Plucked from the weird and wonderful esoteric depths is this record from 1982, for long merely whispered about as the ‘Acid House Album From India’. It has finally been unearthed, and while rumours abound that it is some high profile electronic producer masquerading as an Indian pioneer, the music within is nonetheless staggering. Couple that with the in-depth information, label, artist of the original press and the original artwork that this gatefold vinyl LP provides; it seems to suggest that this is the real deal. Droning Indian Ragas are transposed into the circuit boards of Roland’s 303/808 machines making for a music that has all the reductionist groove of Acid techno, Ceephax, Phuture 303, Aphex, quite simply amazing.
We touched on this album in our East-West mixtape a few weeks back, and it remains one of the most intriguing reissues of 2010. The idea that a Bollywood producer armed himself with a Jupiter-8 keyboard and a couple of synths that were just on the market back in 1982 – namely the TB-303 and TR-808 – and produced a proto-acid house record years before acid house was invented is almost too outlandish to be true… but true it is. Singh’s record marries the 808’s beats and the 303’s trademark sinuous bass sounds to traditional India ragas (essentially, the modes on which the melodies in Indian classical music are based), creating a hyper-modern trans-continental record that still sounds remarkable today.
A startling piece of proto-house – A new musical discovery – FOUR STARS
If Blade Runner was remade as a trigger-happy Bollywood film, and soundtracked by Aphex Twin instead of Vangelis, it’d march to the acid-techno beats of this rather awesome reissue. Originally released in 1982 (!), it’s the very definition of ahead-of-its-time.
Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat is an ecstatic record of undeniable innovation, one that we’re lucky have a chance to appreciate years after the fact.
Perhaps the most interesting novelty LP ever released.
De:Bug, Tim Caspar Boehme
Ein West-Ost-Dialog der erstaunlichen Art – hören, hören, hören!
Oh lord, Singh’s synth makes sound that modern electronic producers should envy… It’s minimal and potent beyond measure.
if you’ve ever wondered what Phuture might have sounded like had DJ Pierre, Spanky and Herb J been born in Calcutta rather than Chicago, this is probably as close as you’re going to get.
Mind-blowing musical find! This one’s been causing a stir on the net ever since it was discovered (and rightfully so).
Even today, it sounds like some strange kink in the dance music continuum
Absolutely brilliant and bonkers… we guarantee there is not another release quite like this one in your collection. Highest Recommendation!
I can’t help but imagine how much fun we would be having now if the Western world had embraced Charanjit Singh in the eighties like they did Ravi Shankar in the sixties?
Record label, Bombay Connection, spared nothing to uncover long-forgotten gems from Bollywood’s past to include in this series, also throwing in more well-known songs from successful films. The final result is two distinctly different, yet astoundingly good discs.
PREFIX MAG, Dan Nishimoto
The two volumes discuss the spirit of Bollywood in an unprecedented manner… The Bombay Connection series raises the bar considerably for exploring one of popular music’s most fascinating strands
Charanjit Singh must have hit a magic time travel chord while twisting analog synthesizer knobs. He seems to have flashed to the future for an electronic epiphany at a UK rave circa 1991 then brought this sound inspiration back to his Bombay studio. Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat is a magically crafted album of classical Indian sounds through a heavy acid lens.
1983 proto-techno made in india – an absolute treasure trove of early electronic dance music that sounds like aphex’s analord transported to early 80’s mumbai.. The more cynical among you will probably be thinking this is Ceephax or Aphex Twin delivering one of the most elaborate in-jokes of their career…‘Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat’ is vintage futurism of the highest calibre, and made all the more amazing by the fact it came from India, a place hardly renowned for its electronic output! This is a remarkable record and comes with our highest recommendation – AN ABSOLUTE FIND.
a piece of electronic music history. For years this record has lay in the forgotten archives. Singh’s LP is one of the first records to utilise equipment that would later create the house, acid and techno genres and define nearly all aspects of electronic music
These mind colouring acid trax are comin’ straight out of the future…
DUSTED REVIEWS, Doug Mosurock
These compilations seem to have been made by – and for – beat miners, record collectors, B-movie enthusiasts, dimestore novel devours, and all those who wish to get hip deep in the pulp. Incredible selections, and exhaustive, intriguing liner notes
Made using the synths that would later become synonymous with acid, the Roland TB-303 and TR-808, it’s a genuinely remarkable record, with stripped-back, ultra-repetitive beats and hypnotic italo-esque melodies
I made it in thirty three years time, with the help of a time machine and some clever shapeshifting equipment procured from a monoatomic gold salesman I met on a beach in Tuvalu in 2036.
’10 Ragas To A Disco Beat’ is a record that may change the world’s perception of how electronic music has evolved. Either that, or it’s an extremely elaborated hoax.’10 Ragas To A Disco Beat’ sounds unbelievable clear and startlingly modern. Even when you take away the hyperbole concerning the record’s history the album is still a great set of tracks. To put it simply, if this record is genuine it may lead to a rewriting of the electronic music history books. Here’s hoping it does…
“The LP by Charanjit Singh is a clear proof of how Acid House, put on 4/4 beat, originated in India in the early 80s, five years before its invention in Chicago (Phuture)”
…is there anyone anywhere who can say “Yes…I bought this record in 1982”. I mean Fender and other guitar makers “age” guitars on purpose and sell them at a premium. One would have a REALLY hard time distinguishing one of these guitars from a 50 year old one. How hard would it be to age a few dozen copies of a privately pressed record and get them into a few stores without anyone knowing?
Throbbing, hypnotic acid beats with bangra undertones is no novelty record but nothing short of breathtaking when you consider the context. This was only recently made commercially available and is a must listen for any fans of vintage future acid music. Then of course there is a rumour it may just be Aphex Twin.
