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Songs with echo and reverberation

Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 08/10/2022

Stills from songs of Madumati and Jhumroo (Courtesy : YouTube)

Echo and reverberation is a subject which a technical expert would deal with at a completely different level, explaining the nuances of sound designing and editing – the difference between reverb and echo and so on. Here, however, is an ardent music lover’s take on the echo and reverberation effect relying only on songs that have been heard as a layperson. There are some songs which when heard intently sound a little different from the others because of a certain sound effect – that of the echo. This effect is usually there in a small segment of the song. If this effect were to be used through out the song, then it would be difficult to appreciate it. When used for the entire length of the song, it would perhaps be the reverberation effect, which is somewhat different from echo. In reverberation, the echoes get piled up and cannot be heard distinctly because the area is small (like in a small closed room). Songs where the reverberation effect is used sound distant and there is a certain impression of hollowness and softness.

I am providing a link of a video that explains in simple terms what an echo is and how it is different from reverberation. Both these effects are found in several songs – which this post attempts to enlist. An echo essentially is a sound that is repeated as it is sent back off a surface such as a mountain or a wall. Likewise, in music the echo effect is an audio effect based on delaying a signal over time. In this case, listeners perceive an audible repetition of a signal after some duration of time. Listeners perceive distinct echoes when the time delay is relatively long (greater than ~30 milliseconds). This important time delay duration of ~30 milliseconds is called the echo threshold. It represents the minimum time delay for a listener to perceive a distinct repetition of a signal.

Echo and reverberation are both time-based audio effects resulting from the reflection of sound on hard surfaces. The difference between reverb and echo lies in time. Echo is a long reflection of sound on a far hard surface, while reverb has a way shorter reflection time. It reflects from a nearby surface to another around the listener.

I am sure all of us would have screamed out loud in a huge cave or a valley to hear our voice echoing. The diagram below explains what happens when we do this.

This is a drawing of how sound bounces back. gritsalak karalak/shutterstock

To get a really good echo, that sounds the same as the original sound, we need a very big, hard-walled place – like a valley or a canyon! In the video below, a man is playing a trumpet in a canyon. The vibration of his lips makes the sound, which bounces back from the hard wall of rock on the other side of the valley.

With this primer on echoes and reverberations which would have refreshed our high school knowledge of Physics, the ten songs in this post I hope can be appreciated better. Apart from an actual echo, the songs with the echo effect have a deliberate repetition of the ending words of a line. I shall try to indicate the exact point where the echo effect can be heard wherever possible. This sound effect adds a different aura to the song and sets it apart. All these songs are very popular; it is just that we may have never noticed this aspect of the song. I must also say that many haunting melodies that try to create suspense use this effect. I am however not going to include too many of this type as I do not want to make it a post on haunting melodies.

1) Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen (Madhumati, 1958) Lyricist : Shailendra; Music Director : Salil Chowdhury; Playback Singer : Mukesh (& chorus). This is a lovely song which begins with the twitter of birds and the shepherd’s call. The lyrics speak of river water, the lovely weather and the vagrant verdure, as the hero Dilip Kumar walks in the hills enjoying the beauty of nature. He then sees a huge hill at some distance and gets tempted to shout and hear his voice echo. If you listen to this song carefully, you will find that it is a solo except for the part where the echo effect is introduced (from 2:27 to 2:42 in the video link below). To accentuate the echo effect, a chorus has been used for just about 15 seconds by the music director. However, female voices have also been included in the chorus which perhaps should have been avoided, for it is the hero alone who is shouting.

[Another song of the same movie – toote hue khwaabon ne – has the lyrics laut aayi sada meri takraake sitaron se, ujdi hui duniya ki sunsaan kinaaron se – where the echo effect could have been added to make them topical]

2) Tu Jahaan Jahaan Chalegaa (Mera Saaya, 1966) Lyricist : Raja Mehdi Ali Khan; Music Director : Madan Mohan ; Playback Singer : Lata Mangeshkar. This is the title song and it is played on various occasions in the movie. This song which was sung by his deceased wife (or so the hero believes) keeps haunting him so much so that, even when he is hearing another song on the gramophone, it is this song that is still ringing in his ears. This impression is very effectively conveyed with the change in the sound effect. There is reverberation rather than echo effect in this song as multiple voices are not heard. The effect is also very innovatively conveyed when the antaras have no reverberation effect and are picturised as a flashback song being sung at a party; however, the mukhda sung at the beginning and the end is preceded and followed by the song that is actually playing on the gramophone – woh bhuli dastaan – another fantastic composition of Madan Mohan from the movie Sanjog (1960). The reverberation effect is evident in different parts of the video clip below (especially from 5:06 seconds).

