This is a song I would like to dedicate to the instrumentalist who was such an icon in Bollywood music. It is rare for an instrumentalist to get the kind of respect in the unforgiving (and rather cruel) world of Bollywood. But this is precisely what happened to the man.
Manohari Singh, made a place for himself in the tough and ultra competitive space by sheer hard work and a touch of unmistakable genius. Hailing from a family of instrumentalists and members of brass bands (his father and uncle were that) of Nepalese origin and who had settled it Calcutta (as it was then called), Manohari Singh got a break when his mentor moved from India to settle in Australia after India’s independence & he moved into the space and his band also got to play in a restaurant in Calcutta called Firpo’s. He was spotted there and asked to move to Mumbai by none other than Salil Chowdhury. He had started life as a member of the Bata Brass Band in Batanagar, then moved to HMV Orchestra with his mentor, the Hungarian born Joseph Newman. He also played wind instruments like the Flute and the Piccolo for the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra. Fellow musicians, the conductor at the Symphony Orchestra and band-leader at Firpo’s Restaurant, George Banks, trumpet player at the Grand Hotel, and others, Manohari was introduced to the thriving Calcutta nightclub scene. Manohari Singh was already adept at playing the flute, the clarinet and the mandolin as well, but took up the Saxophone in order to be able to play at nightclubs. George Banks , the father of Louis Banks is also of Nepalese origin and actually was born Pushkar Bahadur Buddhapriti, was also a trumpeter and had moved to Calcutta in the early 1940s to join a European Band in the city, subsequently he changed his name to George Banks. His son Louis Banks was born Dambar Bahadur Buddhapriti and the name was changed to an anglicised version , the first name was a tribute to Louis Armstrong. His grandfather, Bakhat Bahadur Buddhapriti, had actually composed the Nepalese National Anthem: Shreeman Gambhira Nepali which was the official anthem from 1962 to 2006.
Manohari Singh actually debuted in Bollywood with S D Burmanda as a saxophonist for the movie Sitaaron Se Aage. The saxophone became his signature instrument and he played it for many a composer, even appearing on-screen (a rare honour for an instrumentalist) and therefore made a name for himself. His strongest association was with Panchamda, for whom he was the constant music assistant and trusted arranger. Although he did get an opportunity to compose independently as part of the MD Duo with his friend Basudeb Chakraborty, as Basu- Manohari, he is best remembered for his skills with the saxophone.
This song from Kashmir Ki Kali shows it best. With music by O P Nayyar and soulful vocals by the great Rafisaab, the song is permanently etched on my mind, even on my mitochondrial DNA.
Shammi Kapoor as the heartbroken lover dwells on weighty issues in a Hotel Bar with a sozzled portly, teary eyed and appropriately mustachioed “Colonel” and breaks into a sublime song by Rafisaab who had this unique ability to bring in a drunken slur into his singing voice without ever having touched alcohol. An immortal, eternal song with soul and an unforgettable melody ( O P Nayyar‘s USP, really), it is really very close to my heart. The lyrics are by Shamsul Huda Bihari, OPN’s constant lyricist.
One of India’s best Saxophonists of the current crop of experts with this difficult but very pleasing instrument, Stanley Samuel has some fantastic words for introducing his cover version.
Released in the year I was born. Waited over 10 years to ‘tame’ this one. Many years ago…some one asked me can you play …’Hai Duniya Usi Ki?’….my humble response was ..’I can but I am not worthy of such a great composition….long way to go’! He smiled and said….”someday you should, worthy or not…because you can never claim to be playing such a wonderful instrument if you don’t play this master piece”! It has been over 10 years and countless iterations! Here is the full version based upon the setting for the song that starts with a Saxophone Solo when Shammi Kapoor Sahb walks in….there is drama as usual and then a loaded exchange between two people that culminates into this very meaningful song that has still shines like gold for over 50 years. Humbled to present this for your listening pleasure. By no means perfect and by no means a replica of the original…but it does capture the mood of the song, the pathos as they say and more. Not for those looking for perfection or mistakes. Concrete feedback is always welcome. We continue to learn… grow each day and move on to another level as a hobby and passion. Nothing more nothing less.
I love his style, although he has slowed down the tempo a tad for his cover version. The lyrics in Hindi are horribly misspelt and I would wish you ignore them and just soak in the amazing saxophone rendition .
Enjoy the amazing song, folks and stay safe. The Wuhan Virus is resurgent due to our folly in underestimating our enemy’s strengths and our weakness and irresponsibilities as well.