Saturday, August 18, 2012


I started this post a long time ago, and went through several ideas on how to introduce this topic, but never completely liked any of them. Trained as an Electrical Engineer, I mused on the Fourier Transform analysis of different singers; and tried to see if there could be a correlation between energy in different frequency ranges and characteristics of different wines. The resultant headaches convinced me to look elsewhere. Try explaining to a layperson, Lata Mangeshkar has twice the energy in the 5 - 10 KHz range as Kishore Kumar; and it correlates with the elevated sugar content of dessert wines. I will be lucky if my family still includes me in our gatherings.

It is usually a challenge to pair Indian food with wines, but Indian singers, especially Old Hindi Film ones, are a delight. As a group, and along with Music Directors and Lyricists; these men and women have risen from humble surroundings and have provided endless hours of pure joy. Wines can sometimes be expensive, and they almost always cost some money; but the price of the Classic Indian Film Industry Music has been amortized over time and is essentially close to zero. Even though my favorite economist has always argued  "There is no such thing as a free lunch";  some of the best things in life are indeed free. This post presents some interesting pairings, but more important; it is really an attempt to demonstrate the extremely high value of what these artists have left behind.

A) Hai Duniya Usiki ------ Red Bordeaux, Mohammad Rafi

Paul Giamatti has just been dumped by Virginia Madsen in the movie Sideways, and is about to drink his prized and only Chateau Cheval Blanc (the 2005 vintage retails for $1000) out of a styrofoam cup in a fast food restaurant. Any snobbish oenophile would react, "What a waste".

Faced with a similar situation, the lady is Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir Ki kali; Shammi Kapoor breaks out Scotch Whiskey.  I would  react, "What a terrible pairing"!!!.  Shammi is lip-syncing to a wonderful Mohammed Rafi song whose equivalent would be that Red Bordeaux being drunk in Sideways. Paul has the right idea; if a gorgeous woman dumps you, that is something to be celebrated with an expensive-once-in-a-lifetime-wine. Rafi's singing caliber is exactly that; multi-layered, complex, improves with age, and worthy of being labelled once-in-a-many-generations.

As an aside, at the end of both movies, both men get their respective women. In a lighter vein, one could argue that it was the excellent beverage choice that led to Paul Giamatti getting the classy Virginia Madsen. On the other hand if you look like Shammi Kapoor and sing a Rafi song, you will always get your love; no matter what you drink.

B) Mausam Hai Ashiqana ----- Sauternes, Lata Mangeshkar

Sauternes is made from grapes affected by Botyritis, a kind of noble rot. This counter-intuitive real-life occurrence results in a dessert wine of the highest quality from outwardly disfigured grapes. Legend has it that Raj Kapoor had Lata Mangeshkar in mind when he was creating Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Add to this the sweetness that dominates Lata's singing, and you can see why I have paired her songs with a Sauternes.

C) Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai ----- Red Burgundy,  Kishore Kumar

Here is Rajesh Khanna in a situation similar to what is faced by Shammi Kapoor, but his song has just that extra touch of romance. Some music enthusiasts do not consider Kishore to match Rafi's gravitas, and some oenophile's think the same about a red Burgundy vs. a red Bordeaux. I think both are different, and on the surface a Kishore song may not seem to have the same complexity and depth as a Rafi song; but upon further exploration both do alright. Same with a red Burgundy,  and this is the reason for the pairing.

D) Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu ----- Champagne,  Asha Bhosale

Asha Bhosale has a nice party song voice, and several bubbly frothy celebratory songs have been filmed upon it.  Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu has just that touch of restraint, but note the fountain that spouts like a newly opened champagne bottle. Restrained or not, Asha's style has the effervescence that leads to a great pairing.

E) Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli ----- Barolo, Manna Dey

I have to thank Pacifist,  Dustedoff, and Anu Warrier for increasing my respect and liking for Manna Dey as a singer. After mulling over his songs I have to conclude that he probably ranks right up there with Rafi. Bordeaux wines keep improving with age, and can often stay drinkable for almost 100 years. Italian Barolo's have the same characteristic, Manna Dey's songs grow upon you, and so my pairing.

F) Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui ------  Port, Geeta Dutt

One theme jumps out from the pairings so far, all males with red wines, and females with white wines. Geeta Dutt is the first to break this rule, her smoky honeyed seductive voice leads me to pair it with an aged port. To be honest I also thought of Drambuie, a liqueur made with Scotch and honey. I like to listen to her songs when you are winding down just after dinner, and hence the choice of port. With a red wine pairing, I am in no way trying to say she starts leaning towards a male voice. Her unique style transcends traditional male-female classifications.