3) Kora Kaagaz Tha Yeh Man Mera (Aradhana, 1969) Lyricist : Anand Bakshi ; Music Director : S.D.Burman ; Playback Singers : Kishore Kumar & Lata Mangeshkar. There is an interesting conversation just before the song begins where the hero says that he and the heroine are genuinely in love and the sylvan surroundings will echo the same sentiment. It is then that the song starts with Kishore Kumar’s voice echoing followed by the mukhda where the last words of the lines are repeated to emphasize the echo effect(0:00 to 0:47 in the link below).

he he
he he
ha ha
hmm hmm
hmm hmm
aha ha
ha ha ha
ha
ha ha
hmm hmm

kora kaagaz thha yeh man mera
mera
mera
likh liya naam ispe tera
tera
tera

4) Thandi Hawa Yeh Chaandni Suhaani (Jhumroo, 1961) Lyricist : Majrooh Sultanpuri ; Music Director : Kishore Kumar; Singer : Kishore Kumar; Playback Singer : Asha Bhosle. This is a movie in which Kishore Kumar donned many hats – that of the director, producer, music director, actor and singer. This song is technically a duet as Asha Bhosle hums in the beginning while she plays the piano only to be mesmerized by Kishore’s distant musical voice piercing the air. The song then becomes Kishore’s entirely. He cups his hand and sings aloud – he he he he he he he he– his voice echoing in the valley. This echo (0:14 to 0:34 in the link below) is then followed by the lyrics of the song.

5) Yeh Hawaa Yeh Hawaa (Gumraah, 1963) Lyricist : Sahir Ludhianvi ; Music Director : Ravi; Playback Singer : Mahendra Kapoor. This is perhaps the most apt song for this post. The entire song carries the echo effect, with the words at the end of each line being repeated. The repetitions are softer than the first time the words are sung, acing the echo effect. This song thus stands out; one must say that Mahendra Kapoor has done full justice to Ravi’s innovative music direction. It is interesting to note that the opening echoes of this song are used in another song of the same movie – in hawaon mein, which has two versions – happy and sad. The echo effect is more pronounced in the happy version. In the sad version it is reverberation that is used in the small part that Asha sings. The sad version also has lyrics that refer to echoing (laut rahi hain meri sadaayen, deewaron se sar takraake)

O ho ho
O ho ho
O ho
O ho
O ho ho ho
O ho ho ho ho ho ho
O ho ho ho ho
O ho ho
ye hawa ye hawa ye hawa
ye fizaa ye fizaa ye fizaa
hai udaas jaise mera dil
mera dil
mera dil
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa ke ab to chaandni bhi zard ho chali
ho chali
ho chali
dhadkanon ki narm saans sard ho chali
ho chali
ho chali
dhal chali hai raat,
aa ke mil
aa ke mil
aa ke mil
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
raah mein bichhi hui hai meri har nazar
har nazar
har nazar
main tadap raha hoon aur tu hai bekhabar
bekhabar
bekhabar
ruk rahi hai saans aa ke mil
aa ke mil
aa ke mil
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa
aa bhi jaa

6) Jab Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960) Lyricist : Shakeel Badayuni ; Music Director : Naushad ; Playback Singer : Lata Mangeshkar. This song is a masterpiece in every sense – the on screen performance of the actors, cinematography, direction, lyrics, music and rendition. This was considered to be the costliest song to be filmed for a long time as ₹10 lakh were spent on it – in the year 1960. The song was filmed in a set inspired by the Sheesh Mahal of the Amber Fort of Jaipur, in the Mohan Studios. This particular set was noted for its magnitude; it measured 150 feet in length, 80 feet in breadth and 35 feet in height. The reverberation effect was created by Lata recording from a distance, from a different room and slowly moving closer to the recording device (from 5:17 to 5:34 and 5:50 to the end of the song in the video below), something similar to what was done to record Aayega Aanewala (Mahal,1949) to create the haunting effect. Again, the female chorus is used only for this part of the song for the reverberation effect to become more profound.

