I have often seen Rafi fans making this accusation in debates, it hardly bothers the Kishoreda fans though. However, let us examine today whether it was possible to technically enhance some songs more compared to others, just to develop a better knowhow about the way music might be functioning.
The allegations by Rafi fans notwithstanding, I had myself began noticing the so-called studio effects in KK songs way ago, and was eager to know more about the science and logic involved in producing them. Most of these songs that caught my attention were from the early and mid-70, when Kaka was riding on a roller coaster, and the industry was witnessing a fresh bout of green, purple an blue romance, unlike the black and white of the bygone era. Listen to and watch a few of them here:
And a couple of audio tracks to listen now. Check later, if the site appears down or broken (it sometimes does) :
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Yeh laal rang kab mujhe chhodega
Jaa mujhe naa ab yaad aa
Did you notice the studio generated echo sounds there? These were not to be heard so explicitly during Rafi’s heydays in the 50s and 60s, (even though they were existent at that time), and subsequently more advanced inline mixing techniques came in the later periods, so we can’t listen even these sounds anymore.
Let me quote from Wikipedia, why echo chambers were needed in the music industry and how they helped the experience of music to grow further:
“The development of artificial echo chambers was important for sound recording because of the limitations of early recording systems. Except in the case of live performances, the majority of commercial popular recordings were made in specially constructed studios. These rooms were both heavily insulated to exclude external noises and they were internally anechoic — that is, they were designed not to produce any internal echoes or reverberation of sound at all.
Because virtually every sound we hear in everyday life is a complex mixture of both the source sound and its echoes and reverberations, audiences not surprisingly found the totally “dry” and echo-free sound of early recordings unappealing. Consequently, record producers and engineers quickly came up with a very effective method of adding “artificial” echo which could, in the hands of experts, be controlled with a remarkable degree of accuracy.”
Coming back to the 70s, these were also the times, when the Indian cinema was experiencing its first techno-cultural overhaul, with cinema scope, slow motion filming, multi track sound effects and shades of Hollywood and Western music making their first noticeable presence felt across the Indian movie halls. The Indian way of storytelling romance, depicting action and performing playback was also getting influenced by them. I think the making of Sholay, Dum Maaro Dum, Bobby and the creation of enticing numbers like Jai Jai Shiv Shankar and Khullam Khullaa Pyaar Karenge were no mere coincidences during that period. Neither was the fact that Amitabh Bachchan, the first Indian mega and action star (apart from Kaka’s brief romantic tenure), was introduced in the same era.
These were also the times of many socio-political and spiritual changes taking place across the world. India had to pass through the agony of Emergency, the first major challenge to its democratic functioning. The subsequent elections also saw how India could throw the perpetrators out of power and head back to the same orderly way of living and governance (the Indian way of orderliness, of course 🙂 ). These were also the days, which came soon after the stirring influence of the wandering hippies and the mega success of The Beatles across the West during the 60s. And finally, India’s own answer to many of the Western influences was also taking shape during this period, in the form of Bhagwan Rajneesh – the unparalleled preacher, counselor, philosopher and guru from Pune. Gandhi was weakening, no doubt, and so was the usual Indian conservatism.
The likes of RD Burman, Kishoreda and Asha Bhonsle were among those who could rise to the occasion in the Indian music industry in those days. It wasn’t merely the Indian cinema, but also an entire generation needed them to have a new vision…an entirely new experience. If you listened to the above songs, you might notice, it wasn’t merely the electronic and echo sounds, but also the clever way of enhancing them together with other sounds by RDB, that coupled with KK’s own timing and instincts, which resulted into the fascinating experience of music we just spoke about.
In short, KK had a better grasp of the nuances of the 70s, so he succeeded over Rafi. Difficult to say, how the latter’s combo with RDB might have proved, had it taken place during KK’s time, but one should pay more respect to Mukesh and Rafi anyway, for they were unable to see during the 50s and 60s, the kind of advancement KK was able to muster from the recording studios later.
PS – The technical advancements might have been one reason, I enjoyed listening to Rafi and Mukesh from the 70s more compared to their earlier numbers.
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For example, here is one Rafi song from the 60s. And listen to him from the 70s now. See the overall change in the depth of sound as the 70s came. The same about Mukesh in the 50s, and subsequently from the 70s….and yet more from the same era.
Also Do Note: A lot of guess work has gone behind this story, so you might be noticing factual errors, if you were better informed on this subject (e.g echo sounds were in use well before the 70s, there are some Hindi songs from the 50s and 60s as well studded with echo generations, so my guess that it was extensively used only after KK and RDB came together, might be factually incorrect). Please, get the gist of my article and do not read about its minute details.