Ajai R. Singh MD

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Sargam Articles on Music (Contd.)


Sargam, June 2005

Classical training for light music


I find an interesting argument doing the rounds in music circles. When asked if you have undergone training in classical music, some people have a ready reply: ‘What about Kishore Kumar and O.P. Nayyar? They had no formal training in classical music. See the beauty with which they did their music. Who says classical training is necessary for light music?’

Well, let me tell you if you have the caliber and pratibha of a Kishore Kumar or an O.P.Nayyar, you don’t need to read me. Maybe I should come and take a lesson or two from you. For all the rest, it may make more sense to listen to what I have to say here.

There are grades of difficult songs, but we can roughly classify them into three categories:

1. Easy, 2. Difficult , and 3. Very Difficult.

 This classification is from the point of singing, and has nothing to do with the worth or ability of the singer rendering it.

  1. Easy:

 Songs like ‘Mera joota hai japani’, ‘Kisiki muskurahaton pe ho nisar,’ can be classified in the Easy category. In fact a number of Mukesh numbers sung for Raj Kapoor were like that. They were meant to be, for the master film-maker wanted simple heart touching melodies for his films which would appeal to the common man’s emotions. Here, even if you have no classical training whatsoever, only a basic understanding of sur, tala and laya, you can enjoy a number of such melodies all through life without bothering about anything else.

So many light, foot tapping numbers of this type keep on getting produced from earlier times till today, and no classical base is necessary to enjoy singing them.

  1. Difficult

Songs like those sung by Rafi for Naushad like ‘Suhani raat dhal chuki,’ of Lata sung for Madan Mohan like ‘Yoon hasraton ke daagh’ , or even the Melodies of Khayyam like, ‘Who subaha kabhi to ayegi’ will come in this category. Even Talat Mehmood’s most popular songs like ‘Jalte hain jiske liye,’ or ‘Tasveer banata hoon’, also fall here. In this case classical training is not obligatory, but facilitates the voice flexibility that the grinding undergone by a classical training brings about.

 So it will help you for sure, but you may do without it if you carry out serious riyaz of light music.

  1. Very Difficult

In this category come songs like ‘Ayega anewala’ of Lata, ‘Dekhi zamane ki yari’ of Rafi, most songs of Manna Dey with a classical base like ‘Bhay bhanjana’, non-filmi songs of Jagjit Singh like ‘Koi paas aya sawere sawere’, of Mehdi Hasan like ‘Konpalen phir phoot aayin’, and the difficult Ghulam Ali numbers like,‘Hungama hai kyun barpa’, and some songs of Talat like ‘Tasveer teri dil mera behla na sakegi’, or ‘Beraham  aasman’.

These songs cannot be faithfully rendered without a classical base, howsoever hard you try.

If your dream is to sing such numbers, (or even songs rendered in films by classical maestros like ‘Ketaki gulab juhi champaka bana phoole’), go and take refuge under the feet of a guru who will chisel and fashion your voice to make it capable of such rendition. He may or may not teach you to sing such songs (most probably, he will not), but he will help you get such control over sur that is the essence of high quality singing

 Any effort in this direction, properly guided, will reap rich rewards.

 Any attempt to prove me wrong may just be so much effort gone down the drain.

 I would hardly recommend you do that to your self, at least not in the field of music, and definitely not since you are in Swara Sampada.

Dr Ajai R Singh

16 June 2005




Sargam, July 2005



Dhyanmoolam gururmoorti.

Poojamoolam gurirpadam.

Mantramoolam gururvakyam.

Moksamoolam gururkripa.

The guru’s appearance is the essence of attention. Just looking at him makes our heart sing and dance with joy. His appearance itself should arouse such noble thoughts in a true sadhaka.

What is the essence of worship? The feet of the guru. The feet of the guru symbolizes our humility, our ability to subjugate our ego, without which no real knowledge can ever be imbibed.

Which is the greatest mantra? The words of the guru. If only you can find someone whose words are such, and develop the ability to trust him, you are on the way to enlightenment.

What is the greatest moksa, the greatest liberation? The kripa, or grace, of your guru. Without his blessings, try as you might, you will always flounder. You will try your level best, but peace of mind and success, which comes with a sense of fulfillment, will always elude you.