7) Tujhko Pukaare Mera Pyaar (Neel kamal, 1968) Lyricist : Sahir Ludhianvi ; Music Director : Ravi; Playback Singer : Md. Rafi. This is yet another Ravi composition that uses the echo/reverberation effect to convey distance and a tale of a bygone era. Rafi sings the song beautifully. The opening words – aajaa (0:00 to 0:30 in the video below) – are the ones with the echo effect. The rest of the song has more reverberation than echo. An attempt is also made to imitate the Mughal-e-Azam song jab pyaar kiya to darna kya with multiple images.

8) Mere Mehboob Na Jaa (Noor Mahal, 1965) Lyricist: Saba Afghani; Music Director: Jani Babu Qawwal; Playback Singer: Suman Kalyanpur. This iconic song of Suman Kalyanpur is a hidden gem in a movie that by no means deserved this melody. The movie went pretty unnoticed. This song however, composed by Babu Qawwal and written by a lesser known lyricist stands out. Picturized on Jagdeep and Chitra, it is a haunting melody; it seems to be an attempt to recreate the magic of Aayega Aanewala from Mahal(1949). A major part of the song is shot on flights of stairs with a veiled Chitra dressed in a long floating gown with a lit candle in her hand either ascending or descending stairs, wandering around a huge mansion, with a perplexed Jagdeep close on her heels. In order to make the song spooky, the reverberation effect more than the echo is used in the beginning of the song and the higher octaves (especially the first minute of the song).

9) Jab Bhi Yeh Dil Udaas Hota Hain (Seema, 1971) Lyricist: Gulzar; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singers: Md. Rafi and Sharda. It is such a coincidence that Seema of 1955 also had music direction by Shankar Jaikishan and so does this!! This song has some noteworthy aspects – colour coordinated clothes of the lead pair – Simi Garewal and Kabir Bedi, both listening to the song on the radio at the same time and both not looking one bit udaas (sad). This was the first time I saw the song and the pairing is rather unique. Kabir Bedi is unrecognizable sans his beard. Simi is all coy. I am glad Sharda who sings for Simi only hums along with Rafi and not alone.

Since this song is being played on the radio, the reverberation effect is used in the whole song to convey distance. Upon hearing the song – Kabir Bedi walks up to the radio and increases the volume.

10) Tum Mujhe Awaaz Do (Betaab, 1983) Lyricist: Anand Bakshi; Music Director: R.D.Burman; Playback Singer : Shabbir Kumar. This movie is shot in the picturesque area of Pahalgam in Kashmir. Post Betaab, the point is actually called Betaab Valley. I was actually fortunate to visit this heavenly valley. The movie starring Amrita Singh and Sunny Deol had some good musical improvisation by R.D.Burman. This song in particular is very topical for this post because in the film there is a legend built that if a voice echoes thrice at a particular point – which is called lover’s point – then love is just round the corner. The heroine actually goes and shouts aajaa and her voice, as expected, echoes thrice. The video version of the song does not feature the echoes Sunny Deol responds with and hence the link below carries only the audio(from the beginning till 0:35in the link below).

Premi hun paagal hun mai 
 paagal hun mai 
paagal hun mai
rup ka aanchal hun mai 
  aanchal hun mai  
aanchal hun mai
pyaar ka badal hun mai

This brings me to the end of my play list. Echo and reverberation leave a mark when appropriately used in songs. Be it spooky songs or those that deal with reminiscence or songs that are sung in valleys in the lap of nature (especially at picturesque locations like Kashmir or Darjeeling), echo and reverberation help to enhance the aural beauty of the song. Further, when the lyrics too speak of echoes, it becomes all the more interesting, though this is rarely done. This post also helped me understand that the repetition of end words of a line in many a song is not just for the metre but also for the echo effect as in the songs from Gumraah. Sahir and Ravi have indeed worked hard on this aspect. I hope the songs of this post keep ringing in the ears of the readers leading them to add a few more apt songs!!

Disclaimer

anitamultitasker.wordpress.com claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, daily motion and other platforms only to make the post audio visual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

20 thoughts on “Songs with echo and reverberation

  1. MARATHA TITUKA MELAVAVA, Marathi, had fantastic music by Anand Ghan ( Lata Mangeshkar ). I consider it her best work as a composer.

    Akhir cha ha tula dandavat…

    Lata sings. The echo , absolutely essential because the carts by which people are leaving the village, are passing by a valley.

    Speciality is that the echo is in the voices of Meena and Usha Mangeshkar .

