Atul’s Song A Day- A choice collection of Hindi Film & Non-Film Songs

Sapt suran teen graam

Posted on: August 5, 2011


This article is written by Sudhir,a fellow enthusiast of Hindi movie songs and a regular contributor to this blog.

A hundred songs ! Given that the film industry generates many thousands of songs every decade, a hundred songs is a small number. But these hundred are special. These hundred belong to a very exclusive set of a total of 185 songs. And this exclusive set is the musical fortune, each song a jewel studded with priceless gems. Available for the pleasure of all, yet this treasure is a mine of gold and diamonds. Priceless, for this is all that is. There cannot be any more additions to these jewels. Yes, I refer to the recorded legacy of Saigal Saab – a list of 185 recordings in all. Of these, 110 belong to Hindi films, 37 are non filmi songs, in Hindi / Urdu. Of the remaining, a set of 30 recordings are part of Bengali cinema, and the remainder are in other languages (Punjabi, Tamil, Persian). So yes, this blog now hosts 100 of the total of 147 renditions (in Hindi/Urdu) by Saigal saab. An important accomplishment and an occasion to celebrate. Congratulations all.

It is said that they die young, whom even the Gods adore. An age of 43 years, a career of just 15 years, a set of 39 movies, and a supreme legacy of 185 renditions. That is the short summary of the life of Saigal Saab. A much written about and a much celebrated life, now told on this blog in a hundred songs.

Saigal Saab used to sell typewriters in Calcutta. In his memoirs, the famous poet and story writer, Kidar Sharma, tells about a Diwali evening that he had once spent with Saigal Saab, and a touching episode of his life that Saigal Saab shared with him. The income from selling typewriters was not much, so in his spare time, he also used to sell cheap cotton saris in poor localities of the city. In one such locality, he met a young girl, Najma. She never had enough money to buy anything from him, but would see his wares, and always request to save a specific green sari for her; she would buy it when her brother could earn enough to afford it. The sari was worth ten rupees. One day she promised her brother will have the money by subsequent Friday. On the promised day, when Saigal Saab returned to the same locality; alas the fate had something else in store. Najma had succumbed to some short illness just the day before. Sadly enough, the sari she preferred so much became the shroud of her final journey. Saigal Saab stopped selling saris after this.

The episode is reminiscent of the character of young Sakeena in the film Parwaanaa (1947). A gentle and a loving person in real life, he would meet and greet all with courtesy and respect. Contemporaries spoke about his gentleness, and his love for everyone that he met. His proficiency in singing was such that the classical singers and ustads were awe struck in his presence, and yet his humility, and a complete lack of arrogance was a hallmark of is character.

The famous Saarangi player of his time, Imtiaz Ahmed recounts his first meeting with KL Saigal. Sometimes in the month of March, 1924, at the railway station in Muradabad, he encountered a young man, sitting on a heap of postal bags and was singing a classical thumri. All by himself on the deserted platform (the next train was not due for some hours), this young man was effortlessly engrossed in his own world, and singing only to himself. When the young man realized he was not alone, he stopped singing and started to walk away. Imtiaz Ahmed followed him and tried to find out more about him. The young man said he was not a trained musician or a singer, but was just trying to imitate someone he had seen.

Kundan Lal Saigal was born in Nawashehar (Jammu state) in April 1904. His first music teacher was his own mother, Kesar Kaur, from whom he learnt bhajans and shabad. Neither his mother, nor he himself had any formal training in music. As a child, his parents worried at his lack of interest in studies, and his habit to sing and hum. In 1915, at the age of 11, his worried mother took him to a sufi saint Sheikh Suleiman Yusuf. This would be his second visit to this saint, the first one being at his birth, when his parents had taken the infant Kundan for blessings. On this second visit, the saint assured Kesar Kaur not to worry, as the young Kundan would be a very famous personality one day. The saint himself was a master in music; he took young Kundan under his tutelage, and formally rendered to him the practice of ‘zikr’ and ‘riyaaz’. The happy child Kundan felt freedom and flow in his veins and continued to practice on his own. In 1916-17, when he was 13, and episode came to pass, when he felt he was not able to sing. Miserable with this realization, he implored his mother to take him back to the saint. In this third visit now, the young man related his state of sorrow to the saint, and his sudden loss of ability to sing. He fell at the feet of the saint and cried inconsolably. The saint knelt down and helped Kundan to get up and made him sit beside him. He then instructed the young child solemnly. He revealed to the child that whatever singing happiness he had experienced thus far, was in a voice not his own. Now a new phase would start and he would be able to sing in his own voice. The strict instruction was not to practice or to present his skills in front of anybody.

