Sunday, July 30, 2006

'Omkara' - (2006)

Sometimes a movie just nails it in every way possible - dialogue, cinematography, acting, music - add in a story by Shakespeare and you have the makings of one amazing film. You can tell from the opening reel that this movie is going to be special but you also have an uneasy feeling that it will not end well. If you don't know the story of 'Othello' you won't ever forget it - and even if you do, you could have never imagined it could fit so well in the beautifully filmed hills of Uttar Pradesh.

'Omkara' contains all the classic components of a great Bollywood epic but all of them (songs, costumes, etc.) fit perfectly in the context of the story. 'Omkara' also lacks any of the the silliness that is present in so many modern day Bollywood flicks. This is one of those films that you could take your non-Desi friends to and as they are sitting in the dark watching the credits roll will ask you 'Why haven't you taken me to more Bollywood movies?'. Granted the year is only half over - but Bollywood has a clear front-runner to submit to the Oscars - go see 'Omkara' on the big screen and judge for yourself.

All the songs are noteworthy - the 2 on the are{Naina}, performed by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's nephew Rahat and {Namak}, sung by a newcomer with an incredible raspy/sultry voice, Rekha Bhardwaj.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Kishore Kumar - My all time favorite

The below duet from 'Abhimaan' is sung by Lata & from my favorite artist in Indian cinema - Kishore Kumar. For those of you that know me, you may have been wondering when I would send out songs by him - no reason for not doing so, just never the right time. Kishore was a true artistic genius - a producer, director, musical composer and actor. Of course he will always be remembered most for his golden voice (the voice of Amitabh in his heyday). He passed away in 1987 and his death made me to just stop watching Hindi movies for a few years as I had no desire to watch a movie without his singing in it. I started again with 'Aashiqui' a few years later only because the songs on the soundtrack were actually written for Kishore and sung by the 'voice of Kishore', Kumar Sanu.

Kishore remains my favorite singer to this day - read more about him here

Thursday, July 13, 2006

'Abhimaan' & not so 'Sweet 16'

Watched 'Sweet 16' on MTV last night and it necessitated a mid-week post out of sheer anger. What happens when you combine a bratty 15 year old teen aged girl, her older (and possibly borderline intellectually functioning) sister, an unlimited amount of discretionary income & 2 parents that have obviously disregarded every rule for raising kids that their parents taught them in the homeland? Well you get the sheer embarrassment to all persons of South Asian origin that was aired last night to a national (and international) television audience.

If you didn't see the freak show of a birthday party (and in true Desi fashion - a combo graduation party for the older sister) then consider yourself lucky. This dad (who has already given a private jet, a Bentley & Mercedes to his daughters plus a limo until they get their licenses) provided an unlimited budget, a helicopter HIRED JUST TO DROP FLOWERS, an elephant, police security detail and dolis to carry his daughters in like it was their freaking wedding. I don't blame the kids though, they were just doing what they were allowed to do - congraulations mom & dad - you have just ruined any semblance of a normal life these 2 girls could have ever had.

Which brings us to the music selections for today {Tere Mere Milan & Tere Bindiya Re} duets sung by Kishore Kumar/Lata and M.Rafi/Lata respectively. They are from the 1973 classic 'Abhimaan' - starring Amitabh & Jaya Bachchan (in their last film before getting married). This is what I refer to as a perfect movie - great acting, tight directing (the movie clocks in at 2 hours and 10 minutes with songs), and a very different story. All 7 of the songs on this album are bona-fide classics. For those of you that know Jaya from her 'mother' roles in recent films - you will be impressed by her ability to hold her own against her very formidable husband to be. She was a great actress in her day, capable of doing just about any role with conviction and quiet dignity.

Yes these songs are 'old' but my thinking is that if you have never heard them before, then they are new to you.

By the way, this movie was shot on a shoestring budget, which goes to prove that you don't need money to have class.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Selections from Indian Idol & 'Krrish'

Today's selections are some new songs - one Bollywood & one a Hindi pop song. The pop song {Mohabaten Lutau}is actually sung by the winner of last year's 'Indian Idol' - just as popular and as big of an audience favorite as the one here. The winner (Abhijeet Sawan) was a virtual unknown before & is now one of the biggest concert draws in the country. The song is another of those 'singing while standing in a jeep with good friends in your favorite city' favorites of mine - just a catchy and fun number.