The finding of this record is something rather profound and surreal to me. You really should read the article to fully grasp the significance of this album. But pretty much, DJ Pierre’s(Phuture) “original” idea of using the commercial failure, TB-303, to generate proper bass lines which gave birth to Acid House actually predates him by 4-5 years. Charanjit Singh in India was making something like acid house/stripped down goa-trance, long before anyone else did. Of all the synths he could have picked, he chose a TB-303 a TR-808, and the Jupiter-8. Something highly beautiful about a wedding musician stuck in some 3rd world country coming up with a groundbreaking earth shattering sound in 1982 that predates the groundbreaking earth shattering records in 1986. And no one even knew about it. Hah!
I really really hope this isn’t Danny Wolfers or Richard D James playing a joke on everyone.
This thing is ready to take a cosmic disco dancefloor to a higher plane.
Astounding 1982 attempt to feed ancient raga forms to the synths (and temperament) which would define Acid, the Roland TB-303 and TR-808. Pulsating, minimal grooves, a living Indian antecedent of House.
This looks to be the best new series of its kind since Ethiopiques… Bombay Connection, Vol. 1 is the kind of informative and lovingly detailed overview to thrill the heart of any music fiend…
THE RECORD COLLECTOR, Johnny Trunk
All rare and hip tunes, this is a priceless collection.… These are the best releases we’ve seen and heard of this kind.
MUSIC FOR ROBOTS, Blair
This stuff is totally amazing, and completely out of control… Highly recommended if you have any interest in the unusual synthesis of musical styles that is Indian pop music.., The packaging on all of these is perfect, with a huge booklet containing stills from the films, and lots of information on the musicians and the movies, and song lyrics. Totally cool stuff.
FULL ARTICLES & REVIEWS
This is so absolutely brilliant and bonkers, that when we first heard it, we thought it must be fake, some modern day Rephlex artist putting everyone on, taking the piss, with a “raga-techno” album supposedly from the early ’80s. But, no joke, this is the real thing! In 1982, Charanjit Singh, a famous Bollywood composer (he was featured on Sublime Frequencies amazing Bollywood Steel Guitar compilation), had a plan to translate ancient traditional Indian classical ragas to the synthesizer. Using the very synths that would later define Acid House (Rolands TB-303 and TR-808!), Singh unwittingly created a proto-acid masterpiece, before the techno genre ever existed. Since only a hundred or less copies were made originally, this release was mostly a rumor since its creation. We vaguely remember Drew Daniel from Matmos talking about it on Pitchfork, a couple of years back, saying someone should reissue it, but we weren’t ready for how incredible and ahead of its time it sounds. Imagine if Kraftwerk (or even Oneohtrix Point Never) started composing music for a Bollywood Rave. Or imagine a more raga-inspired take on another proto-acid classic, Manuel Gottsching’s epic E2-E4. While the “disco” rhythms are fast and frenetic and don’t really vary that much between tracks (they’re not really disco beats per se, but more akin to acid’s trancey bounce), the synth flourishes and squelches of the raga over the top are soaring and floaty, making the tracks deliriously hypnotic. Capturing acid house’s lysergic transcendence but with an outsider’s economy that refuses to date it specifically to the era. While we only have the double lp, there will be a cd release sometime in the next month or so. But don’t sleep on the vinyl too long as it’s highly limited, and we guarantee there is not another release quite like this one in your collection. Highest Recommendation!
Mind-blowing musical find! This one’s been causing a stir on the net ever since it was discovered (and rightfully so). Charanjit Singh’s Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat is one of the most interesting and incredible musical discoveries in recent memory. Sounding like a cross breed of the toughest acid techno grooves with the futuristic electronic sensibility of AFX’s Analord put to through a classic Indian Raga filter… circa 1982. That’s right, this was created in 1982! Charanjit Singh was a Bollywood soundtrack composer who originally hoped to capitalize on the disco craze of the time by matching up the ragas to electronic disco beats. He produced these tracks on a totally classic acid house set up consisting of a TB-303 bassline, TR-808 drum machine and the Jupiter-8 synthesizer – halfway around the world and 5 years earlier than acid house pioneers Chip E and Phuture. The futuristic quality of these tracks is insane. Check the sounds and prepare to get your mind seriously blown. Huge thanks to the guys at Bombay Connection for unearthing this treasure of a release. 10 tracks total – not to be missed. Highly recommended.
Ragas and disco — an amazing little combination, with results that are greater than the sum of its parts! This album’s hardly the cheesy affair you might expect — and instead of just adding a few typical Indian flourishes to disco music, Charanjit Singh comes up with a unique new groove — one that’s filled with plenty of weird keyboards and moog bits throughout — kind of like a collision between Kraftwerk, 70s Bollywood, and P&P Records — all references we can wholeheartedly endorse! The grooves are quite fast — but that makes the keyboard work even more amazing, because Singh can really spin things out pretty damn quickly — coming up with these hypnotic keyboard bits that are more mesmerizing than even the grooves at the bottom. Very nicely packaged, in a bold second chapter for the Bombay Connection enterprise — and titles include “Raga Lalit”, “Raga Khupali”, “Raga Vaman”, “Raga Kalavati”, “Raga Todi”, “Raga Malkaune”, and “Raga Madhuvanti”.