The guru, more than anything else, is your own true self reflected. The more you evolve, the more you benefit from a guru. The more you flounder, the more you have missed his essential teachings.

There is a guru sitting deep within each one of you too. Who speaks to you sometimes in low whispers, sometimes very loudly. He guides you at every step, though you resist listening to his voice many many times.

Who is he?

He is your inner voice, your conscience. Listen to that inner guru. He will never fail you. He will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your success. It is one thing to be successful, it is quite another to enjoy its fruits.

Build your life on a solid foundation of values. Do not compromise with them under any circumstances. This is what your inner guru will tell you.

Care to listen?

Dr Ajai R Singh

22 July 2005



Sargam Sept 2005

Rasa and Music


Rasa means juice or extract. It is the essence of a fruit. We take apple juice or mango juice (aam ka rasa). Similarly, in the performing arts there are certain feeling states or rasas conveyed. In music too, which is one of the prominent performing arts, we think of rasa, the essence of the feeling or emotion conveyed by a song or a composition. That is the rasa or predominant emotive tone of the song. But for that we must know which are the nine recognized Rasas. They are:


Rasa                                                                  Emotional Effect


Erotic, Romantic






Ludicrous, Grotesque




Pathos, Compassion








Some later authorities have also added Bhakti rasa (devotion) to these Nava-rasas of Bharata’s Natyashastra, and probably to good reason, although it often goes along with Shanta rasa.

Many Hindi film songs have these rasas as their predominant effect, and it is a good topic of personal research for you to categorise the songs you sing, like, or hear into those conveying the rasas mentioned above.

For example, let us take a few of them here:


1.Aapke haseen ruhk pe aaj naya noor hai obviously conveys Sringara rasa.

2.Qasmein wade pyar wafa sab baten hain baton ka kya conveys Karuna and Jugupsa rasas.

3.Yeh desh hai veer jawanon ka,albelon ka, mastanon ka conveys Veer rasa.

4. Ye kaun chitrakar hai, ye kaun chitrakar  conveys Vismaya, Shanta and Bhakti  rasas.

5. Yeh mahalon yeh takhton yeh tajon ki duniya conveys Karuna, Jugupsa and Roudra rasas ( Raudra, especially in the jala do ise phoonk dalo yeh duniya).

6. Ek chatur naar kar ke singar conveys Hasya and Sringar rasas.

7. Ai malik tere bande hum conveys Shanta and Bhakti rasas.

8. Aurat nein janam diya mardon ka, mardon nein unhe bazaar diya conveys Bibhatsa, Jugupsa and Karuna rasas.


I have analysed a few of the well-known songs for you so you can embark on your own self-study and analysis. Amongst other things, it will also help you concentrate on the meaning of a song, and help you emote the song better. Both qualities essential in anyone aspiring to be a good singer, which I am sure you intend to be.

All the very best.


Dr Ajai R. Singh


Sargam Oct 2005


What the Profession of Music Involves



The incident I am about to describe happened three decades ago. But it is as fresh in my memory as yesterday.


The year was 1975. The happy, exhausting but carefree days of youth in a medical college. We were to organize a two-day cultural fest at Shanmukhananda Hall. And mind you, the hall was as big as it is today. As we were busy short-listing the names of musical luminaries, excited committee members were suggesting some big names. Someone suggested Hemant Kumar, and he was enthusiastically accepted. Another suggested Manna Dey, and again yes said the group. I remember I suggested Talat Mehmood, and again there was a roar of approval. Someone knew the star Rajesh Khanna, and he too was enthusiastically approved. And all these greats graced the occasion.


While all these deliberations were on, the Asst Prof of Orthopaedics I think it was, who wanted to suggest something. He said he knew a couple that sang very well. They were making waves on the ghazal scene, and were very well appreciated in five star hotels where they regularly performed. He wanted us to give them just 15-20 mins. He promised they would come gratis. He also promised we would never regret calling them. While we were allotting so much time to all these greats, why could we not allot a small 15 min slot to him?


I distinctly remember we, in a bored manner, asking him who they were. And after hearing their names, we politely refused. How could we vitiate a programme of the greats by calling some hotel singers, howsoever talented they may be according to someone? And so what if they came gratis? We would collect the funds and pay. But no adulteration of the programme would be tolerated.