The Bollywood song is from the movie 'Krissh' {Chori Chori Chupke Chupke} which is supposedly a Hindi version of 'Superman'. I really have no desire to see this movie but the reviews say it's pretty decent - also, I really can't stand Hrithik Roshan. But that's what is great about Bollywood - you don't have to like the movie to enjoy the song - you just have to like good music. A nice duet - one of the best of the year in my opinion.

Chameli (2003)

Greetings all,

Sometimes I run across a song that is so different & special - it needs exploration from many different angles. This week that song is {Sajna Ve Sajna} from the movie 'Chameli'. The movie is quite good & very different than your average Bollywood flick. It takes place over just 1 night in Bombay, has some pretty salty language and a great performance by Kareena Kapoor (who had not impressed me in any movie prior to this).

The song is sung by Sunidhi Chauhan, a relative newcomer to the Bollywood scene with an amazing raspy voice & great range. The lyrics & music are both perfect as well - all in all a great song that doesn't get old despite many playings. I am not the only fan of it however - the remix {Sajna Ve Sajna(remix)} & video are apparently playing in the hottest clubs here & in Europe. See the video here

Friendship & African Beats

The theme of today's music is friendship. We spent the weekend in San Diego at a friend's wedding (congrats Maneesh!) and got to see/hang out/catch up with friends from days gone by. It just seems that life for alot of us has gotten so hectic that the only reason we seem to get together is for weddings - that's great and all but what happens when we all get married off? Do we really need an excuse to get together with our friends other than we enjoy eachother's company?

For me the bond of friendship have always been akin to a piece of rope - it stretches when we aren't around our near & dear ones - and snaps back together as good as new when we are. But let that rope stretch for too long of a time and it will inevitably break... remember, we may not get to choose our family but we do make a conscious decision to choose our friends.

With that I bring you the 1st of 2 songs for this posting. The artist is young Ethiopian woman named Gigi (whose debut album was called the '#1 of the Best Obscure Albums of 2001' as judged by the New York Times). The song is called {Guramayle} meaning slight return - and I have absolutely no idea what she is saying in the song. However her voice and musical composition is so amazing that it hardly matters... Since poetry is supposed to be about personal interpretation I will assume this song is an ode to friendship :) When listening to it, imagine you are in an open jeep, driving around with some of your closest buds in Goa, Austin or wherever & you will understand what I mean... Link to Gigi's music

The second song {Nafeken} is by Tabla Beat Science. They are a supergroup of sorts starring Sultan Khan (from last week), Zakir Hussain, Karsh Kale & Bill Laswell. The song is called 'NafekeƱ' & was recorded live in San Franscisco at Stern Grove using tabla, sarangi and a host of other instruments. The special guest singer is Gigi (singing in her native Amharic) who does a duet with Sultan Khan (singing in his native Urdu). This song - with all it's varied instruments, styles, languages & vocals - just blows me away. Link to 'Tabla Beat Science'

Proving that in music (as well as in friendship) - the whole is indeed greater than the sum of it's parts.

Introduction to South Asian Classical music - Part II

Today we continue the homage to South Asian classical music with some tunes from Ustad Sultan Khan (for more information on him & on all Desi classical music visit this very informative website).

Ustad Sultan Khan plays the sarangi which sounds very different than the sarod or sitar – more like a violin. A scion of illustrious lineage of sarangi players, beginning his training at age seven - he learned the rudiments from his father, Ustad Gulab Khan who was both an accomplished sarangi player and a vocalist. Little wonder then that the Ustad, like his father, always punctuates his concerts with vocal Amir khani nuances. When he picks up the sarangi to lilting Sargams where he has left off vocally, the succeeding notes emerge in continuation as though the sarangi sings.

The 3 selections are 1 {Sarangi} an instrumental. 2 {Surmai Aankhen} A Rajasthani folk duet with a singer named Chitra (a really beautiful song). 3 {Kate Nahi Raat Mori} A solo vocal in which he gets his instrument to literally 'sing' with him. 4. It turns out that among his large fan base are some of the world's top DJ's and they did a tribute album to him Link

Introduction to South Asian Classical music - Part I

This week's songs are a brief intro to South Asian classical music - certainly as deep & moving as it's European counterpart if not more so. South Asian classical music is performed with less instruments but the arrangements are just as complicated. Interestingly, the ragas (as the pieces are known) are written to be listened to according to the movements of the sun. Some are written specifically to be listened to as you are waking up at sunrise, some at noon and others as the moon is out as you are going to bed. It is said that each person will have their own preference as to when they most enjoy a particular raga - regardless of your personal choice, they are a great way to either begin or end your day.