SERIOUS FIND HERE – 1983 PROTO-TECHNO MADE IN INDIA – AN ABSOLUTE TREASURE TROVE OF EARLY ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC THAT SOUNDS LIKE APHEX’S ANALORD TRANSPORTED TO EARLY 80’S MUMBAI – DO NOT MISS! Charanjit Singh’s ‘Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat’ is quite easily one of the maddest records we’ve ever had in stock. It was originally made in 1982 by a Bollywood soundtrack composer, intending to capitalise on the disco phenomenon with a combination of centuries-old classical Indian Ragas set to a disco backing. To achieve this Charanjit used a prototypical acid set-up of Roland TB303 bass melody sequencer and TR808 drum computer together with a Jupiter-8 keyboard. He basically created a sound which mirrored, and more importantly, pre-dated the first acid house record – Phuture’s ‘Acid Track’ by five years, and even preceded Chip E’s ‘Jack Trax’ in 1985. It’s no throw-away novelty record either, instead capturing the hypnotic potential of acid music in the most ornate and scarily prescient fashion, making explicit the similarities of infinitely arpeggiated bass sequences and pure electronic pulses that would soundtrack dancefloors for the next 30 odd years. The more cynical among you will probably be thinking this is Ceephax or Aphex Twin delivering one of the most elaborate in-jokes of their career, but with the gatefold sleeve depicting the original sleeve and some in-depth liner notes from the label and Charanjit, our cynicism is waning in favour of absolute shock and awe. ‘Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat’ is vintage futurism of the highest calibre, and made all the more amazing by the fact it came from India, a place hardly renowned for its electronic output! This is a remarkable record and comes with our highest recommendation – AN ABSOLUTE FIND.
Charanjit Singh doubtless stood out as unusual in the Hindi film industry of the 1960s and 70s. Veteran of countless Bollywood soundtrack orchestras, Singh was the sort to turn up at session with the latest new synthesiser, acquired at great expense from London or Singapore. He was not, however, widely regarded among his country folk as someone “pushing things forward”. His band, the Charanjit Singh Orchestra, made their rupees touring weddings, performing the hits of the day, and while he played on many popular Bollywood recordings, Charanjit Singh was never a household name.
In 1982, though, Singh did something unusual. Inspired by the sound of disco imports from the west making waves among Bombay’s hipster cognoscenti, he went into the studio with some new kit – a Roland Jupiter-8 keyboard, a Roland TR-808 drum machine and a Roland TB-303 – and decided to make a record that combined western dance music with the droning ragas of Indian classical music. Recorded in two days, Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat garnered some interest, excerpts finding their way on to national radio, but it was a commercial flop and was soon forgotten.
In 2002, record collector Edo Bouman came across Ten Ragas in a a shop in Delhi. “Back at my hotel I played it on my portable player, and I was blown away. It sounded like acid house, or like an ultra-minimal Kraftwerk.” But it was the date on the record that shocked Bouman. Released 1982, it predated the first acid house record – often regarded as Phuture’s Acid Trax – by five years. Bouman tracked down Singh to Mumbai. “He was most friendly and surprised I knew the album. I remember asking him how he got to this acid-like sound, but he didn’t quite get my point. He didn’t realise how stunningly modern it was.”
Eight years later, Bouman is reissuing the record on his label, Bombay Connection. Even today, it sounds like some strange kink in the dance music continuum, but Bouman is amused at speculation Ten Ragas is a hoax, cooked up by some Aphex Twin-style techno joker (the label has released Singh’s conventional soundtrack work before, and besides, one can’t imagine a respectable Bollywood reissue label pulling such a prank).
Now in his 70s, Singh is, as Bouman puts it, “more a musician than a talker,” but he understands Ten Ragas might have been something accidentally, unusually prescient. “He made close to 10 albums, but they all were cover albums,” says Bouman. “He told me, ‘Frankly, this was the best thing I did. Other albums are all film songs I just played. But this was my own composition. Do something all of your own, and you can make something truly different.’”
Every once and a while a record comes out that creates a bit of a stir. The latest in this chain comes from an unlikely source, Mumbai. In 1982 Charanjit Singh, with a 303, an 808, a Jupitar 6 made his Synthesizing – Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat. It’s not as much the Mumbai source of this LP that has sparked such interest, it is the equipment and year of its inception. Most will recognize the TB303 and TR808 as the building blocks of the house music movement, but in 1982 house music wasn’t really alive. By ’83 groups like Z-Factor were pioneering house, but Singh and Ten Ragas was already out. So, is this LP the first house record?
In an interview a few years back Tony Humphries summed up the house sound in one word, “mechanical.” It may be the perfect synopsis for what is considered house, but it depends what house is being defined as. The likes of Adonis and Armando did have a mechanical aspect, looping samples and an unceasing 808 beat. On the other hand, Phuture had perhaps a less automatic note. With this, earlier house tracks grew from disco. Singh’s tracks have this disco aspect, but not as much as the album’s title might let one believe. As the appellation does suggest Singh wrote this music within the Indian classical of the Raga a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is made. What the title doesn’t suggest is the acid lines under which the ragas are made. The ragas are created with the quintessential acid machine, the 303, and it is the only thing that locks the record to any aspects of house. The ragas are an amazingly early, and finally unearthed, examples of what these fledgling electronic machines are capable of. The 808 and 303 have, in some respects been pigeonholed into being “house” machines. Singh is snubs this typecasting. The ten tracks do not have much to differentiate between them, some are faster, some are slower, but they work along the same raga formula. This acidic tracks are not like those of early Rephlex or Djak up Beat records, they were not created for clubs but were made to create Indian influenced music with new equipment. The tracks twist and float on tweaks and swirls of 303 lines, pushing forward under 808 beats with the Jupitar 6 adding a bed of bass. Some of the works have a playfulness to them, almost like Ceephax Acid Crew’s noodling with his big brother’s vintage synths. The ragas are melodic whirling pieces, tracks that were not hampered by genres because there were no genres as the critic’s pen hadn’t had time to invite them yet.
