Asha Bhosle - Live in Concert

This past Friday was a landmark of sorts. As fans of Indian music and of Bollywood playback singers, the two female vocalists we admire most are Lata Mangeshkar and her younger sister Asha Bhosle. I doubt this is not the consensus among those who follow Indian music today. I doubt this has not been the consensus among those who have followed Indian music for over the last five decades. To see either Lata-ji or Asha-ji perform live is indeed a privilege. I was privileged to see Lata-ji live in concert in Bombay in the early 1990s. And I was privileged just as much to [finally] see Asha-ji live in concert last Friday night.

We got to the Broward Center for Performing Arts (pictured below) at 7:30 p.m. for the concert that began at 8. It was a good chance to meet with some from our grad school days. The last time we had assembled for a fun event was a trip to the Florida Keys during the spring break of 2006, rocking to the soundtrack to Rang De Basanti (2006). Here was a chance for us to witness one of the greatest singers known to Hindi cinema, and we were obviously very excited.

The event began with the musicians (listed at the bottom of this post) accompanied by Amit Kumar, providing a resounding introduction of Asha-ji. Amit Kumar is the son of the legendary Kishore Kumar, and has gone largely unnoticed in recent times, primarily because of his inclination to sing non-filmy songs. That is also why someone like me had not realized (partly for my own oversight) that his was the voice in Oye Oye in Tridev (1989), a very popular track of its time. More on Mr. Kumar below.

Asha-ji kicked off the event with the story of her family -- the Mangeshkars -- and how she and her four siblings initially struggled to make ends meet after their father's death. This was preceded by a request to not capture on video any portion of the concert with either singer in it. The reason for this was primarily that there was some element of concern regarding the statements of the two singers being broadcast across the internet, being taken out of context, and leading to tricky questions posed to them by the media. Well justified and one I agreed with. With that statement went any hopes I had of sharing a clip or two. Yet, I found some videos from an Asha-ji concert from this same tour, so I have provided links to them. My only video is from the last few seconds of the concert, by which time both Asha-ji and Mr. Kumar were off-stage.

[As I try to dissect the concert, the best way I can think of is to reflect on what the themes for the evening seemed to be.]


Through the concert, Asha-ji had some very interesting stories to share on relationships. In addition to the initial bit on her family, one such story was when Kishore Kumar, at her request, sang a duet with her (instead of the initially-planned Kishore solo). She specifically mentioned the following individuals as having had a tremendous positive influence on her career: Lata didi (didi means 'older sister'); Noorjahan Apa, her guru (the late Noorjehan is widely regarded as Pakistan's best singer (she even sang and acted in Bollywood pre-1947)); Kishore-da (Kishore Kumar); and R.D. Burman (of course!).


The most moving moments of the night came when Asha-ji discussed her relationship with Kishore-da, as she calls him. That he used to tell her that 'main chala jaaoonga phir waapas nahin aaoonga. Tab logon ko yaad ayega ke un ke beech kya tha' (I shall not return when I am gone, and that is when people will recall what they had amongst them). This narrative was followed by the song: 'Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain...'.

The most entertaining segment of the evening featured Asha-ji making a turban of a dupatta, wearing it as headgear, and showcasing a ballad set in the Punjab countryside. The ballad told of a lion's wedding, and the role of a mouse in that wedding. Very funny, very very well improvised, and incorporated with some excellent music, including the song 'Nagada Baja' (you might recall the song was also part of Jab We Met) and 'Laung Gawacha' by her Noorjahan Apa (watch the original song from the Pakistani movie). To give you an idea of the popularity of the latter...I have heard the song at every Mehndi ceremony of an Indian or Pakistani wedding I have been to (be it in India, Pakistan, East Africa, Europe, or North America).

Asha-ji expressed her disappointment in the current state of Bollywood and its music, particularly at the lyrics and purpose of soundtracks, which according to her, leaves a lot to be desired and is not close to those of the yesteryears. Of course, there is a lot of truth to this, and there seems to be a consensus on this subject. I agree completely, but think it is a supply-demand issue (much like everything else in the world is). For that discussion, see this post: Lyrical Dementia a Legitimate Concern.

There were several non-Hindi speaking people among the audience, and a couple to my right. After the event, I learned from them that they enjoyed it, which was good to know. They particularly liked Asha-ji's concern for them, and that she thanked them for being there and sitting through the two hours despite knowing she was not going to sing in English.

No surprises here, as she was rightfully very critical of the remixes. In her words: 'sach boloon, mujhe apne hi gaanon ko is tarha dikhaye jaane par rona aata hai', i.e. 'truth be told, I feel like crying at how they portray my songs'. Specifically, she expressed her disapproval of how the music, the vocals, and particularly the videos end up adulterating some of her very good original songs. Agreed completely.

