Manna Dey, legendary singer, dies at 94

Manna Dey, one of Indian cinema’s golden voices, died in a Bangalore hospital today. He was 94.

Mr Dey was taken to ICU on Wednesday to be treated for respiratory illness and renal failure. He has been in and out of hospital the last few months and was on dialysis in September.

Born Prabodh Chandra Dey in 1919 and known by his nickname Manna, he sang in many Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Punjabi and Bhojpuri.

Among Manna Dey’s best loved Hindi songs were Ek Chatur Naar from Padosan, Zindagi Kaise Hai Paheli from Anand, Ae Meri Zohrajabeen from Waqt and Yaari Hai Imaan Mera from Zanjeer. He often sang for Raj Kapoor, and formed hit partnerships with composers Salil Chowdhury and Laxmikant-Pyarelal.

Manna Dey received the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and the Dadasaheb Phalke Awards.

He is survived by his daughters Shuroma and Sumita. His wife, Sulochana, died of cancer last year.

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49 Comments
  1. cr7 6 years ago

    RIP .Always loved his singing ,Both Bengali and Hindi. here is my favorite manna dey song .

  2. aryan 6 years ago

    RIP

  3. hithere 6 years ago

    RIP
    Loved his singing..

  4. narad_muni 6 years ago

    RIP!
    I have been always a fan of him right from childhood.
    Have lived his Bengali songs more than Hindi, though he has lots of memorable ones in both languages

  5. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    RIP

    Never liked his plastic singing and weak voice though.

  6. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    @Hithere and Sputnik

    Well, I would not like to comment much on this thread as he has just passed away. But I (and not only me but many) feel that his voice was emotionless and kind of mechanical when he recited some tunes it was just for the heck of it.

    I dont exactly remember the musician who criticized him for that (I think Naushad).

    That Do Beegha Zameen or other songs which I like (Anand’s bilawal tune “Bhor Aayi”) are more because of musicians simplicity and he just got lucky to be born in Golden period. Anyways…

  7. rajesh 6 years ago

    I don’t know songs like “kasme vaade pyaar”, “A mere pyare watan”, “jindagi kaisi ye paheli” and hundred others were sung in plastic voice.
    Rest in piece great legend.

  8. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    @hithere

    That documentary he mentions proudly he sang Tappa. Also the person who is giving voiceover to documentary mentions he sang Tappa. Is there any example of him singing a Tappa?

    Tappa requires a fantastic lung strength and if someone shows me an example of him singing it I will like to know. Such a weak voice cant be singing even 2 lines of it. As far as I see that documentary, I just see him just bragging about stuff …

  9. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    An authentic Tappa here.

    Just judge for yourself – the fantastic force; yet a sweet one…the surge of blood …

  10. anjanpur685miles 6 years ago

    @hithere,

    will listen to it tomm, need to sleep now. Lets just say as of now, we have different take on this…and different likes.. 🙂

  11. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    @hithere

    Not only his voice is weak in the song, but main drawback – he is not into the song at all, sounds like a singer who goes by theory and just the theory.

  12. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    Here is a song from Lal Pathhar(1971), where Asha literally dominates him and shows him his place. A classical based song , his so called mastery on classical singing is exposed so badly here ..see how he pales in each taans..

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=RKQXlsl4tXI

    • hithere 6 years ago

      I may not know music but have sense for music and Google:

      https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.music.indian.misc/SQJOkQuLvtI

      1. The absolute frequency of a female voice is about twice the
      absolute frequency of a male voice. Therefore, when Lata and Rafi are
      singing together, Rafi is singing the (lower) octave equivalent of
      what Lata is singing.
      2. While male singers can (and do) employ head voice to sing high
      notes, in the context of playback singing, the loss of “masculinity”
      that accompanies transition into head voice is probably the reason
      most singers prefer to “belt out” their mixed register as high chest
      notes. While comparing voice ranges of male singers, therefore, it
      makes sense to consider only their chest voice.
      3. Finding the range of a voice and classifying a voice as being of a
      certain type (depending upon vocal range) are two completely different
      exercises. The former involves finding the highest and lowest note
      produced by the voice while the latter involves finding the most
      comfortable range, or tessitura of the voice. For example, a soprano
      and a mezzo-soprano may have similar vocal range, but the former will
      have a higher tessitura with a stronger head register.
      4. Male voices are classified into four types: tenor (C3 – C5),
      baritone (F2 – F4) and bass (E2 – E4).

