I didn't know Manohari Singh till a few days back. But when I did get to know who he was, the feeling in my heart was of intense respect and admiration. Now Manohari Singh is no more. He passed away on 13th July 2010, due to a cardiac arrest. He was 79.
This blog post is a humble tribute to a man who most of us didn't know on the one hand, but actually knew him on the other.
Three weeks ago, while flicking channels on TV, I 'ran' into a music reality show called Indian Idol. And since music is so ingrained into me, I couldn't help stopping right there, and listening to the rather melodious voice of the aspirant.
The theme of that episode was 'RD Burman' or Pancham Da, as he was popularly known. It was in keeping with things that Asha Bhonsle was the chief guest and the honorary judge. I knew I was in for a treat -listening to old songs that were Pancham's compositions.
What surprised me completely was that the orchestra accompanying the vocalists, was also Pancham's old orchestra ! The team that played for the recording of most of his compositions throughout his career. Long after Pancham had gone, this team of musicians had come to pay their tribute to the legendary composer, in their own way - playing his old songs while the competitors sang them
Leading this team was Manohari Singh. This was my first introduction to Manohari or Manohari Da, as he was called. The second fact that I learnt on that TV show, was that Manohari specialised in playing the saxophone. I also learnt that he played what is called the 'Selmer Alto Sax'. Once on a tour to the West Indies and the US along with Kishore Kumar, Manohari purchased this saxophone - a golden coloured shiny instrument. And he fell in love with it at once. Musicians being in love with their instruments is not unusual. Manohari's love for his saxophone was legendary. Before the sax Manohari has specialised in the key flute the mandolin and the clarinet - he had played each of these in some Hindi movie song. But once he played the sax, he stuck with it.
What I also got to admire about him, was his utter devotion and loyalty to Pancham. Manohari had played with many other composers. He started his career with SD Burman, and played with Laximkant Pyarelal and Kalyanji Anandji. But he remained loyal to Pancham Da till the day the famous composer passed away. Manohari was also the music arranger for most RD Burman compositions in Hindi films.
Even afterwards, Manohari often played in shows and musical nights and performances all over the World, playing only RD Burman compositions.
To know Manohari's talent you only have to rewind some of the musical compositions that RD became famous for. Each of those songs was a gem.
Just go back, rewind and listen to these songs - 'Roop Tera Mastana' from Aradhana, Mehbooba o mehbooba' from Sholay, "Huyi Shaam Unka' from "Mere Humdum mere dost' 'Gaata rahe mera dil' from "Guide" When you hear the melodious sound of that instrument you will realize that the magic was the result of Manohari's sheer genius in handling the musical notes.
I salute Manohari Singh - in return for his contribution to the absolutely melodious and 'immortal' songs that RD Burman composed. And I salute Manohari Singh for his loyalty and faithfulness that he demonstrated towards his mentor RD Burman, even after the latter left this World. For me Manohari's life is about talent, hard work, fame and strength of character.