Singh’s LP is not a house record, but that’s not a problem. What Synthesizing � Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat is is a piece of electronic music history. For years this record has laid in the forgotten archives. Singh’s LP is one of the first records to utilize equipment that would later create the house, acid and techno genres and define nearly all aspects of electronic music. But, it is not the issue about Singh being the first to seal these sounds on a 12“s of vinyl that makes this LP so intriguing, it is that no-one else went down similar lines to Singh afterwards. Most artists, when getting their hands on these prized, and expensive, analogue boxes, sought to make music for clubs and inevitably a pseudo movement. Singh made his sounds completely separate to this, there weren’t the likes of a Derrick May or Frankie Knuckles to work with in Mumbai. Perhaps it is this musical solitude, that is from artists who would embrace the same machines, that gives Synthesizing… such a uniqueness, despite surfacing more than twenty five years ago. Singh’s remoteness, and non-Western influences, give the LP a tone and style that haven’t been replicated; and that is not something that can be easily said today for any electronic record.
In recent years the exciting world of Bollywood cinema has been slowly gaining the interest and admiration of western audiences. The popularity of Danny Boyle’s Oscar winning film SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008) along with the rising interest in Indian actors like the handsome Naveen Andrews (LOST, BRIDE & PREJUDICE, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, BOMBAY BOYS, etc.) seems to have gained Bollywood movies a larger American audience that is willing to put aside cultural differences and embrace the many pleasures of Bollywood cinema. And one of the most wonderful aspects of Bollywood cinema is the colorful movie posters created to advertise each film.
Many of the movie posters made for modern films in India are now produced with digital technology but for over 70 years Indian artists hand-painted their designs. These provocative works of art became an important part of the country’s urban landscape and transformed the city streets into art galleries that promised the possibility of romance and adventure to millions of people. The Indian people love movies with an almost manic intensity and India releases more films every year than any other country in the world. The beautiful and stylized posters that advertise Bollywood films are an expression of India’s culture and rich history.
These eye-popping movie posters have often found their way into various books but information about the artists who created them as well as the films they advertise has been lacking. I own a few Bollywood poster books myself and although I’ve enjoyed these collections in the past I’ve also occasionally found them frustrating and repetitive. Thankfully the award-winning publisher Taschen has stepped up to the plate and released their own collection of Bollywood poster art and it might be the best book yet to explore this fascinating topic.
PITCHFORK, Drew Daniel (Matmos)
This is an electronic disco album from India that came out in 1982 that my friend Ryan Junell passed on to me. Though the “what the hell is THIS?” factor is high, it’s not a campy novelty record, nor does it resemble the full-dress kitsch Bollywood classic Disco Dancer (Bombay’s must-see response to Saturday Night Fever). It turns out that a nonstop Roland drum machine pulse and sleek Moroder-esque arpeggios make a killer bed upon which to play classical ragas on analogue synthesizers. On “Raga Meghmalhar”, a monsoon raga drizzled with crispy white noise storm sound effects, the endlessly spiraling melodic patterns of synthetic santoors and veenas click so seamlessly with the Munich-style bassline chugging and lockstep kick drum that Singh’s antique futurism feels completely inevitable. PS: Reissue labels take note, this thing is ready to take a cosmic disco dancefloor to a higher plane.
ALL MUSIC, Ned Raggett
First in what looks to be the best new series of its kind since Ethiopiques — in this case, with a focus on the highlights of Bollywood film music beyond the well-known superstars and classics — Bombay Connection, Vol. 1 is the kind of informative and lovingly detailed overview to thrill the heart of any music fiend. But the music is of course the key, and the 13 songs on the disc cover, as the subtitle puts it, “funk from Bollywood action thrillers” from the late ’70s and early ’80s. That Asian cinema traditions in particular took to fusion and explorations in sound should surprise no one familiar with them — a similar series could be done for Hong Kong classics if it hasn’t already — but the re-combination of lush, beautifully sung and arranged Bollywood styles with all over the place breakbeats, horn sections, and sultry jazz styles resulted in some astonishing treasures. Some fusions are almost obvious, admittedly — not poor by any means, but straightforward where singers vamp over translations of the kind of accomplished though not unique action soundtrack of the time. Others, however, find a truly unique blend. Uttam Singh’s work on “Giraffe Trapping Music,” done for the African-set adventure Habari, is but one example, Duane Eddy guitar lines and a lovely flute melody take the lead over a brisk, begging-to-be-sampled, stutter-and-clatter-and-repeat percussion part. Charanjit Singh’s “Pyar Chahiye Keh Paisa” takes the kitchen sink approach to its limit, meanwhile, dropping in everything from swirling keyboard lines to greasy horn parts straight from America in the ’30s to spindly guitar and more besides. Series creators Edo Bouman and Milan Hulsing deserve particular credit for the sheer lushness of the packaging, with exhaustive notes and essays detailing the history of the musicians involved — rescuing many names and faces from relative oblivion as a result — as well as the movies the pieces appeared in.
THE RECORD COLLECTOR, Johnny Trunk
And more quality arrives this month with two compilations of Bollywood music. The Bombay Connection (5 stars out of 5) and Bombshell Baby Of Bombay (5 stars out of 5) are both quite stunning, and are the first two from a new planned series of at least six historic Bollywood retrospectives. The music from both CDs has been carefully chosen, skill- fully researched and both releases come in gatefold digipacks with large, colorful ‘ and informative booklets. No expense seems to have been spared: these are labours of love, and have been put together by the two major worldwide collectors of the genre. The first CD deals with sound from action thrillers 1977-84, and the music is awesome, bonkers and strangely groovy, adhering to Bollywood magpie methods of composition – which is to borrow weird musical ideas from anywhere else fashionable at the time. All rare and hip tunes, this is a priceless collection. The second compilation offers , nightclub jazz, surf and rock’n‘roll from ‘ 1959-72. Once again: awesome, bonkers, Inspirational and sometimes a little strange – French accordion meets Dick Dale being just one fine example of what to expect. These are the best releases we’ve seen and heard of this kind.