The 1st song is one of Nilong's favorites - it is called {Panihari} or Water Lady. It primarily uses the sarod (12 other instruments accompany it) & is performed by the legendary Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. See album description here

The 2nd song is one of my favorites - using the very subtle instrument - {Santoor} - it is performed by Pandit Shivkumar Sharma.

Monday, July 10, 2006

White Chicks do it Desi Style too...

Nelly Furtado (everyone's favorite Canadian) and Josh (everyone's favorite Brown Canadians) got together for this jammin' little number called {Say What You Want}. Everytime I play this song I get "Can I get a copy of that?" from desis & non-desis alike. If you listen to the original version of this song on her album she is phoning it in - it is actually a very dull song. She went into the studio with Josh and re-did the vocals for the remix. Check them out at

Planet Josh

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Welcome to the 'Desi Music Club'.

What is this exactly? I will periodically be posting cool music, interesting websites and general info largely involving Desi tunez. FAQ's below…

What prompted this?

~ Well, for the most part, it was you dear friends. A lot of you have asked about my music collection over the years & basically this is a free way of getting your grubby little hands on it. (Just play songs on the 'jukebox' on the side - you can let it stream while you are working on something else on your computer).

And the real reason? C'mon, you can tell us…

~ OK - me & Nilu were in Jamaica a few years back & we met this Indian girl at some bar. So after the usual pleasantries we asked her where she was from originally in India. She responded that she had no idea – she was a 3rd generation Indian and had completely lost any semblance of her desiness. It really shook me up as I basically saw what our grandkids would be like despite my fobiness. I knew right then & there that just like all the other immigrant groups that had emigrated here – desis were going to be swallowed up by American culture and there was nothing we could do about it. We would lose the language for sure but that Bollywood would be the connection. Desis everywhere (from here to Europe, Far East, Australia – wherever) all had at least that in common – and that's better than nothing.

What exactly is this again?

~ Basically, this is the lazy man's book club - cuz there ain't no reading involved & you don't have to go anywhere. I will be posting songs I enjoy along with blurbs describing them and whence they came from. I will also from time to time post info about interesting websites, video clips and articles – again, mostly involving all things Desi.

Why just Desi stuff? Why not all genres of music? Are you racist or something?

~ I love and enjoy music of all genres and you all have plenty of sources to listen to and/or download them. In fact, most of you are probably a lot more knowledgeable about these genres than me & I wouldn't be adding to stuff you already know. Also, there are so many different types of American & International music out there – it would be beyond the scope of this newsletter to try & manage them all. And finally, yes, I am racist – I think Desi music is the best music on the planet, period.

You are really starting to creep me out on this whole 'Nothing but Desi' thing…

~ The truth is that I have drunk the Kool-Aid that is Bollywood. It is one of those things (like the 'Matrix' and magic eye puzzles) in which you either get it – or you don't. You either love the B/W magnificence of the 40's & 50's – the swinging psychedelic 60's – the over the top & bombastic 70's – the Amitabh dominated 80's – the emergence of Bollywood as serious cinema 90's – or you just wonder what all the fuss is about. Yes, I agree that 3 out of 4 movies made are not worth the celluloid they are printed on – but the music remains legendary. And no, it won't be all just be Bollywood – you will get Indian classical music, fusion, Afro-Indian as well as some crazy stuff you ain't never heard before.

Alright, you have me interested – what do I need to do?

~ For the most part, nothing – just sit back and enjoy the ride. If you like what you get, send me some positive vibes back telling me about it – not too much to ask. If you don't like it – keep it to yourself. I don't need criticism of stuff I like – I think enough about it to share it with you all and nothing you say can change my mind. I do love getting new music however – please feel free to send me tunes to 'pay it forward'.

How often do you update this blog?

~ Expect new songs once a week, more if I am bored. That way people aren't overloaded with too much music and can really get a good taste of it.

Hope this is the start of something wonderful... welcome.

If music be the food of love, play on.

~ Shakespeare

Cheerz, Sanket & Nilu.