This post is an attempt to understand artists of the highest calibre. In my day-to-day interactions with music, I have always wondered and asked my dad ... - what Hindi film (Indian Movies / Bollywood) singer is hardest to emulate for anyone in general? Quite simply put, I can't even come close to singing the songs of people we would talk about in due course exactly like they did, but I have a decent ear for music and most importantly good guidance. Here is my view of whose songs I feel are the hardest to sing in general. Let us not look at just one song in particular, but try to compare the repertoire of one great singer to another to the best of our ability. For now, we would not be comparing any other qualities of these artists - for example music direction, acting, directing, writing, etc. Also, I intend to keep it subjective and not give the factors below a points/percent based weightage.
In an effort to further appreciate these singers well outside of my league, I propose using the following factors (not listed below in order of importance) -
- Voice quality (texture and style) - All of these singers have great voice quality. So I am going to think in terms of how many different actors they can sing for or more appropriately how many different actors does their voice suit. There are two broader aspects of adjusting ones voice to suit that of an actor - one being the actual texture and the other accommodating the actor's style.
- Emotions - All of these singers excelled in this aspect as well. Here I am looking at how the artist emotes the overall mood of the song - the way specific words are said to keep the mood going. This is one essential and relatively more easily attainable aspect where today's singers and music directors really falter.
- Range/tessitura of the artist - The comfort level at different pitches and the variety of voice modulations they are able to do at that pitch. Also the quality of voice that they maintain at that pitch.
- Difficulty-level of the songs sung by the artists - amongst several other commonly known factors this greatly depends on their grasp of classical and semi-classical Indian music. I would generally focus on the technique without getting into details when I speak about this aspect later on.
- Expression - I consider this separate from emotions. Here understanding of the language, poetry and the way is which the song has been visualized is most important.
- Pronunciation - This is not necessarily about their understanding of the language, but more specifically a clear and concise recitation of every word of the language.
- Flow and Timing - Irrespective of the type of song, the flow of words and timing has to be maintained to keep the general mood of the song. A song can go through many different moods - happiness, sorrow, dejection, anger, helplessness, love, hatred, dislike, bliss, sympathy, support, empathy, encouragement, patriotism, devotion, pride, intoxication, introspection, etc. and the singer has to be capable of handling as many if not each of these moods in any song. Often times, a single song goes through several of these moods.
- X-Factor - This is about aspects, other than the ones discussed above, that the singer brings into the songs; that little extra that gives the song more character, ... the funky voice modulations. I don't know exactly how to express it - it's just that - the X-factor.
I would only be talking about prominent singers who have sung many Hindi movie songs. I have intentionally left out various classical singers who have sung some Hindi songs like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi - they are in an altogether different league.
[Update - Changed the criterion called "Voice texture" to the more apt "Voice quality (texture and style)". Also elaborated on the brief description of this criterion in an attempt to transition clearly into discussions in my later posts.]