9 comments on “Uma Devi’s Birthday, Part 1 – Audio Links

  1. Richard,

    Nice post on Uma Devi. I love her voice. Just a minor correction. “as she reached her peak at the dawn of the era of Lata and Asha.” should be “as she reached her peak at the dawn of the era of Lata”.
    Asha was still a struggling artiste at that time and she came into prominence much later in 1958, when Uma Devi’s singing career was virtually over.

  2. Uma Devi!!!!
    I love her as a singer and I love her as a comedienne. It seems to me atleast that she enjoyed the jokes herself too. I admit at the same time that they are not always in good taste, though thank god, never vulgar.
    Looking forward to your video clips and the idea to spread the celebration over couple of days is only worthy of her!!!!
    BTW, I realised that she passed away only through Dustedoff’s comment yesterday.
    My father met her on one of his train journeys and he said she was always ready for a good laugh.

    Thanks for the facts on her life. Didn’t know of the ‘mistakes’ in her life. Could you share some more information?

  3. Thanks for the nice words, Mr. Jinx and Harvey!

    Mr. Jinx, I could change the wording per your recommendation, I have no problem with that :) … I guess that I mentioned both of them because an obit that I linked to the other day was fresh in my mind, and it mentioned both Lata and Asha as singers from the “new, trained generation” with whom Uma Devi supposedly couldn’t compete because of her “lack of formal training and an inability to handle higher scales.” (Though that doesn’t sound right to me, the way it’s worded… It’s not as though there was just better quality in the singers now than ever before, or even that there were female singers who were better at handling the upper scale. (In the ’40s, right before Uma Devi’s moment, there was already Noor Jehan and Shamshad Begum, right? But plenty of room for other singers too.) No, I understand that there were more reasons for Lata domination than just that. :) )

    Harvey, I was thinking of the same obit when I mentioned the troubles that Uma Devi caused herself, mistakes that she made by breaking a contract, etc.

    Here’s the pertinent passages:

    Her career took a dramatic turn when the southern Indian producer-director S.S. Vasan approached her for playback in Chandralekha (1948), a major film for Gemini Studios in Madras (now Chennai). She sang seven songs for the film, including the hit “Saanjh ki bela” (“These Moments of Evening”). Chandralekha remains Uma Devi’s most acclaimed work.

    But she had to pay a price for the film’s success as singing for Vasan was a breach of contract with Kardar. Despite having Naushad as her mentor, Devi found her career as a playback taking a downward turn. Success in Madras brought about her downfall in Bombay. Soon, the Partition of India created professional chaos in Bombay and the 1950s saw the rise of new singing stars such as Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. A lack of formal training and an inability to handle higher scales were to let Uma Devi down in the face of the new, trained generation.

    (From: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/uma-devi-549102.html)

  4. lol! Richard you don’t have to go back and change your post! I think one of the reasons many of these 40’s singers weren’t able to move on to 50’s was changing musical styles and also their voices were not suitable for the emerging heroines of the ’50s. One of the Indian Music critics Raju Bharatan said in Lata’s Biography “…Now, with Noor Jehan safely deposited to Pakistan, Lata had only Shamshad Begum and Geeta Roy to overcome, seeing that the nautchy mardana (manly) style of Zohrabai, Amirbai and other senior rivals was already beginng to date.”

    Raju Bharatan is kinda harsh on ’40s playback singers, but there is some truth to it too. Now the voices of Zohra Bai, Amir Bai etc really don’t suit the ’50s heroines like Madhubala etc.

  5. Enjoyed listening to the songs to which you have provided a link.
    The songs of Chandralekha are so sweet and melodious.
    I had heard a couple of them before. The rest were new.

    It’s a treat to be celebrating uma devi’s birthday for a couple of days with more links to more melodious songs.
    Thanks, Richard.

  6. I’ll second what pacifist has already written – the songs to which you’ve provided links were very enjoyable. Thank you! And I’m looking forward to the next post! :-)

  7. You’re welcome, Pacifist and Dustedoff!

    I am kind of in the process of finishing up the next post (which I guess will be more like two days after her birthday instead of one)… Though mainly, it will consist of the videos that I’ve found for most of the melodious songs that you just listened to, with some more information and rambling thoughts thrown in. :)

  8. There are surely many reasons why Lata and Asha could establish themselves and other female singers got sidelined. One reason I think is that they campaigned for themselves much more than other singers and also that they were also available for repeated rehearsals. And surely the change in taste of the audiences also played a role. And of course other factors also were responsible.

  9. Uma Devi Ji is certainly one of the greatest singers! Just see how she has rendered very classically based songs from Chandralekha to utter perfection, even if she wasn’t a classically trained singer. I love all of her songs. It is very sad to think of Lata Ji dominance, because we lost so many great singers because of it. Well, it is good if Lata Ji was very popular and sang a lot of songs, but quite a lot of chance should be given to our other great talents. The film industry was very mean in this way. In fact – even composers who gave a lot of singers chance began to decline (say, Gyan Dutt Ji – who has used at least 110 singers! He encouraged both top and rising talents – Lata Ji sang just a single song for him!)

    Do keep it up! Excellent and spontaneous work as always.

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