Asha Bhosle’s non-film recordings give a glimpse into her impact on popular culture beyond Bollywood. Since the 1980s, Bhosle has recorded ghazals and pop songs, among which the 15-track album Dil Padosi Hai (1987), with music by RD Burman and lyrics by Gulzar, is a standout.
In the 1990s, her collaborations with Western artists led to interesting results. Sometimes, the experiments did not work, as was the case of her fresh renditions of overcooked RD Burman hits in the 1996 album Rahul And I. But when they did, magic happened.
Log Kehte Hain, Aabshar-e-Ghazal (1985)
Among Bhosle’s best non-film ghazals. Hariharan has composed the song written by Urdu poet Bashir Badr.
Rishte Bante Hai, Dil Padosi Hai (1987)
Gulzar bemoans the premature end of a relationship, comparing it with the leaves on a twig that don’t get to grow old. In the same mould as Burman’s tunes for Gulzar’s film Ijaazat, Rishte Bante Hai is a melancholic affair in an album filled with hidden gems.
Boy George’s Bow Down Mister (1991)
The song’s only asset is Asha Bhosle. The silly video aside, Boy George’s hippyish lyrics (“All the Hindus know the score / If you wanna live some more / Hare, hare, hare”) seem like the work of a 12-year-old. When Bhosle’s voice finally appears near the end over the synthetic bassline, it’s a relief.
Jaanam Samjha Karo (1997)
Lesle Lewis’s update of RD Burman tunes for Rahul and I, featuring Asha Bhosle, was a dud at the level of execution simply because it’s tough to reimagine music that’s already perfect on the conceptual level. But his original tune Jaanam Samjha Karo, which was released soon after, is quite a treat.
Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha, remixed by Norman Cook (1998)
A most lovely and charming tribute to Hindi film songs and Asha Bhosle by Britpop band Cornershop. It’s easy to see why the version by DJ Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) became a chart-topper in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Kabhi To Nazar Milao (2000)
The song that announced Adnan Sami’s arrival to the Indipop scene, Kabhi Toh Nazar Milao is a delightful ghazal sung and composed by Sami, with Bhosle providing strong support to the singer-composer.
1 Giant Leap’s The Way You Dream featuring Michael Stipe (2002)
Asha Bhosle singing a drum ‘n’ bass song? Yes, and it’s delightful. Electronic group 1 Giant Leap’s eight-minute The Way You Dream is marvellously composed and produced, featuring a melange of tabla, strings, guitars, drums, and synths. R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe earns the distinction of being one of Bhosle’s best co-singers.
Mera Kuch Saaman from Ijaazat, featuring Kronos Quartet (2005)
The Grammy-nominated 2005 Kronos Quartet album You’ve Stolen My Heart features rearranged versions of RD Burman-Bhosle hits with fresh vocals by the singer. Not all tracks improve upon the original. But the version of Mera Kuch Saaman here is a bit slower and feels slightly more poignant, with the string sections in tow.