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

Hamen to shaam e gham mein kaatni hai zindagi apni

Posted on: May 21, 2015

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Basics of music- Part I (Swar and Saptak)
In this blog, we have discussed over eleven thousand songs till now. When I use the word “discuss”, I mostly mean that we have provided lyrics of the song, provided the audio/video link of the song and mentioned the names of artists singing the song and performing in the picturisation. We sometimes discuss the movies and artists of these songs in detail.

Come to think of it, the song itself has many things in it that have rarely been touched upon in the blog. For instance, majority of HFM is based on Hindustani classical music. Many principles of classical music is followed in HFM even if they go unnoticed by most music lovers.

We will be able to appreciate HFM (or for that matter any music) if we are able to understand what goes behind the music. Music may be regarded as an art by laymen but it is based on scientific principles. Music is also noticed following mathematical laws.

I, in collaboration with other contributor(s) of the blog propose to start a series in the blog that will introduce us to the principles of music. In the beginning, we will introduce musical terms and explain what exactly they mean and how they lead to creation of music that pleases our senses. We will try to take many baby steps in this series in the beginning, because the concepts being discussed will take some time to sink for the beginners. Those who are interested in the subject are requested to give their feedback. Participation of readers will determine the course of this series which will take a lot out of us, but it is hoped that the end result will see us getting enriched a great deal, musically speaking, of course.

So, in this first part, I will explain some very basic and important terms, namely “swar” and “saptak” and what they mean. So here we go.

Assumption:-I assume that readers have some understanding of terms used in physics like say “frequency”, “pitch” etc. If required, we will explain these terms too, based on user feedback.

Question-What is a musical “note” ?
Answer- A musical note is a pitched sound, viz sound at a particular frequency.

Question-What is an octave ?
Answer- A range of notes where the highest note is of twice the frequency as compared to the lowest note.

Let us understand the above statements with examples.

It has been noticed that human ear is capable of identifying at the most 22 notes in an octave. Theese 22 notes are called micronotes in Western classical terminology or “shruti” in Hindustani classical music terminology. Seven out of these 22 notes in an octave are considered musically significant and they have been called “swar” in Hindustani classical music. Since there are seven swar in an octave, the term coined for them is “saptak”, where “sapt”=seven. So, musically speaking an octave is the same as saptak and it contains the seven swars, as following:

Swar Full name Meaning of the term Inspiration from Abbreviation Remarks
Shadja Creator of six Inspired from cry of the peacock Sa This is an invariant swar (Achal Swar)and a reference point for other swars
Rishabh Rishabh means bull Inspired from sound of a bull Re Has two variations, viz Shuddh and Komal
Gandhaar Sweet fragrance Sound of a goat Ga Has two variations, viz Shuddh and Komal
Madhyam Middle one Sound of heron Ma Has two variations, viz Shuddh and Teevr
Pancham Fifth Sound of cuckoo Pa This is an invariant swar (Achal Swar)
Dhaiwat Sixth note Neighing sound of horse Dha Has two variations, viz Shuddh and Komal
Nishaad Seventh note Trumpeting sound of an elephant Ni Has two variations, viz Shuddh and Komal

The seven notes together are also described as “Sargam”, where the word sargam is an acronym contaning the first letters of the first four swars.

It must be kept in mind that four of the swars, viz. Re, Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni have one variant each- called komal for Re, Ga , Dha, Ni, and Teevr for Ma. So there are a total of 12 musical notes, though we still describe the sargam as consisting of saat swar only. Incidentally, the term “Sur” is same as “swar”

In a classical musical composition, the swars are sung in ascending order (called aaroh), followed by singing in descending order (called avroh).

Let us assume that the composition makes use of all the seven notes of the saptak (octave) in aaroh as well as avroh. Then the aaroh will go:
Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa’ where each swar (note) is sung at an increasingly higher pitch compared to the previous swar till we arrive at the seventh and final swar Ni. The singer then goes higher and sings Sa’ which sounds the same as the first note Sa but it is at twice the frequency vis a vis the original swar Sa.
These swars, viz Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa’ constitute an octave (Saptak). Typically a singer will most of the time operate in one octave. He would sing the aaroh in that saptak and they go down Sa’ Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa by singing the avroh.
[Note- The convention followed here has Sa’ as twice the freqency of Sa, Re’ at twice th frequency of Re etc.]