PREFIX MAG, Dan Nishimoto
Consider Ghost World one of those shots heard ‘round the block. The film’s opening sequence — a bespectacled teenage outcast dancing in the privacy of her bedroom to a manically twisting number from a musical flickering across her tiny television screen — incorporated a colorful slab of celluloid to establish the protagonist’s offbeat personality. While the camera pulled away from the TV to focus on the twisting Thora Birch, the film inadvertently left an indelible mark unrelated to its story on its overwhelmingly Western audience: a first impression of one of the world’s largest film industries. That short snippet of “Jan Pehechan Ho” from Gumnaan single-handedly introduced many of the signature elements of Bollywood (Mumbai’s film industry): color, drama, and an unabashed use of song and dance in cinema. However, the sight of masked South Asian mods and a petite woman in a gold lamé cocktail dress doing the twist was mostly taken out of context and hardly captured the extent of Bollywood’s stylistic achievements.
A litany of Bollywood compilations followed Ghost World, but few have explored the genre’s multi-strand approach to music or truly captured its aesthetic like the Bombay Connections series. The compilation’s producer, record collector Edo Bouman, may not have a particularly unusual story (he has immersed himself in the soundtracks of the genre for the past ten years after randomly discovering the soundtrack to Hare Rama Hare Krishna and being struck by its fusion of “fast tabla breaks, screaming horror horns, vintage synthesizer sounds,” and more). However, he has assembled two volumes that discuss the spirit of Bollywood in an unprecedented manner.
Volume 1: Funk from Bollywood Action Thrillers explores the most familiar strand of Bollywood from the ’70s and early ’80s. The collection focuses heavily on the music of the period’s (mostly) urban action flicks — funky jawns and jams that echoed the spy thriller, action-adventure, and mystery themes and scores heard around the world at the same time. What makes Funk from Bollywood exceptional is that it drops the “greatest hits” approach in favor of selecting nuggets that demonstrate the broad range, incomparable technique, and sheer fun of the genre. As such, mainstay playback singers like Asha Boshle and Mohammed Rafi are featured on lesser known tracks, like Heeron Ka Chor’s “Yeh Jawani Hai Meri Jaan”; the mish-mash track pairs the iconic voices with a bluesy violin solo, a tango-ing accordion, and a stomping break. The relative obscurity of some of these tracks is not so much for impressing collectors, so much as a fact of Bollywood life. In Bouman’s detailed liner notes he makes an important distinction between songs and background music, noting that songs (frequently used as a marketing jump-off for a film, “the whole idea being to score a big hit before the film was released in order to secure its success”) often reflected popular tastes, such as rock and disco. Funk was never as popular a form and was subsequently more prevalent in scores and background music. As such, Bouman has gone to great lengths to collect some true nuggets for beat heads.
Volume 2: Bombshell Baby of Bombay: Bouncin’ Nightclub Grooves repeats its predecessor’s concept and focuses on another strand of Bollywood films: the vamp. Explaining the history of serenades in Hindi film and its musical permutation with the rise of rock ‘n’ roll and swing, Bouman collects mostly songs from a variety of Bollywood’s great songwriters, or “music directors.” With each director pulling from a different set of influences, ranging from mambo to boogie woogie, rhythm and blues to tango, the songs significantly broaden the Ghost World conception of Bollywood music (although “Jan Pehechan Ho” is also included here).
The coup de grace for both collections is the packaging and liner notes. Rich with colorful poster reproductions, film stills, and record-sleeve images, Bouman fills out the booklet with detailed liners that explain much of the history, technique, and players behind each of Bollywood’s facets. To top it off, he also includes notes about each song’s film origin, the synopsis from the song booklet (handouts that moviegoers could receive that allowed them to sing-along during the movie and could be taken home as a souvenir), and lyrics (in both Hindi and English) for the songs. While Ghost World played a healthy role in spreading Bollywood beyond its already expansive reach (particularly in South Asia and South Asian diasporic communities), Bouman’s Bombay Connections series raises the bar considerably for exploring one of popular music’s most fascinating strands.
BALTIMORE CITY PAPERS, Sam Hopkins
While exploring the amorphous amalgam that is “world music,” people often overlook elements in the music that belong as much to a specific time as to a specific place. That’s not the case with Bombay Connection, a new CD series of Indian film music compiled by Dutch crate digger Edo Bouman. The first two discs are devoted to the sounds of two related, but divergent, cinematic eras. Funk From Bollywood Action Thrillers is a showcase for the sensibilities of prolific composer duos like the brothers Kalyanji and Anandji Shah. Kalyanji-Anandji scores have been featured on previous Bollywood groove compilations such as Bombay the Hard Way, but the snazzy booklets that accompany Bollywood Connection give you a greater insight into the influence of Western action hits like Dirty Harry on their Indian counterparts.
This is pure brownsploitation, with jive turkeys and renegade cops playing off each other in a sort of Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Bhangra. Moody and Moog-y, the tabla-driven “Na Na Na Yeh Kya Karne Lage Ho (No No No, What Are You Trying to Do?)” was used on-screen in Bombay 405 Miles to distract a gang of crooks searching for the singing vixen Zeenat Aman. As in today’s Bollywood movies, English quips such as “Come back, please don’t leave me!” are occasionally interspersed with the music, giving it that subcontinental spice. Bouman and his Indian partner Anand Tharaney have included not only the soundtracks but also Technicolor screen shots, fantastic matte background paintings, and lyrics, with transliteration from the Hindi alongside the English translation.
