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Hip-hopping around the world

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Popular worldwide: Will.i.am, frontman of the Black Eyed Peas, at a press conference in Bangalore on Tuesday.
Popular worldwide: Will.i.am, frontman of the Black Eyed Peas, at a press conference in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Rakesh Mehar

Bangalore: Imagine having a year where you play the first ever major gig in a country, go back seven years in time to ring in the millennium in another country, and see three-quarters of the globe to boot.

That’s the life you get when you’re one of the Black Eyed Peas, the searing hot, hip-hop, pop and dance music group that performed in the city on Tuesday evening as part of the Black, Blue and You tour.

Their first music concert took place in Kazakhstan, said the band’s frontman Will.i.am. “They’re beautiful people,” he says. However, he said he was somewhat unnerved by the number of mobile phone cameras that were thrust into his face by eager fans.

The millennium party happened a few days later in Ethiopia, where the country had just celebrated the millennium in keeping with the modified version of the Julian calendar it follows. “It was weird. We were in Jerusalem, playing in September 2007 and then we go to Ethiopia and it’s September 1999 and we brought in the New Year. And then we go to Sweden, and it’s back to 2007,” explains the rapper and producer who says that the band’s current tour has yielded more than its share of surreal experiences.

Talking at the ITC Windsor Bengaluru ahead of the Black Eyed Peas concert at Palace Grounds on Tuesday evening, Will.i.am added that he wished he could stay longer in India. “It’s a shame we have to leave. There is like a lot to take in just a day and a half,” he said. Although Will.i.am is new to India, he points out that he and the Black Eyed Peas are not alien to Indian music. “I have a really big collection of classic Bollywood and Indian film music. I pick up all the Asha (Bhonsle) CDs and I just listen to a lot of obscure Bollywood music on 45s and the older, heavier vinyl records,” he says.

It was in the midst of such listening that the band discovered an Ilaiyaraja number from the 1970s that they sampled for the “Elephunk Theme” written for the “Elephunk” album of 2003. The title of the album, says Will.i.am, was even inspired by Lord Ganesh, whose idol the band was gifted by an Indian friend.

The Black Eyed Peas had their origins in the streets of Los Angeles during Will.i.am’s school years, when he met bandmate apl.de.ap and began performing around the city.

Since then the band has gradually grown to worldwide popularity, achieving a level of fame Will.i.am says he never dreamed of. “This is so much bigger than I thought we’d get. We thought we’d get into clubs for free, maybe buy a car, a house. We never thought we’d come to India and perform, or go to Kazakhstan.”

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