      Let’s start at the bottom of the list. Basses are difficult to come
      by. Can’t think of any as far as Hindi films are concerned. KL Saigal
      came close. He went down to (I think) E2 in ‘do naina matwaare’, and
      he was comfortable alright.

      Baritone is the most common voice type. All the leading playback
      singers – Rafi, Kishore, Talat, Mukesh et al – were baritones with
      varying tessituras. I am familiar with Rafi’s, and to some extent,
      Kishore’s output, so I’ll talk about them a little.

      Rafi was a high baritone. Many of his songs go as high as A4, some
      even up to B4! For example, ‘dole re dole re praan’ and ‘dekhi zamaane
      ki yaari’ (the highest note is in head voice, though). The lowest I
      can recall is ‘tune mera yaar’ in which he went down to Bb2
      (incidentally, in the same song, he also attempted to hit Bb4 two
      octaves above Bb2, but cracked on it!)

      Kishore’s highest note should be around F#4 – ‘beqaraar dil tu’ or
      ‘koi hota jisko apna’. In the second song, he also goes down to A2
      (which makes his recorded range over one and a half octave). He
      deployed his falsetto voice to sing in the female range in ‘aake
      seedhi lagi’, going as high as G#5 – more than an octave above his
      highest chest note! I think the tonic was C# for that song, and on
      that scale, G#5 would be his *ati-taar* pancham (whereas it would have
      been taar pancham for Lata).

      Manna Dey was also a high baritone. His highest recorded note should
      be Bb4 – ‘ketaki gulaab juhi’, ‘ek ritu aaye’ and ‘ud ja bhanwar’. In
      the third song, he also goes down to Bb2 (I think), which makes his
      recorded range over two octaves.

      Coming to the highest voice type – tenor – I can only think of Nusrat
      Fateh Ali Khan at the moment. He routinely did C5 in chest voice, and
      I’ve heard him go up to D5, which is insanely high! Oh, his nephew,
      Rahat has an extremely high range too. There are several B4’s and even
      C#5’s in ‘ajj din chadeya’.

      • Baba 6 years ago

        this is an excellent comment whoever has made it. and has got me intersted to read more about it.

        and ritz – i love all your comments on indian music.they are very informative and intellectual in real sense. i wish i had this kind of knowledge on music 😀

  13. John Galt 6 years ago

    Ritz,

    Out of all your previous comments, I just agree with this one – “Not only his voice is weak in the song, but main drawback – he is not into the song at all, sounds like a singer who goes by theory and just the theory.”

    However, I have observed, your comparison is amongst the mainstream hindi singers (understandably so)…However if you broaden the area a little bit and compare the hindi singers with sufi singers or Urdu/Punjabi Ghazal Singers (or even Bhajan singers like Purshottam Das Jalota) you will see that our great hindi singers pale in comparison when it comes to “being into the song”.

    I don’t think Manna De’s voice is plastic or anything..Its a clear, easy to ear voice and he sings without mistakes (that’s where the theory part gets its right but sometimes the soul is missing)

  14. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    @John Galt

    By plastic I meant not into the song/missing soul. Naushad also called his voice “dry” for the same reason.

    @Hithere, that female pitch is higher goes without saying. I was not comparing pitch of the voice but grip on “taans”. He clearly struggles there whereas Asha has the grip. If you thought low pitch is a problem then how come in “Janeman Janeman” Yesudas has clear grip and does not pale in comparison to Asha when her pitch is way higher than him…

    @Baba, thanks for kind words but I dont have much knowledge I am just a learner.

  15. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    @hithere

    And well, that comment is very cryptic for me. I dont have that much knowledge on scales but I still differ on what he/she says about Rafi

    “Rafi was a high baritone. Many of his songs go as high as A4, some
    even up to B4! For example, ‘dole re dole re praan’ and ‘dekhi zamaane
    ki yaari’ (the highest note is in head voice, though). The lowest I
    can recall is ‘tune mera yaar’ in which he went down to Bb2
    (incidentally, in the same song, he also attempted to hit Bb4 two
    octaves above Bb2, but cracked on it!) ”

    Yes, Rafi was high baritone. But his highest IMO was “ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye” (ending of song). And lowest was “Gham iss kadar badhe”. Both for same movie – Pyasa.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=SWeIK26on-s

    Btw, the above song is one of the best examples of “being in the song”.