The second volume, Bombshell Baby of Bombay, is more go-go than go-get-‘em, with bubbly titles such as “Pretty Pretty Priya” set to back dancers clad in capri pants and mop tops instead of bell-bottoms and mutton chops. This earlier strain of Bollywood echoed the likes of Beach Blanket Bingo, so while the music is often smoky and sexy, it’s not as intense as that on Action Thrillers. In “1956, 1957, 1958,” from the 1959 movie Anari (The Naive One), we get a contribution from Lata Mangeshkar, the legendary chanteuse said to have performed on over 40,000 film scores. Despite the monochromatic tones of the accompanying screen shots, Mangeshkar sings of the bright year to come: “Said the sari to the blouse, whispering low, `Let’s run a riot of color!’ This is the year of fashion, 1959!” These tracks cover instrumental themes and love songs, upbeat swingers and wah-wah dirges, a mixture of yogic rhythmic breathing and high-hat shuffles, funk guitars and sitars.
MUSIC FOR ROBOTS, Blair
Where the hell has this music been all my life? Oh wait, that’s right. I don’t live in India, and haven’t seen much in the way of Bollywood films. Damn.
It is too bad, because this stuff is totally amazing, and completely out of control. The two songs I’ve included here are from part 1 & 2 of a new series of CDs, complied by Bollywood historian and collector, Edo Bouman, called Bombay Connection.
The first is called Bombay Connection: Funk from Bollywood Action Thrillers and covers a time span from 1977 to 1984. It is super heavy on the synthesizers, and this instrumental jam, from the 1981 film ‘Ghamandee’ (tr. ‘The Proud One’) – from the liner notes, I guess the film is an obscure B-grade thriller with a hero that dresses in white late-era Elvis suits who falls in love with an actress who hates the poor (WTF?). Based on both the time-period and the sound itself, one can assume the movies are a Bollywood take on America exploitation films of the 70s – funky, gritty stuff, but done up Indian-style.
Volume two of the series is titled Bomshell Baby of Bombay: Bouncin’ Nightclub Grooves from Bollywood Films and covers the time span of 1959-1972 – as such it runs the gamut from late swing era through swingin’ Beatles-style pop rock and roll like this. This song comes from the 1970 film ‘Priya’, about a young woman trying to live a “modern life” (ie: women’s rights, bikinis and short skirts), but who is shown up by conservative Indian society. Solid stuff.
Both CDs will be available via our friends at Forced Exposure in a couple of weeks, or you can order them direct from the Bombay Connection website. Also worth noting on Bombshell Baby (though just about all of it is pretty amazing) is the song “Jan Pahechan Ho” which you may remember from the opening scenes of ‘Ghost World’ – I’ve been looking for that song for a minute now, so what a find!
Highly recommended if you have any interest in the unusual synthesis of musical styles that is Indian pop music – plus, there will be at least four more Bombay Connection CDs to be released this year, including one called Gun Master – Disco Master – I mean, hellooo, could that sound any more amazing?!? The packaging on all of these is perfect, with a huge booklet containing stills from the films, and lots of information on the musicians and the movies, and song lyrics. Totally cool stuff.
Bombshell Baby of Bombay: Bombay Connection, Vol. 2 – Bouncin’ Nightclub Grooves From Bollywood Films 1959-72 (2006)
It’s always interesting to see the ways in which western musical styles manifest themselves in non-western countries. The first volume of The Bombay Connection explored Hindi funk music featured in Bollywood films of the 70’s and 80’s, and it’s an understatement to say that the results were unique. They were also a breath of fresh air to a genre that has not seen much innovation since…well, the 70’s and 80’s. One needed to look no further than the world’s second most populous country for fresh ideas in funk music.
In volume two of The Bombay Connection — Bombshell Baby of Bombay — expert crate digger Edo Bouman has again collected an esoteric mix of Bollywood music, this time focusing on swing and rock and roll music created in and around the 1960’s. As with volume one, western listeners shouldn’t expect anything completely familiar sounding. The sound is laced with various elements of traditional song and instrumentation that have been a staple of Bollywood film music since the advent of “talkies”, but it’s no less energetic than its western complement.
The most accessible song of this collection is given to us by Mohammed Rafi — “the voice of Indian rock n’ roll”. “Jan Pahechan Ho” has already been brought to the attention of western listeners through the movie Ghost World, which is why it’s better known to some as “the song that Thora Birch’s character was rocking out to during the opening credits”. With a memorable surf riff and an absolutely killer brass section, it’s easy to see not only why it was chosen to open the film, but also why it’s included on this compilation. Rather than give more of the same, Bouman goes for variety. “Ek Bottle Hogal Mein”, Kishore Kumar’s drunken ode to booze, incorporates a mildly middle eastern feel to the mix, while Asha Bhosle’s “Sambhalo Sambhalo Apna Dil” brings a bit of a Latin flavor.
There’s something about Bollywood movie theme songs that are just more fun and appealing than those of Hollywood. Perhaps it’s nothing more than the fact that the western-style compositions are familiar to me and their Hindi counterparts are not. Either way, it makes me want to familiarize myself with the films more so than the five minute “Indian Superman” clip I’ve seen on Youtube.
POP MATTERS, Lana Cooper
The first two albums in a series of six collecting the best music from the various genres of Bollywood cinema, The Bombay Connection, Vol. 1, Funk From Bollywood Action Thrillers 1977-1984 and Bombshell Baby of Bombay, Vol. 2, Bouncin’ Nightclub Grooves From Bollywood Films 1959-1972, are as much about music as they are the movies these song compilations come from. Record label, Bombay Connection, spared nothing to uncover long-forgotten gems from Bollywood’s past to include in this series, also throwing in more well-known songs from successful films. The final result is two distinctly different, yet astoundingly good discs.
India’s cinema industry, often referred to as “Bollywood” (a combination of “Bombay” and “Hollywood”), turns out the largest number of films of any nation in the world. Between 1947 (the year India declared its independence from the British) and 1970, 4,334 films came from Bollywood, containing some 36,000 songs. Even more remarkable, much of the background music of these films (in addition to the featured songs) were recorded live and in single takes. A testament to the superb musicianship of Bollywood orchestras, the tremendous collaborative effort combined traditional Indian instruments with newer elements of Western music which had recently been introduced on the subcontinent.