G) Bekarar Karke Hame ------ Chianti,  Hemant Kumar

Sit back with your eyes closed and listen to this Hemant Kumar song, do you feel the warm sunlight. "Wine is sunlight held together by water", says Galileo; and who am I to disagree. Hemant Kumar transports you to sunny Tuscany with this song, and hence the pairing. Also note the Italian connections, Galileo, Tuscany, Sunshine, Chianti; I hope I have not overdone it. Incidentally, Chianti is also a reasonably good pairing with some Indian Kebabs.

H) Jawaan Hai Mohabbat ------ Italian Dessert Wine, NoorJehan

Continuing on that Italian Sunshine theme, and adding sweetness, gets us NoorJehan at her best. If Lata is the cooler elegant France, then NoorJehan is the sunny spontaneous Italy; and both dominate the dessert wine category.

I) Tasveer Banata Hoon ------  Cognac, Talat Mehmood

When you are in a blue mood try nursing a glass of cognac or listening to Talat Mehmood. No harm in doing both, you just might snap out of it.

J) Nain Deewane Ek Nahin Mane --- Chardonnay, Suraiyya

Another theme so far is most female singers have been paired with sweeter wines. This pairing demonstrates that a female singer, Suraiyya, can be paired with dry minerally Chardonnay. Listen to this song again, note the distinct mineral tones, the correctness, the complexity, the dryness; all hallmarks of a good Chardonnay.

This is not to say that Lata, Asha, Geeta, Noor cannot do this style; most if not all of them can be interchangeably paired. 

K) Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai ------ Chateauneuf Du Pape, Mukesh

Brooding is the thought that comes to mind when I hear this song, and the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape are exactly that. Dark, brooding, intense, sometimes hit-and--miss; this has to be Mukesh.

L) Tum Apna Ranjho Gham -------- Banyuls, Jagjit Kaur

Once again this is a song that was refreshed by the online blogging community, Dustedoff, Anu, Pacifist, Ava; all of them posted/commented on various aspects. I think it has a little bit of Geeta Dutt in it, hence the pairing with a South-of-France port-wine type wine.

M) Sunu Mere Bandhu Re ------- Young Cote Du Rhone, S.D. Burman

Copying my comments from Harvey's post on S. D. Burman;
"It is very difficult to pair a wine S.D. Burman's voice, and I have struggled to identify a suitable wine. Austere, possibly nasal, are adjectives that come to mind when I try to categorize his voice. Here is what Robert Parker says about an austere wine ----
Wines that are austere are generally not terribly pleasant wines to drink. An austere wine is a hard, rather dry wine that lacks richness and generosity. However, young Rhônes are not as austere as young Bordeaux."

Hence the pairing with a young Cote Du Rhone.

O) Na Tum Hame Jaano ------- Sauvignon Blanc, Suman Kalyanpur

Another Classic Hindi Film Expert, AK (SongsOfYore),  has a wonderful comparison of Suman Kalyanpur with Lata Mangeshkar. He says, and I quote ---

"It is sad that a singer with such enormous talent did not get her due; her similarity with Lata’s voice became her curse. Yet her best is no inferior to any singer’s best, and she is one of the great singers of the golden era."

Sauvignon Blanc wines sometimes are not as highly regarded as say Chardonnays or Sauternes; however just like Suman Kalyanpur, they will never let you down.

P) Daane Daane Pe Likha Hai -------  Beaujolais, C Ramchandra

Beaujolais is renowned light fruity early age drinkable wines that can morph into almost any situation. C. Ramchandra was one such singer,  at will he could sing like most anyone, and hence the pairing.

In a party of Marathi speaking Maharashtrians, a person who only knew him by his real name Ramchandra Chitalkar is supposed to have said --- "Aho Chitalkar Kahi Tari Kara, To Bagha South-Indian C. Ramchandra Kevdha Gajto Ahe". 
Translated it means --- "Mr. Chitlakar do something from from the Marathi side, Look at that South Indian C. Ramchandra getting all the accolades."

Q) Neele Gagan Ke Tale ------- Rioja, Mahendra Kapoor

Mahendra Kapoor used to be called a clone of Mohd. Rafi, as is Rioja of a Bordeaux. Perhaps both are a little unjust, but hopefully you see my point.

Other Music Wine Pairing References

Indian Food Wine Pairing References