A nice mix of songs made for a real treat for any music lover. Some of us were a bit surprised that she stayed away from her A.R. Rahman hits (e.g. those from Rangeela, Thakshak, Lagaan, etc.) in favor of the older and admittedly much bigger hits. Yet, this was did not take much away from the concert, so I truly hope to not come across as complaining about this. Here are some songs (in addition to those mentioned above) that I recall being part of the concert:

- Aaj ki raat and Raat baaqi
- Aaja Aaja (watch the original song)
- Dil cheez kya hai (part of my Asha Bhosle Week series of posts)
- Jhumka gira re (watch the original song)
- Piya tu ab tau aaja (watch the original song)
- Yeh ladka haye Allah (watch the original song)
- In aankhon ki masti mein (watch the original song)
- Kabhi tau nazar milaao (this was a very entertaining one. She sang it in four tones -- her own, Lata Didi's, Noorjahan Apa's, and Ghulam Ali's. Fun! Watch the original song here).

The most thunderous applause of the night (besides the one at the very end) went to the songs 'Piya tu ab tau aaja' and 'Dil cheez kya hai'. Amit Kumar's providing the 'Monica, O my darling' in the former fit in perfectly. Here is a picture from when they sang that (Amit in the red shirt):

Asha-ji is going to release a new solo album soon, with some introductory promo event on Times Square too. Based on the preview she provided during the concert, it promises to be very good. Stay tuned. Turns out the music is provided by Sachin Dhamankar, who she acknowledged as I took this picture:

On Amit Kumar
Turns out Mr. Kumar has insisted that he does not want to be labeled as a Kishore-esque Bollywood singer. That is, according to the event program (and as confirmed by Mr. Kumar as well), a significant reason for why his role in Bollywood has been limited. Yet, by far my favorite Amit Kumar song from the evening was one of my all-time Kishore favorites, Roop Tera Mastana (watch the original here), which I thought he sang amazingly well. We could certainly use a more Kishore-esque Amit Kumar in Bollywood today. He also had a nice story on the recording of this song (which was originally a song in Bengali -- I did not know that).

The Music crew
Director/Percussionist: Nitin Shankar
Dholak/Tabla: Sachin Dhamankar
Keyboards: Santosh Mulekar
Guitar: Narendra Salaskar
Electronic Pads: Anup Shankar
Drums: Ankeet Bham
Keyboards: Deepak Walke
Bass: Dominic Fernandes

Here is the crew drawing the evening to a close:

The Experience
This was undoubtedly one of the best concerts I have been to. As film aficionados, we tend to associate certain music with times in our life, i.e. almost like creating a customized soundtrack to our being. Being part of a family and an extended network of friends who are fans of Hindi cinema, it is inevitable that we have several Asha Bhosle songs in the soundtrack to our lives. To see the living legend was truly remarkable.


Anonymous said...

I have a huge collection of Hindi film songs, and about 140 of them are Amit Kumar...he sang in films especially in the 70's and 80', some in the 90's and seems to pretty much have stopped. He's sung with his father and with Asha a lot.

Great review, wish I'd been there even though I don't speak Hindi either!

Anonymous said...

Heyyy, yes, it was a fun night out. We all need to hang out again soon before you move to Cali. Be in touch.

theBollywoodFan said...

Memsaab: Thank you. I still can't believe that some (like me) are largely unaware of Amit Kumar's contributions. Shame on us. I'll be sure to check out some of his work. Any recommendations?

Reshma: Yes, we'll definitely coordinate something soon.

Anonymous said...

He sang for RD Burman a lot, one film is Jawani (1984) and another Love Story (1981) and also Teri Kasam (1981). He also sang songs for Shabash Daddy (1979) for which Kishore was music director. And he sang with Kishore in several songs for Karate (1983) with Bappi as music director.

You can search by his name in the iTunes or eMusic stores as well to download some of his songs.

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you for the recommendations memsaab. Truly appreciate them, and look forward to checking them out soon.

Anonymous said...

Well Dear Bollywood Fan,

Amit Kumar is singing even now... If you remember 2006 song "Dil Mein Baji Guitar...", "Dilrubaon Ke Jalwe" in 2010 for ShahRukh, in 90s "Deewana..Deewanaa.." from Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na.. and many more.

He is largely unnoticed due to lack of media coverage and his low profile.. His songs are though high-profile! :-) :-)

Great review by you though.. Enjoyed it.