Neutralizing The Musician Effect

Sound engineers have for long known the association between musicians and their ability to pick up and process ambient sounds, more than non-musicians can. Audiograms tell us that musicians are especially good at making sense of speech and music from background sounds, thanks essentially to their constant connection with the pitches and tones of their instruments. In scientific circles, this special listening ability has been called the Musician Effect. In recent years though, the term Musician Effect has assumed another meaning as well, i.e., the mesmerizing effect musicians have on their fans. This new meaning was coined by music writer Molly McGreevy in her blog entitled “Why Are Musicians More Attractive Than Normal People?” Here’s part of what she said:

“Stick some boys on stage, with instruments, and they will have the girls swooning at their feet. Even if just a few months before they could not manage to pull the most desperate of girls wearing the strongest of beer goggles. That instant increase in attractiveness is what I dub ‘The Musician Effect’, and it seems to be an odd phenomenon that has been around for some years. Oddly enough the band doesn’t have to be chart-topping, just four lads who can throw a song together seem to have this strange effect on women”.

Such an effect was on full display in Hum Kisise Kum Nahin (1977), when Rishi Kapoor (on a trumpet) and Tariq (on a guitar) took to the stage singing Chaand mera dil, with other musicians backing them up. It was also clearly on display in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), when Amir Khan (guitar slung around his neck) and his friends showed up on a stage—with saxophones, trumpets, cymbals, drums, guitar and keyboard—to sing Papa kehte hain bada naam karega.

This effect holds well even if the musicians are not the instrument-playing kind, and just the singing sort. Definitions blur, but it is generally considered that groups refers to musicians who may or may not play instruments themselves, as against members of a band, who always play musical instruments.

Such a strong attraction explains in part why actors in our cinema are sometimes shown playing musical instruments. This is particularly true of the piano, which with its high oomph factor lends a heavy charge to its surroundings. As an example, think of Khwaab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat from Teen Deviyan (1965), in which Kalpana and Simi seem transfixed by Dev Anand singing on the piano. This was in 1965, with Dev on a roll even by himself, but the Musician Effect sure helped. The film’s third devi, Nanda, would very likely have felt the same way if she were around to watch the hero sing on the piano. Like in the situation here, our cinema has generally shown instrumentalists acting alone, as against playing in a band, which is so occidental a concept.

However, there have been ever so many film situations when an actor isn’t part of any group, but is clearly teaming up with a band just for the song. What happens to the Musician’s Effect now, when an actor performs, but to lend realism, professional bands are shown backing up his song? Which of the two sides score higher?

Many situations call for such filming. It can be a song being recorded in a studio, or it can be a performance on a stage, or even on the same level as the audience, without the elevation of a stage; in a club or fine dining restaurant for instance. These are not Indian instruments being seen played in a mujra, or in any other setting. This orchestra feel refers to western instruments, such as trumpets, clarinets, saxophones, violins, accordions, drums, guitars, and double basses, etc. Sometimes an Indian instrument is thrown into this cauldron, but the flavour remains decidedly western.

Here are many songs which featured an actor miming his lips to a song, as an ensemble of mainly western musicians backed him up:

  • Neend hamaari khwaab tumhaare (Nayi Kahaani, 1943)
  • Patli kamar hai (Barsaat, 1949)
  • Dilli se aaya bhai tingu (Ek Thi Ladki, 1949)
  • Deewaana, ye parwaana (Albela, 1951)
  • Halla gulla lai la (Dholak, 1951)
  • Chori chori meri gali aana hai bura (Jaal, 1952)
  • Ina meena deeka (Asha, 1957)
  • Jaoon main kahaan (Miss India, 1957)
  • Kya ho phir jo din rangeela ho (Nau Do Gyarah, 1957)
  • Are tauba are tauba (12 O’Clock, 1958)
  • Beliya beliya beliya beliya (Parwarish, 1958)
  • Nineteen fifty-six, nineteen fifty-seven (Anari, 1959)
  • Nashe mein hum nashe mein tum (Black Cat, 1959)
  • One two three four dil ka tu chor (Black Cat, 1959)
  • Do ekam do, do dooni chaar (Dil Deke Dekho, 1959)
  • Aa aa aa mere taal pe naach le babu (Kal Hamara Hai, 1959)
  • Teen canastar peet-peet kar (Love Marriage, 1959)
  • Tere teer ko humne pyaar se (Qaidi No. 911, 1959)
  • Ghoom ke aaya hoon main bandhu Roos-Cheen-England (Basant, 1960)
  • Chaand zard-zard hai (Jaali Note, 1960)
  • O o o meri baby doll (Ek Phool Chaar Kaante, 1960)
  • Ui…itni badi mehfil aur ik dil (Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, 1960)
  • Aye dil dekhe hain humne bade bade sangdil (Shreeman Satyawadi, 1960)
  • Hum dum se gaye (Manzil, 1960)
  • Nazar ka jhuk jaana (Passport, 1961)
  • Yamma yamma yamma tu parwaana main shamma (China Town, 1962)
  • Hong Kong Cheena-Meena Singapore (Singapore, 1962)
  • Jabse tujhe jaan gayi (Bluff Master, 1963)
  • Dil ki manzil kuchh aesi hai manzil (Tere Ghar Ke Saamne, 1963)
  • Dil jo na keh saka (the Rafi version) (Bheegi Raat, 1965)
  • Aao twist karen (Bhoot Bangla, 1965)
  • Rut jawaan-jawaan, raat meherbaan (Aakhri Khat, 1966)
  • O haseena zulfon waali (Teesri Manzil, 1966)
  • Dil ki girah khol do chup na baittho (Raat Aur Din, 1967)

I think of Ms McGreevy, and wonder what she would say about situations in which musicians were shown playing instruments, while film stars sang away, generally without playing any instrument. Perhaps she would think, like most of us, that the stars effectively neutralized the Musician Effect.

