Rhythmic Genius: Rahul Dev Burman

R. D. 'Pancham" Burman

R. D. ‘Pancham” Burman

The West’s love affair with Bollywood is of two types. Those who love the color drenched, massively populated, perfectly executed  and sexually charged choreography of the dance sequences.  And those, who find all sorts of excitement in the music, whether it be the inventive instrumentation or the voracious but creative sampling and reformatting of endless borrowed genres and styles, the slightly crazed night club scenes or the mixing of classical and folk sensibilities in gorgeous ballads.


For the second group of fans, there was probably no one who better exemplified the coming together of west and east, rock ‘n roll and traditional folk beats and all out crazy fun than Rahul Dev Burman, known simply as R.D. Burman.


As a youngster I studied Hindi movie posters with great attention. I loved the colors and the outlandish cartoon like characters and though I rarely listened to the music in those distant years, I was aware that S.D Burman and later R. D. Burman seemed to be associated with so many great films. Their names, and those of other ‘music directors’, always figured prominently on the poster. There were many fans who chose which film to see each week depending on who composed the music, rather than who directed the film or even, who starred in the leading roles.


The story of R. D Burman’s life in the Indian cinema scene of the 1970s and 1980s (which he completely dominated), his marriage to Asha Bhosle, his commitment to the voice of Kishore Kumar and his many awards and premature death have been told many times and are available across the world wide web in many locations and media.


But in recent years he and his music have received significant academic interest from scholars in the West, who find in Burman’s music the hallmarks of genius.  I share with you tonight a paper by Kiwi scholar, Gregory Booth, entitled R.D. Burman and Rhythm: “Making the Youth of This Nation Dance”.


In general, the arrangements of Burman’s songs were more poly-rhythmic, more varied and more carefully structured than were those of many of his peers, his construction of musical time more aggressive and more global. Kersi Lord, who contributed to many of those arrangements has suggested that Burman’s approach to rhythm was not only innovative but innovatively Western.  (Read the rest)


In memory of the man’s recently passed 75th birthday we share this wonderful Indian record of some of his greatest hits, both fast and slow.

Hits of R.D. Burman

Track Listing:

Dum Maro Dum

Duniya Mein

Piya Tu Ab To Aja

Jeena To Hai

Rampur Ka Bassi Hoon

Aaj To Meri Hansi Udai

Bangle Ke Peechhe

Na Koi Umang Kai

Biti Na Bitai Raina

Deko Re Hua

Kahin Karti Hogi

I Love You




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