Monday, June 12, 2017

From ‘On Stage with Lata’ by Mohan Deora and Rachana Shah

[interspersed with youtube videos]

My father, who was a very good astrologer, once read my horoscope. He told my mother, ‘Lata is a very good singer. You cannot imagine how famous she will become. She will sing but will not marry.’ His words did come true…..

I have sung at many concerts in India, especially in Kolkata…..the Bengali audience was fantastic. They listened so attentively.

There were some songs that people liked, and I didn’t, but I had to sing them, like ‘Bindiya chamkegi’. I never liked that song even when I had first recorded it. The songs the audience really loved were the haunting melodies like ‘Aayega aanewala’, ‘Kahin deep jale’, ‘Ajaa re pardesi’ and ‘Naina barse rhim jhim rhim jhim’. When it came to duets with Mukesh Bhaiya, people really enjoyed ‘Saawan ka mahina’. I think it amused them because in the song Mukesh Bhaiya has to teach me how to pronounce the word ‘sor’.

Kishore-da would talk a lot between songs. I remember during the Toronto show, he said, ‘Let us sing the duet that you don’t like, and I don’t like either. …..We’ll sing “Chai pe bulaaya hai”’….. I really did not like the song and had in fact told him that we should not sing it. But he often surprised me and did all sorts of crazy things.

…..1985 …..Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu had graciously agreed to come…..he appeared on stage and mesmerized the audience with his elegant way of speaking – he has such a gentle voice and such perfect Urdu.

People have asked me if I have ever suffered from stage fright. I do not believe I have, but I was fearful of making a mistake. So I would prepare myself mentally and give myself ample time……. I didn’t want to hear people say, “This went wrong, that went wrong”……It was not fear, rather the determination to get it right.
I was known for enunciating every word in a song. Everyone thought that the words I sang were always clear, and that I sang in tune. ….When singing on stage, what was essential for me was to be able to hear the harmonium clearly – because it gave me the right pitch. So the arranger / conductor Anil Mohile stood near me as he played the harmonium ……It was reassuring to me that Anil was close at hand.

The audiences at the concerts…..were made up of people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who had settled in the USA and Canada for decades, and they came in thousands to the shows…..I honestly did not expect the kind of reaction we got. Nor could I have ever imagined the tremendous love that I would receive in the Caribbean and in the Fiji islands. …..

-          Mumbai, 4 April 2016, Lata Mangeshkar

In Mumbai, nearly everyone knows that Prabhu Kunj is home to the Mangeshkars. Lataji has a four-bedroom apartment on the first floor and the other flat on the same landing belongs to Asha Bhosle. The Mangeshkars have lived at Prabhu Kunj since the 1960s ……

Another thing that concerned Lataji was the concert venues. She wanted a list of the top auditoriums and to know what kind of sound systems they had, plus details of the stage itself……she was introducing a new level of professionalism….they helped us to think of the Lata Mangeshkar tour as special – the first of its kind in the US and Canada. …. Lata Mangeshkar was the first singer of Indian film music to perform in these illustrious spaces. She would sing on a stage on which the most famous world musicians had appeared.

….7 May [1975], Lataji asked her musicians to assemble the next day in her suite for a rehearsal….Never before had any Indian artist suggested rehearsing before a show.

Anyone who had worked with Lataji in the Indian film industry knew that she was always on time.

….on Friday, 9 May 1975, the hour of the first Lata-Mukesh concert of the tour had arrived. It was a sellout show at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. …..the first musical note of ‘Allah tero naam, Ishwar tero naam’ was heard, a noisy round of applause followed. The orchestra conducted by Anil Mohile was made up of only five musicians but they were just brilliant. Arun Paudwal played the accordion; Ramakant Mhapsekar, the table; Ravi Kandivali, the mandolin; Rajendra Singh, the swarleen; and Suryanarayan Naidu, the table and dholak. …….the audience ….got completely carried away when Mukeshji sang ‘Mera joota hai Japani’, ‘Ansoo bhari hain ye jeevan ki raahen’, ‘Jaane kahaan gaye who din’ and the unforgettable ‘Dil jalta hai to jalne de.’ …….then came the Lata and Mukesh duets….. There was a hush when they sang ‘Aaja re ab mera dil pukara.’ ……The concert ended with two numbers: ‘Aaja re pardesi’ from Madhumati and Mahal’s immortal ‘Aayega aanewala.’ Lataji and Mukeshji had successfully kept the audience captive for three-and-a-half hours. What a way to start the tour!

