Songs of Yore completes 13 years

Today the Songs of Yore completes thirteen years. The last three years have brought great disruption in the world. In the years 2020 and 2021, the pandemic was on a rampage. The year gone by saw a debate whether Covid19 is gone or still around. Finally, the scientific opinion has veered around that this unwanted guest is now a part of our lives, with its virulence greatly mellowed down. Finally, everybody has started travelling and taking part in functions and get-togethers. I, too, had more than a fair share of travels, and family and friends’ functions and get-togethers that two years ago I would have declined without any hesitation.

Despite all that, there was no disruption in the SOY. Rather, the year saw a much-wanted series on the Arrangers and Musicians written by Piyush M Pandya (originally in Gujarati) & Ashok M Vaishnav (English translation). They have so far covered four celebrated artistes: Sebastian D’Souza, Anthony Gonsalves, Enoch Daniels and Kishore Desai. Another prolific guest writer, DP Rangan wrote at a furious pace spanning a range from the music directors to lyricists, film stars to miscellaneous themes.

Besides, the blog had the usual kaleidoscope of articles during the year. Interacting with the readers and fellow bloggers has been a great learning experience. Without any conscious efforts every year I have learnt a lot. Let me mention some discoveries I made about the songs in the last year.

Discovery trip of  ‘Kaga sab tan khaaiyo’

Several years ago I fell in love with Kishore Kumar’s this madcap song:

1. Des chhudaye bhes chhudaye kya kya kare na preet…. Kaga sab tan khaaiyo chun chun khaiyo maas, do naina mat khaaiyo mohe patni milan ki aas from Chacha Zindabad (1959), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Madan Mohan

When Kishore Kumar starts as a trained classical singer on the tanpura with Des chhudaye bhes chhudaye kya kya kare na preet in perfect raagdari, you don’t realise what is in store even when he switches to Kaga sab tan khaaiyo. It is when he comes to his distorted Ye do naina mat khaaiyo, mohe patni milan ki aas that he starts on his crazy trip. He switches to an unconnected Baajre ke khet mein suratiya dikha ja gori; then some garbling words; and for no reason, to Jack and Jill went up the hill; before coming back to the melody.

कागा सब तन खाइयो
चुन चुन खायो मांस
कागा सब तन खाइयो
चुन चुन खायो मांस
ये दो नैना मत खाइयो
मोहे पत्नी मिलन की आस

2. Kaga sab tan khaaiyo chun chun khaaiyo maas, do naina mat khaaiyo mohe piya milan ki aas by Lata Mangeshkar from Piya Milan Ki Aas (1961), lyrics Bharat Vyas, music SN Tripathi

Next I came across a sombre version of Kaga sab tan khaaiyo in which Kishore Kumar’s distorted patni milan ki aas was replaced by a serious piya milan ki aas. Listen to this song from the eponymous film. The lyrics are by Bharat Vyas, and music by SN Tripathi, famous for melodies based on classical raags.

The mythology of King Shibi and the Sage Dadheechi

By now it was clear that it was a traditional melody, and I related it to the well-known mythology of the virtuous king Shibi and the self-sacrificing sage Dadheechi. (The two stories are unconnected). Shibi was an ancient king renowned for his virtues and kind-heartedness. Agni and Indra decided to test him, and they assumed the form of a dove and a kite respectively. The dove being chased by the kite took shelter in the lap of the king. The kite on its hot heels demanded of the king to return his prey, which the virtuous king refused as he could not let go of the dove in his shelter. The kite said that, in that case, the king must give the flesh from his thighs equal to the weight of the dove. The dove was placed on one side of the weighing scale, and the king cut out his flesh. But howsoever the king kept cutting his flesh, the dove remained heavier. Finally, the king himself sat on the scale. At this, the two deities came in their original form and blessed the king.

Among the various stories of the sage Dadheechi, the most popular is about the series of Devasur Sangrams in puranas which the demons won led by Vrittrasur. They were advised by Vishnu that only a thunderbolt made from the bones of the sage Dadheechi could help Indra and devas defeat the demon. Dadheechi did not hesitate to go into deep meditation to sacrifice his body. From his bones Indra’s vajra (thunderbolt) was made and the devas prevailed over the demon.

Kaga sab tan khaaiyo traced to Baba Sheikh Fareed

I recently stumbled upon a very interesting blog by one Bach who, in his inimical style, has wondered why so many good people should write and sing about the crows eating human flesh. And through his research he reached another site which traced the song to the Sufi saint poet Baba Sheikh Farid (1173-1266) in North-western Punjab, now in Pakistan. This site gives Baba’s brief biography, talks about the annual Urs at his mazar, and translates Baba’s verse as:

O crow! come and peck all this flesh
over this skeletal frame of mine,
Leave these two eyes untouched 
for they are in wait of that Grand beloved of mine

Some more Kaga sab ta khaaiyo

On a discovery trip one thing leads to another, and I came across some more songs containing this verse.

