My Favourite Indian Music Composers

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Top 3 Favourites

Rabindranath Thakur

  • 7th May 1861 - 7th Aug 1941
  • Father of modern Indian music
  • Even now all film and non film songs follow the same structures of lyrics and music as propounded by Tagore
  • Composed around 2230 songs on love, worship, nature & nation, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet
  • Most versatile composer of India
  • Compositions based on Indian classical styles like Dhrupad, Dhamar, Hindustani & Carnatic music, semi classical music, wide variety of folk and Western classical music, ballad, opera & church hymns
  • Lyrics of Rabindrasangeet have some of Tagore's best poetries
  • All poems in Gitanjali are songs
  • Only composer to compose national anthems for two countries - India & Bangladesh
  • Also composed the music for Bankim Chandra's poem Vande Mataram
  • Hindi film songs like 'Chhu Kar Mere Man Ko' from 'Yarana', 'Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina' from 'Abhiman' and many other based on his compositions are super hits


Salil Chowdhury

  • 19th Nov 1923 - 5th Sep 1995
  • Perhaps the most versatile composer after Tagore
  • First ever to arrange large number of instruments in symphonic orchestra style in Indian Music
  • "Gayer Bodhu" based on Bengal famine of 40's, written & composed by Salil in late 40's & "Runner" about the struggling life of a postman, written by poet Sukanta Bhattacharya & set to tune by Salil in 50's, both sung by Hemanta Mukherjee in Bengali are trend setting songs in form of ballads 
  • Compositions have rich elements of folks of different parts of the world & Indian and Western Classical Music
  • Was highly influenced by Mozart - the song "Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyaar Badha" is based on one of Mozart's composition
  • Composed music for 40 Bengali, 75 Hindi, 25 Malayam and few Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Oriya, Marathi & Assamese films - no one else composed for so many languages
  • Received Filmfare Award for music of Hindi film "Madhumati" in 1958
  • Was also a great poet and novelist - wrote the lyrics for most of his Bengali songs
  • Wrote the story of Bengali movie "Rikshawala", remade as "Do Bigha Zameen" in Hindi


R D Burman

Rabindranath Tagore

I feel his songs are the strongest ammunition that he might have given to his people and as a Bengali I feel honored that only we can understand the strength of his songs, which are much more than just “Ekla Chalo”, and “Jana Gana Mana”. He himself has classified his songs based on the theme. The devotional songs are classified under “Puja” or worship, love songs under “Prem”, nature-related songs under “Prakriti”, patriotic songs under “Swadesh”, and then there are many other ballads and other smaller sub categories. Most of the poems in Gitanjali are in the “Puja” section. Very interestingly most of Tagore’s devotional songs can be treated as intense love songs and vice versa. After all it’s always ‘LOVE’, be it for God or human. The simplicity of the words and the perfect music he has composed for the songs amaze me like nothing. It’s the perfect synchronization between the music and each word that makes them unique. Over the years I’ve generated this habit of reading the lyrics of his songs at leisure. The simple lyrics offer the magnificence and vastness that I seldom get from anything else. Even the music, without the words, can bring out the meaning of the song. Tagore might have been the first person to start a tradition of composing songs with a plethora of elements like folk, traditional, classical ranging from the puritan ‘dhrupad’ to lighter styles, western music etc. The modern day Indian movie songs also follow the same pattern and tradition. I don’t think anyone else in India has experimented with so many styles of music. His songs provide a synopsis of almost all popular forms of Indian music. I do accept that there have been many other music composers in India who have might have composed better music than Tagore. But I don’t think anyone else offered this much diversity. The over obsession of the Bengalis with Tagore might be due to the fact they never got anything more diverse.

One of the aspects of Tagore's compositions that attacts me most is the simplicity of the notes. His songs are quite easy compared to most other songs by any other composer in India. Still it touches the chords of my heart. The songs are so rich in melody that the technical components never come to mind. The way Tagore used to adapt the various forms of music into his songs is just marvellous. Some of his earlier compositions were highly influenced by Western Music, but still remained immortal in the hearts of the Bengalis as pure Bengali songs. His songs have been part of my growing up. I kept on re-discovering his songs from time to time as I grew up. It appears to me that his songs also grow up and mature with you. His songs are like diamonds which take the color of the light that falls on them. The same song evokes different feelings and passions at different stages of life depending on the perspective, outlook and maturity. The best example is perhaps one of the most popular songs - "Purano Sei Diner Kotha", inspired by both the lyrics and music of the 18th Century Scottish song "Auld Lang Syne". It's a nostalgic song about days gone by. The lyrics are very plain and simple about the yearnings for getting back the old days and the long lost friends. The underlying nostalgia is so intense and universal in the music that the song is sung by almost everyone at all occassions. Inherently all people are nostalgic at every point of time and we always live for ever to get back a past moment. At every stage of life the nostalgia has a different starture and significance.

Tagore's songs are always relevant at all stages.

My favourite Rabindranath's compositions used in movies


Salil Chowdhury


My favourite Salil Chowdhury's Bengali compositions


 My favourite Salil Chowdhury's Hindi compositions


 My favourite R D Burman's Bengali compositions


 My favourite R D Burmans Hindi compositions