Music and musicals are as intrinsic to Bollywood (past and present) as much as they were a part of American cinema in the Technicolor ‘50s when Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor dominated the box office. Music and film are so intertwined in India that to tell of Bollywood’s history is to also tell the history of its popular music. Music was such a major part of India’s cinema experience that “song booklets” were sold in movie theatres containing the lyrics to the film compositions for their accompanying theatrical release.
Many of the songs on both discs were sung by Asha Boshle. Boshle, a playback singer whose vocals were dubbed for many of Bollywood’s leading ladies, has sung in over 925 films. Whereas many other playback singers took on the “good girl” roles, Boshle’s claim to fame was giving voice to the vamps of Bollywood cinema, most notably as the longtime playback singer for actress/dancer Helen, one of India’s most famous femme fatales of the ‘60s and ‘70s. On the production end of things, Rahul Dev (R.D.) Burman got his start as an assistant to his father, scoring films from the 1950s onward. Liking her style, Burman frequently collaborated with Asha Boshle, who he later married in 1980. Having a reputation as a mellow guy open to suggestions from his assistants, as well as studio musicians, Burman was a beloved and popular figure on the Bollywood music scene. Quite a number of songs on both Bombay Connection discs feature his touch.
The first disc in the series The Bombay Connection, Vol. 1, Funk From Bollywood Action Thrillers 1977-1984 is evidence that the Western world had not cornered the market on funk. Proved by the saxophone laced “Na Na Na Yeh Kya Karne Lage Ho” from Bombay 405 Miles, its risqué recitations in both English and Hindi featured vocals by Hemlata, another prominent playback singer whose singing voice stood in for actress Zeenat Aman in the film. Reading the English translation from the original Hindi, the lyrics are poetically beautiful and erotic; not what you would typically expect of dance music. On “Yeh Dhuaan” (translated as “This Smoke”), from the film Dil Aur Deewaar, Asha Boshle’s versatile vocals sound like an Indian Shirley Bassey. While Dil Aur Deewaar wasn’t an overt nod to the 007 series, another Boshle-sung track, “Main Hoon Lily” from the film Bond 303, was. Several instrumentals on the first disc happen to be standout tracks that combine the best of East and West. The “Dance Music” from Ghamandee is full-on disco with its creeping bassline, frantic drumbeats and mix of synth and sitar.
While most of the album is enjoyable, it can’t all be gold. “Sote Sote Adhi Raat” from Siskeyan is performed by actress Salma Agha. Agha sang it in film herself without the aid of a “stunt voice” and unfortunately, it really shows. Similarly, vocal distortions make the “Title Music” from The Burning Train sound like Peter Frampton got a hold of its opening moments before launching into a freaky, trippy soundscape. With a horn and violin section straight out of a spy thriller or blaxploitation flick, the cacophony is interesting and striking at first, but repeats itself too often before the song winds to its close.
Bombshell Baby of Bombay, Vol. 2, Bouncin’ Nightclub Grooves From Bollywood Films 1959-1972 showcases Bombay’s thriving jazz scene in the 1940s and ‘50s as reflected in film. Asha Boshle is at it again, performing vocal scatting that would make Ella Fitzgerald proud on “Mera Naam Hai Shabnam” from Kati Patang, as well as a hot saxophone arrangement by noted Bollywood studio musician, Manohari Singh. Even more so than Volume 1, Volume 2 manages to incorporate a very American sound into many of its pieces. Priya‘s “Pretty Pretty Priya” expertly blends elements of such American music staples as the Beach Boys, Louis Prima, Buddy Holly and the Beatles with scintillating sitar playing by both Kartik and Jayaram Acharya. In fact, nearly all of the songs on the second disc combine traditional sitar and drums with a jitterbugging big band sound. Some songs even toss in an awesomely Indian take on surf guitar, particularly “Jan Pahechan Ho” from Gumnaam.
The collection offers some great mood music, but it may not for everyone. The beauty of the series is that the selections are carefully compartmentalized by genre to ensure that listeners get something in the vein of whatever style of music suits their fancy. If Indian music, big band, jazz and/or funk aren’t your cup of Darjeeling, both compilations may wear thin midway through. However, if you are a fan of these genres, the compilations deliver a refreshing listening experience. If neither of these discs appeal to you, rest assured, one of the other four Bombay Connection releases will.
Dutch daily newspaper DE VOLKSKRANT, Menno Pot
“…Rather bizarre actually – thinking of the cult-status Bollywood has had for quite some years now and of the Bollywood Oscars, held in Amsterdam in June of this year -why hasn’t a real good compilation of Bollywood film music been issued? A few samplers have been released, but none were as thorough as the records of the two Dutch guys of Bombay-Connection. Let it be said: These are the most fundamental Bollywood compilations ever because of its designs and because it is extremely well documented….”
NOW MAGAZINE, Tim Perlich
Countless collections of Indian film music have been issued in recent years, but the new Bombay Connection series, put together by soundtrack-savvy collector/dealer Edo Bouman , is the most promising yet. Compiled with the Bollywood beat junkie in mind, Volume 1 , subtitled Funk From Bollywood Action Thrillers 1977-1984 , avoids previous comped classics to deliver the wildly thumpin’ and bumpin’ joints you need, lifted from the most sought-after LPs by R.D Burman , Kalyanji-Anandji , Laxmikant-Pyarelal and others. It also comes packaged with colour film stills and informed track-by-track annotation. Volume 2: Bombshell Baby Of Bombay is an equally snazzy selection documenting nightclub jazz, surf and rock ‘n’ roll between 1959 and 72, and includes Shankar-Jaikishan ‘s Gumnaam classic Jan Pahechan Ho recycled for the opening sequence of Ghost World. Get both.
