I’ve never thought: ‘I wish someone would put out a compilation of Bollywood songs done on the steel guitar.’ But on finding out that said album existed, I, like (Bongwater’s) Ms Magnusson, moaned ‘I want one.’ And I damn well got myself one too.
Bollywood Steel Guitar – Various
There’s a moment on the Bongwater Power of Pussy album where singer Ann Magnuson realises that Nick Cave dolls exist. ‘I want one,’ she moans. All well and good, but it is highly unlikely she went around thinking about said dolls, and wishing that someone would get around to making them. Similarly, I’ve never thought: ‘I wish someone would put out a compilation of Bollywood songs done on the steel guitar.’ But on finding out that said album existed, I, like Ms Magnusson, moaned ‘I want one.’ And I damn well got myself one too.
And of course it was brilliant. These are instrumental versions of Bollywood songs with, as you might expect, the steel guitar sitting centre stage. What is more unexpected is just how varied the 21 tracks are. Aao Twist Karen, for example, sounds like the soundtrack to a Hawaiian surf film. Mera Hoon Pyar Tera, laden as it is with what sounds like accordions, could soundtrack a jazz club scene from a 50s French film. Badan Pe Sitare sounds distinctly Greek at the beginning; you’re expecting to hear Nana Mouskouri at any minute. Chura Liya Hai Tum Ne has Mariachi style trumpets and sounds like it should be soundtracking a western. Having said this, these are still ‘Indian’ songs, despite the western influences, the steel guitar essentially sitting in for the sitar or the gotuvadyam. What you have is a wonderful mix of influences, all coming together to produce fun, upbeat pop songs.
There are also a few undeniable crackers in the collection. Piya Tu Ab To Aja must have come from a spy caper. It sounds like an Indian version of a 60s Bond knock-off (the Flint series springs to mind) and it even contains a cheeky sample of the Bond theme. Manje Re is even better – all I can say is that it sounds like a great Os Mutantes track, and you don’t get much higher praise than that. Mahbooba Mehbooba is downright funky but the real surprises come with the final two tracks. Mere Liye Too Bani opens up sounding like the New York dance scene 1976-81 condensed into a couple of minutes. There’s the percussive bongo funk of Liquid Liquid mixed with great disco synths. And then there’s steel guitar on top! Duniya Mane Bura To Goli Maro is possibly even better – it kicks off like a 1970s science programme on the telly complete with wonky moog. Yes, and steel guitar…
All I can say is that the album more than lives up to my expectations. Surely, by now, you’re sat reading this, drooling slightly, and saying, ‘I want one.’