Tuesday May 27, 2014

Reimagining remixes in India

Posted by Karthik

Mikey McCleary’s 3rd album jab at remixes (The Bartender – Classic Bollywood With A Twist) reminds me of an interesting point.

remixes

I have always been a bit derisive of remixes, but the first remix compilation that changed my mind was Bally Sagoo’s Bollywood Flashback, in 1994. No doubt driven by repeated airplay on Channel V and MTV, remixes of songs like Chura liya and Waada na tod made a fantastic detour from how remixes were conceived till then.

The next was of course 1996’s Instant Karma, consisting of Ehsaan Noorani, Loy Mendonsa and Farhad Wadia. The first Dance Masti compilation was even more inventive than Sagoo’s sound. Dil kya kare’s remix, along with Shaan’s singing is a particular all-time favorite, besides remixes of Samaa hai suhana and Saamne yeh kaun aaya. 1999’s Dance Masti 2 had Baahon mein chale aa as a killer remix, but the rest was tepid. Further albums in the series just didn’t register.

1999 saw another remix effort as being sparklingly imaginative – Bombay Vikings’s Kya soorat hai. In a way, this effort was completely new – it turned the remix upside down by incorporating so many new elements that when I hear a song like Hawa mein udati jaaye, all I can think of is, ‘My beautiful sexy baby oh yay oh yay’! I know that sounds blasphemous, but what to do – the modern mix was mighty catchy! Bombay Vikings had a good run across their 3 albums in 1999, 2000 and 2002, though with just one or two songs really hitting the mark. Their 2004 and 2006 efforts (Chhodh do aanchal and Zara nazron se) were, in comparison, very weak.

By now, there were tons of DJ mixes aimed squarely at either using a scantily clothed model in music videos or aimed directly at the dance floor (like DJ Aqeel’s Shake it daddy mix of Nahi nahi, among many other remixes) – this actually went on for a full decade till Mikey McCleary’s Classic Bollywood: Shaken not Stirred, in 2011, brought a resurgence to quality remix, if you discount Amit Trivedi’s fantastic remix of Hungama ho gaya (Anhonee – 1973, Laxmikant Pyarelal) in Queen. Khoya khoya chand was an instant classic!

I was mighty underwhelmed with Mikey’s second Bartender compilation (B Seventy) featuring Bachchan songs and even the latest one treads on oh-so-familiar territory that it breaks my heart to see this series’ diminishing returns (barring Aaj ki raat’s remix, of course).

There was talk of a new Dance Masti album, but not sure if it is happening or if it can make a difference. Even otherwise, I wonder what the next evolution for remixes will be like. There are so, so, so many songs in Bollywood history waiting to be reintroduced to the younger audience. I’d count Bally Sagoo’s, Instant Karma’s, Bombay Vikings’ and Mikey McCleary’s as solid efforts in that direction. Asking Amit Trivedi to do a remix album seems like a waste of his talent, though, with what he did for Hungama ho gaya, it may not be such a bad idea after all. Who else?

At the same time, I’m quite astonished that this remix culture never caught on in the regional language markets. I do not recall a solid, quality effort in remixing in say Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam or Kannada, to just refer to the 4 south Indian languages. If you don’t include mainstream film composers like Yuvan, Rahman or Thaman remixing Ilayaraja’s and MS Viswanathan’s songs for films occasionally, that is.

Purists may say that is a good thing that the golden oldies were left alone, but then ‘cover versions’, as they are called in the West, always serve a purpose of reintroducing older songs to a newer audience. There is no shame in ‘cover versions’ in the West, since royalties are paid for and proper credits accorded. I guess it is largely to do with aiming remixes for the dance floor that has the purists annoyed. I do look forward to some innovation in remixes in the regional languages, if not in Hindi, again.

Your take?

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