Hamaare Mehmaan - Manohari Singh

Written by Sujoy
Radio Se

This program was broadcast in February 2006 on VB. Thanks to Sujoy for sharing it.


MS: Manohari Singh
YK: Yunus Khan


Manohari Singh plays "O mere dil ke chain" on saxophone.

YK: We are fortunate to have you in Vividh Bharati studio today. Welcome!

MS: Thank you!

YK: You have 40/50 years of experience in saxophone and metal flute. We would like to know about your childhood days.

MS: I was born in the Hooghly district of West Bengal. I got the musical instruments in my family only. My father, grandfather, uncle, all used to play flute. I also started practising flute at home. Then I came to Calcutta and joined an orchestra band in a place called Batanagar. It was a Hungarian band, of Joseph Neumann. Both my paternal and maternal uncles were there.

YK: What was your age at that time?

MS: It was 1942, I was about 13/14 years old.

YK: What about your education then?

MS: I could not study much, I studied in private afterwards.

YK: OK, what happened next?

MS: Then I joined His Master's Voice (HMV) in 1945 as a flute player. At first I used to play in Bengali songs composed by Kamal Dasgupta.

YK: Kamal Dasgupta, who composed the first private songs of Talat Mahmood?

MS: Yes, yes. In Calcutta, at the time of Durga Puja every year, some special songs are released which is a regular thing there. I started playing these intruments in Bengali and Hindi non-film songs. At that time I used to play for a very less number of film songs. During those Puja songs, I met Hemant-da & Salil-da, who use to come there (in HMV most likely!). Salil-da had a fancy on me. Once there was a big show in the Eden Gardens. Naushad saahab, Hemant-da, Burman dada and many others performed in that show. Around that time Hemant-da's Nagin had become a big hit. So, for this show, they selected the good musicians from HMV and I was also given the chance to play in that show. I startec playing saxophone after I joined HMV.

YK: Do you remember which songs you had played for the first time on your saxophone?

MS: In those days, I used to play "gore gore o baanke chhore", then "lare lappa lare lappa lai rakh da". I had recorded these instrumental versions of these songs.

YK: Oh, instrumentals were made in those days also? (surprised)

MS: Yes

YK: So, some LP records were released for these instrumentals?

MS: No, 78 rpm was released.

YK: Oh yes, it was the 50s, this 78 rpm was known as "patthar ke record".

MS: Yes, so in that show, Basu, who was my very good friend, had also played. Naushad saahab, Burman dada, they were so happy with our performances that Naushad saahab said, "bulaa lo inko Bombay, agar yeh log Bombay aa jaayen to hum denge kaam inko". Salil-da used to travel to Bombay frequently at that time. He also started putting pressure on me. Hemant-da had also got setteled there. All of them started calling us. After partition, the Calcutta film industry was also in a poor state, so we (myself & Basu) decided to move to Bombay.

YK: Basu Chakraborty and Manohari Singh, whom we know as Basu-Manohari.

MS: Yes, Basu was a good friend of mine since long. Salil-da then took us to Burman dada. He was doing the background of Madhumati and Sitaron Se Aage. The songs were completed, only background was remaining. I did the background in Madhumati.

YK: So, why dont we listen to one song from madhumati at this point?

MS: I did not play in any song of Madhumati, only in the background music I played key flute. Then in Maya, I first played Saxophone.

YK: We shall come to Maya, but right at this moment, which song of Madhumati you like me to play?

MS: The best is "Aaja re pardesi"

Song: Aaja re pardesi (Madhumati)

YK: Why is this song special? What is unique about it?

MS: It is romantic song, see the melody according to the location. In that respect, the "utaav-chaDhaav" of the "mukhDa" and "antara" are superb. The song begins witha  low register (hums) 'aaja re', a fantastic atmosphere builds up in this part. Then the music as well as the song proceeds step by step, just as romance proceeds step by step.

YK: You were talking about Maya.

