I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

... Of The Beatles In India

I think it wouldn't be stretching a point to say that Indian film music has always been heavily 'inspired' by foreign influences over the years, from right next door to as far off as Korea. Most songs pale in comparison with the originals, for reasons too numerous to go into now. But there are some that approach, or even surpass the brilliance of the originals, although these are rarer than hen's teeth.

We know The Beatles landed in India somewhere 'round 1967-68, stayed a while with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, got in among the Transcendental Meditationists, got disillusioned (Sexie Sadie says it all) and left. But what most don't know is that India had had it's own version of the Fab Four at least four years before the Beatles ever stepped foot there.

Shammi Kapoor was Bollywood's answer to Elvis, even matching the King's percipitious weight gain with an alarming rapidity. He could dance the hell out of any song, and with Rafi's voice almost tailor-made for him (it's a testament to Rafi's greatness that his voice seemed tailor-made for every actor), Shammi defined the swinging '60s for the sub-continent. Films like Dil Deke Dekho, Junglee, Professor and Tumsa Nahi Dekha had solidified his position as India's biggest (no pun intended) star when Beatlemania swept the world.

Bollywood wasn't immune to the worldwide craze, and when the lads from Liverpool recorded this in 1963....

....Bollywood had to respond. And what a way to respond. Barely a year later, in 1964 Jaanwar was released. It starred Shammi Kapoor and Rajshree, it had Rafi and Asha as playback singers with the incomparable music directors Shankar-Jaikishen providing the score. And, it had this ....

A final word of trivia, Shammi Kapoor had played a singing drummer in Baar Baar Dekho and Teesri Manzil, and if we stretch our imagination a little bit, Shammi (here in white) might give us an idea of what the Beatles might have been if they hadn't let go of drummer Pete Best, the "fifth" Beatle....

But then again, maybe not.

Song Of The Week,"I Feel A Change Coming On", Bob Dylan
Movie Of The Week,"Blade Runner, The Final Cut"