A few days ago singer Manna Dey passed away. Many consider him as a lesser singer, somehow, than Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi, or, for that matter Yeshudas. We feel different, which is the purpose of this post. We feel that he was a better singer than all these. Here's why we propose this, probably idiotic assumption. So forgive us tomato and rotten egg throwers, bongo babus, Yesudas die-hards and Mohammed Rafi lovers.
We will only take one song in Hindi and one in Malayalam that Dey sang. The Hindi song is "Jindagi Kaisi yeh Paheli" from the film Anand. Hear how easily he achieves the higher pitches and the lower pitches. One thing we notice is that he always ends his lines in a half note. This is a talent that none of the aforementioned triumvirate of singers ever had. Their songs are all either screamed at the top of the lungs, or, sung in a sad lower pitch. The purpose of music is to touch the heart and feelings and not to show off your vocal power, sorry, change it to vocal cord power.
The Malayalam song - the only one - which Dey sang was "Manasa Maine Varu" from the film Chemmeen, an all-time superhit. We doubt if Yesudas could have brought the feelings Dey brought to this song. Sorry, Yesudas fans, fawns, admirers, before you crucify me let me let me give my last testament. Yesudas hardly varies his pitches and comes off as monotonous as Kishore and Rafi often do. That’s why this song is a perennial favourite of all Malayalis. No Kairali Kala Mandalam function in suburban Chembur, or elsewhere, is complete without a singing of this song.
Then why wasn’t Dey given his due? Many feel that as a proud artiste he was isolated by his peers, as was singer Vani Jayaram and many other talented singers. This isolation of talented artists is the bane of Indian art and literature (oops!) which we strongly oppose. When he died nobody wrote a good obit of Dey listing his songs and its lilting musical qualities. (If somebody has done it, enlighten us!) We hope this humble post would do that job.
Hope we have made our point. Rest in peace Manna Dey in the great musical universe of beyond. Your songs will always live and grow in us.