Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Music from the Big Rink: Sammy Reuben

The Rink Pavillion, Mussoorie

The film music of Bombay (Mumbai) held, until relatively recently, the popular musical culture of India in a vice grip.  Record companies were seemingly convinced that Indians only wanted to buy only two types of records: film music or classical music. Although there was a small but active rock ‘n roll scene in some of India’s major metros from the mid 60’s onwards it was impossible to hear them on the radio or buy their records.  They played night clubs, gathered loyal local followings then disappeared into the night from whence they had emerged several years earlier.

The only place you really heard anything resembling alt pop was in dark restaurants that went by names such as El Chico or Blue Fox, the cinema or skating rinks. I once sold a cache of old LPs I discovered in a box to the owners of El Chico, the hottest restaurant in Allahabad. Tom Jones, some odd Beatles compilations and the Ventures.  I made a packet of rupees but the biggest thrill I got was going into the restaurant after that and listening to the music I was forbidden at home! And knowing I was the one who had caused it to be heard by the elite of the city!

I digress.

As I mentioned one of the places where you could hear other sorts of music was the local skating rink.  These were cultural flotsam left behind by the British and while I was a kid were still reasonably well patronised.  The one we went to a lot was off Kulri Bazar’s Mall Rd. in Mussoorie.  The Rink Pavilion was stage and backdrop to a range of social activities after it came into existence in the late nineteenth century. It was simultaneously a Shakespearean theatre, an elegant ballroom, a venue for flower shows, dog shows and sports matches. It was also Asia’s largest skating rink. It was a vast breezy cavern of a place with a huge wooden floor. A few steep jumps were set up in the middle for the really skilled skaters to show off upon.  Most patrons clung desperately to the rails and pulled themselves, falling and kneeling, around the Rink.  There was curried popcorn and mango papar to buy. Sometimes Kwality ice cream (if the electricity black out’s didn’t melt everything in the freezer) could be procured as well. I even found a picture (below) of it on the net...wow, what a rush of memories!

And always, at pretty much full volume, some invisible DJ played scratchy records that sounded like the one I share tonight. A real rarity, believe me. Organ music from the fluid digits of Sammy Reuben. Like the more renown Enoch Daniels, Joe Gomes and Van Shipley, Sammy Reuben was part of the Christian musical mafia that, earned his monthly paycheck from playing his keyboards for the studios. Uncredited and anonymous accompanist to thousands of film songs sung by the grand playback Moguls of the day.

But Sammy harboured higher ambitions and achieved enough brownie points in the Gujarati film financiers books to get a shot at a solo album.  Thus we have this Mukesh: Instrumental Tribute by Sammy Reuben.

Sammy Reuben, son of the late Dr. H. Reuben, is a past student of St. Vincent’s High School and of Fergusson College, Poona.  He first took piano lessons from Miss E. Roberts, and later learned the piano-accordion from Mrs. A Ketkar.  A hobby first, music became his career when he went to Bombay in 1967.  He first played with the late playback singer, Geeta Dutt. Since then he has accompanied Kishore Kumar, Usha Mangeshkar, Hemant Kumar, Talat Mahmood, Shamshad Begum, Manna Dey, Sualkshana Pandit, Hemalata, to name a few.  Besides visiting the U.S.A, and Canada thrice, Sammy Reuben has also toured East Africa, UK, Holland, UAE and Maldive Islands.

‘As in his previous album entitled, “An Instrumental Tribute to Mohd. Rafi”, Sammy plays 10 of Mukesh’s favourite songs on the electric organ to the accompaniment of various musical instruments such as accordion, piano, flutes, mandolins, mouth organ, alto-tenor and saprono saxophone (sic).  You also have the synthesizer adding the sounds of the French-horn, the Scottish bag-pipe, the whistle; and the string synthesizer substituting for scores of violins. This is Sammy Reuben’s Instrumental Tribute to Mukesh.  (liner notes)

So without further ado, let’s listen to the great keyboardist (and list maker) himself.

Happy skating!

            Track Listing:
            01 Ek Din Bik Jayega
02 Dil Tadap Tadap Ke
03 Sub Kuch Seeka Humne
04 Hum Tum
05 Chandi ki Deewar
06 Maine Tere Liye
07 Kisi ki Muskaraton Se
08 Dum Dum Diga Diga
09 Bol Radha Bol
10 Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan


Reza said...

Fabulous story telling , would have liked to have heard the album , a much apprecitaed insight

Nathan Rabe said...

Hi Reza,
Thank you. The link to the album is restored.