The sky is blue. Cats eat rats. And I am a big fan of ’90s Indian non-filmi non-remixed music.
I’ve been wanting to do a post on Indipop/Indi-rock for quite a while now, and somehow the universe reminded me of this now by filling my random playlist with some of my favorite songs from the ’90s.
So… well, here goes… here are the songs that were a breath of fresh air back then when Anu Malik and Jatin-Lalit held sway. And whose videos were such a soothing sight for eyes sore with the same old Saroj Khan choreography.
- Asha Bhonsle’s Raat Shabnami/Jaanam Samjha Karo: Whatay lyrics. Whatay tune. Whatay Asha’s voice. And last but definitely not the least, Milind Soman. True, Mr. Soman had attained fame with that appearance in Alisha Chinai’s Made In India, but I thought he looked nothing short of idiotic in that one. I didn’t know it was the same person with Aditi Govitrikar in this video at first. Oh, and Leslie Lewis of Colonial Cousins fame composed this song. He even has an appearance in the video playing the flute. Years later, he composed the music for A Band Of Boys (who seem to have sunk without a trace), one of who was Asha Bhonsle’s nephew (or maybe grandson) Chaitanya aka Chintu. This was quite apparent to me when I heard the song (the common composer, I mean)… Meri Neend had a few chords and melodies sound so similar to Jaanam Samjha Karo.
- Anaida’s Piya Bina. I don’t remember why, though. And where on earth is Anaida now?
- Heer – I can only assume this was based on the legend of Heer-Ranjha. It was from Mitti – Songs of the Soil composed by Sandeep Chowta, and was sung by Sukhwindara Singh. Nice song. Eerie video in black-and-white.
- Suneeta Rao: Every school annual day had to have atleast one performance of Kesariya hai roop.
- Parikrama: Their But It Rained was some darned bloody different video. But that definitely isn’t their best song. Their instrumental, Open Skies, is one of the most feel-good songs I’ve heard. It’s surprising they don’t innovate these days and restrict themselves to performing in college fests. And I’ve heard it’s the same playlist each performance.
- Dere Dere by Shubha Mudgal: She is best known for that husky voice and Ab Ke Saawan. And maybe that socially-relevant album called Mann Ke Manjeere (whose music IMO was nothing to write home about). This song, however was just feel-good, no storyline, just showed three girls having fun. And then there was also Seekho Na with Vidya Balan in the video. That was when her presence started getting on my nerves. And it hasn’t yet stopped.
- Tumse hi pyaar by Aasma: Coke [V] Popstars II. There was Chandu Ke Chaacha, with the funky dance steps, but this one was way more appreciated.
- Remo Fernandes and his Flute Song: Is there a video for this one? Actually, most of that album (O Meri Munni) was absolutely brilliant. Including the Goan ones – Maria Pita Che, and Maya ya, if I remember right. And… I’ve been trying to get that famous song of Remo’s called Hello Mr. Rajiv Gandhi (The story behind this goes that Remo and his band, The Syndicate wrote this song, and the local editor of The Hindu carried out his vendetta against him mainly by criticizing the song constantly. Remo took a chance, and sent the song to Rajiv Gandhi himself, who wrote back saying that he liked the song(!!)). Anyone who has the song/knows where to get it, kindly get in touch with me.
- Piya Basanti: The entire album was a superhit. And the videos with the very beautiful Nauheed Cyrusi (and a nondescript young man) stayed at the top of the charts for ages. It gave a whole new dimension to the concept of Music Video. Many imitations followed, of music video with a story, more notable of which were one called Sunset Point, which, I think, had lyrics by Gulzar, and had some storyline about a pair of twin girls falling for the same guy, and one makes way for the other – all in four minutes. Though it wasn’t any worse than Piya Basanti which had a bonny lassie and a bandit falling for each other, eloping and getting married, all in a two-part video, each of four minutes. I guess where the video scored was in having great music (Sandesh Shandilya) and great vocalists in the first place, and being shot in very beautiful locales (Arunachal Pradesh).
- Krishna nee begane baaro by Colonial Cousins: Fusion. And very good fusion. Our saviours from the endless stream of wannabe Western musicians. The video of this song isn’t anything all that great, but the song is a Phenomenon by itself; the flagship song you’d identify the Colonial Cousins with. The other popular songs aren’t bad – Kai Zhala, The Way We Do It, Sa Ni Dha pa… but my alltime favorite is Guiding Star from the album Aatma. I’d however say their best fusion numbers are Parula Nu and (this one which I’ve been humming continuously since a week now) Funky Freedom.
- Jaane Do by Agosh – The band name is short for the name of the bandmembers – Anand, Gopal and Shaleen. They wrote a hit song called Paisa, which struck me as out-to-make-money and very-wannabe. Then I heard their other songs, one of which is called Saiyyana, with lyrics that went like Meri ab manzilein toh hai / Aur kaarvaan bhi hai / Meri apni wafa hai, aur dil jawaan hai, ab chodo mujhe darana / kyunki ab main saiyyana ho chuka, ho chuka /. Their other song with a video was Jaane Do, which had Nauheed Cyrusi again (but this time with a better-looking dude called Shahrukh Mistry [who had a bit role in Rahul Bose's Everybody Says I'm Fine]). The reason it appealed to me and my friends was coz it enumerated everything that could possibly go wrong with our lives back then, in class 12 – Garmiyon ki chuttiyaan, Sardiyon ki chuttiyaan, holiday homework, jaane do /Woh haseen ho gayi, hum jawaan ho gaye, phir bhi na teamwork, jaane do and also Ladkiyon ka roothna, apne dil ka tootna, kismaton ka phootna, jaane do / Aur phir ministeron se leke thaanedar tak sabka humko lootna, jaane do. And most important of them all IIT exam mein fundae gol ho gaye, jaane do. But the same song also gave us hope – Zindagi haseen hai, mastiyon ka scene hai, gadbadi jo hogi toh hogi, jaane do. Oh, and I turned a bigger fan of these guys when I got to know they were the ones who composed the Radiocity jingles in the initial days (and I’m having you know compared to those ones, Bolo Whatte fun sounds like something the tomcat was yowling at four in the morning).
