Pancham brought out the best in every artist: Asha Bhosle

New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) Queen of Bollywood playback music Asha Bhosle's songs are synonymous with the compositions of Rahul Dev Burman aka Pancham who gave her the maximum number of hits at the peak of her career.

"I loved all his songs. Pancham had this unique quality of bringing out the best in every artist by making him or her feel comfortable. He knew how to make me sing to get the maximum effect in every situation," Asha told IANS Friday evening during a visit to the capital.

"There were times when I would tell him in the morning that I was not up to singing because I was nervous. And he would respond, 'don't sing, just take it easy. Talk about your home'. Then around noon, he would gently coax me to sing and after a few trials, the recording was over. Pancham would say, 'ho gaya na' (it is done). He was the best recording man around," she said as she walked down the memory lane.

"Of course, today we still have great lyricists and composers like Gulzar and Sameer," said Asha, clad in a blue chiffon sari with sequinned embroidery and a maroon border with pink satin roses and silver pins in her hair.

In 1966, Asha hit the charts with the score of "Teesri Manzil" created by R.D. Burman. It was the beginning of a long and successful collaboration.

"Bollywood film music has become modern over the years with the inroads of technology," said Asha, who was here to inaugurate a three-day concert "A Life in Melody: A 100-Minute Tribute to Vilayat Khan" organised by 100 Piper's Pure Music.

"Playback singing in Bollywood is not the same any more. Music has changed over the years. The new technology is very modern and sophisticated, but it has taken jaan (life) and atma (soul) out of music. There is no spirit in Bollywood music any more and it is this rooh (spirit) I am seeking in music now," the musician said.

"One can sing out of rhythm and out of tune; women can sing in an octave lower than that of men and male playback singers can have a high-pitch baritone. The machines can always fix that. The new Bollywood music is raucous and I don't like it. The "dil ke gaane (songs of the heart)" have disappeared," said Asha, who turned 76 this month.

The musician, who began her career in 1943, does not want to cut any more "albums of Bollywood film music" after more than six decades.

"Film songs do not make sense any more because the television channels in the country do not want to show anything else barring Bollywood music. I want to make meaningful Indian music," she said.

Her first assignment was a Marathi movie "Majha Bal" in which she sang "Chala Chala Nav Bala". Asha has a repertoire of more than 12,000 songs and has sung in more than 14 languages.

"Very few new musicians are good. I think Preetam, Monty, Shankar Mahadevan, Shankar-Eshaan-Loy and A.R. Rahman are making quality music. But there are many others, who are also doing well," Asha said.

Asha is not in favour of fusion music.

"Fusion music did not exist when we sang in Mumbai. Our music was original, drawn from Hindustani classical music. However, many composers were inspired by western music. But the modern fusion music is neither classical nor western. Contemporary Bollywood music has less "bol" ('taal' or rhythm) than the music of yesteryears," she said.

The singer feels that "Indians are going back to their classical musical roots to develop new styles".

"If you notice, parents now are hiring instructors to teach their children classical music at home. It used to be a tradition once upon a time. My grandchildren are training under Birju Maharaj (dance) and Pandit Jitendra Abhisekhi (classical). All schoolchildren in the country must learn classical music and dance," she said.

Asha says she has hobbies like reading and cooking.

"I love to read. When I was around 13-14, I used to spend entire nights reading under the street lights filtering in through the open door. There was no electricity," she said.

"I read Marathi literature, Marathi translations of all famous Bengali and Hindi novels. The books enriched me. All of my three children are very well-read. Every child in this country must study. 'Padhai' is knowledge," she said.

Asha is in no hurry to give up singing. "An astrologer studied my janam patri (horoscope) and said that I would sing for another eight years. I want to sing marte dam tak (till my last breath)," she said.

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