x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Bollywood musical mash-up: Amitabh Bachchan due to perform with Akon

The likes of Kylie Minogue, Akon and Snoop Dogg have jumped on the bandwagon. Now Lady Gaga is poised to follow. Are we seeing a new wave in Bollywood music?

Akon performing in Dubai - he is just one of the many western musicians collaborating with Bollywood artists. Pawan Singh / The National
Akon performing in Dubai - he is just one of the many western musicians collaborating with Bollywood artists. Pawan Singh / The National

With rumours of Lady Gaga wanting to jump on the Bollywood bandwagon, and the actor Amitabh Bachchan due to perform with the urban star Akon at a rock concert in India later this year, there is no denying that Bollywood has been invaded by the international music bug. Can this be the beginning of a new wave of music in Bollywood?

Whether it's the likes of Akon making his talent heard on Ra.One's hit Chamak Challo, or the hip-hop rapper Ludacris in Speedy Singhs' Shera Di Kaum, it was only a matter of time before the Bollywood industry began attracting international musical talent.

This trend provides worldwide exposure for both Bollywood and the music artists, according to the singer/songwriter Shena Musiq, who is currently working with EMI Music Arabia's music producer Ramzi.

"When you look at the Bollywood industry, it was very isolated, in the sense that only eastern Asian people knew about it," says Musiq. "But to see it crossing over in such a mainstream way is a great achievement."

The Australian pop star Kylie Minogue (Chiggy Wiggy, Blue) and the hip-hop star Snoop Dogg (Singh Is King) are just one of the few international stars that have been welcomed in the Bollywood industry, but Musiq's favourite has to be 2011's hit from the movie Ra.One, Chamak Challo. "It was at number one for so many weeks, it was amazing."

"I thought it was such a great collaboration, it had an amazing music style and composition," explains dholi (drummer) Jazz Singh, who is part of an Asian UK drumming band called Drumline. He has toured worldwide and worked with international artists, including the music composer AR Rahman, the Bhangra legend MBE Malkit Singh and the UK girl group Sugababes.

Akon, who has two record labels in the US - Konvict and Kon Live Distribution - is now planning to work with local talent in India to produce music for Bollywood. Following from the success of Chamak Challo, he is now set to perform with Amitabh Bachchan at a rock concert hosted by the music director Aadesh Srivastav. Srivastav is also said to be working with Amitabh Bachan and Akon to feature on a charity music album, Anthem of Peace, which also features the urban artist Wyclef Jean.

The appeal of Bollywood has increased immensely worldwide, hence the reason why international artists have started to collaborate with the East. "It's a multibillion [dollar] industry, which is getting as much exposure as Hollywood," explains Musiq. "And to have your name attached to something as big as Bollywood is an honour and a huge achievement."

These artists have opened themselves up to the world market, and are attracting a new fan base, which can only enhance and contribute to their success. "The different style of music that the international stars are bringing into the industry appeals to new fans as well as old ones," says Singh, "which is providing exposure for the artists themselves and also helping develop music in India."

But these collaborations signify a deeper meaning. "It shows unity and spreads the saying of 'one love'," says Musiq. "It doesn't matter where you are from, you can get involved in this industry and be a part of it."

This is not the first time international artists have made an appearance within the Indian music industry. Spice Girl Melanie C featured in Tanha Dil with music artist Shaan in 2000, and last year Sunidhi Chahan and Enrique Iglesias collaborated on a Hindi version of Heartbeat.

"Personally, it isn't a surprise to see artists like Enrique Iglesias, Snoop Dogg and Akon coming into the industry, as Bollywood is so versatile in their music," says the drummer. "And it's a genre of music that everyone loves to listen to."

The R&B artist Ginuwine also made his breakthrough with Baby (Dil Diwana) featuring Anu Shukla, who is in fact Musiq's aunt.

"Ginuwine was with producer Shayal, going through different material, and my aunt had recorded a Hindi melody and hook," says Musiq. "There were other R&B beats, and the fact that he was drawn to the Hindi hook, says a lot about where our music is going and how partnerships are being made."

We are, however, seeing crossovers both ways. "My producer Ramzi, he cannot only sing in R&B but in Hindi and Arabic, too," says Musiq. "What is happening is, you are crossing over to so many different markets and saying this genre of music is acceptable, here, here and here, and you're opening up what music is actually about".

"The good thing is that Bollywood has stuck to its style of music," says Singh. "But having these international rappers and singers coming on board adds a different flavour and style to the music." This in turn helps the development of music in India.

"Back in the day, there were preconceptions that Bollywood films were not 'all that'," explains Musiq. "But now the industry has taken it so seriously and turned around so many misconceptions that people want to come into our market."

The result? A positive effect on the multibillion-dollar industry.

"Also exposure," adds Musiq, "whether you are a western singer in Bollywood or a Bollywood singer in the western industry, all exposure of that kind is good exposure for both the industry and artist."

"Bollywood will step up to the challenge, they've already started to do it, I think this cross-culture that has started, that could only enhance what Bollywood stands for," says the singer.

"It's an advanced industry that continues to surprise us day in and day out," adds Singh. "I really look forward to seeing what else they have in store for us and the world."

David Guetta will be touring in India in March. Who knows which music producer he'll bump into.