Suppose that the singer, after reaching at Sa’, which is twice the frequency as the original Sa, keeps going at higher and higher frequencies, viz. Sa’ Re’ Ga’ Ma’, Pa’ Dha’, Ni’, Sa”. Then that will constitute another octave. The original octave is called mid octave (madhya saptak) while the higher octave is called taar saptak. Likewise the octave below the madhya saptak can be obtained if one goes down in frequency below the original Sa by singing awroh, viz. Sa ‘Ni ‘Dha ‘Pa ‘Ma ‘Ga ‘Re ‘Sa, where ‘Sa is half the frequency of Sa. This lower octave, one octave below the madhya saptak is called mandrak saptak.
[Note- The convention followed here has ‘Sa as half the freqency of Sa, ‘Re at half the frequency of Re etc.]

For the sake of illustration, let us say that the madhya saptak is between 240 hz to 480 hz where 240 Hz is Sa and 480 Hz is Sa’, then taar saptak will be between 480 hz to 960 hz whereas mandra saptak would be between 120 hz to 240 hz.

What about the frequencies of shuddha notes other than Sa in an octave ? They too bear some relation with each other. In madhya Saptak, if Sa is 240 hz and Sa’ is 480 hz, then Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni would be 270 Hz, 300 hz, 320 hz, 360 hz, 405 hz and 450 hz. Every note in the octave would be 1.5 times the frequency of the fifth note before it. Thus Pa (360 hz) will be 1.5 times Sa (240 hz), Dha (405 hz) will be 1.5 times Re (270 hz) etc. So one can say that the notes in an octave display the property of geometric progression. It must be kept in mind that we are talking about shudd swars. komal notes of Re Ga, Dha Ni would be of slightly lower frequency than the shuddh version whereas teevra Madhyam would be of slightly higher frequency than shudhh madhyam.

I will let the above information sink in for readers for whom this information is new. People who are familiar with the above concepts are requested to show patience because these concepts are fundamental concepts that must be understood properly before we move on to other concepts.

I have purposely avoided bringing in other musical terminologies in this discussion today. Their turn will come in subsequent discussions. For the time being, here is a song from “Jugnu”(1947). This song is based on a classical “raag”- a term that we will discuss in future.

The song is sung by Noorjahaan and it is picturised on her as well. Asghar Sarhadi is the lyricist. Music is composed by Feroz Nizami.

So enjoy this song, and also the article, and look forward to some “interesting” discussion on the nuts and bolts of music in the days to come. 🙂



Song-Hamen to shaam e gham mein kaatni hai zindagi apni (Jugnu)(1947) Singer-Noorjahaan, Lyrics-Asghar Sarhadi, MD-Feroz Nizami


(cough cough
cough cough)
hamen to shaam-e-gham mein kaatni hai zindagi apni
hamen to shaam-e-gham mein kaatni hai zindagi apni
jahaan wo hain wahin ae chaand le ja chaandni apni
jahaan wo hain wahin ae chaand le ja chaandni apni

agar kucchh thhi to bas ye thhi tamanna aakhri apni
agar kuch thhi to bas ye thhi tamanna aakhri apni
ke tum saahil pe hote aur kashti doobti apni
ke tum saahil pe hote aur kashti doobti apni
hamen to shaam-e-gham mein kaatni (cough cough
cough cough
cough cough
cough cough)

taqaaza hai yehi dil ka
wahin chaliye
wahin chaliye
taqaaza hai yehi dil ka
wahin chaliye
wahin chaliye
wo mehfil
haaye jis mehfil mein duniya lut gayi apni
wo mehfil
haaye jis mehfil mein duniya lut gayi apni
hamen to shaam-e-gham mein kaatni hai zindagi apni

khuda ke (cough cough)
khuda ke vaaste
zaalim ghadi bhar ke liye aa ja
ghadi bhar ke liye aa ja
bujhaani hai tere daaman pe shama-e zindagi apni
bujhaani hai tere daaman pe shama-e (cough cough
cough cough)
hamen to shaam-e-gham mein kaatni hai zindagi apni
hamen (cough cough cough cough
cough cough cough cough)

16 Responses to "Hamen to shaam e gham mein kaatni hai zindagi apni"

Eggsellent initiative Atul. Salute. It would go a long way in educating folks like me who quite know how to listen to music and appreciate it depending on their mood and levels of intoxication. It is a known fact that music is enjoyed by all.. babies to old and even animals and plants (I can say that because my parrot will lean to the direction where music is emanating from be it the television or the CD player or my computer). It has shown relaxing effect and healing effect too although not scientifically acknowledged. Not only that, it “enhances” the mood significantly (and can have violent reactions too if the wrong music is played at the wrong time for example, playing ‘hum chor chale hain mehafil ko yaad aaye meri to mat rona’ instead of ‘raja ki aayegi baraat’ at a baraat procession by the band master is a sure ticket for him getting beaten up).