    • hithere 6 years ago

      As I said, I don’t know about musical intricacies but do read a lot. I have read quite often that Manna Dey’s voice was slightly unconventional (like Suresh Wadkar) but was versatile (high and low notes). So it came to me as surprise when someone is claiming it to be weak. He was a classical trained singer. Another of his gems (tune is copied)

      ps – Another voice which was unconventional but powerful was Mahendra Kapoor’s. http://bobbytalkscinema.com/recentpost.php?postid=postid022710083902

      • Baba 6 years ago

        how is mahendra kapoor unvconventional? wasnt he rafi part 2? his voice is quite conventioonal

        • hithere 6 years ago

          IMO His voice gave hint of Punjabi. Rafi in terms of suiting Hero’s voice was much better choice.

          So even if, Udit was hit during 90s he cannot sing for today’s actors because the expectation from hero to sound like Mika 🙂 . It is not that Udit can not sing but he wouldn’t sound like current hero.

          But singers modulate voice to sound like hero. I see here Manna Dey has modulated his voice to sound little different than his original voice:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWAKBMvILpY

          • Baba 6 years ago

            it is true that udits voice is not wanted anymore but thats more bcos ppl have heard him for a long time and they are bored.not bcos it was unconventional. udit was never called a unconventional singer. infact mika , whom you have quoted is an unconventional voice for a hero 😀

          • hithere 6 years ago

            He is unconventional but he fulfils the “sound” expectation from current heroes. There are better singers in industry and I would love to listen to more Sonu Nigam but Mika is in fashion these days!

  16. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    And ‘do naina matwaare’ is hardly a “bass” song, judge for yourself:

    (Its in fact in high pitch …he does touch lowest notes in “jab hoti ho tum uss paar” line in second stanza..if thats what he means by touching E2..but thats momentary)

    A ‘gham diye mushtakil’ or ‘madhukar shyam hamaare chor’ (especially) has way more bass into it.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=u6jVPDrcQDU

    I now have serious doubts that the person who commented also was bluffing 🙂 (seriously).

  17. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    Here is Lata’s tribute to Saigal for “Do Naina” (though she is nothing compared to him, this was the only song along with “so ja rajkumari” which she was somewhat OK and bearable …when I bought the cassette in my school days…)

    She was also OK in “So ja rajkumari”…

    But I was totally disappointed with this album those days, as I had been hearing the originals – the soul is missing here (you will know what mean if u listen to the originals)

    PS: Sputnik pls embed.

    PPS: Lata sounds pathetic in pronunciation of pure hindi words, (cant go of marathi accent)

  18. Author
    sputnik 6 years ago

    @hithere,

    Thanks for posting that comment here. I had googled yesterday to see if I could find any link of Naushad saying something about Manna Dey’s voice and I ran into a similar discussion on some google music group. Must say that those discussions on those google groups are very good.

    ———————-

    @Ritz,

    I will second Baba here – “I love your comments on indian music.they are very informative and intellectual in real sense. i wish i had this kind of knowledge on music”

    Agree with you on “Not only his voice is weak in the song, but main drawback – he is not into the song at all, sounds like a singer who goes by theory and just the theory.”

    In that Lal Pathar song Asha clearly dominates him.

    Those Lata tributes are not a patch on the originals. Lata sounds like some amateur singer.

  19. rajesh 6 years ago

    Its good that I don’t have such deep knowledge of music and so was able to enjoy his singing. Many of my favourite songs were sung by him.

  20. Tulmul 6 years ago

    Sputnik :

    Its age old problem…

    Anil biswas thought Lata has weak voice not good for singing and Mukesh is no singer.

    R D Burman found Rafi very linear and not ready to experiment. he narrates how he failed on him while doing Teesri manzil ( coz of Shammi) and Why he loved KK…

    Naushad had 2 constants : Rafi and Shaqeel badayoo ( lyrics)

    SJ : shailender and hasrat

    SD : Majrooh

    Its simply wavelength matching and how bold and experimenter one is. If you are game for experiments so you would automatically love another lover of experiments.

  21. Tulmul 6 years ago

    What’s “being in song” ??? New catch phrase

    If Song is not in Sur than being or not in being doesnt matter. So how commoner knows if song has gone off ‘Sur’ When atif aslam songs are hit.

    I know little of music but being nobody I read what doyens of the respective field say.

    On Lata, let me narrate incident of Doyen of indian music ‘Bade Ghulam Ali’

    One day he was doing Riyaaz with his disciples and suddenly some song blurted out of distant radio and he stopped hi Riyaaz, which was exception and never happened. after song was over, Bade Ghulam ali just said, ” Kambhakt Kabhie Besuri nahi Hoti hain” and listen also what Pt Jasraj also said abt her…

    We can like or dislike as per liking, as I do for KK but not on fundamentals of music which I think we dont know or know little…

    • Author
      sputnik 6 years ago

      Very good Interview. Thanks Tulmul.