The response to her shows was the same in every venue and in every city. At San Francisco’s Oakland Coliseum ‘Thandi hawaayen’, ‘Mohe bhool gaye sanwaria’, ‘Inhi logon ne’, ‘Barsaat mein’ and some new numbers received rapturous applause. In his unique style, Mukeshji brought the Raj Kapoor numbers alive, including ‘Awaara hoon’, ‘Mera joota hai Japani’ ‘Honton pe sachaaii rehti hai

At the tour finale, there were other cinema personalities who attended …..including …….the famous Pakistani singer and actress, Musarrat Nazir.

…….a recording studio in downtown Detroit….the sound engineer was busy mixing the pre-recorded tracks to create a final mix. Through the monitor I could hear the last line of the song in which the singer held onto a very high-pitched note.
‘Suddenly, the sound engineer, Bob Morris…..asked… ‘Can you tell me the name of the instrument that is being played on this tape right now?’’…… “The sound Bob was hearing…..was the voice of Lata…… Bob was flabbergasted when I told him it was a human voice. The mesmerized Bob continued: “I have been a sound engineer for twenty-five years and have recorded the music of many famous performers. But I must honestly confess that I have never – I repeat never – heard this quality of a human voice….””

Mukeshji used to enjoy a glass of scotch before dinner ….However, he did not drink alcohol in front of Lataji. He once told me that even Raj Kapoor would hesitate to drink in front of her.
That was the kind of respect she commanded.

In 1977…three concerts….Felt Forum (MSG) in New York, the second at the Valley Forge in Philadelphia and the third at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles….. the Shrine event was in fact a charity concert for the Hare Krishna Society……during the intermission, Lataji and her co-singers mingled with the audience with collection baskets……the proceeds from the show helped towards the building of a large centre called ISKCON in Juhu in Mumbai, which opened a year later, in 1978…..

….Lataji said that she and her family would prefer to stay at my house ……A typical day for Lataji would start with her puja and lighting of agarbattis….She would come out of her room and the sound of her payal would resonate wherever she went. Lataji’s breakfast was hot coffee, English muffins, orange marmalade and honey. Sometimes she had some cornflakes or muesli with cold milk. Lunch was simple: a bowl of broccoli, or chicken noodle soup and toast. Dinner was an Indian meal with daal, rice, roti, chicken curry and vegetables. To my surprise she loved papad and mangodi (mung dal pakoda). She has a sweet tooth and her list of likes were many – gaajar ka halwa, baadaam halwa, ras malai, gulaab jaamun, motichoor ka laddu, etc.

The show at the Ford Auditorium in Detroit …..She was in a quiet and solemn mood….. “….I do not usually sing the songs of other singers, but today, in memory of Mukesh Bhaiya, I shall sing a very moving song of his, ‘Jaane kahaan gaye wo din.’” ……I could sense her pain and loss. The audience were moved beyond words. Many were crying…… A highlight for the audience was the semi-classical ‘Saawan ke jhoolen padhe’. Midway through the performance, Lataji addressed the audience again, ‘I am sure you know that Nargisji is critically ill ……I would like you all to pray that she gets better very soon.’ She then sang the beautiful ‘Rasik balma’, a song that Nargisji had lip-synched in Chori Chori.

……she continues to show a deep respect for people and treats everyone equally. She does not make anyone feel inferior.

At the last concert of the tour, on 21 September, there was not a single empty seat in sight at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, a 14,000-seater…..matinee idol Amitabh Bachchan made a special guest appearance …..When Amitabh …..returned to India he undoubtedly talked to his people about organizing stage shows in America….who would have expected that Lataji’s simple request would start an entirely new dimension to Bollywood show business? And Amitji’s shows would draw thousands …..The Amitabh Bachchan shows were followed by shows featuring other top Indian stars, including Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan……

Lataji’s long-awaited concert… the Jean Pierre Complex, Port-of-Spain (the capital of Trinidad and Tobago), on Saturday, 27 September 1980….two back-to-back concerts…..sold out weeks in advance…..10,000 seater stadium…..people had come with their picnic baskets four hours ahead of time….. ‘For the people of Trinidad, Lataji is like a goddess. People literally worship her and arrived here hours ahead to make sure they don’t miss a single moment of her singing.’……people of Indian origin ………settled in the Caribbean for generations …..some no longer spoke Hindi, they nevertheless knew her songs…..When she sang ‘Main tulsi tere aangan ki’ and ‘Rahen naa rahen hum’, you could hardly hear her for the clapping…… stop was Georgetown in Guyana… of her arrival, 1 October 1980 was declared a public holiday……Airport……thousands and thousands of people lined both sides of the road……people of all races…….mayor of Georgetown presented her with the key to the city. In the background, a band was playing the melody, ‘Gumnaam hai koi’…..Lataji turned to me and said, ‘Did you hear the band? It seems that I will have to sing that too.’

[other live performances of Lata Mangeshkar]

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