One of the occupational hazards of writing a regular music column is death by drowning. I am sent, or referred to, or stumble upon, or rediscover more music each week than I can possibly write about. Much of what comes my way are single tracks, which are brilliant entities in themselves but don’t easily fit into each week’s theme.
Over the years, my computer has become an orphanage of sorts, a place where random and abandoned pieces of song huddle together in playlists and folders, hoping one day to be able to strut their stuff on centre stage. Each week they are called up for inspection. They are prodded and poked. Some get selected for a long list but eventually rejected. Like homeless children they are sent back to a dark cyber corner with instructions to wait a little bit longer.
This week their moment has come. Here are several songs from across the spectrum that will hopefully tickle your fancy far into the working week. You could call this a playlist of random goodness.
Meri Aankhon Mein (Vidhesh 1977)
In the dark days of the Emergency, truth, justice and rock ‘n roll were kept alive by a certain Agent Vinod (Mahendra Sandhu). The intrepid CBI agent fought crime and corruption but also liked to break into song and even shake it on the dance floor. The Agent Vinod films (Vidhesh being one of the series) did quite well for B-movies but their musical scores seem to have sunk like the Titanic.
More’s the pity because the guitar riff on this song is jaw droppingly cool. It would not be out of place on an early Kinks record. That it hasn’t been sampled yet by some enterprising French DJ is even more incredible. Rafi sahib definitely had better lyrics to vocalize in other films but rarely were they set so deep in the groove. The musical director in question, RaamLaxman, may not have hit the top tier of his profession but I would argue that for this guitar riff alone he deserves his name in lights.
Muhavishla Ravi Hatchud & the Indo Jazz Following
Bombay Palace Number 1
A tasty slice of acid jazz from the enigmatically (and suspiciously) named Muhavishla Ravi Hatchud. Whether he be man or myth the music he makes with his followers is snappy, cinematic and very hip. Opening with some crisp drumming, Bombay Palace Number 1 is really a jugalbandi for sitar and electric guitar wrapped in the silky tones of a Hammond B3. Perhaps this was conceived as theme music for a mid-60s Spanish spy movie? The track is the final entry on a fabulous album of pseudo Indo Jazz released by (now defunct) Outcaste Records out of the UK.
Sadiq Khan Mando
An unsung hero of South Asian classical music, Sadiq Khan Mando, ustad of the clarinet, plays Raga Pahadi in an alleyway in Old Lahore. Emerging out of the wedding band circuit as well as the studios of Lollywood, as this clip demonstrates, Mando was an accomplished classical player as well. This piece has the elegance of Mozart and the soul of Coltrane. Absolutely wonderful.
Billing themselves as purveyors of Indo-Appalachian fusion, this North Carolina group are perhaps the first attempt at mixing bluegrass and Hindustani classical music. And while their marketing is certainly effective, there is precious little of that most quintessential bluegrass instrument, the banjo, to be heard here. None in fact.
Having said that, Hindugrass music is definitely worth repeated listens. Mixing Indian instruments (sarod, tabla and a customised 21-stringed ‘Saraswati’ guitar) with a string quartet, the group’s sound is more classical than folk. This reading of Raga Bhairavi is a case in point. Intense and soaring the composition definitely captures the majestic mood of the raga. But one is left wishing for a bit less control and a little more free-flowing exploration.
Dan the Automator/DJ Shadow
Fists of Curry
Dan "the Automator" Nakamura is a Californian hiphop artist and record producer known as well for his eccentric remixes. In the waning years of the last century he hooked up with mega star DJ Shadow to produce a disc of musical reimaginings of Kalyanji Andandji film music. The record appeared for a short while before quietly disappearing. But an audience hungry for what was then a nascent Bollywood Funk style of groover’s music demanded more and second volume, Electric Vindaloo, was issued. In many instances the Automator did very little with the originals but on several, such as this absurdly titled track, reshapes some uncredited incidental music into a contemporary thriller soundscape.