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


Anonymous said...

I've had to give up all alcohol since the past few years (not that I ever had much, except the occasional wine or liqueur), so my palate's actually forgotten a lot of flavours. But not Sauternes or Drambuie - those were always favourites of mine, and the songs you liken them to are perfect matches! :-)

harvey said...

After reading your post, we don't have any reason to say aho Padalkar kara kahi tari.
A genius of post! although I strongly disagree upon Asha and Champagne, esp. in the case of aage bhi jaane na tu.
But we'll speak later on about it!

Raja said...

Fantastic post!!!
My knowledge of wines was close to nothing (I've heard of most of these but didn't know about their quality). And this is the most fun way to learn!!!
Lovely selection of songs too. You didn't throw an RD pairing - maybe with grappa? :-)

Ava said...

Samir, my knowledge of wines is dismal. I have drunk champagne once in my life and have mostly drunk fruit wines from HPMC.

But comparing wine flavours with voices is excellent, seeing that they both have a heady effect on you.

IDEA FOR THE NEXT POST: Comparing actresses with wines!

Kaho kaisa laga!

Lalitha said...

What a wonderful topic - comparing wines and singers of old songs! However, my knowledge of wines is zero, zilch, nil, but your post makes delightful reading and had me humming all the way! I am waiting for you to follow up with Ava's idea of pairing wines with actresses - I am sure that will make another wonderful post!

samir said...

Sad to hear you had to give up alcohol. I myself do not drink very much, and like you just restrict it to wines & liqueurs. A big reason for my fondness for wines is my stomach, and by that I mean acidity & other troubles. European (old world) wines are usually of a lower alcohol content, and they agree with my stomach a lot more. Another trick is drink at least twice the amount of water with any alcoholic drink, and always drink with food.
Sauternes & Drambuie are very good choices :)

samir said...

Thanks for your generous comment, and always glad to do something (Kahi Tari Kele).
Looking forward to discussing Asha & Champagne & other pairings.

samir said...

Thanks for the wonderful comment, always glad to share my knowledge.
For someone with "close-to-nothing" knowledge, RD paired with Grappa is a truly inspired pick :)

samir said...

Thanks for the encouraging comment, how were the fruit wines from HPMC ?
Comparing wine with actresses is a nice idea, however I feel it may a one-dimensional idea. Perhaps actors/actresses in specific performances may be better because there are more characteristics to compare.

samir said...

Thanks for the delightful comment :)
As I was replying to Ava, comparing just with actresses may be uni-dimensional. Beauty while a great attribute, is usually restrictive in a single photo; it requires a sustained performance to make it comprehensive.

samir said...

@ Dustedoff, Harvey, Raja, Ava & Lalitha
Once again, Thanks for the encouraging comments :)

Anonymous said...

This might seem blasphemous, but here goes... I was listening to Na main dhan chaahoon (Geeta Dutt/Sudha Malhotra) last weekend, and it's become such an earworm, I can't dislodge it. Reminds me of a king coconut arrack I tasted years ago in Sri Lanka - very mellow and smooth, but oh, it gets into your head and refuses to let go! :-D

And Tum pukaar lo, tumhaara intezaar hai is for me a Bristol cream sherry. Mmmm.

samir said...

ROTFL!!! King coconut arrack, you will be the end of me :)
I can see Sherry with Hemant Kumar, he seems pretty versatile in that manner. Also, he is the first male singer to be paired with a sweeter wine; probably befitting right ?
Any other male singers who could be paired with Sherry/Port/Creme De Menthe etc. ?

Anu Warrier said...

Samir, coming late to this wonderful post, and you have made me yearn for some of the wines you mention. Like Madhu, I have had to give up alcohol, except for the occasional glass of wine (which I savour, but I like your pairings. :)Will come back to discuss other song/wine pairings.

harvey said...

"The resultant headaches convinced me to look elsewhere."

"Even though my favorite economist has always argued "There is no such thing as a free lunch""
Agree with Friedman! Even the gratis songs from youtube are not for free, the ads are part and parcel of the 'gift' (BTW in German Gift means poison!). And don't forget how they become ear-worms. And at a time when you have to be listening to a boring but important lecture, they just start replaying in your mind!