From then till the years 1921-22, the young Kundan did not visibly sing anything, but kept on a strict regime of the practice of ‘zikr’ and ‘riyaaz’ very privately. In the later years, all the fame and popularity that came the way of Saigal Saab, never touched his ego, for his belief in the instructions of his primeval Guru, Sheikh Suleiman Yusuf, was such that he attributed all his success and accomplishments to him.

In 1923-24, Kundan Lal left home, in search of what, even he did not know at that time. Very little account is available of the next 7 to 8 years of his life. Except for some sightings and chance meetings, like the one at Muradabad railway station, not much is known about these lost wandering years of his life. It appears that he was training and practicing by himself, in places where not one would know him. At the end of this period, around 1930-31 Kundan Lal reached Calcutta. Family friends in that city helped him settle down. He started working as a salesman with the Remington typewriter company. His practice of music continued, as instructed by his master; all by himself. During this time, he learnt chaste Bengali. He could perfectly converse in this language. His comfort and expertise was such that Rabindranath Tagore himself gave permission to Kundan Lal, to sing the songs that he (Tagore) had created. At the age of 26, he got associated with New Theatres. At the start of his film career, he used a pseudonym, ‘Saigal Kashmiri’ as his acting persona for the first three movies.

The famous RC Boral recounts his first meeting with Saigal. RC Boral would often stop at a cigarette shop across from Metro Cinema on Chowringhee. One day he heard a humming that attracted him, but as he tried to look for the source, the sound stopped and the contact was lost. Next day, he had a visitor; a friend from Jullundur, Pt. Harish Chandra Bali came to his house with a tall young man and introduced him as “some raw material from Jullundur”. As it got revealed that the young man has no training in classical music, RC Boral firmly declined to offer any help. Pt. Bali requested him to hear his voice. The young man started with a humming and then just as he was getting ready to sing, RC Boral stopped him, saying he has heard him before. On enquiry, it was revealed that yes, the young man was also at the same shop the previous evening. Thus started an association that would lead Kundal Lal to New Theatres, and to a career that was to enchant an entire nation.

The music directors and associates who worked with Saigal Saab, always marveled at his ability to sing a particular mood on demand. It is said that once he recorded two songs in the same recording session, with just a gap of maybe a minute between ending the first and starting the second. The songs – “Bina pankh pachhi hoon, mein kaise udd jaaun” from the film Tansen, and “Kyaa hum ne bigaada hai, kyun hum ko sataa’te ho” from the film Crorepati. The former is a song laden with helplessness, sorrow and longing of love, where as the second is a fast paced song of humour. Those present at the session have talked about an invisible divine presence; they cannot account for the psychologically near impossible feat of singing these two songs in tandem, to perfection.

This song from Tansen, is one of more difficult endeavors of Saigal Saab. Composed in Raag Dhrupad, this deliberated and slow composition is a very difficult piece to sing, even for trained classical singers. It is not without reason that there are actually very few classical singers of Dhrupad in the country. And yet, it is so effortlessly rendered by Saigal Saab, as is visible from the video clip. Sitting unmoved through the song, the rendering is enchanting, and spellbinding. The scenario created by the director is supposed to be such, the entire court of the Emperor Akbar is spellbound. But discounting the director’s instructions, as one views this clip, the binding spell of the voice is just tremendous.

The video clip contains a lead in for about 4 minutes. This extra portion just before the song, is the first introduction of Tansen at Akbar’s court. The regular music maestro, Khan Saheb, is preparing to sing for the royal audience. He sings for some time, and then is interrupted by an unknown courtier, who points out the flaw in the music as well as in the singing. The flaw in the music is exposed, as the main saarangi player capitulates and reveals that he has been playing the instrument with a false left thumb, and hence the music is not perfect. Akbar comments that if one flaw is established, then the second may also be. Khan Saheb complains this to be an insult at the hands of this unknown courtier, and demands him to sing and prove the fault. Tansen agrees, and settles down to sing. As he is starting, Khan Saheb enquires which instruments he would prefer for accompaniment. Tansen’s response is that if the singing is good enough, the instruments will play themselves. And that is what happens. As soon as Tansen starts to sing, the entire court is amazed as they begin to hear the music from the instruments that no one is touching.

