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The Remix Mania

August 2005
The Remix Mania

By Amlan Home Chowdhury

Contemporary fusion music, creating total confusion in the realm of rhythm, has now sent shock waves through Bollywood, where the past masters have dubbed it piracy but the brave young players are clamoring that they that have revived long forgotten film songs by blending them in dhamaka (or big bang), beat music to add new meaning to them. This remixing has now become a mania for the new generation, with musical troupes mushrooming in Mumbai to transform popular Hindi songs into thematic dance-drama video albums. These performers have tapped film songs of all periods and styles, bringing about a total revolution.

Speaking to this correspondent just outside the famous R. K. Studio, established by the legendary star Raj Kapoor in Mumbai, Lakhinder Shah Lucky dismissed the ongoing crusades in Bollywood that support or oppose fusion music and the conversion of old film songs in audio-visual albums as "bekar ka bakwas" (sheer prattle). Yet, like many others of his generation, this flamboyant young actor does support these trends.

Very successfully marketing their video albums in India, Pakistan, the U.S., Canada, England, South Africa, Singapore, and all over the Middle East, these cash rich musical troupes even hire well-known young actresses like Ayesha Takia, Isha Koppikar, Amrita Arora and Reba Babbar. Foreign performers like Tata Young, Yana Gupta and Nigar Khan even specialize in such videos created with remixed songs.

Famous playback singer Udit Narayan, confronted by this correspondent during his recent tour of Patna to release his Bhojpuri film, opined that nothing would be more appropriate for musicians than to tune in with the times. Fully justifying the remixing of songs, he said that blending old film songs with jazz synthesizer, cymbals and other instruments to create CDs and videos happened to be what young people love these days.

Interestingly, the demand for remixed film songs is now worldwide, with large numbers of fusion music CDs going abroad, but there is also a matching demand for live stage shows in many foreign countries. Nearly 20,000 such cassettes are shipped overseas every month to meet the growing demand. As another singer Sonu Nigam noted, this remixing has created a new genre that's liked not only by young Indians but also NRIs, who often stage shows in various locations. Bollywood singers Sonobar Kabir, Alisha, Madhurima, Shefali Zariwalla and Prity Arora regularly fly abroad to perform, and in almost all popular cultural shows nowadays, dances are now a permanent fixture.

Currently, six notable dhamaka troupes are remixing film songs, with their original tunes remaining the same. Even 60-year-old songs have been recreated in this manner.

One almost feels sorry for Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore, those stars of yesteryears, after viewing the album of "Mere sapno ki rani kab ayegi too?." That song from the blockbuster Aradhana, one of the best creations of Sachin Dev Burman, has been co-opted. This is the nayazamana of remix mania. So it's no wonder that Guru Dutt's very famous song from the film Aar-Paar, "Kabhi aar, kabhi paar, laga tir-e-nazar," has been remixed in such a manner that it creates joy among the younger listeners but despair and disgust among old-timers.

According to the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA), musical troupes like Bombay Vikings, Euphoria, Band Up Boys, Fusion, DJ Dolls and Viva often mix the film songs with English to add global color to them and also to market them all over India with such advertisements as "Remixed songs ? special entertainment tools that make your hearts throb".

A spokesman for the EIMPA said the Bollywood has seen many changes over the years but no issue has divided it so vertically as the current furor over fusion music. "The industry people always stood united whether the controversy was over kissing and nudity or whether it was over the excesses of censorship," said the spokesman, adding that the issue of fusion music has totally confused film people.

The current mania of fusion music has created such a psychosis of fear in the Indian entertainment industry that even one of the top musical icons of all time, Asha Bhonsle, has started recreating her own old songs in the form of new pictorial albums.

Fearing appropriation of her songs, Asha has remixed her "Do labzo ki hai ek hi kahani, ya de muhabbat ya zindagani" from a film that was released nearly 31 years ago.

Age, however, is no matter to the "grinder-mixers" of cinema songs. If time had been a factor, then the ancient melody "Mere Piya gaye Rangoon, wahan se kiya hai telephoon tumhari yaad satati hai" from the film Patanga would not have been chosen as the latest music mantra by the troupe Play Gal Mix. This particular group alone has remixed 10 very popular song of the film industry. The song in question was created by Chitalkar Ramchandra and Shamshad Begun way back in 1949. So it's indeed a vintage song.

Incidentally, the troupes remixing these songs have come to be known as "grinder-mixers" in Bollywood because they really grind the songs in such a way that their very originality vanishes. Then they mix them with new music. This fusion music, currently played by all television channels in India, also enjoys tremendous support in many parts of the world. In Pakistan, remixed video film cassettes happen to be a total craze. Some Indian channels such as Remix Rani, MTV, Jhankar, Channel V, ETC., and B For U play these remixed songs frequently.

Playback legend Lata Mangeshkar has demanded a total ban on the "corrupting" (i.e., remixing) of film melodies. Asking for at least a debate on the issue, Lata has said there must be some sort of a legislation to check blending of songs with dances, intermittent English words and dhamaka music. Asha Bhonsle felt the originality of film songs must be maintained and music piracy stopped. As she put it, "Something must be done to preserve the sanctity of the film melodies of Bollywood."

In fact, Asha, Lata, Muhammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar are the worst victims of grinding and mixing. The songs of Mukesh, Manna Dey, Talat Mahamud and Hemant Kumar have also been encroached upon, but on a limited scale.

In what form did this fusion trend originally begin? It can be traced back to the 1960s, when sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and composer Philip Glass joined hands to blend Indian ragas with Western classical and contemporary music. Later on, sarod maestro Ali Akbhar Khan and tabla exponent Alla Rakha also combined Eastern and Western rhythms. The jugalbandi of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (mohan veena) and Ry Cooder (bottleneck guitar), on the one hand, and Ustad Sultan Khan (sarangi) and Marco Guinar (Spanish guitar) on the other are also milestones of this form, which subsequently took the shape of copying from old Hindi films. Also worth mentioning is the more recent collaboration between U. Srinivas (mandolin) and Michael Brook (guitar). As an independent genre of rhythmic entertainment, the remixing of film songs and albums surfaced in or around 1980-81 to create a dhamaka, marking the beginning of experimental waves in the realm of music.

Abhijeet, a new generation singer who has done several remixes and even brought out his own albums, feels that innovations and renovations are necessary for entertaining the younger listeners, many of whom think that the lyrics of these songs are actually new. "It shows that the music has no age bar," says On Masumi. "Bollywood should be grateful to the young artistes who are very successfully marketing their albums all over the world." This owner of the On Masumi Musical Group adds that many of the original songs belonged to an era when the entire entertainment world was different. Drawbacks included technological backwardness and the lack of many instruments.

Masumi points out that the new generation wants and likes beats, sound vibrations, echo, fusion of Indian and Western instruments, and shrillness. He thinks that even the very old songs of Kundan Lal Sehegal can be remixed to attract the younger generation. A spokesman for the troupe Euphoria notes that the main attraction while selecting songs is their lyrical beauty and meaning. So the basic melody when blended with English words attains a new dimension that can appeal to a global audience.

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