Tracking Down the Roots of an Elusive Song

This is something I do all the time; and I believe a lot of people must find themselves with similar problems, so here goes.

The song in question is “Aaj Unse Pehli Mulaaqat Hogi”:http://www.hindilyrix.com/songs/get_song_Aaj%20Unse%20Pehli%20Mulaqat%20Hogi.html sung by Kishore Kumar, music “RD Burman”:http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005983/, lyrics Anand Bakshi, film Paraaya Dhan (1971).

For a while now, I knew that the tune of the line “phir hoga kya, kya pata kya khabar” was copied-from/adapted-from/”inspired-by” some western song. I had heard it in restaurants, ad jingles, english movie trailers- but none of these sources were enough to track down where the tune originally came from. In fact, I have a long list of tunes in my head for which I have been searching for the source for years. For years, I kept my ears open to hear this particular tune again somewhere I can ask someone what song was playing! No luck.

Until recently. I was watching the movie “Dodgeball” (mindless fun), when the same snippet of tune (‘phir hoga kya, kya pata…”) played in the background of the movie, with rap lyrics interspersed. Now the thing about rap or hip hop (for those unfamiliar) is that the lyrics are original, but the beats and tunes may be sampled from all kinds of sources- old, new, eastern, african, coutry, jazz, you name it. So, armed with this information, I set out to find this song. I turned to the trust IMDb for help.

Now, IMDB has a page that lists all the music used in a particular film for every film for which such information is available. So I went to the page for “the movie Dodgeball and found its soundtrack listing”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0364725/soundtrack. This page had a list of all the songs played in the movie; a LONG list. Now I had to find a way to hear each one, until I found the one I was looking for.

So I turned to the “iTunes Music store”:http://www.apple.com/itunes. They give 30 second clips of songs to sample (english, some Hindi). You can do the same at “Amazon.com”:http://www.amazon.com or for Hindi music, at “HamaraCD.com”:http://www.hamaracd.com (currently down). 30 seconds would be enough to find my winner.

So I went through every song sequentially, listening to the 30 second clip until –

Finally, I found the song. It was a rap song called “Apache” and was produced in 1981. But how was that possible? Had they, in fact, copied the song from RD Burman? Not likely, I thought- like I said before, rap and hip hop usually take samples from older songs. In this case, I thought, they must have sampled from an older western song.

So I Googled the song Apache (and the group “Sugarhill Gang”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sugarhill_Gang, that produced the 1981 version) and after a few false positives, found this article on the root of Apache at Soul Sides..

From that article:

In 1959, Lordan saw a Burt Lancaster movie called Apache, which had come out in 1954. In much the way Charlton Heston played a Mexican in Touch of Evil, Lancaster was Massai, the last Apache left after Geronimo’s surrender to the U.S. Cavalry in New Mexico, and a man out for vengeance.

This gave Lordan an idea for a song, also titled “Apache,” and Lordan sold it to Bert Weeden, then the top-selling solo guitar instrumentalist in England.

And the song has been adapted dozens of time since- most notable, for me at least, by RD Burman in 1971. It is stories like this that illustrate why RD Burman was so relevant for every generation since the 60s.

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