    Like

  2. Very good post.
    The first song that I could recollect was,
    Kabhi To milegi from Aarti.
    The verses have the second line in echo.
    For example,
    Daale Hue Hai Raat ki chadar

    I think a few lines from Mausam Hai Aashiqana from Pakeezah also has echo effect.
    And,
    A few lines from Ari Jane Na Doongi from Chitralekha

    Incidentally all these songs feature Meena Kumari.
    🙂

    Like

    1. Anupji, thanks a lot for the appreciation!! The song from Aarti is a really good example of the reverberation effect being used. Did you notice that the song is initially playing on a gramophone in a shanty? That probably sets the stage for the reverberation effect. Mausam hain ashiqana is again a good example of the reverberation effect. In fact many other songs of Pakeezah including Thade Rahiyo which was on my list to begin with,has the reverberation effect.
      I was not able to identify which part of the song from Chitralekha you feel have the echo/reverberation effect.

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  3. Thank you for this post, Anita ji! The film that I wrote up this week has a song with reverberation, “Jisse Yaar Ka Sachcha Pyaar Mile” from “Bandie” (1978):

    It is a fantasy song from Sulakshana’s perspective. The reverberation starts at around 4:04. It happens right as the scene switches back to Sulakshana’s real life instead of the song that she has been imagining.

    In the examples you have given, the echo or reverberation always has to do with storytelling, whether simply because the song is set in an echoic outdoor setting or to indicate memory/distance/haunting. I think there is a separate class of songs with reverberation in which the effect is more purely timbral (the same way that distortion is sometimes used in the instrumental parts of songs). The most obvious example of which I can think is “Aap Jaisa Koi.” If there is a storytelling reason for that song to have reverberation, I don’t understand it; it seems like it’s there simply to add aural interest.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and incisive observations, Shelomit! The song you mention is perfect. You are right when you say that the echo/reverberation effect can be used independent of the situation. But would the voice modulation in Aap Jaisa Koi qualify as reverberation/echo? It seems more like artificial modulation of the voice using technology. I do not know the technical term for it. In the case of musical instruments it is called the flanger effect. I am not sure whether the same could be used for vocals. R.D.Burman was a specialist in this. I am posting a link of one of his songs which demonstrates this with the guitar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxlT7qPWRBo

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      1. I have to admit my own ignorance in that regard. My assumption would have been that reverberation and distortion would both need to be added in the recording process, whether due to a device like a flanger during mixing or simply the acoustic setup of the recording space. Thank you for adding the compilation of songs by R. D. Burman. Distorted sounds are very important in blues music, so it makes sense that it would come up in the songs of Pancham Da, who was so interested in blues and rock.

        Like

      2. Oh, thank you for letting me know! WordPress decided they were spam for whatever reason–who knows how long they would have languished in that tab before I noticed. Approved, and I will reply to them when I get the chance.

        Like

  4. Anitaji,

    One more interesting post with all nice songs, many of them are my favourites.

    Wondering if this song from Kala Sona sung by Asha would fit here:
    Koi aaya aane bhi de

    Like

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dr.Deshpande! This song that you mention is unique. It is one playback singer singing for two heroines. The technique is called vocal cascading. She sings in two different octaves. S.D.Burman is said to have used it first in a song of Jewel Thief – baithe hai kya uske paas. It was again used in Baharon ke Sapne in the song Kya Jaanu Sajan where Lata sings in double track. This song from Kala Sona is a part of the same league. It is thus not echo effect but double track recording system. I am thankful to you for mentioning this song from Kala Sona as it led me to research and understand this concept of voice cascading. There are some other songs too where R.D.Burman, the master of improvisation, has used this technique – namely Katra Katra from Ijaazat and Dil Sajan Jalta Hain (this song also has echo effect) from Mukti.

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  5. Anita,
    Nice post and excellent selection of songs. Many tourist places have this effect because of some natural geographic features, or in some cases, by unique construction. I guess many echo songs have been picturised at such places.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the appreciation, AKji! Your observation about natural geographical features (like valleys hills, gorges) as well as historical/specially built structures (such as the Sheesh Mahal) is spot on. Did you know that the Udayagiri and the Khandagiri caves of Orissa carved out around 1st century BC (especially the Rani Gumpha) have excellent acoustics?

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      1. Anita,
        There are too many echo producing wonders. I remember a square well in Daulatabad fort where one small sound at one side creates four echos. In Golconda fort, the guide will station one of the visitors at the ground level and the remaining at the top. Then he will demonstrate that a clap sound at the top would be distinctly heard at the bottom level, which was their warning system against approaching enemies. This feature is there in some of our ancient temples too.
        AK

        Like

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