Music

Asha Bhosle: 75 Years of Asha

There are characteristic Asha touches, those nimble trills and teases, but nothing as ruthlessly energetic as some of the other Asha songs you might have heard.


Asha Bhosle

75 Years of Asha

Subtitle: A Musical Journey
Label: Times Square
US Release Date: 2008-04-01
UK Release Date: Available as import
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What's going on with this album? The Times Square site currently describes it like this:

75 YEARS OF ASHA is a journey through Ashaji’s career, featuring new recordings of her all time favorites, including songs made famous by these legendary female vocalists, who had a deep impact on Ashaji’s life. As an added bonus will be a song by another singer who Ashaji admired: Miriam Makeba. The song is being specially produced for Ashaji by Hugh Masekela.

But it isn't. It isn't a complete journey through Ashaji's career, there doesn't seem to be anything by Miriam Makeba, nowhere on the packaging do they mention Hugh Masekela, and my ears suggest that these aren't new recordings of old favourites, they're the original thing. The "Aao Na Gale Lag Jao Na" on this album is surely too close to the old one to be a reworking. The sound quality is crisper than in the YouTube clip below, but the singer's inflections are recognisably the same. The same goes for "Dil Cheez Kya Hai".

Perhaps the Miriam Makeba track will appear on the album Asha is putting out later this year, and the person writing the description got the two titles mixed up. Perhaps she performed the song live on her recent US tour but didn't record it. Perhaps my ears and eyes are playing tricks on me. I'm not sure. A mystery.

A more accurate description would run something like this:

75 YEARS OF ASHA is a journey through some parts of Ashaji’s career, but not all of them. It features old recordings, along with two songs from the album Ashaji will be putting out some time between September and November this year. If you own a few western Asha compilations, then you'll already be familiar with some of the old recordings. Others will seem new.

If the two new recordings are anything to go by, then the next album should sound something like her 2006 release Love Supreme, a two-disc set, one half ghazals, the other half love duets from Indian movies. On both songs her unhurried voice rides waves of instruments: gently hooting flutes, tinkles and sweeps of guitar, the deep, cupped notes of a drum. It's a long way away from the songs that first brought her to the attention of the English-speaking world, the "Dum Maro Dums" and other ballsy, vivacious pieces from her filmi vamp phase, back in the 1960s and '70s, when the fallout of her divorce from a violent husband meant that she was left voicing the less virtuous, less prestigious onscreen characters.

The older recordings on 75 Years of Asha sit somewhere between the romance-paced pieces and the ballsier ones. There are characteristic Asha touches, those nimble trills and teases, but nothing as ruthlessly energetic as some of the other Asha songs you might have heard, such as 1956's "Ina Mina Dinka", or "One Two Three Baby", that malapert 1968 duet with Mahendra Kapoor. There's only one duet on this album, "Tari Vanki Re Paghaldo", a Gujrati number in which she's partnered with Veljibhai Gajjar. It has a harsher, folkier sound than most of the songs she performs in Hindi, and it's interesting for that, for showing a side of Asha that is neither 1970s vamp-camp nor ghazal. Other tracks include "Jivalaga Rahile Re Door Ghar", which coils forward with a hypnotic writhe, and "Le Gayi, Le Gayi", which arrives in a barrage of electronic bangs and snaps.

The title seems to promise a concise one-disc career-encompassing retrospective, but if that's what you want then you're better off with the Rough Guide to Bollywood Legends: Asha Bhosle, which was compiled with help from Bhosle herself and her son Anand. The playlist covers a variety of styles, and there are liner notes for each song, while the notes for 75 Years of Asha are little more than a puff piece telling you how wonderful she is, which, if you're buying this CD at all, is something you knew before you took it off the shelf.

This is a pity, because 75 Years, coming half a decade after the Rough Guide was released, is in a better position to evaluate her songs from the '90s, and '00s. Instead it concentrates almost entirely on the 1960s and '70s, two decades that have been ploughed over by other compilations before this. The exceptions are "Dil Cheez Kya Hai" and "Le Gayi, Le Gayi", from 1981 and 1997 respectively, and of course, the two tracks from the new 2008 album, which seems as yet untitled. They refer to it simply as a "forthcoming Album of Asha Bhosle." 75 Years is interesting for the non-Hindi songs, typically harder to find in foreign collections than the Hindi ones. Two of them are in Gujarati, two in Marathi, and then there's a Bengali track called "Mohuay Jomecche Aaj Mou Go" which comes with some lovely, bottom-weighted switchback vowel-work.

This is not an essential Asha disc, not the cornerstone of a collection and not the place to start one, but worth it for the uncommon tracks, as long as you don't mind buying duplicates of one or two songs you've possibly already got.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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