, the centrepiece of the soundtrack to the 1951 Raj Kapoor film, Awara
, has found a home in the hearts of millions of fans not just on the subcontinent but in the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, China and Africa. In one of those zeitgeist moments, the melody instantly was claimed by listeners as being in some way important to their lives. Its message, at once sad and uplifting, clearly released a longing and a recognition for both the free but uncertain future of the vagabond.
At a time when Africa was still a decade away from the winds of change and the Soviet Union was slowly emerging from Stalinism, the happy-go-lucky vagabond played by Raj Kapoor seemed to sum up what it meant to be human. Or what being human should be.
Let’s take a little world tour and discover how this beautiful, iconic Mukesh-voiced song took an emerging new world by storm. Let’s start with the original.
Awara Hoon (original 1951)
Raj Kapoor does his greatest Chaplinesque tramp, loveable and cheeky. Just the sort of man your mother would love (if he didn’t pick her pocket). The lyrics were written by Shailendra. A committed leftist who thought art should be used for social progress not mere entertainment, he initially refused Kapoor’s offer to buy his poems for some of his films. But hard times (like those of the tramp) forced Shailendra to compromise and accept Kapoor’s offer. Yoked to Bombay’s first fabulous composer duo of Shanker-Jaikishan, the team found instant popular success. Awara Hoon was their greatest moment.
Awara Hoon (Istanbul Girls Orchestra)
The Turks have probably been the most enthusiastic boosters of this song outside of India. Many Turkish artists have recorded this over the decades, finding the lilting sway absolutely perfect for the innate flow of Ottoman melody. This version mixes lush orchestral strings with a small masala touch of sitar and tabla. Very lovely.
Awara Hoon (Ugur Hagan)
A very contemporary hip-hop version retains the accordion but gives the original a completely fresh relevance. The Turks do it again!
Awara Hoon (unknown buskers, Toronto)
Even far from oriental shores, in the northern climes of Canada, you cannot escape this favourite of musicians, including elderly buskers!
Awara Hoon Chinese Karoke Version
Mao Tse Tung may be long dead, but his favourite song (and film) continue to inspire and lead his people to ever new heights of cultural expression. May a thousand versions bloom! This extensive karaoke template includes some 80s’-like rock guitar and Mandarin hiccups.
Avare (Ahmet Koc)
Click here to watch the video.
A more traditional Turkish rendition complete with accordion and qanoon, the traditional zither of Turkish music. This instrumental version by the famous folk musician Ahmet Koc continues to be loved by Turks all around the world.
Listen to these songs as a single playlist on our YouTube channel.