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Kichhu To Chaahini Aami

by Archisman Mozumder

Kichhu To Chaahini Aami
Bengali Adhunik Gaan
Year: 1972
Composer: Salil Chowdhury

As a Bengali who has spent his childhood, in the 1970-s, in a small industrial town in West Bengal, the occasion of Durga Puja was the single most important annual event of our lives… not least for the lovely new non-film songs that were released by HMV. While the affluent used to buy these records (typically 45 rpm vinyl-s), the ‘Puja – Pandal’-s used their public address system to play these songs for everyone to enjoy.

My very first memory of listening to a Puja-song was in 1972. By then, Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Pujo’ songs were already a rage, for well over a decade. Beautiful songs, composed by talents like Satinath Mukherjee, Bhupen Hazarika, Hemanta Mukherjee, Binod Chattopadhyay, Rahul Dev Burman and most prominently, Salil Chowdhury, had already nestled into the hearts of Bengali-s since the mid/late 1950-s. Typically, the songs of the two sides of the 78 rpm or 45 rpm had contrasting tunes and moods that showcased the versatility of the singer. The people of Bengal were already in awe of Lata’s effortlessness across different genres of songs.

As I walked into the large playground of our locality, (where the community Puja was being held), at the age of three, with my parents, the trendy strains of Salil Chowdhury’s ‘antabiheen… kaaTe naa aar jeno biroher-I ei din…’) caught my attention.

As the record was flipped to play the 2nd song, the dulcet tone of a sugary-sweet voice had a magnetic effect on me. Since then, the song, ‘kichhu to chaahini aami’…, has remained safely tucked away in a very special nook of my nostalgia. While ‘antabiheen…’, a compellingly riveting tune caught my fancy even at that tender age (and remained a preferred song right till my college days), it is ‘kichhu to chaahini aami…’ that has made me subconsciously aware of the phenomenon that is Lata Mangeshkar.

There is something very Indian about her tone and something very un-Indian about her singing. Her tonal quality conjures images of a cultured and reserved Indian lady. Her singing, on the other hand, has a ruthlessness of perfection in it (albeit subdued). Something that one generally does not equate with a ‘vinamra bhaaratiya naari’. Singers like Kesarbai Kerkar or Hirabai Barodekar, with a different social standing, are expected to be perfect in their ‘swar’ production, not a genteel ‘gayaki’ like Lata’s.

The skill with which she can un-throttle her vocal chords in the middle of a note to sound more luminous (by adding those extra harmonics) is a gift from the Almighty. Then, of course, her ability to nonchalantly slip in a beautiful yet under-stated embellishment/ornamentation in a song.

She starts softly with the lines ‘kichhu to chaahini aami, shudhu cheye cheye thaaki…’

Then, as she sings ‘jodi kichhu bawlo…’ she increases the volume of her voice ever so slightly and adds more harmonics to permeate into our senses.

And, finally, in the line ‘aami chhalo-chhalo chokhey…’, she softens her voice again but slips in a murki that is so incandescently beautiful that it lights up the atmosphere.

For me, just the four opening lines of this song encompass almost everything that Lata’s singing means to me. A few of my friends and I have coined a term for her… ‘Caramelised sugar cubes dipped in honey’. This song, a Salil-masterpiece, replete with wondrous passages of the piano and strings section, fits the bill!

I remain ever so grateful for being able to savour these, first hand.

(*The writer Archisman Mozumder is originally from Asansol, now living in Mumbai since 1994. He enjoys listening to Indian Classical Music and light Indian music, besides dabbling in other genres like western classical music and jazz. He is a telecommunications professional, having been associated with the Tata Group for over 15 years. He is currently self-employed.)

About the author
Archisman Mozumder

The writer Archisman Mozumder is originally from Asansol, now living in Mumbai since 1994. He enjoys listening to Indian Classical Music and light Indian music, besides dabbling in other genres like western classical music and jazz. He is a telecommunications professional, having been associated with the Tata Group for over 15 years. He is currently self-employed.