3. Kaga sab tan khaaiyo by Kailash Kher

4. Kaga sab tan khaaiyo by Harshdeep Kaur

5. Kaga sab tan khaaiyo chun chun mat khaaiyo maas by Alka Yagnik and Sonu Nigam from Himalayputra (1997), lyrics Dev Kohli, music Anu Malik

Even Anu Malik has composed this Sufi song in the voice of Alka Yagnik and Sonu Nigam for the film Himalayputra (1997).

Rediscovery trip of Tere poojan ko bhagwan

6. Tere poojan ko bhagwan bana man mandir aalishan by Ratan Bai from Bharat Ki Beti (1935), lyrics Traditional, music Anil Biswas

The SOY regulars are familiar with this classic bhajan sung by Ratan Bai in the film Bharat Ki Beti (1935). Its main music director was Jhande Khan, but only this song became famous and is attributed to Anil Biswas.

7. Tere poojan ko bhagwan bana man mandir aalishan by Shamshad Begum (1934 NFS), lyrics Traditional

Then I came across the same bhajan in the voice of Shamshad Begum, recorded a year earlier. This is said to be the first recorded song of Shamshad Begum as well as the first known recorded version of this traditional bhajan, generally sung as a school prayer. The recording company Jenophone recorded it under the singer’s name as Radha Rani to avoid any controversy. This song and Shamshad Begum’s other initial songs for the AIR brought her to the attention of Ghulam Haider and launched her successful career. The uploader has mistakenly attributed it to the film Bharat Ki Beti (1935), music by Ustad Jhande Khan. There are a few errors in this attribution: Ustad Jhande Khan was indeed the main music director of the film and composed nine songs in it, but there was another young music director with him, Anil Biswas, who got to compose three remaining songs, including the traditional bhajan Tere poojan ko bhagwan in the voice of the actor-singer Ratan Bai, which became spectacularly successful. That song follows after Shamshad Bagum’s NFS.

8. Tere poojan ko bhagwan bana man mandir aalishan by Asha Bhosle & Hamida Bano from Majboori (aka Chhoti Bahen 1954), lyrics DN Modhok, music Robin Chatterjee

The same bhajan has been used in a much later film Majboori (1954), sung by Asha Bhosle and Hamida Bano.

9. Teri mahima aparampar tu hai jag ka paalanhar by Ratan Bai from Lajwanti aka Radio Singer (1942), lyrics (?), music Shyam Babu Pathak

But that is not all about this famous bhajan. Ratan Bai reprised this bhajan after 7 years with different lyrics, but broadly on the same tune.

10. Discovery of the original More angana mein tumhara kya kaam hai by Miss Sheela (NFS 1930s)

We thought this song was from Laawaris (1981), music by Kalyanji-Anandji and lyrics (for this song) by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. Really? Here is its traditional version by one Miss Sheela, which sounds like a non-film song from the 1930s-40s; 1883 written on the label cannot be the year of recording as the first gramophone record was made in 1902 in the voice of Gauhar Jan. A commenter on another video link speculates that 1883 is the Matrix number which was the unique identification number to identify a wax master recording. Is this the same Miss Sheela who sang the famous song Tum bin hamri kaun khabar le Govardhan Giridhari (Pukar, 1939)?

11. Recent remix of Mere angne mein

Once on a discovery trip, you also make some inadvertent discoveries. Here is a remix NFS sung by Neha Kakkar and Raja Hasan. It is written by Vayu and composed by Tanishk Bagchi. The lead actors on the screen on whom the song is picturised are Jacqueline Fernandez and Asim Riaz.

12. Discovering a Hemant Kumar of 1953

It is quite normal to come across an unknown melody of the 1940s. But 50s songs we all know, or do we? Here is a gem by Hemant Kumar from 1953 I heard for the first time recently.

Kaun albeli akeli jamuna nahaye re by Hemant Kumar from Rami Dhoban (1953), lyrics Ram Murti, music Hiren Bose

13. First Hindi film song by Geeta Roy (Dutt)

We all know how her debut in Hindi film singing happened. Once the music director Hanuman Prasad, while passing by her parents’ apartment, overheard a young girl doing riyaz in a very sweet voice. Drawn by the mesmerising voice he stopped by and, introducing himself to her folks, offered to take Geeta Roy under his fold and train her. He launched her in a chorus song in the film Bhakta Prahlad (1946). Her ‘official’ website run by her fan, Parag Sankla, mentions the same story.

Now I come across a song by Hameeda Bano and Geeta Roy of 1945 uploaded by Sadanand Kamath. Mr Kamath is a very respected person for his knowledge and research. Therefore, we have to give credence to its attribution. That means Geeta Roy’s debut has to be ante-dated by at least a year. (HFGK does not mention the singers’ name.)

Vandan kare ri sakhi vandan kare by Hameeda Bano and Geeta Roy from Shri Krishnarujun Yuddha (1945), lyrics Yashodanandan Joshi, music Jagannath Prasad

Acknowledgements and Disclaimer
1. The thumbnail picture of Baba Farid Sheikh is courtesy Chinar Shade : Sufi Saint Poet Baba Sheikh Fareed of Punjab (
2. I have cited in the write up some other sources I have referred.
3. The song links have been embedded from the YouTube only for the listening pleasure of the music lovers. This blog does not claim any copyright over these songs, which vest with the respective owners.

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