The Rough Guide to Bollywood
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As the Indian film phenomenon sweeps mainstream Britain the Rough Guide To Bollywood is the essential introduction to the colourful, vibrant and dramatic soundtracks of the multi-million dollar industry that is bigger and more productive than Hollywood. Compiled by DJ Ritu, broadcaster and club DJ for London club nights Kuch Kuch and Club Kali and assisted by BBC Asian Network's Bhagwant Sagoo this is a collection of the biggest and best Bollywood has to offer.
With Andrew Lloyd Webber getting in on the act and Bollywood films making it into Leicester Square, India's film music has finally moved to center stage. But as DJ Ritu points out in her liner notes for The Rough Guide to Bollywood, it's been a long haul. "My English India is no longer a secret," she confides with relief. The tracks she and her colleague Bhagwant Sagoo have compiled offer a comprehensive survey of Bollywood's music from the 1960s through today. What's striking is how frequently the same few voices crop up behind the multitudinous faces seen onscreen. The voice of Kishore Kumar--India's answer to Al Bowlly--recalls a bygone musical age of graceful elegance. Asha Bhosle shows how a voice can change, chameleon-like, to suit the needs of the moment. On one track she radiates raunchy sleaze, in another dreamy seduction, yet the shaping of the phrases remains recognizably her own. Meanwhile, her sister Lata Mangeshkar can be heard in duets with a variety of male singers. On some of these tracks the boxy acoustics betray the venerable age of the recordings, while on others you can feel the atmosphere of the club all around you. That's where these songs have been tried and tested, and that's where they will now be most appreciated. For a different take on these same singers, check out Manteca's I Love Bollywood. Sugar-coated escapism rules! --Michael Church
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Well, per Cornershop, we don't have a brimful of Asha here, but how about three doses? After hearing a few chants of "Hare Krishna Hari Ram", we hear "Dum Maro Dum" which features a funky 1970's style electric guitar, and then Asha herself. She and her husband R.D. Burman do "Piya Tu Ab To Aaja" featuring some sax, ominous low octave piano notes before strings and organ sounds take over. This is a rollercoaster of a song, frantic swirling strings one moment, melodic jazz sax and vibes next, organ solo another... weird, Bhonsle's girlish but sweet voice is a highlight. Burman though, has some English lyrics, calling out "Juanita, oh my darling!"
Finally, Asha does a duet with Mohammed Rafi, who did the song on Ghost World Thora Birch was jamming to. "Chura Liya Hai Tum Ne" has been covered thousands of times in India, and is considered a classic there. This mid-paced strings and horns song
Fret not, there's also three doses of Asha's sister, the legendary Lata Mangeshkar, who has the record for doing the most songs for movies. She does a sweet romantic sounding ballad with Mukesh in "Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein Khayal Aata." "Tujhe Dekha To" is a duet with Kumar Sanu featuring the usual strings and some exotic string instruments. "Didi Tera Devar Deewana" is a near 8-minute epic where Lata and S.P. Balasubhramaniam, do vocal duties on a catchy rhythmic song with the usual frantic strings, horns, and exotic string instruments, featuring some nice female backup singers. The best of her three songs here.
Another artist who gets three songs here is male singer Kishore Kumar, who does the mid-paced dance number "Roop Tera Mastena," "Pyar Diwana Hota Hai", both highlighted by strings. He does the first ever male duo vocal in Bollywood history with Manna Dey in "Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin," a song for a curry western, as opposed to spaghetti western, and the opening swirling strings, clucking like a chicken, and skiffle beat, makes me wonder what kind of oaters the Hindi make?
Chitra does the light pop ballad "Kehna Hi Kya" and her voice is soft and melodic compared to songs by Bhonsle or Mangeshkar.
"Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" has all the hallmarks of a Bollywood hit, a sweet romantic score, choir, and a nice duet between a man and woman, who here are Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik. This is the title song to the biggest Indian movie hit of 1998. However, my eyes widened when I read that other songs from the movie were better than this one. Well, if this is a primo song...
Nazia Hassan does "Aap Jaise Koi", which is kind of like a lightweight pop version of Blondie's "The Tide Is High" mixed with the strains of the Latin instrumental "Brazil." I'm not sure if I agree with the liner notes as this being an equivalent of "Dancing Queen", but it's still good.
All the songs here feature much of the same instrumentation, but the rhythms and music change enough that it's possible to tell one from the other instead of this CD being a bunch of curry slapped down on a plate. A nice dip of the toe into the Bollywood film song genre, which makes me want to check out Lata Mangeshkar or her sister so I can really get a brimful of Asha.
This is one of the better ones. From the progressive rocker `Piya Tu Ab To Aaja' to the beautiful and spiritual `Kabhi Kabhi', to the instantly catchy `Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' and drivingly rhythmic `Tujhe Dekha To', you may well find yourself singing Hindi even if you don't comprehend a word. The common elements are beautifully controlled vocalists and skillfully complex arrangements that presumably tell stories related to Bollywood movies. You don't have to be an Indian music snob to love this album.
Even so there are some decent tunes and the buzz of the entire CD is one that will make you want to get up and show off your best incomprehensible Bollywood dance moves.