• Friday, March 06, 2015


When music is stolen . . . or copied

Lee Hazlewood
Lee Hazlewood

Plagiarism has often been the bane of music. And then come those moments when artistes in these present times sing some of the beautiful numbers of bygone days without letting their listeners know about the original singers of the songs. That is dishonesty in the extreme; and these pretentious artistes (or are they artistes at all?) must be exposed every time they commit such misdeeds as singing Syed Abdul Hadi's old songs and never for a moment telling us that it was Hadi who once sang those songs.
You are reminded here of the famous number, aami Bangla'r gaan gai. It was sung ages ago, yet when a singer in present-day Bangladesh sang it and made it popular, he did not have the decency to inform people the song was there before he sang it, that it was famous before he made it popular. Only when he was exposed did the matter become clear for us.
As to plagiarism, in the 1960s, the Indian playback singer Mahendra Kapoor sang a number that left us all enthralled. It was neele gagan ke tale dharti ka pyaar pale. And then, one day, some Pakistani music director, obviously for want of originality, simply copied the tune and had Ahmed Rushdi sing masti mein jhoome fiza geet sunaey hawa. Music lovers knew at once of the crime that had been committed. But that did not shame the music director at all.
Back in the beautiful 1960s --- the 1960s have never been matched for the wonderful things they brought into our lives --- Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood electrified our sense of music with the song, strawberries cherries and an angel's kiss in spring. Towards the end of the 1960s, another music maker in Pakistan thought he would charm his audience with a duet sung by Ahmed Rushdi and Runa Laila. The song was tujh ko basaya hai nigahon mein / apni mohabbat ki baahon mein. The tune was a perfect copy of the Summer Wine song. Where Sinatra and Hazlewood give you O summer wine, Rushdi and Runa give us O jaane wafa.
In the movie Chhote Saab, made in erstwhile East Pakistan, a beautiful Rushdi number, jaane tamanna khat hai tumhara, is picturised on Nadeem. But if you have ever listened to Mukesh's chand si mehbooba ho meri kab aisa mae ne socha tha, you cannot have failed to notice the similarities in the opening tunes of the two songs. The Mukesh song came earlier than the Rushdi number, which is saying a lot.
And then, in the Indian movie Jab Jab Phool Khile, the charming Lata number, ye samah samah hai ye pyaar ka / kisi ke intezar ka was picturised on the seductive Nanda. In the Pakistani movie Darshan, nearly the entire scene is replicated with the endlessly beautiful Shabnam singing, in Mala's voice, the lilting number, ye samah pyara pyara / ye hawaein thandi thandi.
Remember the old invocation to the Almighty: Allah megh de pani de chhaya de re tui? An Indian musician simply commandeered the tune and came up with a song that began thus: de de pyaar de pyaar de pyaar de re. Should he have done that? And why did Tagore's jodi taare nai chini go shey ki amaye nebe chine have to be rendered into a song in a Hindi movie? Think here of the Lata-Kishore number, tere mere milan ki ye raina.
And haven't you heard all those preachers at some waz mehfils sing religious songs all night, the tunes of which have been pilfered from old Hindi numbers sung by Lata, Suraiya and Shamshad? They think we can't catch them in the act, but we do . . . all the time.

The writer is Executive Editor,
The Daily Star

Published: 12:00 am Saturday, May 03, 2014

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