The mind also goes to that first superstar from Hindi cinema, KL Saigal, who rendered Aye kaatib-e-taqdeer mujhe itna bata de (My Sister, 1944) from a stage, with dozens of musicians facing him from below in what is called the Orchestra Pit. In this song, since they could not be properly seen by the audience, the instrumentalists were no competition for the singing-actor. But knowing about Saigal’s reputation for challenges, he would have happily welcomed them on the stage to demonstrate their skills. And he would still win hands down.

Since we have only talked about western-style musicians here, you may be wondering whether the Musician Effect applies to Hindustani musicians too. It certainly seems so, though there are some differences. Musicians performing Indian generally sit down to sing and play, so they can’t offer pelvic thrusts or microphone-bending acrobatics. Nor do they wear torn jeans. A sleeveless jacket can turn them into a minor rock star, while a shawl offers them the gravitas of a full-strength one. Tuning the instruments or clearing the throat, as everyone waits, adds to the effect, as does punctuating the show with jokes. As for us fans, we can feel very excited, so what if we don’t show it in a shrieking frenzy kind of way?

~~~~

(Originally published: 23rd April 2017)

http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2017-04-23 (Page 11)

13 thoughts on “Neutralizing The Musician Effect

  1. “When I was a little boy, I told my dad, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a musician.’ My dad said: ‘You can’t do both, Son’.”

    1. Dinesh 🙂 Your dad was a wonderful musician, and he apparently had the best humour of everyone in films…you seem to have got it from him 🙂

  2. Brilliant essay! As usual a resource document for me 🙂

    “Musicians performing Indian generally sit down to sing and play, so they can’t offer pelvic thrusts or microphone-bending acrobatics. Nor do they wear torn jeans.” – from Laaga chunri mein daag to Naache man mora magan – all have the singers singing with a smattering of musicians on stage – sitting in a corner. On the other hand, Meet na milare mann ka, has a strapping musician hero with an orchestra behind him. Similarly, Yaad aa gayi woh nasheeli nigahein has a full-fledged orchestra on the stage.

    And then as you mentioned “KL Saigal, who rendered Aye kaatib-e-taqdeer mujhe itna bata de (My Sister, 1944) from a stage, with dozens of musicians facing him from below in what is called the Orchestra Pit. ” So many various aspects of a more or less similar situation – the Musician effect. Amazing! I never looked at it this way. Will now watch the musician songs with a new perspective.

    Thank you for this superb essay 🙂 Fortunately, now I have this website as a ready resource bank from where I can pick your quotes easily for my writeups 🙂 🙂

  3. what a brilliant article.. such a unique concept …im so surprised that i never realised this truly does have an effect on women.. 🙂 guitarists are my weakness 🙂 but i loved Salman Khan with the mandolin in HAHK.. 🙂 and Eric Clapton 🙂

    1. RNK, I’ll trade places with a guitarist any day…such guys can get away with shaving themselves bald, growing their hair, wearing earrings…I’m too chicken for such changes as I am 🙂

  4. Loved this aspect of musical instruments and the actors doing the charade of playing it. I just remembered a playful dialogue from ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ ……Madhuri Dixit asks Salman Khan (looking at a mandolin in his hands) …..”Bajana wajana bhi aata hai ya sirf pose de rahe ho?” 😀
    Would love to include “Ye raat ye chandni fir kahan” <3 Dev serenading with guitar!!!

  5. It is always something new to learn in your write ups. Today it was “The Musician’s Effect”. As you explain about the girls getting attracted to “Musicians”, I understand girls also get attracted to Mobsters and those living on the wild side. However I have no write up to support. Perhaps Dr Pisharoty Chandran – one of our esteemed members – can throw some light on this.

    You give two examples of movies in your article – HKKN and QSQT. It clears the air for me that a director’s job is not simply getting the best out of an actor acting wise and leading a team; how much more goes in to a scene whilst conceptualising it.

    As always, a wonderful write up.

    1. Thanks Balbir _()_ 🙂 Yes, a director’s job can be challenging. But only if he takes it seriously, and he has what it takes to deliver his message well…

  6. Oh my! There’s something called The Musician’s Effect? Who knew? Very interesting! I’m going to re-read this. I love this “Musicians performing Indian generally sit down to sing and play, so they can’t offer pelvic thrusts or microphone-bending acrobatics. Nor do they wear torn jeans. A sleeveless jacket can turn them into a minor rock star, while a shawl offers them the gravitas of a full-strength one.”
    I have a question – would “Mera naam chin-chin-chu” and “o mere pyar aaja” (Bhoot Bangla) be considered as contenders in this line-up of songs?
    One more nuance of the music world revealed so capably by you, Manek! Kudos!

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