Pleasure Garden: DJ Hush’s Bollywood Selection 7th May, 2014

Ahead of Pleasure Garden‘s Bollywood spectacular on Thursday, we asked Glasgow’s leading exotic record collector DJ Hush a few questions about his hot passionate obsession with insane disco and thundering percussion from the depths of the Indian film industry.

When did you start your collection? What was the first one?
The first Bollywood track I really wanted was on a Smylonylon Tape* which I bought in New York in 1996. The track was Jimmy Ajaa Ajaa Ajaa from the Bollywood film Disco Dancer. I didn’t’ see the film until 2007 when I found it on DVD and projected at my Thursday night club RPZ.

In 1998 I meet a guy called Kasel in Birmingham, he worked at BBC Asian Network radio, it was him that told me what film Jimmy Ajaa was from and made me a Bollywood cassette, which started me on a totally dangerous path, a pretty difficult path actually (laughs).

*Smylonylon was a crazy, dead stock second hand clothes shop on Lafayaette Street, which also sold its own mixtapes which were compiled by the owner Chris Brick and Alex Glorr (one half an Inflagranti).

What happened after that tape?
I started to try and find Bollywood records, but it was a very tortuous task. My first few Bollywood albums came from Kasel, he gave me his double copies of a few, including Disco Dancer, Shaan Don, Dance Dance and some British Bollywood stuff written by Biddu.

There was no discogs, nothing on Ebay, no one knew about those records that wasn’t Indian. I couldn’t Google “Top 10 Bollywood Tracks” on Youtube. When you did find a record they were usually so gubbed they were unplayable, one that I did get on Ebay, I opened and it was actually covered in mud.

Gradually stuff started to filter onto the internet, Youtube became a great resource. The records were still hard to find, but rather than just looking for a sleeve with a girl in a sparkly catsuit and a man in an eighties batwing top, you could at least you could research things! Now there are UK dealers who sell some pretty good collections and trustworthy sites in India as well. The various comps have created far more visibility with Bollywood music in the past 10 years as well.

What particular sounds or types of Bollywood music are you most fond of?
I really like wacky insane disco! In Bollywood, disco happened in the 80s not the 70s, right into the early 90s they were making Disco Bollywood films. What’s really nice is that in most of the films in the 80s and 90s, there’s a specific format of scenes that unfold to tell the familiar tropes in Indian storytelling. A lot of the great disco tracks are the “item girl scenes”, a scene where a woman sings a song to tempt the male hero, she usually doesn’t appear anywhere else in the film. There’s always a scene outdoors where the hero and heroine dance together, a romantic scene that’s usually up-tempo. Although, some of them have a sad song, or a sad version of the main title.

What is it about the music that you find interesting?
What’s really interesting is the insane level to which they cross pollinate Western music with their own culture. Disco, Rock, House, R&B interpreted with traditional Indian instruments and structures in this mind boggling fushion. All the tracks are overlayed with mad synth noises and explosions and swooshes, it’s a sensibility that seems incredibly post-modern and dynamic. At the time the music must have seemed incredibly anachronistic and twee, but i think its incredibly forward looking in its lack of any Western ideals of coolness and restraint. Also because the music is totally for film, it has to be stretched and adapted towards the actions, so away from the action the sounds seem deranged, but the sounds (when seen with the film) are made to punctuate the dancers and the gestures, so they do make sense in a really beautiful way. There are masses of close-up facial reactions shots, the sounds that follow could be anything.

They really plunder Western Pop music in a shocking, very impressive way. There are unless rip-offs… Michael Jackson, Kraftwerk, Madonna, Yazoo, Laura Branigan… they just just take chunks of the main melody and just slot them in to the middle of their own songs.

What can you tell me about some of the main Bollywood composers?
I have heard that Bappi Lahiri he was sort of a dysfunctional superstar who had his own armed entourage that followed him around. RD Burman, who composed a lot of the more funkier soundtracks of the 70s has been sampled by a bunch of hip hop artists for its breaks and guitar sounds. There’s Kalyanji Anandji as well, who was edited by DJ Shadow and Dan The Automator on their record Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars & Sitars. That record was one of the first things to come out that was well produced, and it was music that people had just never heard before.