MS: After madhumati, I played in 1 or 2 films and then in Maya. In 1 song, I first played Key flute in the prelude and saxophone in the "antara".

Manohari Singh plays the prelude and mukhDa of "Jaa re jaa re uD jaa re panchhi" on metal flute.

YK: Waah, waah!

MS: Then this interlude on saxophone.

Manohari Singh plays the interlude, antara and mukhDa of "Jaa re jaa re uD jaa re panchhi" on saxophone.

YK: 'Kya baat hai'! The sound of saxophone makes us move into another world, a starnge intoxicating effect is there. How do you feel when you play it?

MS: I have done very hard work on this instrument. I tried to control it so that it produces good sound, I did a lot of practice.

YK: Saxophone is not an Indian instrument, and I believe at that time it was not manufactured in India. So how did you get it?

MS: I had purchased this saxophone (the one he had brought for this interview) from New York. And the first saxophone I used was also made in America. In Anil Biswas's orchestra, Ram Singh used to play saxophone, he was Anil-da's assistant. I got inspired after listening to Ram Singh. When I played for Maya in the Bombay Lab, Pyarelal was playing violin. He became very happy with my playing and congratulated me, gave me a gift also. The news became public that a man has come from Bengal who plays a western instrument in purely Indian style and peole started knowing me. Kalyanji bhai gave me a big break and this song by Lata and Hemant-da was an overnight hit.

YK: Which song was it?

MS: "Tumhe yaad hogaa kabhi hum mile the"

YK: Aha ha, what a song!

Manohari Singh plays "Tumhe yaad hoga kabhi hum mile the" on Saxophone

YK: Other than these, which are the other songs in which you played saxophone in those initial days?

MS: Then Shankar Jaikishen also called me. Jaikishen-ji had high respect for me. I played for him first in a duet song of Professor. Everbody started asking which instrument is this. 'What a feeling has come out in this tune!' The song was "Awaaz deke humein tum bulaao"

Manohari Singh plays "Awaaz deke humein tum bulaao" on Saxophone

YK: What was special in Shakar Jaikishen's music. They made a significat contribution in the orchestration side of film music.

MS: Shankar Jaikishen and Naushad used to keep a regular and permanent orchestra. In every song of Shankar Jaikishen, about 50/60 musicians used to be present. After Shankar Jaikishen, other music directors like Laxmikant Pyarelal and R D Burman used to keep such large orchestras. Other music directors kept reasonable orchestras. O P Nayyar also had a regular orchestra.

YK: Nayyar saahab also called you up?

MS: Yes, wherever I go, requests come for the song "Hai duniya usi ki zamana usi ka"

Manohari Singh plays "Hai duniya usi ki zamana usi ka" on Saxophone

Song: Hai duniya usi ki zamana usika (Kashmir Ki Kali)

YK: Nayyar saahab has a unique style with "joshila" music. Did you play both saxophone and metal flute in his songs?

MS: Saxophone mostly.

YK: Can you cite few more songs of Nayyar saahab in which you played saxophone?

MS: "Kitne aTal the tere iraade", then, "Yahi woh jagah hai yahi woh fizaa hai"

Song: Yahi woh jagah hai (Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi)

YK: It is heard that O P Nayyar is a hard task master and that he records a song in a single take?

MS: Yes, if he feels that the take is OK, then no one can ask him for a retake.

YK: Any memorable incident with Nayyar saahab?

MS: I had played this song (above song) in a show in Delhi. It was a Defence Show in 1962. Pt nehru, Asha-ji and Lata-ji were present. Lata-ji sang "Ae mere watan ke logon" composed by C Ramchandra.

YK: Oh, so it was this memorable show!

MS: Yes, I had played flute in "Ae mere watan ke logon". After this song, I was sitting behind. I did not know that Asha-ji was singing this song "Yahi woh jagah hai". When she started singing, I could not control myself and came infront with saxophone and stated playing at the correct instant. The public was overwhelmed. After coming back, when Asha-ji told this to Nayyar saahab, Nayyar sshab took out a 100 rupee note and put in my hand.

