Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bombay, DJs, Gurus and Ustads: Contemporary Indian Pop

The shadow of the India’s movie studios are large and deep.  Twenty years ago if you wanted to make it the music business you had do puja (or perhaps tapasya) in one of the great film making centers like Mumbai or Chennai. Virtually all popular music in India had some link to the film world: singers, musicians, composers, ‘music directors’.  The 400+ films produced each year had an insatiable appetite for talent and of course what money was to be made was in the land of the film stars. 

Small sub-cultures of rock and rollers and pop singers did exist but very few achieved a national following.  Like so much else in India, the pop music scene in India is developing at breakneck speed. Technology, cash, an open economy and a huge diaspora of Indians from LA to London and Sydney to Durban have all contributed to an absolute flowering of popular music that has no longer depends on or refers to Bollywood. 

The next few posts will explore some of this music which is becoming more diverse and interesting with each passing year.

Tonight the Washerman’s Dog presents two albums of similar but different sounds for your listening pleasure.

First up: Bombay Streets a collection of tracks that claim to be on ‘Bombay Theme’.  What the anonymous producers seem to have done is taken some very good music and mixed in some contemporary beats or attached ‘Bombay’ to the title. So the ‘Bombay theme’ is a bit contrived. If you’re looking for music about bhel puri and Crawford Market, (not sure such songs exist) please keep searching. They are not here. 

But the music on the disc is nevertheless very nice.  There is a lot of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, including the ultimate ‘global mixed’ Mustt Mustt. But in between are lovely songs by Alamgir (one of the earliest Pakistani/Bangladeshi pop stars from the 70s), a wonderful slice of contemporary ‘thumri’ by Shubha Mudgal (from my hometown of Allahabad) and some modern balladry from the Telegu composer/musician known as M.M. Kreem.

         Track Listing:
       01 Mustt Mustt Bombay [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
02 Calling The Beloved [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
03 Jugni In Bombay [Alamgir]
04 Bombay Mujra [Aarti and Shubha]
05 Salute To Haji Ali [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
06 Night Walk At Sea [Chitra and M.M. Kreem]
07 Lost In Dreams [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
08 Bombay Rains [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
09 Life In Bombay [M.M. Kreem]
10 Now It's Mustt Mumbai [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
Listen here

Next up: Gurus in Collaboration, like Bombay Streets, an anonymously produced collection of DJ mixed qawwali, sufi, folk, classical and pop based songs. The title is slightly awkward and while evidence of collaboration is clear on many of the tracks, several others seem to be the production of single artists.  A minor point. Never judge a book by the cover or an album by its name I say.

There are the obligatory Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan mixes (which is not to say they are tired or poorly done, only that India seems to be SO obsessed with the man) but these are complemented by some very interesting artists like Bally Sagoo (British Asian musician and DJ born in Delhi, but raised in Birmingham, England, in a predominantly black neighbourhood, influenced by disco, rap and Motown music), Ustad Sultan Khan (a sarangi player and singer and member of the Indian fusion group Tabla Beat Science, with Zakir Hussain and Bill Laswell), DJ Suketu and DJ Aqeel (Mumbai based DJs) and Kailash Kher (wildly popular Kashmiri folk and pop singer). The set ends with A.R. Rahman’s beautiful Bombay Theme from the musical Bombay Dreams.

Enjoy, contemporary Indo-pop.

         Track Listing:
         01 Maula (Divinity Mix) [Ustad Sultan Khan feat. DJ Suketu]
02 Pyar Pyar (Electro Mix) [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan mixed by Simon and Diamond]
03 Kar Sajda  [Shubha Mudgal]
04 Kavan Kavan [Sukhwinder Singh mixed by DJ Aqeel]
05 Guru Nalon Ishq Mitha  [Malkit Singh feat. Bally Sagoo]
06 Mast Mast [Ranjit Barot]
07 Kinna Sohna [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan feat. Bally Sagoo]
08 Saiyyan [Kailash Kher]
09 Aajamahi (Garage Clib Remix) [Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
10 Ghoom Tana [Salman Ahmed Junooni and Shubha Mudgal]
11 Maula (Original Mix) [Ustad Sultan Khan]
12 Mohre Piya (Breakbeat Mix)[Ustad Sultan Khan]
13 Bombay Theme [A.R. Rahman]
Listen here.

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