20 July 2011

A Bollywood cover of Paul Anka's 'Diana'

(Listen to 'Hai ho dilruba meri neeta', the Indian version of 'Diana', from the 1959 Indian film Dil Deke Dekho)

There are always surprises in the world of gramophone records, particularly when one makes a purchase in a lucky-dip fashion.

I grabbed one more Indian film music record at a half-price sale on eBay, just because the label design caught my eyes. Actually, I happen to know that this romantic comedy Dil Deke Dekho was a smash hit in 1959 although I haven't watched it and hence have no idea how the music would sound like.

I was thrilled and absolutely amused to the core when I heard side A. Blimey, it's the Indian cover of Paul Anka's 1957 chart-buster 'Diana', the song which brought him instant stardom.

However, I'm a bit confused as well. Although the tune of 'Hai ho dilruba meri neeta' was definitely adapted from 'Diana', which had been written by Paul Anka himself less than two years ago, on the paper label of this Indian record, the composition was incredibly credited to an Indian music director Usha Khanna.

How could it happen?

Whereas Paul Anka's 1957 recording was released by ABC Records, a label owned by ABC-Paramount (the present-day American Broadcasting Company), this Indian film song was issued in 1959 on The Twin label, owned by the England-based Gramophone Co (EMI).

'Diana' has reportedly sold over 9 million copies, hitting No.1 on U.S. Billboard R&B Singles Chart and reaching No.1 on UK Singles Chart, but I wonder whether this song has ever reached the company building of EMI, whether any A&R staff member, factory technician, sales manager, or cleaning lady, whatever, in EMI had ever heard this UK No.1 hit.

How Usha Khanna was accredited with being the composer of the tune? I suppose ABC Records, as a company which was both physically and mentally too far from South Asia, had absolutely no interest in Hindi Cinema and therefore has never been aware of the situation to claim its copyright over this song.

Despite the historical trivia, I really got a kick out of listening to this Indian version 'Diana'.

18 July 2011

A sonic watercolour of Brazilian scenery

(Listen to the first recording of 'Aquarela do Brasil' performed by Francisco Alves to the accompaniment of Radamés Gnattali & His Orchestra, on Odeon, 1939)

'Aquarela do Brasil' ('watercolour of Brazil' in English) is probably the popular song that is representative of and associated with Brazil the most.

I have heard plenty of recordings of this all-time classic piece since my childhood, including Frank Sinatra's English cover, Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova-ish interpretation, Geoff Muldaur's and Kate Bush's renditions in the 1985 black comedy filmBrazil, and, lastly my favourite fantastic a cappella version by Trio Esperança.

However, not until yesterday when I purchased this record had I come to know that 'Aquarela do Brasil' was first recorded in 1939, the same year it was written by Ary Barroso and some time after its unsuccessful first public performance in a musical.

Although once criticised as compliments to the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas, probably because of its nationalistic lyrics, this song does show the songwriter's admiration for the beauty and musical culture of the country.

Refer to this page for the Portugese lyrics and English translation, and enjoy the 70-year-old recording.

07 July 2011

Goodbye, Pepe

In the end, I thoroughly understand why some people who treat their pets as close family members cannot deal with the shock and trauma of losing their beloved pets. Because I can't, either.

Our beloved Pepe (or 蓓蓓 Peipei in Mandarin) passed away peacefully in her bed at age of 18 years yesterday evening when I was working in the radio station. I couldn't manage to say goodbye to her as she took her last breath .

However, I managed to see her off. She was cremated at noon today.

Goodbye, Pepe. May you rest in peace.