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My Lasting Rendezvous With Pancham Da

My Lasting Rendezvous With Pancham Da

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Musical Maestro R.D. Burman touched a die hard fan Chayanchit Das‘s soul like none ever and has inspired him to perform some of his best creations online as well as on stage. On his 82nd Birth Anniversary, Chayanchit opens his heart to pay tribute to his God- Pancham Da

“Let’s walk fast Bapi, else we are going to miss the beginning”, cried a 7 year old young boy while walking down a dark serpentine road holding his father’s hand. Those days during early-eighties, there were only a couple of houses that had a television and the rest of the neighbourhood, known and unknown, used to flock together on Sundays to watch the weekly movie telecast by Doordarshan, the only broadcasting channel. Black & white motion picture began within a big wooden box. More often than not, I used to be amused with the unique name casting music and could identify that the name that would follow in one of the rolling screen would be R.D. Burman. Somewhere within me, a smile would appear anticipating some good songs that I would dwell upon for weeks.

“It’s still not 12PM, just few more minutes left” my countdown meter would run. I, along with my cousins cuddled near our Philips Transistor waiting eagerly for “Vividh Bharati”, a daily two hour Bollywood musical bonanza. There were few songs that were played almost every other day and I used to keep waiting to listen to those. The RJ would say in Hindi-“Aur sangeetkaar hain RD Burman”(and the Music Director is R.D Burman) and believe me, it used to send an adrenaline rush through me as I sat mesmerized by some of his magical compositions. “Ye Shaam Mastani” – I relate the song to a young me cutting pictures from papers and making a collage for my scrapbook with glue made of maida (refined flour). As a single child with working parents, the radio and these songs had been my constant companion all through my early life along with my pet cat.

Few years later, my cousin who was some 5 years older than me got into singing, playing musical instruments like guitar and keyboard and performed in cultural events during festivals. He used to point out technical nuances in some of the songsand introduced me to the greatness of RD as a musician. He explained how RD used Bass Guitar in his songs, how he revolutionized the music industry with his experimental nature. All of a sudden I found myself stitching everything together – the name casting music that used to enchant me along with the display of the name RD Burman; the songs from Vividh Bharati that killed my loneliness – I could attribute all to one person – R.D.Burman. I realized, without knowing any technical details or getting influenced, I fell in love with RD and his music. I used to look at him as the God of Music and discovered that I had music running in my blood and thathas RD etched all over it.

I soon found myself performing in the Stage of our school with microphone in one hand assisted by my cousins on tabla and harmonium and couple of seniors on guitar and congo. Until then, I never knew that I could sing. I suddenly acquired a new identity as someone who could sing Kishore Kumar songs well. My father got me a tape recorder and I started my expedition to collect as many RD albums as I could. I used to go crazy whenever the release of a new movie or album composed by RD was announced. From one shop to another, I used to roam around every possible outlet, small or big, in search of old collections. More often than not, I met with disappointment, after all the era of You Tube and Google were far away. Late eighties and nineties saw a drastic change in the popular flavor and my search for the gems met with even more disappointment. Wherever I went, I used to always visit a music shop in search of RDs albums and by the time I was done with high school, I was a proud owner of a huge and rare collection. Worth mentioning that I used to frantically search for his poster in the footpaths of Guwahati, but in vain. And then years later my dear friend Sid Ghosh sketched an amazing RD portrait for me that is standing large on one of my walls in my Bangalore home striking the right chord.

During my hostel days at the Engineering College, people used to relate my presence or absence in my room based on whether some RD numbers were played aloud or not. I made it a mission of my life to spread his magic amongst my friends and sooner some of them were knee deep into RD-addiction. Every weekend, I used to be the cynosure of Mehfils where I sang dozens of RD-Kishore numbers.

Cassette cover of Chayan's Pehla Pehla Pyar
The cover of Chayan’s first ablum “Pehla Pehla”

As I started learning how to play guitar and juggle through the chords, I tried to construct a tune and eureka, I seemed to get one in place. I picked up pen and paper and began putting some words in the groove. “Yaara… aajao tum dil ke paas…” took birth. Very soon, I came up with another “Palkey hain bheegi si…” my personal favourite, both of which were heavily RD flavored. I was influenced to the idea of going to Mumbai to record my voice and final mixing. I did use two of my tunes in the same album called “Pehla Pehla” that had my friend Tamal Dey as the lyricist, my cousin and now a noted musician Partha Deb as the Music Director as well Bollywood singer Mahalaxmi Iyer as the female lead.

with Manohari Singh
Chayan with Manohari Singh

I was enthralled at the opportunity to meet Shri Manohari Singh, RD’s close aide and music arranger during my visit to Mumbai. It was like a dream come true and I couldn’t believe my luck as I sat close to such a humble and down to earth musician. I could barely speak to him as an emotional surge got the better of me.

I have had successfully injected the RD-nectar to many in the last 35 years including my best friend-turned-wife. Thanks to social media, whenever I post my performances, they come back and thank me for introducing them to the taste of RDX. As much as it pained me during the 90’s, when RD and his melody faded away- I would often remember RD’s own words “Melody will come back”. And it really did with Jatin Lalit. Well, let’s not get into that today.

On the 4thof January 1994, as the nightly news was being telecast in the TV post dinner, I overheard the passing away of the lord and suddenly my heart froze; I couldn’t believe that there won’t be more magic created. I wept and tears rolled down my cheeks as the visuals of his last journey were shown on national television. My dream of meeting him some day or at least watch him perform live had ended. For me, RD was a university that remained the experiment platform for all kinds of music and sound that had suddenly collapsed. It took me days and weeks to recover from the shock. In the same year, when he was awarded the Filmfare award for the movie 1942 A Love story (Posthumous), I couldn’t stop tears of happiness sitting in front of the TV.

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I kept on singing and performing RD numbers in various platforms and stages in an attempt to satiate my soul and spread his magic. He had music for all occasions; if you are happy, RD for you; if you are sad; RD comes to rescue. In the last 10 years, there had been several Pancham fan groups that took birth, especially bringing in RD’s gems (his musicians) who unfurled many unbelievable secrets of his music creation and its process. Seeing his original team play together was like feeling his presence in the auditorium. Dozens of Social media groups exist now who live and breathe his music; Pancham Radio that was launched recently is one such wonderful initiative and shows how devoted people are towards his music. Alas! He didn’t live to see this. RD-Kishore-Rajesh Khanna, RD-Gulzar, RD-Anand Bakshi, and many more combos created time immemorial numbers that would probably stay and provide musical therapy for centuries together. And yes, he never got a Filmfare award for his work until Sanam Teri Kasam. After his death, Filmfare introduced RD Burman Award, a new category for emerging music directors. Was it to reduce some of the burden of guilt? I don’t know really but of course his fame rose high and he got true value in the years to come. This, I know for sure that his music will stay and inspire generations for ages.

As experts say, RD’s creations were way ahead of his time and probably the reason he didn’t get his due then. Glimpses of his music are seen almost in every other music album these days; people are putting techno-flavors to many of his historic numbers that are driving the new generations crazy. Except a few, many of them don’t careto know that there exists an original predecessor- the genius musician R.D Burman.

Friends, for me, there is no one taller and bigger than him, and there will never be one. No one had a better sense of sound than him. He had demonstrated that no sound is bad sound, be it empty beer bottle, raindrops, glass tumbler & spoon, metal pipe, gargling, aluminum sheet, bare back of his musicians and many more all stringed into music. RD’s music is an ocean that remains yet to be explored. Dive in and enjoy the magic within. Let us celebrate his 82nd anniversary by spreading the joy of his music.

 

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