"the best things in life are indeed free."
AGREE more than with the line above! I have got a good example for that: SILENCE! :-)

hai duniya usi ki is a good Red Bordeaux. But hai duniya usi ki doesn't leave a thick tongue (I don't know the precise term for that in English) behind.
Both men get their women and the wine. And most probably after they get married comes the thick tongue. ;-)

I haven't tasted Sauternes, but if it is anything light and flowing like mausam hai aashiqanaa then I have to taste it. But basically I hate dessert wines.

I was a bit surprised by your pairing of yeh jo mohabbat hai with a red wine. Doesn't the way KK sing yeh jo mohabbat hai, particularly the word mohabbat sound more like a refreshing white wine? Something which you would drink on warm late SAturday afternoons? I agree that the content of the song is a bit heavy, but for me the melody of the song is frothy.
I'm curious what you say about my suggestion.

Asha and champagne, we have already discussed this once, khair, I put my case forward again. For me Asha sounds here very deep, very thoughtful and very philosophical. Something like an heavy red wine.
The way she sings anjaane saayon kaa raahon mein deraa hai, andekhi baahon ne ham sabko gheraa hai, she sings alto. For that I would have surely given a Red Burgundy or something similar. Particularly in this song she goes very deep like she does in jaane-e-jaan dhoondata phir raha from Jawani Diwani when she sings tum kahan ( Very much an alto! Asha can surely fly in the higher stratosphere and be effervescent like in karle pyar kar le ke din hai yahi in Talash (, there a white sparking would do wonders!

Barolo grows on you and so does Manna Dey! Couldn't agree with you more!

tadbeer se bigdi huyi taqdeer would have got a champagne from me. Geeta's coquettish flirtation with the Dev with intended puns needs something sparkling. How about a Prosecco?
I was going to recommend Geeta's mera sundar sapna for the Port, but the song is too dark for a port, Port gives a certain warmth and a glow in the head and at the same time that peachy taste in the gums. Would kahin door se awaaz de or waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam would do fine with me. Both sound dark but are full of hope.

harvey said...

Hemant Kumar and Chianti is a good combination, more so ever for songs like tumhara intezaar hai.

Noorjehan and a dessert wine is a perfect combination!

Cognac and Talat go together, though I don't like cognac much, but from the taste and aroma, they surely blend together good!

Can I recommend a 'Grüner Veltliner' to Suraiya? You won't repent it.

I don't know Chateauneuf Du Pape, Samir so can't say much about it. Mukesh's brooding should basically go with some heavy wines, which leave a heavy taste behind.

Banyuls is also total stranger to me, but if you say it is port-wine like fortified wine, then it shoudl go well with tum apna ranjh-o-gam!

SDB and young red Cote Du Rhone, we agreed on that! :-)

Sauvignon Blanc and Suman are perfect!

Agree with Beaujolais and Chitalkar!
ROTFL at the anecdote. Reminds me of an anecdote when a Shiv-Sena member wanted to rename Bhikaji Cama Road, because he wanted to name it after a freedom-fighter.
Isn't there a Chitalkar-Bandhu store for sweet meats or batata-vada in Dadar-Parel area?

Mahendra Kapoor doesn't deserve a Rioja says the mean Harvey, but the benign one allows it, though the critical one doubts it and the wise one points out that the critical one only criticises and doesn't provide an alternative!

Thanks once again, dear Samir for this informative post! Asach pragati post karath raha ha, Padalkar!

Archana said...

My knowledge of wines is close to nothing too.
Tried Champagne couple of times but didn't like it.
Have lots of anglo-indian friends. And they taught me how to make grape-wine. That's something I like.
I have tried few more but dont remember their names.
It was great fun reading your comparisons and I've noted down the names and their descriptions so that I can try them going forward :-)

samir said...

Thanks for the wonderful comment, you are now on Madhu's no-to-low alcohol policy as well. Hopefully, both of you will come out out of it soon; try telling your doctor 1 - 2 glasses of wine a week is not all that much, especially paired with songs :)
Eagerly awaiting your pairings :)

samir said...

I think there is some merit to doing a more Electrical & Chemical engineering style analysis, just that it is extremely tedious, and who would understand it anyway !!!

LOL @ "in German Gift means poison".
I used to be a Republican when they followed (or least said they followed) Milton Friedman; but now they have passed me by. Incidentally, one of his least appreciated stands is ending the draft and creating an all-volunteer army during the Vietnam war.