  22. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    @Tulmul/Sputnik,

    Yes, everyone has favorites and Naushad is not final authority. I just happen to share same opinion on Manna De.

    @Tulmul

    Well, dont get me started on Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (whos major glamor was being big in size and fashionable moustache apart from attaching “Bade” in his name – the reason bollywood ppl think was a major contributor to indian classical music) and Jasraj (once a fav but has been stagnant for so many years) 😀

    We might know little, but Doyens of Indian classical music surely know more than us. Bollywood/Media perspective does not matter.

    I am not nitpicking or unnecessarily skeptical, not do I suffer from any syndrome which is against popularity/fame. I do listen to them on and off, there were some performances which were excellent by them.

    No doubt they are great but not the greatest / the kind of limelight media throws on them. They have many limitations. Especially Bade Ghulam Ali Khan style does not work for me at all. (you can read about criticism on him online)

    I think you did quote them to justify Lata’s talent. Lata does not need a justification by anyone. She is great in her place. But not when she tries to prove she can do everything – like for example when she tries to do a Saigal.

  23. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    @Hithere

    Contrary to popular belief, Hindustani/Indian classical music is not that difficult – atleast to understand and judge it.

    When one says that XYZ Is classical trained singer – it does not mean anything. [Nowadays even “arangetram” is performed in 2nd 3rd year itself in Bharatnatyam like a fast food].

    What matters is how much that person can get the notes right and then how much he/she can experiment in it/put their/guru’s personality in it rather than going by the book. Getting notes right itself takes years / decades (for the singer). Just by saying one is trained in classical is not enough. Its not a crash course.

    I know you know everything what I am trying to say above. What I feel lacking majorly in Manna Dey is putting his own experimentation (which I said “being in song” above). He might have been a great Opera singer – western world goes by the book rather than improvisation on the spot. (for that matter he has not sung even a full raag anywhere so this point is not valid anyways on him being classically trained)

    PS: above I talked only abt Hindustani classical. Carantic Classical goes only by the book.

    • hithere 6 years ago

      Are you trying to suggest you know more about music than music directors of that time?

  24. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    You would be surpised to know what “classically trained” means now.

    People struggle to find “Sa”, “Ga”, “Ma” etc on a musical instrument (vocal to door ki baat hai) and when they do get it right(somewhat), they claim themselves as classically trained… 😀

    There are some film musicians like that..who come in for training to HIndustani Classical Gurus …. If you are interested, I can tell you some stories (but in private). 😉

    @rajesh, what makes you think that I don’t enjoy songs sung by him?

  25. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    Is “Phoenix” still here?

    I would like to know her take on “arangetram” these days..

    I saw one thread (on Shahrukh Khan) where she got angry/irritated (presumably) and didnt comment after that..

  26. Tulmul 6 years ago

    Ritz :

    Not for justification but human psychological effort to deconstruct anything around. Everything can be criticized in this world and has been done. I approve it but not liking something or someone and thn start criticizing is what I am pointing to. I read your comments but you dismiss everything coz you dont like it. From Tansen to Lata and from Mirza Ghalib to Faiz all were criticized and still be done but that doesnt take away their greatness.

    In the end, what outweighs other is that all counts,in otherwords Good traits outweighs the bad things… Rest Nothing is Perfect.

    and what is this logic ??? They were great and now stagnant. Look at the peak they have touched and how long they remained there… Fall is Natural and physical frame is bound to laws of aging, and decaying…

  27. anjanpur685miles 6 years ago

    Yes, all are great..but don’t make them god. That’s the point. 🙂

  28. Tulmul 6 years ago

    Ritz:

    😀

    ps : Even gods are not perfect 😉

    • John Galt 6 years ago

      absolute vodka with club soda and lime is perfect.

      • Baba 6 years ago

        i think katrina kaif and ronda rousey are perfect. rest are imperfect :3

  29. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    @Baba, been watching Ronda rousey fight videos from past 30 mins. She is awesome 🙂 Never knew/watched female fights like this. Thx

    • Baba 6 years ago

      😀 good. she is olympic medal winner and current UFC champion. she is going to star in fast and furious 7.chek this video from 4:29 . she even takes on men 😉

      this is her workout video

  30. Anajanpur685Miles 6 years ago

    Yeah Baba I saw that video where she takes on men and also saw her interview that she has lots of sex before a competition/fight . Those were the first two videos of her which I saw 😛

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