ndian cinema boasts a rich and storied history, with one of its most treasured facets being its musical heritage. Hindi cinema, in particular, has given birth to timeless classics that continue to captivate global audiences.
The tunes from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s serve as time capsules, preserving the enchantment of an era when music transcended being mere background noise; it played a character in the narrative. Composed by legendary figures such as RD Burman, Lata Mangeshkar, and Kishore Kumar, these songs have etched their melodies and lyrics deep into the hearts of millions, embodying emotions, love, and storytelling.
However, in recent times, there is a blind craze for remixes. Music albums now feature remix versions of practically every song, oblivious to the song’s core and vibe. So much so that popular composers and DJs like Amaal Mallik, Tanishk Bagchi, DJ Chetas, and many others have taken up the challenge of rejuvenating these classical songs.
Some people, however, claim the practice takes away the essence of an original song while others feel remixed songs make dull and boring tunes melodious. With remix music gaining traction among the youths, Sunday POST discussed the issue with some experts and here’s what they had to share.
‘Classic songs should be left alone’
Popular singer Abhijeet Mishra, who has several Odia and Hindi albums to his credit, seemed not too excited about the growing trend of remixes. He said, “I don’t support this practice because the original singer and songwriter, of the classics in particular, spend a considerable amount of time creating something exceptional. Therefore, in my opinion, certain melodies or songs should remain untouched and are best left as they are.”
Moreover, there are instances when young singers get misled by the remix songs.
Sharing one such anecdote, he narrated, “This incident happened when I was once a part of pre-Indian Idol auditions in Delhi. After hearing Lata Ji’s immortal song Lag Jaa Gale from a young girl, I casually asked her ‘Do you know who the original singer was?’ ‘Sanam Puri’ the aspirant promptly responded, making me speechless for a while. This was an impact of remix and recreation.”
Puri just recreated the iconic song of Lata Mangeshkar and was not the original singer.
“So, I am always for original songs and creating something from thin air is what I love. And I think classic songs should be left out.”
Some musicians believe that remixing old songs can introduce the younger generation to classic music. But Abhijeet doesn’t agree. “I believe that classic songs have an inherent timeless quality, and attempting to recreate their essence is a challenging task. Even if you use the same artist or recording, you can never truly replicate the original vibe. Some things are simply beautiful when left in their original form. These songs had a dedicated fan-base in the past, they still maintain that following today, and will continue to do so in the future. I don’t believe that remixes necessarily bring the younger generation closer to classical music,” argued the singer.
However, Abhijeet is not totally against the trend of remix as he has grown up listening to a few remix artistes.
“One of them was the Bombay Vikings. Neeraj Shridhar tastefully arranged the classic songs and incorporated some English touches, which I found appealing. This remix still holds a special place as my favourite,” recalled Mishra.
Asked on how to strike a balance between preserving the original essence and giving innovative touch in a remix, he shared, “I believe the key to this lies in your personal musical sensibility. When a composer decides to work on a classic song, he or she should approach it with a great deal of seriousness. Such songs have already earned their status as classics and have been embraced by audiences; they are likely to continue to be appreciated even after undergoing transformations in the future. Therefore, it is the musician’s duty to ensure that the song’s essence is not tampered. A song’s aesthetic must be grasped before making any alterations.”
He further said, “When legends create music for a movie or a standalone track, they incorporate specific rhythms and melodies into the song. It’s important for us to honour their creative process and immerse ourselves in the same mindset they had during composition.”
‘Let’s not distort the cult classics’
The remake of old songs has both positive and negative impacts on the music industry, said eminent music director Prasant Padhi.
“To begin with, I want to emphasise the adverse aspects. When a newly recreated song gains popularity among the audience, it tends to overshadow the original compositions. The artists or composers responsible for the remake often alter the essence of the classic piece, introducing twists or modifying the entire melody, which can dilute the song’s originality and turn it into a mere gimmick,” pointed out Padhi.
Substantiating the view of singer Abhijeet Mishra, the music director continued: “Some songs, such as Hrudayara ei sunyata ku and mu je eka pagala bhanra, have unfortunately lost their essence due to attempts at recreating them with different melodies. With various new singers taking on these songs, the original vocalists have faded from memory, making it difficult for the younger generation to identify the original renditions.”
Padhi believes that the singers of original songs are the ones most impacted by the new reinterpretations.
Elaborating further, he said, “Jitendra Haripal and Krishna Patel’s Rangabati is considered a cult classic. However, with new singers mixing and singing it differently, the original singers have been affected. If we add English phrases, rap elements, and new instruments to the songs, it will surely bring disruption.”
On the positives, Padhi said, “Recreation of songs, particularly those hidden gems that have been lost or little heard, brings about positive outcomes. It ensures that these songs are not forgotten and allows people to enjoy them.”
‘Music’s essence lies in staying true to artistic integrity’
Renowned lyricist and poet Mohit Chakraborty has a different take on the issue.
“In my opinion, the music industry isn’t primarily focused on remaking or remixing old songs. Instead, today’s young generation of musicians and composers are dedicated to creating original compositions rather than rehashing older material. I believe that only a small fraction, around two per cent of old songs undergo remakes, while the majority remains untouched,” according to Chakraborty.
He adds, “Many soulful songs were created in the past which have not been remixed. They are still intact and left untouched. The new composers nowadays are making new songs and not copying or remaking out of old songs. But yes, more Hindi songs are being twisted and recreated these days.”
When asked how he views the remixing of old songs, no matter the language, the winner of several state film awards said, “Some dull songs are given new touches and they now sound good. But at the same time, I don’t like the representation of the classic songs which have their distinct fan following.”
Concluding the conversation, he added, “Aspiring musicians and composers need to recognise that music’s essence lies in creating something extraordinary and distinctive for the audience while staying true to their artistic integrity and not straying from the original context.”
‘Remixes often help increase the shelf life of the original songs’
Ipsita Mohanty, a Pune based singer, said, “Music is to the soul what words are to the mind. I, being an old soul, would love to close my eyes, relax and vibe to a 70s song on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But while I am in the mood enjoying my best and admiring the beauty of the lyrics and music, if a remix song pops up next , my thoughts would be divided and I would land up in a dilemma.”
She adds, “Today’s music industry loves to rehash raging hits and iconic songs from the past. While some attempts have clicked, many have failed to impress music lovers. While the original songs had their own fan base, the remixes were equally popular for their unique beats and freshness and made it to birthday parties and school farewells.
Songs like Kala Chasma, Dum Maro Dum, Humma Humma have surely worked their magic and helped increase the shelf life and recall value of the original songs. These songs were well received by the audience as the composers had added a modern electronic twist to the songs without tampering with the essence of the original compositions.”
She further said, “Legendary singer late Lata Mangeshkar had earlier expressed in a blog, ‘There is nothing objectionable about mixing old songs… it is perfectly alright to present a song in a new way until the actual essence is preserved. But to twist a song out of shape is just wrong.”
“I completely support the idea of remixing a song whilst keeping its originality. Taking away its origin is like taking away its identity. And what’s an entity without an identity?” asked Mohanty.
She signed off by saying, “I have been fortunate enough to have sung many original bhajans and romantic numbers. Having said that, I have also made several cover songs of old beautiful numbers. But I always keep in mind not to tamper with the root emotion. After all, music is all about emotions and emotions need to be kept pure and untouched. Beautifications can be done in the sides. Maintaining the right balance is very important.”
By Madhusmita Sahu, OP