Silence is one of the best free things around, wish more people employed it :)

LOL @ "And most probably after they get married comes the thick tongue. "

Sauternes can range from medium to full bodied, but is usually a complex dessert wine. This song may sound light & flowing, but in reality is full of depth, and contains those sweet undertones. Hence the pairing.

Let me address the Kishore, Asha & Geeta Dutt pairing in another comment.

Thanks for agreeing with me on Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar, NoorJehan, Talat Mehmood, Suraiya, SDB, Suman Kalyanpur & C. Ramchandra.
Thanks to the "wise-Harvey" for agreeing with me on Mahendra Kapoor.

I will certainly try a 'Grüner Veltliner' with Suraiya. Considering that it has several similarities with a Burgundy Chardonnay, it must be a good match.

LOL @ Shiv Sena & Bhikaji Cama :), and do not know about that store.

Thanks for that wonderfully elaborate & encouraging comment :)

samir said...

Thanks for liking my post :)
It is good to hear your experiences re; wine-making, that is very interesting. Also, it is OK to not like certain wines/champagnes.

Anonymous said...

@Samir: I think the Bengali male singers - people like Subir Sen, or maybe Dwijen Mukherjee in 'Ae dil kahaan teri manzil' are also sherry guys.

Now I'm wondering: where would an SD Burman go? That raw, very rustic voice? A tharra? :-D

samir said...

I agree, Bengali male singers like Subir Sen & Dwijen Mukherjee do fall in the sherry category.
SDB - Tharra, stunned, shocked, ROTFL; not at the pairing, I thought you were always very circumspect :)
On a more serious note, me & Harvey have agreed that SDB pairs with a young Cote Du Rhone. Younger wines are not yet developed, and hence tharra is not a bad approximation :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have to admit, I've never had tharra, so that was a guess. ;-)

samir said...

I too have never had tharra, and that was a good guess :)

samir said...

I agree that Kishore can be paired with white wines, especially several of his stock 70's songs. However, when he pulls out his best like this one, or "Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana", or "Phoolon Ke Rang Se", or "Jeevan Ke Safar Mein Rahi"; a red Burgundy come to my mind. These wines are are extremely difficult to duplicate, and have several layers, and are just that touch lighter than great Bordeaux's. For all these reasons, I would pair Kishore with a red Burgundy.

Songs like "Aao Huzur Tumko" or "Jhumka Gira Re" are easier to see as Champagne pairings for Asha. We also disagreed slightly on "Aaj Yeh Meri Zindagi". "Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu" is a different, more positive song that pairs well with the quintessential party drink. Personally, I think it is hard for Asha or Lata to be paired with a red Burgundy or a red Bordeaux; but I could always be persuaded, especially with a red Burgundy.

Geeta Dutt has that more more smoky honeyed seductive voice that first brought a Drambuie to my mind. A fortified port came later, perhaps some of her songs may be Champagne category but not this one. This is more of a solo or a small group contemplative song, but not a party song. I feel (maybe incorrectly) that Champagne songs should be party songs, and hence "Tadbeer Se" is more of a Port/Drambuie.

Anyways, it always fun to be challenged; makes me think more & refine my logic :)

harvey said...

particularly Asha and Geeta have sung such a variety of songs and in different voice pitches that they would deserve many different wines.
And we individually percieve them in different ways so choices are sure to be different and that is the fun of discussion, isn't it?
As it is I am not a oenophile, so I bow to your judgement! It is always nice talk and discuss such things with you!

samir said...

"Asha and Geeta have sung such a variety of songs and in different voice pitches that they would deserve many different wines." ----
Absolutely, applies to several other singers such as Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Lata, Suraiya, NoorJehan, Hemant Kumar as well.

"And we individually percieve them in different ways so choices are sure to be different and that is the fun of discussion, isn't it?" ----
Could not agree more.

"As it is I am not a oenophile, so I bow to your judgement! It is always nice talk and discuss such things with you!" ---
I am an amateur oenophile & an amateur film songs person, but always love to discuss. Thanks :)

We have just scratched the surface of this topic, as you said, several singers need several wines. Additionally, duets are whole new ballgame. As Ava & Lalitha have suggested, pairings with actress/perfomances is also a great idea.

Yword said...

What a wonderful post to read. cheers!

samir said...

@Yword :)
Thanks, and nice to see you back.

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