DUSTED REVIEWS, Doug Mosurock
Cast a long shadow, and the rest of the civilized world will get caught in at least part of it. Bombay Connection’s eight-volume series of music culled from Indian cinema follows a number of compilations that emphasized the exotic qualities of Bollywood filmi. The tack taken on these inaugural releases, however, hasn’t yet been fully realized by their predecessors, in that they glamorize those elements that descend directly from Western ephemera, in an examination of how they can be meshed with Indian musical traditions. These compilations seem to have been made by – and for – beat miners, record collectors, B-movie enthusiasts, dimestore novel devours, and all those who wish to get hip deep in the pulp. Incredible selections, and exhaustive, intriguing liner notes omit the last part of the story: you, and your involvement with the material therein. Here, the discs identify how Indian cinema found its own private grindhouse, peopled by jewel thieves, hippie burnouts, floozie starlets, grizzled flatfoots and lecherous scum, qualities that may have passed as a fad but still project the clarion call to margin dwellers all over the world. They shuttle us to a world too ridiculous for us to live in, and we soak it all up.
Emancipation from Great Britain in the late ‘40s allowed India to move on in the world theater as its own entity, in ways that are made examples of every day – witness the free remainders of the third world, white rappers like John Brown, etc. But the Western hold that demarcated their colonization shaped their popular media outlets in ways that play off like two sides of the same coin. Without it, the lives and society of Indian people would have likely progressed in more halted, sheltered ways, but at the same time would have imbued their culture with a traditionalism that makes it all its own. A long-standing Hindi love affair with cinema and the open market had forever married the medium to popular music, and though the plots behind said films may carry elements traditional to them throughout the whole of the cinematic experience, it’s what exactly is done with them that makes Indian cinema, and by relation the nature of the music that accompanies it, its own unique entity. Rashes of loud color, movement, and sound frame stories that can be looked at as simple by some, enjoyably familiar to others, but a bewildering, often shocking riot as some taboos are gingerly avoided, so that others can be plunged into with unfathomable determination. The liner notes highlight a selection from the film “Salaam Memsaab,” in which a mother descends into a world of prostitutes and street thugs to find her son, who rebuffs her efforts; moments later, she is stabbed to death for her troubles. Talk about a cultural difference.
Sift through these collections and you’ll see the same names sprout up: Sachin Dev Burman and his son Rahul, better known as S.D. and R.D.; vocalist Asha Bhosle; harmonium and sitar duo Sonik-Omi; Shankar-Jaikishan; string players Laxmikant-Pyarelal; Mohamed Rafi; synth-freak brothers Kalyanji-Anandji. And indescribably, their music comes from sessions 40 to 50 members strong, predating multi-track recording and all alleged to be recorded live. Technology seems to be a bit of a crutch in some of my musings on sounds of the past, but it’s impossible to hold this music to the same standards as what is available to performers today. Large orchestras, focused and well-rehearsed, were forced to concentrate on getting it right the first time, every time, and the vigor in which they attack this material is not to go without mention. And from an industry that makes more films than any other in the world, and a good six to eight times as many songs to compensate, the hustle depicted isn’t just ambition; it’s mandatory.
The inevitability that Indian films would gather the grit and filth of American action fare and TV series, British “lad” thrillers, garish German adaptations of Edgar Wallace tales and the like are reflected to a fine point in The Bombay Connection, which enters at the foot of the temple and climbs all around. Marketed as sensational trash of a piece with American-International drive-in trash or seamy, morally adrift Italian crime and horror films, the titles represented here saw little market in their fascination with the bottom of the Caucasian barrel, but are every bit as fascinating as the initial examples. Disco, funk, and a marked Afrobeat influence frame the thirteen tracks within, often overtaking them completely. “Giraffe Trapping Music,” from the nature preserve-meets-nature exploitation flick “Habari,” creates mystery and intrigue with wheezy, klaxon-esque drone, flute, and brilliant tuned percussion, all racing along as a poacher literally tries to snare a giraffe onscreen. R.D. Burman’s theme to disaster epic “The Burning Train” sounds one or two steps removed from something off a Basement Jaxx or Daft Punk record, with a deep, Edwin Birdsong-esque synth-bass groove, vocoded horror scatting, then inexplicably, Burman’s own throaty Satchmo impression. Combining the narrative and seductive, Kalyanji-Anandji’s “Na Na Na Yeh Kya Karne Lage Ho,” from spy thriller “Bombay 405 Miles,” slinks between vocal cooing by singer Hemlata and irresistibly tight, sharp funk breaks. Since many of these tracks were written as incidental music to underline the action within the film, it’s little surprise to hear one track covering as many as five or six different tropes within a single piece, a bewildering development that, nonetheless, works on levels that its source inspirations never had the chance to.
Bombshell Baby of Bombay gets off to a rousing start: the familiar, restless “Jan Pahechan Ho,” popularized in the American film “Ghost World,” is the second track here, framed by similarly-themed tracks. More focused than its counterpart, the selections on Bombshell fall back to earlier times, be they the brassy balls of “Perry Mason”-esque musical stings, the scores of ‘60s beach movies, and hotel orchestras, trading in exotica and dancefloor swing. Balkan hustle gets a workout in “1956, 1957, 1958,” penned by Shankar-Jaikishan for the film “Anari,” while slurring, borracha Freddie Fender-esque tex-mex stylings get the Bollywood ballroom treatment on R.D. Burman’s “Ek Bottle Hogal Mein.” Early rock a la Bill Haley and the Comets play a big role in Iqbal Singh’s title track, and twangy guitar and horny sax bust out all over songs from movies with titles like “Bluff Master,” about a compulsive liar’s comeuppance, and the endearing “Loafer.” Fitting, as the composers and musicians behind the tracks on both of these invaluable, dazzling collections do anything but lay around.