Song of the Day: Asha Bhosle & Zeenat Aman “Dum Maro Dum”
Asha Bhosle‘s incredible voice on this psychedelic Bollywood title cut proved to be the gateway that got me to take an interest in Bollywood music. Despite having several Indian friends growing up and being exposed to a number of Bollywood films when staying over at their homes, I never took a lot of interest in these seemingly randomly plotted and pageant-like film productions that always struck me as more than a little silly. Certainly, they were not the equal of the Indian classical music that I liked and respected. When I first heard the swirling psychedelic drone that kicks off the 1971 film, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, my opinion almost immediately changed. The song, written by arguably the the greatest Bollywood composer of them all, R.D. Burman, was like nothing I had heard before. Between the twangy guitar stabs, swirling psychedelic sounds and the super high (provided by Asha Bhosle plus backing chorus) vs super low vocal (by Zeenat Aman) combination, I was hooked. This got me to go back and start listening to and seeking out Bollywood soundtracks.
Bollywood is an interesting genre. While it is often unfairly maligned and dismissed as easily disposable pop music – accompaniment to sell what are often fairly low budget films – the composers and performers behind it frequently incredible musicians. A musician like R.D. Burman was absolutely vociferous in his ability to adapt and utilize musical traditions from all over the world. At the same time that The Beatles were first messing around with pulling sitars into their music, Burman had already assimilated all of Indian classical, Indian folk music, Western pop music, various East and South East Asian music traditions and a whole lot else into his oeuvre. While my exploration of the Bollywood genre has led to my discovering more musical gems than I can count, “Dum Maro Dum” remains a strong favorite to which I can keep returning. A lot of this is down to the strength of the Asha Bhosle vocal performance, which is, in a word: epic.
Asha Bhosle was born in Sangli, India in 1933. With her soaring voice and musical versatility, she is one of greats of Bollywood music. She has provided singing work for over a thousand Bollywood films and was long a staple of the industry. Her mentor early in her career was her older sister, the equally industrious and legendary Lata Mangeshkar. Asha was eventually married to long-time collaborator, the above mentioned famed Indian film composing legend, R.D. Burman from 1980 until his death in 1994. At the ripe old age of 83, she is still going strong!