- Mantra by Euphoria: These people are normally known for their Maeri or Aana Meri Gully, but this song is way, way better than those. It’s a single, and wasn’t that great a hit, but what made it stand out among the rest was that the video was way better than the others. Maeri might have been a brilliant song, but the video with Rimi Sen was too cliched. Gully had Vidya Balan in it, AND Sandhya Mridul, and hence twice as irritating. Meri Saanson Mein is a really great song, but the video about the dying/dead girlfriend was irritating if nothing else. That way, Dhoom Pichuk was way better. Hum with Mehnaaz for [V] Jammin! might have been a good song and a well-made video, but Palash Sen took off his shirt, giving us three minutes of unmitigated torture. So… in comparison, Mantra really came out tops.
- Lucky Ali: He first writes a bluesy number. Then sings it in that raspy voice that suits only singing. Then shoots a video in a foreign country. With a woman. No, make that a Woman. The Woman is always suave, powerful, and alluring with that air of mystery about her. I didn’t like O Sanam and that veiled lady (rumored to be his wife) – all you see of her is her eyes and her fingernails, and she had a cruel-looking clubbed thumb (it’s supposed to suggest a very low level of evolution). Malaika brought alive Kitni Haseen Zindagi. One of my favorite shots in the video is where she’s watching him on TV, and suddenly the TV screen zooms out to show her watching him on TV. The video in the US (Dekha Hai Aise Bhi) was depressing. But the one in (presumably) South Africa, with that mysterious-looking African model, Tere Mere Saath, was just mindblowing. So it really killed me to see two young things prance around in one of his videos – then I heard apparently the recording co. didn’t want to risk anything by casting the greying Lucky Ali as hero in a video that would cost a nuke to shoot, and so preferred to have two young things dance around airports to Mr. Ali pursue a Brazilian model halfway across Rio De Janeiro.
- And some others here which I don’t like all that much, but which certainly bring back lots of memories – there was Dhagala Lagli Kala, the ultimate Rain Dance Song back then. There was also Kya Soorat Hai – somehow it fit Raju Sundaram (the guy in the video) like a glove, and the gag about the Feast bar (is it still around?), and there being three of everything… Another one that comes to mind is Rabbi Shergill’s Bulla Ki Jaana, the one with the typical music video-ish montage-ish music video, complete with English subtitles. And… remember Shaan’s Tanha Dil? And Loveology? Or Strings and their Duur? Or their very first Sir Ki Yehi Pahaar? Or Faisal Kapadia strumming his guitar for Anjaane? It felt odd, didn’t it… loking at license plates that said Karachi or Lahore, or at signboards saying ‘Islamabad – 60 KM’. And then Junoon singing Sayyonee. And then the very wannabe Fuzon. Silk Route with those idiotic videos that ruined their good music. And Alms for Shanti who really need to get back to music….
And now, a few years, later, there are none. Everyone seems to have quit the scene. And the ones on now are as wannabe as they can get, truly “aping the West”…. And one reason I’d say these musicians didn’t – and don’t – really take off was – and is – ‘coz of their complete lack of professionalism and determination. They don’t dare to innovate, they don’t come up with anything new. And worst of all, they don’t stick with it. So what if there’s no money in it, just upload your singles on your website (or if you’re too lazy to get your own domain, googlepages will gladly do). If you’re good, you’ll be famous, at the very least – and, independent music is designed to appeal to the college crowd, isn’t it, who don’t ever buy music? Sure, you might not make it like a Madonna or a Britney, but heck, it’s gonna be a cult thing, something übercool, to listen to your music, something the trendsetters will be the first to do, and something the wannabes will follow blindly. Kids will throng your concerts, remember you as the dudes who performed in the concerts they first got wildly drunk in, FinalYear junta will remember you to be the folks whose concert was the last one they all attended together, you’d give the freshers their first-ever rock concert experience…. and they’ll ask you for guitar tabs, for mp3s…. your music will flood their LANs, be exchanged multiple times over GTalk, your website will be linked by some hazaar student bloggers, your videos on YouTube will get a gazillion hits every day, your inbox flooded with fanmail ……. Yeah, it might not be Big as in Sunidhi Chauhan or Bryan Adams, but it sure beats strumming your guitar only on weekends, or occasionally at your workplace during your culturals, and feeling a twinge of regret and cursing the system whenever anyone says, “Heyy…. you play quite well…..”
PS: 2000-word post, I realize, but I really do love and miss independent Indian music, which didn’t blindly ape either Bollywood or the West, but combined the best of both….oh, I’d better stop now. Cheers.