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Manna Dey: The last of the great male playback singers

Updated: October 24, 2013, 2:21 PM IST
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Manna Dey: The last of the great male playback singers
The tradition of playback singing has now been replaced by synthesizers which can brush up any voice.

New Delhi: With the death of Prabodh Chandra Dey aka Manna Dey, we have lost the last pillar of the legendary playback singers of Hindi cinema. With Rafi, Kishore and Mukesh long gone, with Mana Dey's demise the tradition of the singers who excelled without any support from technology, has come to an end.

Manna Dey was no lesser a singer than any of his contemporaries but his habit of keeping things to himself, restricted the common music lovers from acknowledging the real value of his talent. There was hardly anything to achieve for the legendary singer whose active musical career spanned over seven decades. Though Dey started singing even before 1942 but technically this was the year when he recorded his first song for the film 'Tamanna'. His last live performance happened in Mumbai in 2012, so it covered a period of 70 years. He was 94 when he died and singers usually start performing much before touching 20, so there shouldn't be any hesitation in accepting that Manna Dey's career covered more than 70 years.

His understanding of music was excellent and subtle which made him popular among the composers who wanted classical twist in their 'mainstream' songs. Here, he had to stand tall among other legends like Md Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh. Interestingly, most of his popular contemporaries had become the voice of certain film stars. These stars were continuously rising up the ladder of success and so these singers remained in demand for a relatively longer period. Just imagine the dilemma of an equally talented singer who wasn't associated with any actor's on-screen persona.

Kishore Kumar was versatile, Rafi was subtle and Mukesh was intense, but Manna Dey was a collaboration of all these qualities. There was a pattern in Kishore Kumar's eccentricity and an intelligent thinking behind Rafi's perception of romantic songs but Manna Dey relied on practice and emotions.

He was the last of the great male playback singers of Hindi cinema who had witnessed the rigorous and painful process of song recording during the 50s and 60s. It was a time when technology hadn't overshadowed the rawness of voice. The singers still used to give 19-20 takes, spending up to six hours for recording one song.

The tradition of playback singing has now been replaced by synthesizers which can brush up any voice and make it presentable. Singers like Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam still held the flag high but the tradition is obviously fading.

These days, singers emerge with a bang and go to oblivion with an equal pace. Actors are bullied into singing for their mass appeal, and so are the composers for producing the popular content. In such a scenario, Manna Dey will always remain in the hearts of millions of his fans for uniqueness of his heavy tone and a tradition of singing that no longer exists.

First Published: October 24, 2013, 2:21 PM IST
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