Jive to the beat

Bollywood music is making waves across the globe, from a club in Stanford to the Kodak Theatre

Published - March 08, 2010 04:22 pm IST

Wake Up Sid

Wake Up Sid

It's a YouTube clipping you're unlikely to run if you're not an ice-skating fan. Yet, it went viral. People from Silicon Valley to Chennai, most with no interest in ice-dancing, have been forwarding it with a “This you've got to see!”shouting from the subject box. It has racked up 2,10,000 views, a mega count for a figure-skating programme.

Flip it on and you know why. The movements of skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White are Bollywood tango, and the music is from “Devdas”. Anju Rajendra, who combines Bollywood music and dance with exercise at her BollyFit studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is credited with showing them the Indian dance style and suggesting the music. Couldn't have chosen a better tune to enlarge the fan base, Meryl told an interviewer.

Bollywood music has broken the ice barrier. But, that's just one more platform for this brand that went international when Raj Kapoor doffed his lal topi to Russians. Since then, Bollywood's original and re-mixed — but readily identifiable — strains have been heard everywhere, from a club in Stanford to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Jai Ho!

Young Germany wrote about it in its India Special edition titling it Germany Grooves to Bollywood's Beat. Bollywood devotees from all over Europe have been making a yearly pilgrimage to Stuttgart for the July Fest since it kicked off in 2004, it said.

Each year, the “Bollywood and Beyond” event pays tribute to India's rich cinematic tradition as well as its influence abroad. Indians aren't a major immigrant population in Germany, but “even without its people's representation, Bollywood sounds have floated onto the airwaves purely by popular demand”, the report said. Across Europe, in nightclubs and concert venues, DJs play Bollywood beats to get patrons to hit the dance floors. ‘Haan Main Tumhaara Hoon' crooned Australian fast-bowler Brett Lee, strumming a guitar and serenading a desi girl in the album ‘Asha & Friends'. Stanford University's Rotary Club holds Bollywood bashes on campus, and Raagapella, the University's all-male South-Asian group performed Bollywood pop when invited to Infosys' Bangalore campus.

Growing popularity

The smitten-by-filmi-music list must include middle-class families in mainland China. In an NDTV story, 24-year-old singer Hou Wei admits her home often reverberated to the sounds of Bollywood's hit songs. “The first song I listened to was ‘Piya Tu Ab To Aaja' from ‘Caravan',” she says. She was four, and it was love at first sound. “I felt that the song was from heaven, and wanted to learn it,” she adds. Hou is a celebrity in her mohalla — she sings Lata Mangeshkar/Asha Bhonsle favourites at parties, restaurants and on local TV.

Whether it is part of the plot, a detachable item number or scene-pusher as in “Wake up Sid”, music is Bollywood's biggest blockbuster. To cash in on its popularity, producers have been releasing — here and abroad — the film's soundtrack CDs, music videos and even remixed versions of songs ahead of the movie, hoping the music will pull audiences to the cinema. However, the major credit for spreading its appeal should fall on the far-flung Indian diaspora. To the early migrants, Bollywood music was balm for loneliness. Now, it's the draw that rains dollars on every release.

“Bollywood music is truly global,” says Vidya Pradhan, managing editor, India Currents, answering the why of BM's appeal. “Earlier, the emphasis was on Indian folk and the dance numbers, often rip-offs of Western pop. They may still be rip-offs, but Indian composers' tastes have become much more eclectic as they sample music from around the world, and create pieces accessible to this generation of music lovers, who are exposed to world music.”

Awards functions and star nites are fluffed up in song/dance sequences. The IIFA Macau gig opened a huge door for Bollywood music in China. It's the same strategy in Amsterdam and Dubai. Bollywood films make regular entries in International film festivals; the music is everywhere.

Meanwhile, Meryl Davis and Charlie have won the Original Dance portion of every competition they've been to this year, including a silver representing the U.S. at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. All thanks to Bollywood?

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