Today I bring you some music from the movie capital of India… Mumbai better known as Bollywood.
In Bollywood everything is larger than life. The amount of films, the songs and dances, the stories and the status of its stars. I don’t know the exact figures but the film industry of India has an annual output which is a multiple of its American and European counterparts put together. Every Indian movie features a soundtrack with an album worth of material so this means really a whole lot of music. Almost all of it is recorded by a hand full of so called playback singers while the actual actors lip-synch. Basically it’s just as fake as you can get but it all ads to the magic and fantasy world which the try to create to carry the mostly poor mass audiences away from their everyday life of misery… at least for the length of the featured film.
I had the pleasure to witness what Bollywood means for the average Indian. I first visited India back in 1995 while being still in school. Back then I had never heard of Bollywood or its music. I just knew some classical Indian music, mostly sitar and of course Ravi Shankar. It was in a small village up north at the feet of the Himalaya where I first encountered this musical phenomenon. I had already heard the music on arriving in India. It’s virtually impossible to avoid those soundtracks. They’re just everywhere but I couldn’t place it.
In small villages going to the movies is like going to a circus. A large tent with a big screen travels from one village to another and carries a couple of the latest blockbusters. Because the music is already for months on the radio the people know the songs by heart before they actually go see the movie. Today the songs work like a kind of promotion for the movie. If the songs are any good the movie will be not to bad either. People in India are really into cinema. They go, not once but twice or if necessary even five times in a row. Often to the same movie. They bring along their entire families and gather around with neighbours and friends in these travelling cinemas – most of these tents are really bad constructions with big and small holes all over the ceiling but the light that comes in this way creates a special atmosphere – while watching the film everyday family- and village live goes on. They cook while watching, play with their kids, talk to the neighbours and when one of the stars on the screen feels a song coming up everybody, young and old, start to sing along. This way all kinds of social and cultural matters are brought up in these small societies and they are being discussed afterwards. Sometimes the older ones don’t find the lyrics appropriate or to explicit. The young ones love this and tease their parents and grandparents by singer them harder or repeating over and over and over again.
So going to the movies in India was sort of… fun for me. It also brought back childhood memories. My first encounter with the movies and Hollywood as a child was a film that was very similar to the average Bollywood film. While most people of my age grew up with Jaws or Star Wars I watched Grease. Do you remember… John Travolta and Olivia Newton Jones... Actors that didn’t mind to turn a scene into a big song and dance show looked pretty normal to me. Big was my disappointment when I got around to see my second movie. The impact was much less to the extent that I still can’t remember which one it was.
Anyway, you either like this stuff immediately or you just hate those highly pitched nasal female voices. In my case it was love at first sight. The last day in Delhi I bought as much tapes as I could find, thinking that it wouldn’t be possible to find any of it back home, but on arriving in Antwerp I discovered that it wasn’t that difficult to find. The city has a large Indian community because of the diamante industry and Bollywood is one of the things that keeps them in touch with their homeland. There were even specialised stores where you could buy or rent videos. But I also found out that back in those days this was rather special because this type of music wasn’t that popular or hip in those days, at least not as much as today because of movies like bend it like Becham, or the Panjabi MC’s reworking of the Nightrider Theme and others. In fact the only place where you could find stuff like that back then was London and some cities in Holland.
Now back to the music. Music from Bollywood is best known for the old classic soundtracks from the fifties up to the seventies that feature the likes of Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar. Their recorded output is situated somewhere around 10,000 songs each… you find them in the Guinness book of records.
More recent films are mostly regarded as cheap rip-offs of the old classics. It’s the same what the music is concerned. I made a collection of songs to proof that this is not the case. The sheer size of the output over the years is a guaranty for enough quality. The beats and melodies that come out of Bollywood form a soundtrack to the lives of billions of people all over the world. These movies are shown throughout entire Asia, the Middle East, Eastern-Africa, some West-African countries and the former Soviet Union. After the Taliban in Afghanistan came into power, the first thing they did was putting a ban on Bollywood movies. The impact of these films and their music simply can’t be overlooked or denied.
01 Panjabi MC’s - Mundian To Bach Ke
02 Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnit, Sukhwinder Singh & Srinivas – Mitwa [Lagaan / Once Upon a Time in India 2001]
03 Jaspinder Narula, Sudesh Bhosle & Sonu Nigam - Sona Sona [Major Saab 1998]
04 Kavita Krishnamurthy & Sudesh Bhosle - Jooma Chumma De De [Hum 1991]
05 Sukhwinder & Sapna Awasthi - Chaiya Chaiya [Dil Se / From the Heart 1998]
06 Alka Yagnik - Dilbar [Sirf Tum 1999]
07 S. Kaliwalia - Kahendeh Neh Naina (A Singh & El Niño mix)
08 Nazia Hassan - Aap Jaisa Koi [Qurbani 1980]
09 Bollywood Breaks & Funk- Lover's Paradise [‘70’s]
10 Trickbaby - Neelaa
11 Asha Bhosle, Udit Narayan, Vaishali & Chorus - Radha Kaise Na Jale [Lagaan / Once Upon a Time in India 2001]
12 Alka Yagnik & Hema Sardesi - San Sanana [Asoka 2001]
13 Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Tere Bin Nahin Lagda (Partners In Rhyme mix)
14 Manjula Guru - Yerida Gunginalli [Rajadi Raja 1992]
15 Udit Narayan, Kavita Krishnamurthy - Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast [Mohra 1994]
16 Kavita Krishnamurthy, Alka Yagnik, Amit Kumar, Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan, Jatin Lalit - Bole Chudiyan [Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham / Sometimes Happiness,
Sometimes Sadness 2001]
For the entire collection at once (minus n° 16) , you can find a zipfile right here.