong voice can reach out and grab you by the ears.

5. Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s.

If the West could produce solos like this, I decided they were well worth a listen. A beautiful guitar-bolstered ballad, it means much to so many people I know, as it does to me.

6. Fields of Gold – Eva Cassidy.

You who have heard this dirge have heard an angel sing. It never fails to create the tableau in my mind of sunset in a hay field. Her cover made Sting’s original sound like a bhajan. And pushed me to explore the indie scene.

7. Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver.

The mandolin and the mouth organ lend a maudlin touch to this wistful melody. I play it on loop whenever I’m in the train on my way home to Nagpur. Country music – my favourite genre.

8. Vellai Pookkal (White Flowers) – A R Rehman.

From Mani Ratnam’s Kannathil Muthamittal, this is a peace anthem against the war in Sri Lanka. I don’t understand Tamil; to grasp the emotions in this song, I didn’t need to. And it led me to the treasure trove of Rehman’s non-Bollywood repertoire.

9. Strangers In The Night – Frank Sinatra.

Tuning in to AIR FM Rainbow late into the night, night after night, introduced me to a lot of classics like this one. Baritones, big-band orchestras and sentimental lyrics made me fall in love with good old jazz and swing.

10. What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong.

Saxophone by Kenny G. My feel good song, I play it whenever I’m low. If ever I have an open-air wedding, they’ll play this during the first dance.

This is my list. What’s yours?

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4 thoughts on “MUSIC TO MY EARS

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