Yes its true, an adventurous step forward into an unknown territory, I have just launched my new blog. Indian Baja may sound strange, but it rhymes well with Indian Raga. Moreover, it was the only short term available to register the blog. Baja was also apt because it was a term once used for the good old Gramophone player. Today it is also synonymous to the Harmonium, also known as Peti in some parts of India. Also I thought it would be an easy thing for you all to replace raga part of indianraga and type in baja instead, in case you feel like switching between the two blogs. In fact, you need to replace just two letters of raga with those in baja. I have chosen to retain the themes and the logo of Indian Raga.
The Jaltarang, one of the most rarely heard instruments today, is among the oldest instruments in the world. It consists of china bowls filled with water and struck by two wooden sticks. Earlier, since china clay bowls were not available, artists used to play this instrument with metal bowls. Each bowl can be tuned to the desired frequency by varying the quantity of water in it. These bowls are placed in a semi-circle arrangement around the artist and played. The Jaltarang has a pleasant characteristic tone similar to the Feng Shui wind chimes. The player can produce on it, classical IndianRagas and light melodies as well. Jaltarang is a unique instrument in the sense that it is both a percussion, as well as non-percussion instrument.
Jaltarang is a dying art. Inspired by Jaltarang, glass music became popular in sixteenth century Europe using glasses in place of cups. Another variation of the Jaltarang is found in Jaisalmer district in Rajasthan in India, where a single metal plate, called the thali, filled with water, is used as an accompaniment by applying strokes to produce different tones and rhythms. It is called Jaltaal. Although Jaltarang has been prevalent for over five hundred years, the instrument attracted attention in the first half of the 20th century.
Kaamchor (1982) – Tum Se Badhkar Duniya Mein : (Download)
Jaltarang was extensively used in film music and orchestral compositions until recently. The song posted above from the Hindi movie Kaamchor (1982) is a good example of how Jaltarang could be used with amazing effect. However, this instrument is losing its popularity because the lack of ease the artists feel while trying to play the more complex Ragas. Very few artists in recent times have been able to adopt it as their main instrument for classical performances. Among these few are Milind Tulankar, Ragini Trivedi, Ranjana Pradhan and Anayampatti S Ganesan.
I had a fit last week. Not the type when you froth at the mouth, face twitching, eyes rolling skywards and finally, you drop down dead on the floor ..with a thud. Mine was different. I chanced upon a website called suhanegeet.com. What I saw there was amazing stuff. Vintage hindi film songs from 1930 onwards. I am not a big follower of hindi film songs really, but I love collecting artifacts of antique value, be it coins, paintings, or any old titbit piece of art for that matter.
To me the glorious black and white era of hindi films ended with the release of Mughal-e-Azam in 1959 (or was it 1960 ?). This was the period which saw the evolution of hindi film songs from the unbearably harsh sounding songs of the early 1930s to the refined voices of singers like K L Saigal, Amirbai Karnataki, Zohrabai Ambalawali, C H Atma, Talat Mahmood, Suraiya, Khursheed, Shamshad Begum, Noor Jehan and many others. The emergence of Lata Mangeshkar and company in the late 1940s however, changed the face of hindi film music forever.
Mughal-e-Azam (1959) – Lata & Shamshad Begum : (Download)
So I went down to work. Suhanegeet.com is not a fanciful site, infact it is a bit drag on at first look. It has a great search engine though. Above all, it has an archive of some 8000 songs, but I was interested only in songs of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The songs can be played on an onsite flash mp3 player but cannot be downloaded. I somehow managed to download ‘quite a few‘ songs, all of them from the above mentioned vintage period. I have this strange thing going for me. When I get down to do something, I try very hard to be meticulous about it.
I had a fit last week :
Thirsting for more of such vintage songs, I discovered another site : ansarimusic.net (or songs420.com). Applying the same ‘method’ which I did with suhanegeet.com, I downloaded ‘some‘ of the songs, mostly of the legendary singers. I finished the job by downloading a ‘few‘ from smashits.com, most of them from the 1930 through the 1950s. Finally, I have a handsome collection of select old hindi film songs now, all vintage. All this took me a few hours of nosing around ..and a little application of mind.