The music of this deeply classical piece is composed by Khem Chand Prakash. The words of this song are an original creation by the real Tansen himself. Although not acknowledged in the credits for the movie, but it is true that this creation is by Tansen. In the absence of this acknowledgement, the lyrics for this song are attributed to DN Madhok, which is not correct.

What more to say of this divine voice, that consistently continues to weave the magic, even today, more than sixty years since Saigal Saab stopped singing forever. The quality of the rendition is such that the enchantment of the voice continues to capture the heart of millions. In his tribute to this great legend, master musician Naushad Saab said it thus

Sadaayen mit gayeen saari sadaaye saaz baaki hai
Abhi duniyaa-e-mausiqi ka kuchh aizaaz baaki hai
Jo ne’mat de gayaa hai tu, wo ne’mat kam nahin saigal
Jahaan mein tu nahin lekin teri awaaz baaki hai

The sound has long departed, yet the instruments are still strumming
The world of music still has some honor left
The gift that you bestowed on us, is not a small gift (o Saigal)
You may not be in this world, but your voice continues to remain with us

(NOTE: Material relating to family history and other events, sourced from the publication ‘Jab Dil Hi Toot Gayaa’ by Harish Raguvanshi and Harmandir Singh ‘Hamraaz’)


Song-Sapt suran teen graam (Tansen)(1943) Singer-K L Saigal,Lyrics-Tansen,MD-Khemchand Prakash

Lyrics

sapt suran teen graam
gaavo sab gunee jan
ikkees moorchhanaa
baan taan ko milaavo
sapt suran

sapt suran teen graam
gaavo sab gunee jan
ikkees moorchhanaa
baan taan ko milaavo
aurdav sankeeran sur sampooran raag bhed
aurdav sankeeran sur sampooran raag bhed
alankaar bhushan ban
alankaar bhushan ban raag ko sajaavo
sapt suran

saat sur saadho mann re apne rabb ko jaan
saat sur saadho mann re apne rabb ko jaan
gandhaar tajo gumaan
gandhaar tajo gumaan
madhyam moksh paavo
pancham parmeshwar dhaivat dharo dhyaan
pancham parmeshwar dhaivat dharo dhyaan
nee nis din prabhu charan chit laavo
sapt suran teen graam
gaavo sab gunee jan
ikkees moorchhanaa baan taan ko milaavo
aurdav sankeeran sur sampooran raag bhed
aurdav sankeeran sur sampooran raag bhed
alankaar bhushan ban raag ko sajaavo
sapt

4 Responses to "Sapt suran teen graam"

Sudhir sir,
Wah,Wah ! Kya khoob !! Jawab Nahi aapka !!!
Lagta hai you have filled emotions in your kalam,and not ink.
It is an excellent write up.
However,there is a slightly deviated detail(though not much),in the incident about R.C.Boral’s first meeting.
It seems, one day Harischandra Bali,who was a Music Director of many films himself,came to R C Boral-who was working for Pooran Bhagat that time,and told him about a young typewriter salesman earning 80/- per month,wishing to act and sing in films.R C Boral fixed a date to ‘test’ that man.Meanwhile,he heard a young man singing near a Paan Thela.By the time he went,the man had left.
Next day Bali brought that man for Boral’s ‘test’ and Boral knew that HE was the same person who sang near the thela.
Saigal did not get to act in Pooran Bhagat,but he came on the stage and sang 4 songs which were filmed. (these details are given by Shri.Surjit Singh ji).
Not that this makes any difference in the story greatly,but for the sake of information ,I added it.
-Boodhemiyan-Saudi Arabia

Like

Boodhemiyan ji

Thanks for your appreciation and words of encouragement. 🙂

Your description of the first meeing between Saigal Saab and RC Boral is indeed more detailed. Thanks for the more complete version.

Rgds
Sudhir

Like

Boodhemiyan Bhai and Sudhir bhai,
The same details were given earlier in this blog.When I searched,I found that Arunkumar Deshmukh bhai has already written the same thing in his comments on 3-6-11,on the song ‘Jao jao aye mere sadho…..’ of Pooran Bhagat,about Boral’s discovery of Saigal saab.
Except this minor thing,the article on Saigal saab is simply fascinating.
Sudhirbhai,you are really great.Your passions and involvement in the writtings are such that the reader is swept off his feet and flows with your narration.
Thanks and…….lagey raho.
IDLMan

Like

IDL Man ji,

Thanks for your note, and kind words of encouragement. 🙂

Rgds
Sudhir

Like

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This blog discusses Bollywood songs of yesteryears. Every song has a brief description, followed by a video link, and complete lyrics of the song.

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