Lollywood Flashback

Sound of Lollywood: The delectably named ‘Ding Dong Ding Dong’ from ‘Deewar’ (not that one)

M Ashraf’s song is edgy, liquid and puts the listener on notice: ‘You’re about to have some fun!’

Deewar was released in 1976. It achieved flop status and sank like a stone.

The film starred Babra Sharif, who had debuted in films two years earlier. Though her dominance of the industry was still some years in the future she had received very good reviews, won a Special Nigar Award (Pakistan’s Academy Awards) and had starred in some very successful movies by this point. Sadly, Deewar, in which she shared the limelight with Ghulam Mohiuddin, was a disaster.

The music was composed by M Ashraf and as such is always worth investigating. Ashraf loved to experiment with rhythms, styles and sounds. One of his favorite signatures was a steely electric guitar riff such as the one that opens the number Ding Dong Ding Dong. It’s edgy, it’s liquid and when mixed with a snappy snare drum puts the listener on notice: “You’re about to have some fun!”

You don’t need to watch the film to know what is going on in this scene. We are witnessing a wild dance party of hip people who are busy flirting and being silly. The title of the song is repeated like a nonsense nursery rhyme by Ahmed Rushdi by way of welcoming Mehnaz who tells us the best thing in the world is L.O.V.E.

From this point on we are off to the races. Manic accordion solos swirl around repeated choruses of “Ding Dong Ding Dong”, an early Moog keeps the bass line bubbling while that electric guitar makes strategic stabs into the sound-osphere.

This track is not exactly an item number and should rightly be classified as a dance or disco song. And as the whole concept of co-educational partying and dancing is deemed to be a Western innovation, it is important for lyrics, at least in part, to be sung in English. And so about two-and-a-half minutes into the proceedings Ashraf changes things up by incorporating the melody lines of the famous Punjabi ditty Balle Balle. Instead of shouting Balle Balle (Punjabi for hooray, from the Persian word baleh, meaning “yes”) the English words, hello hello are substituted.

Hello Hello/You know it is I love you
I will sing with you, my sweety
And I die with you/Hello Hello I miss you
Hello Hello/You know it is I love you

Ahmed Rushdi was a regular partner of M Ashraf and the most successful male playback singer of the era. He modelled his singing style on that of Mohammad Rafi, which is especially noticeable on more subdued tracks. But Rushdi was an expert rocker as well. He could sing with gusto and as he demonstrates here could make suitably lusty grunts when required.

As for Mehnaz, she turns in a very credible somewhat raunchy performance that matches the mood perfectly. Mehnaz was from a famous music family (her mother was Kajjan Begum) whose reputation was made with a light classical repertoire of ghazal, dadra and thumri. Songs such as this inane piece must have made her squeamish, but if so, she hides it very well.

The last part of the song is a riot of English love banter that sort of brings the song to a shambolic climax six minutes later.

A version of this story appeared on the blog and has been reproduced here with permission.

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