The singers the kind professor had in mind were Jagjit and Chitra Singh.



Silly, But True


You can say how silly of us to do so. And in retrospect, I would strongly agree. I do sometimes laugh at the stupid and funny way we booted the kind professor’s suggestion out. He was almost pleading for the names to be included! And while I myself sometimes feel surprised as to how we took such a decision, what I wish to draw your attention to is something different. And that is neither silly nor funny.


Do not, even for a moment, think we were the only silly people who took such a decision. So many such silly organizers were busy taking such decisions. So many rejections the great singers must have faced before they made their mark.


It does not help to blame organizers either. They want established names. They want tickets to sell. They want celebrities. Why should they go by sheer talent when the ticket buyer does not?


The bottom line is that for a singer to survive, and make it to the top, it is not enough to be good. So many are. It is most important to persist. Which most are not. And remain absolutely committed to the field. To believe in one’s talent, which should be there of course. To create a niche for oneself, by not being a follower or a copier. And to keep at it. On and on and on. Not to think of alternatives at all. To live, or die, being a singer. And give it ones best shot, not crying or ranting over one’s fate. And if one does not succeed, well so be it. It was not for want of effort.

It is rarely that one becomes a celebrity singer otherwise. Dame luck may smile, true. But she chooses the most persistent suitor.


The Lesson: Keep Pegging at It


The lesson for anyone who wants to make a mark in the field is clearly to keep pegging at it, while chiseling and honing his talent.


And no giving up, and no letting go.


Else the profession of music will not open its doors to you.


It’s better to be a connoisseur or part time music enthusiast otherwise, as we all are. However, music as a full time profession is a totally different ball game.


In the stupidity we did lies a lesson for all potential singers. And also for those who only wish, but do not have the mental aptitude, or reserves, to persist.


In case you know of someone who wants to pursue music as a career, and make it to the top, do tell him what it involves. And if you are one of those who is struggling to become one, do know.


Know what?


If the great Jagjit Singh could have been refused, why do you think you won’t? You got to succeed not because of, but in spite of, such roadblocks.

If this lesson is well learnt, our stupidity committed then has indeed served a good purpose now.



 Dr Ajai  Singh




Sargam Nov 2005

Why Attend Music Concerts?


We all enjoy listening to a cassette, a CD or watching a TV programme of music. But none of these can match the joy and experience of a live performance.

As you get ready, the anticipation adds to the excitement, as does the travel and the company, if that is congenial. And the ambience of a good venue, a proper sound system, a harmonious musical accompaniment, and a well decorated stage. All these add to the charm of the performance. The greatest joy of course is of being face to face with the performer himself. His presence, his aura, his charisma envelops the listener in a warm embrace if he is a good performer. You can feel him singing as though only for you. The communion that a good singer establishes with you is spontaneous and instantaneous. It’s as though one soul is in intimate conversation with another. All great performers will give this feeling of intimate bonding to you as a listener. That is why, even if you have heard a great singer so many times over the radio, TV or cassette player, you still enjoy him performing before you live. The same songs, the same raga assumes a different form as it unfolds before you. It’s as though the singer pours the innermost secrets of his heart deep into yours. And even if you are quenched for the time being, your heart keeps thirsting for more.

This is applicable to the greats not only in classical, semi-classical or melody-based songs. It is equally applicable to pop songs, and so called dhamal numbers too. The ones, which move you live are the ones, you seek in cassettes as well as in future live performances. That is why live pop performances also are a great hit.

Why am I writing about this here? One, because I want you to experience this magic as a listener. The festive season is here. From this month onwards, there will be a number of festivals of music all over the city. And I would request you to attend as many of them as you can. Second, if you attend them, see if the singer establishes such a communion with you. But first go with the mental preparation to allow yourself to experience it. Third, try and bring in that divine element in your performance too. It will only come when music becomes a prayer for you, and you sing through your lips but with your innermost being. And while a communion with your audience is mandatory, seek the innermost being of the singer to communicate with. Then your soul will sing directly to your audiences’ soul. And they will become only a means to establish communion between your individual soul and the divine all pervading soul we call God.

Try it.


Dr Ajai R. Singh


(Further articles will be uploaded by and by.)




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