She represents the third generation of the first family of Indian music – the Mangeshkars. Here is Radha Hridaynath Mangeshkar, whose maiden album Naav Maazha Shaami is making waves, in a candid chat despite a throat infection and an inborn reticence
Your album Naav Mazha Shaami stands out in every sense among the current crop of Marathi albums.
Yes, but that’s because Marathi music has changed so much, and is beginning to sound much more like Bollywood music rather than retaining the essence of our flavour and region. And Naav… does not sound like an album in which only the words are in Marathi and nothing else reflects our culture. I am not saying that this change in Marathi music is bad, but a traditional flavour will definitely stand out. It’s a folk-based album that revives the flavour of Maharashtrian and Goan folk, with some strong poetry and wonderful compositions by my father.
Debut albums tend to be more trend-oriented. Why was this concept decided as your launch vehicle?
Baba (Radha’s father Pt. Hridaynath Mangeshkar) had come up with a beautiful and top-selling album called Maazhi Aavadati Gaani in the late ‘80s. He was planning something along those lines and was looking at the works of several poets. For example, the lead track Maazhyaa Govyaachyaa bhumita is a poem written by B.B.Borkar over 80 years ago and is famous in Goa and Maharashtra, besides being 3 pages long, so Baba had to choose the stanzas. Baba’s friend N.D.Mahanor also sends him his poems regularly and there are poems by Sudhir Moghe as well.
It was Baba who thought that I should sing these songs and in that sense it was not a deliberate launch for me. Saregama came in and one more decision they took against the trend was not having a video made of any track.
Was any poem written specifically for the album?
Yes. Naav mazha Shaami and Bai gele firaayalaa were written by Sudhir Moghe.
Why were you not launched in a Hindi album?
I have been singing on shows since I was a kid, and Marathi music lovers know me. Besides, as I said, the concept was to have a folk album after a very long gap.
Your father is known to be a tough taskmaster and a perfectionist. What was your experience while recording this album?
Baba is a perfectionist, he just does not leave you till you are perfect! But he is very easy to work with – he will cajole more out of you. He will never scold, beat or insult you when you are faltering, he will not even be angry. For this album, I just listened carefully to what he sang and followed him. Besides, he had been working on the compositions for over a year before I came in.
Was any song particularly tough for you?
Every song was tough in a way, because the six songs are in six different moods. So if there is a Koligeet, I am also singing Raag Bhairavi, and if there is a bidaai song there is also Maazhyaa Govyachyaa bhumita. Technically, this last song was a bit tough for me.
How would you describe your relationship with Baba?
I have a three-fold relationship with him. As father and daughter, we have a normal and fun relationship. As my guru, he is the best in the world, and I have been with him for nine years and never needed anyone else. There are people who have different gurus for classical, light classical, folk and so on but I never even thought of having anyone else. I see the world in Baba and he’s my world! Finally, I have been singing on his shows since childhood, and when he is my composer or co-singer, we are perfect professionals. I think that we handle all three aspects well!
What has he to say about your singing? And how will you rate yourself on this album?
Baba would not have even recorded with me if I had not satisfied him. He is not very generous with compliments though! (Smiles) Of course it’s natural that I feel I could have done better, but I can confidently state that I haven’t spoilt any of the beautiful tunes that Baba has composed!
Is he your favourite composer as well?
Of course! Who matches his genius and track-record in Marathi music? His Hindi songs are also fabulous.
You performed at Rahman’s concert recently.
I was to sing his Jiya jale and I rehearsed the song but I could not perform due to time constraints.
How was it working with him?
Among today’s composers, he is the only one who has shown consistency and I like his music. He was not actively involved with my rehearsals though he was present.
And what about singers?
Who else but Lata Mangeshkar? Among male singers Rafisaab of course – and once again, it’s very sad that people are starting to forget him too. Among today’s singers, I think Sunidhi Chauhan sings whatever she sings very well and Kumar Sanu, though he is barely singing today, is a favourite because of his expression of emotions and because he is perfectly in sur. I like Sonu Niigaam, Shreya Ghoshal, Sukhwinder Singh and Kailash Kher too. Among the Western singers, I adore John Lennon and the Beatles.
What did Lataji have to say about your singing?
She liked my album a lot. She said that it was a well-sung album.
In the song Thakun basli maay ga, you sound remarkably like the Lata of the early ‘50s.
I don’t agree at all if you mean the voice quality, because I want to be Radha Mangeshkar and my voice is quite different. But what you probably found similar was the element of gaayaki. To me, the epitomes of classic singing are only Lata Mangeshkar and Noorjehan. There are only two singers to whom I look up too and follow for their sheer expression and vocal throw. In the world of playback singing, there was nothing distinctive till the early ‘40s. The utpatti (origin) happened with Noorjehanji and within a few years came Lata Mangeshkar. In 1949, similarly, Shankar-Jaikishan gave us the origin of film music as a distinct entity with Barsaat. To date, every singer and composer is following their base or patterns, and let’s face it, there is no choice but to follow them!
You seem to have made your own profound study of Hindi film music down the decades.
I have, because I am very much into music. Look at even the classical songs of S-J – they never sounded like the typical classical songs, and yet they were pure classical too and yet had that unique film flavour. Today, everyone feels that Sunidhi Chauhan is not following any school, but the trained music listener will realise that Sunidhi, even if unconsciously, is following the same Lata Mangeshkar school. As I said, there is no getting away from it!
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