Onomatopoeia in Hindi Music (Ye Kya Hota Hai???)

Webster Definition: The formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.

Obviously in our Hindi Film Songs, we don’t use words like buzz and murmur. But our Hindi songs are replete with Chhan-Chhan, Chham-Chham, Chhun-Chhun, Dhak-Dhak,  Ha-Ha etc…. that would be my definition for Onomatopoeia in Hindi Music.

Since a bulk of Hindi Movie songs talk about the beauty of the heroines and the adornments they flaunt (Choodi, Bindiya, Kangana, Payal), there are countless songs that replicate the "sounds" from all of these … be it Lata Mangeshkar in Jhanan Jhanjhanke Apni Payal (Aashiq), Chham-Chham Baje Payal (Aashiq), Manna Dey in Chham-Chham Baje Re Payaliya (Jane-Anjaane), Asha-Rafi in Ghungarwa Mora Chham-Chham Baje (Zindagi) from the pre-90's era or the recent examples by Sadhna and Sukhvinder in Chhan Chhanan .. Aayo Re Sakhi (Water), Shruti Pathak in Payaliya Chhan-Chhan-Chhan Shor Kare (Dev-D), Shreya in Chhan-Chhan (Munnabhai MBBS) and Shreya again in the 2013 hit Dhin Tadaak Dhin Tadaak .. Nagade Sang Dhol Baaje (Ram-Leela). The exact same theme of the Dhol sound has been used by Sanjay Leela Bhansali himself in the similarly tuned and paced Dham Dham Dhol Baaje from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

So, what is our fascination with this onomatopoeia in Hindi Film Music? Is it purely used from a rhyming point of view or is the intent to conjure up an image of the delicateness of the chham-chham kind of sounds in the listeners's head or is it to add that extra "zing" to the song to make it more musical. I had read somewhere that when Lata & Asha were recording the uber-melodious Man Kyun Behka (Utsav), the music directors Laxmikant-Pyarelal had Lata-Bai do several takes of the line "Jhaanjhar Jhamke Sun Chhamse" because they did not want to use any instrumentation in that line, and wanted Lata's voice to convey the sound of the Payal. Did they achieve it? Listen to the song and you will know!

Besides Payal, Choodi, Kangana, Dhol, have we used this in any other form in our songs too? Of course!! Remember Madhuri Dixit, then known as the Dhak-Dhak girl, in Beta doing Dhak-Dhak Karne Laga and giving it her all?  Then we have had Mohd Rafi crooning Dhak-Dhak Se Dhadakna in Asha and the very recent Jiyara Dhak Dhuk Hole by Amit Trivedi from English Vinglish.

A unique sound that came about possibly only in one song was the Vvvv-Vvvv sound (or was it Zzzz-zzzz, never could figure it out), for supposedly the Bhanvra (Bumble Bee?) by Suresh Wadkar in Bhanvre Ne Khilya Phool (Prem Rog). However, what are Hindi songs without the quintessential rain? There are hundreds, if not thousands of songs with reference to Rim-Jhim and Tip-Tip, the latter IMHO being a more accurate representation of the onomatopoeia in this case … be it Rimjhim Gire Sawan (Manzil), Rimjhim Ke Tarane Leke (Kala Bazar) or Tip-Tip Barsa Pani (Mohra), Tip-Tip-Tip-Tip Pade Boondaniya (Prayashchit). Takijng this a step further is the sound of clouds in Ghanan Ghanan Ghir Aye Badra (Lagaan), a pretty accurate representation of the sound!

So you see readers? Our Hindi Film Music is full of the Chhan-Chhan, Dhak-Dhak, Rimjhim to give the songs that extra zing! However, saving the best for last, I want to leave you with the King of Onomatopoeia songs .. if you haven't heard it, go listen and you will know what I am talking about…Tak-Tak-Chhak-Chhak-Dhak-Dhak-Chhal-Chhal.. the list goes on in the song (Lata/Kishore in Haathi Mere Saathi).

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