YK: Wah!, For Bappi Lahiri also, you have played in the memorable song - chalte chalte.

MS: Yes, Chalte Chalte was a good composition.

YK: You said you had played flute in C Ramchandra's "Ae mere watan ke logon". how was the experience with him?

MS: I had also played Mandolin for him. In "ae mere watan ke logon", I had played only flute.

Song: Ae mere watan ke logon (Non-film)

YK: When did you start working with S D Burman?

MS: "gaa mere man gaa yunhi beetaaye jaa din zindegi ke" was the first song in which I played for Burman dada. Then I played in Solva Saal. I was Arrangement Assistant in Insaan Jaag Utha. In the song "Jaanu jaanu ri kaahe khanke hai tore kangna", I played mandolin with Laxmikant. Then in films like Guide, Jewel Thief, Teen Deviyan, I did the arrangement.

Manohari Singh plays "Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai" on Saxophone

YK: What a wonderful piece!

Song: Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai (Guide)

YK: Now, let us come to R D Burman with whom you have worked the longest period. So, when did you first meet him and how was it?

MS: First time I met him was in S D Burman's recording in Bombay Labs. Salil Choudhury had brought me from Calcutta in 1958. S D Burman was doing the background music of 'Sitaaron Se Aage' in Bombay labs. Salilda took me there and introduced me to Burman dada. Pancham and Laxmikant were sitting there, they were musicians there. I was introduced to Pancham as well, his age was about 26/27 that time. He asked me if I had come from Bengal. Jaidev, who was the assistant of Burman dada, was also present there.. They asked me to play few pieces. I played on my metal flute. Few days later I was called."

YK: Which was the first song in which you played flute or saxophone for Pancham?

MS: In the first song of Pancham itself, in the film Chhote Nawab, I had played flute.

YK: You yourself being musician, what do you think of Pancham as a music director?

MS: His depth of composition is very deep, his knowledge of Indian music is also very rich. He could sustain the sweetness of Indian music in his songs inspite of using western colours."

YK: Can you cite one example to prove this?

MS: Take the Teesri Manzil song - O haseena zulfonwaali. Beautiful melody is there, later in the song you can find some flute pieces, the comes the trumpet, guitar, etc. So how many different colours are there in this single song!

Song: O haseena zulfonwaali (Teesri Manzil)

YK: How many piece orchestra was used for this song?

MS: There were 80 to 85 musicians in this song, 30 to 40 were used for violins, then there were brass, trumpets, guitar, base-guitar, etc, and it was a live recording, not like the track system of the present day.

YK: Tell us something about the 'mehbooba mehbooba' song of Sholay.

MS: In that song I had played Suprano instrument. It was this song by which Pancham introduced this instrument in the film music.

Song: Mehbooba mehbooba (Sholay)

MS: He also introduced several other instruments like the Nepali 'Maadal', the bottle (soda bottle).

YK: From bottle, I remember that in 'chura liya hai tumne' song, ek glass was used in the prelude.

MS: Yes, the situation in the film was something like party was going on, atmosphereis that someone is drinking, someone made some sounds in the glass. For your information, real glass was used in this song. In this song Bhupendra had played guitar, George Fernandez played trumpet and Uttam Singh had played violin. Uttam Singh has played all violin solos in all his songs.

Song: Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko (Yaadon Ki Baraat)

YK: Would you like to play some Pancham tune on your saxophone by which you would like to pay him tribute?

Manohari Singh plays the tune of "Humein aur jeene ki chaahat na hoti agar tum na hote" on his saxophone.

Song: Humein aur jeene ki chaahat na hoti (Agar Tum Na Hote)

YK: Manohari-da, you came to Vividh Bharti studio, shared with us so many unknown things about yourself and various composers. I, on my behalf, on behalf of Vividh Bharati aur on behalf of its crores of listeners, I thank you and wish you all the best!

MS: Thank you very much!



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