Having said that, There is just one minor thing here that I wish to bring to notice. While in Hindustani/Carnatic, Maa has a teevra and (Pa)ncham along with (Sha)dja is considered pure/invariant), in Western, it is Ga and Ni which are invariants. All the others have teevra or sharp.. so the progression in western would C,C#,D,D#,E,F,F#,G,G#,A,A#,B->C(next octave). Do not think it would really matter unless we get into the trickery of chords and such eventually and if discussing purely H/CFM.


Thanks for the comment.

We hope to cover lot of interesting details about music- taking baby steps in the beginning. Let us in the start discuss the concepts taking Hindustani classical music. Comparisons with other forms of classical music can be made once we have gained some experience with the concepts being discussed.


No comparison there. I just said the difference in Notation. That is because even in India, people who are learning an instrument for instance (keyboards or guitar) will learn the CDEFGABC and not Sa, Re.. and so just was giving a “mapping” between the english/western vs Hindustani equivalent. so Re would be D but Re komal would be C#… That is that. Sort of equivalent so our friends can follow it in their minds instead of going into a “whathehecksatultalkinbout” mode.


c=sa, d=re,e=ga,f=ma,g=pa,a=dha,b=ni
there is another one
do re me fa sol la ti (same mapping as above).


Your post will go a long way in understanding the finer nuances of songs now. Great job done and more to follow. We all look forward to the musical Odyssey you have started. Let us immerse in fountain of music with multi coloured hues.


From the desk of Bharatbhai Upadhyay>>
As Bharatbhai is bedridden and cannot write at the moment he has told me write is comment on the above post.
He has like the post very much and appreciated the effort and time put in by Atulji, more so as he is a trained classical singer.
He had started posting of classical songs of renowned MDs under Raagmala a year ago but at the same time he rues the fact that there were hardly any comments posted. He hopes that things will change for the better after the introduction of the above Musical Series.


Dear Atul ji,
Really grateful for your having taken the lead in explaining the concepts and basics of music by your posts. It will be a real boon for totally ‘musical illiterates’ like me, i.e., those who are only ‘Kaansen'(कानसेन).
No doubt it will be extremely challenging to put across the terms, themes and subtle nuances of music in such simple terms as can be grasped and appreciated by us laymen with a little effort.
But ASAD is a living proof of your passion, persistence, perseverance, patience and painstaking (pun unintended) capabilities. So if anyone can do it, it is the team of ASAD Stalwarts that can accomplish the onerous task.
Wishing you Godspeed.
Warm regards,
Avadh Lal


Dear Atul ji,
An excellent song. One of my favourites also.
As you have written it is based on a Raag, to be described later.
But is there any other reason for choosing it like whether it depicts a full octave range or all the swars being in ascending order or something like that?
Kindly enlighten.
Thanks and regards,
Avadh Lal


All our writeups end up with a song. So this writeup too had to be accompanied with a song. I will write some articles dealing with basics, while there will be other articles dealing with raag contents of specific songs in future.


Atul ji,

A good idea and a good beginning. Explaining classical music’s finer points in an article in simple,easy to understand manner is indeed like ” ” lifting a Shiv Dhanushya.”
Wishing the new series all the Best.


Atul ji,
My compliments for starting the new series on the classical music. I can not write much as I am mostly out of internet mobile range. All I can say here that I got some of my doubt answered by your easy to understand language.



Wish you all the best .

D Samant


Atul ji,
My first question.
What was this song doing for all these years.?
For a moment, I thought you had started re-posting songs that don’t have a proper write-up etc.
This extraordinary song is inevitably present in almost all compilations of Noorjahan, who I suppose was the only singer who could do justice to the lyrics and the composition. The blending of the coughing, lyrics and the associated music all reaching a crescendo at the end of the song is simply amazing.

Regarding the post itself, I personally, am hugely indebted since I know next to nothing about music. I intend to copy the text of this and next posts on a word file and refer as and when required.

Many Thanks for your efforts.


After a long time, I am permitted to sit and the first thing I wanted to utilized this liberty was to communicate with dear Atulites.
As such for a quite a long time I have not commented or contributed to this wonderful blog.
The present song is obviously from the original sound track (OSD). I HAVE somewhere in my huge collection the 78 rpm version where Noorjehan sings the whole song without a single cough, as if cured by a very good cough syrup !!!!
Being a fan of Noorjehan, I would request someone especially Atulji, Sudhirji or Arunji to add that version and drench my thirst to listen to that healthy version.
Thanks for starting ABC, (or should I say SaReGaMa?) of classical music. Looking forward for more.


Thanks for (being allowed to) comment again. it is nice to read your comment about this song as well as about this series.


Thanks for inserting the song without coughing in the front of the song with coughing.
My point is, that after this time lapse there will be hardly anybody looking at the post now, to see the difference and compare two versions. Instead of inserting as a main song, if it was inserted as a comment, many music lovers would have noticed.


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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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