World Music Day: Most appreciated Bollywood albums in recent years

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The world came to a halt three months ago for many people around the world. The novel coronavirus is not the only thing that has united the world during these three months. Music has been the pillar of support, comfort and release for so many people around the world. The lockdowns have given people a chance to connect deeper with their favourite music, explore new artists and genres and even take up learning new music instruments. Live music streams with DJ’s doing live sets online or artists playing on the streets to applaud front line workers saw people build a deeper appreciation for music.

Today on World Music Day / Make Music Day 2020 in the toughest year for a generation, we have a chance to celebrate music that has helped us get through these trying times.

India is one of the Top 20 biggest music markets in the world and perhaps the most diverse market. India will probably become the main battleground of the global streaming industry in the years ahead. The local market will attract more and more interest in the future, and India is gearing up for it as the music is getting more diverse and mature by the day. Bollywood music contributes over 80% to the Indian music market and today we celebrate World Music Day by looking at some of the best 10 soundtracks in the last 5 years that give Bollywood music the elevation and exposure on the world music scene.

‘Gully Boy’ (2019) – Hip-Hop music has existed in India for a while but purely in the underground scene as people used this genre to express their emotions, life and experiences. This one album changed the game in 2019 and brought this genre to the mainstream! Pure revolutionary material that made the likes of Divine into international stars!! This album also has that live music performance element that truly deserves to be celebrated on this Make Music Day. The music of ‘Gully Boy’ (2019) represented Indian Hip Hop in a manner of utmost purity as the reigns of controlling the music are in the hands of artists from the streets around whom this film is based on. No music producer has spiced them up or interfered in any way to commercialise it or make it mainstream Bollywood… and this is the biggest win of the album. With a huge 18 song album there was a good amount of musical content here and it is not just all Hip Hop. Apna Time Aayega, Azadi, Sher Aaya Sher are the easy top favourites on the album with resounding beats and top lyrics that inspire and tell a story. Divine and Dub Sharma are just awesome! Ranveer Singh himself is super impressive as a rapper. Train Song, Goriye, Asli Hip Hop and India 91 are some of the other good songs on the album. A collaboration of all global sound giants including Raghu Dixit, Karsh Kale and Midival Punditz was a great addition to the album giving it a more appetising global sound. The poetries by Javed Akhtar give the album a lot more Indian character as well. Overall this soundtrack is a defining piece of work making street Hip Hip now mainstream. Whether listeners across India and all around the world warm up to this style of music or not is a different thing but this album sure is the top feather in the cap of Bollywood music in 2019. American Hip Hop is commercial and mainstream but not everyone enjoys it. Indian Hip Hop should also be in the same league of other mainstream music and this film gave it that opportunity as it was a top effort and delivered resounding success as well!

‘Bajirao Mastani’ (2015) – Indian classical music is so dense and intricate that classical music has its fans around the world in every country. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one composer who gives Indian music the chance to shine through this films. This soundtrack surely is the grandest and the most meticulously done album and fits perfectly in the world music category to represent India. The amount of effort that Bhansali has put in the music of this detailed 10 track album is simply commendable! The attention to detail in instrumentation, compositional style and cultural lyrics proves once again that classical Indian music is not dead and rock the charts in this mainstream party music world. What he managed to achieve here is go back to the roots of what Bollywood music is today by rounding up the strong heritage of Hindustani Classical music and make it current. The music is perfectly in sync with this epic historical story from the great land of Maharashtra of one of its greatest heroes and Bhansali leaves no stone unturned to make each song of ‘Bajirao Mastani’ relevant and an aural masterpiece individually in their own right. Songs like Deewani Mastani, Malhari and Aayat are brilliant pieces of music. Aaj Ibaadat and Ab Tohe Jaane Na Doongi are two other great romantic songs worth listening to. Lyrics by Siddhart-Garima are consistently brilliant in every song while some great vocals feature constantly on every song. This is a fabulous album with grand musical production of epic standards!

‘Padmaavat’ (2018) –Bhansali created yet another musical masterpiece with the music of ‘Padmaavat’ that was drenched deep into the feel and times of the setting of his film. Going from the music of Maharashtra in ‘Baajirao Mastani’ (2015) he shifts north to the music of Rajasthan with ‘Padmaavat’ (2018). Plus he introduced Arabic-Turkish flavoured songs bringing in middle-eastern vibes to the album. He is precise with the sound that has depth, grandeur and class to it. He executed his instrumentation perfectly on all songs making this truly an album worth a standing on the world music scene. The album was best with its love songs as Bhansali is all about deep and moving love stories. Ek Dil Ek Jaan and Nainowale Ne are best romantic songs while Ghoomar is a great lead song and Holi is a well delivered festive song adding more colours to this album. This album made classical music cool & mainstream again.

‘Kalank’ (2019) – Talk about blending traditional classical Indian music and making it more palatable for global commercial scene and this soundtrack delivers that. This album also delivered true to expectations from a multi-cast top A-league Bollywood production that features the work of Amitabh Bhattacharya with Pritam. They are both fire every time they come along and they make Indian music sound so classy and grand that is the real highlight of this album. Kalank – Title Track is one of those romantic songs that exudes talent in every aspect and is a genius arrangement. Ghar More Pardesiya is a top opening song that is classically perfect with a great melody and has a very strong star value and thus a strong melodic personality. Tabah Ho Gaye is good giving classical thumri style exposure on the mainstream front. First Class and Aira Gaira are top party songs in their respective genre styles and delivered further depth and variety to the album. Musically one can’t fault how Pritam conducted and composed the songs in this album while carefully balancing the classical and modern relevance of each song. Lyrics consistently range from good to brilliant while vocally one has Shreya Ghoshal and Arijit Singh leading the way for a great and grand soundtrack!

‘Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety’ (2018) – This movie brought commercial Bollywood music and Bhangra music to the masses like none other in recent times. The party vibes of this album are infections! For a story about friendship and based around a Delhi wedding theme, this movie had all the right hooks in the script for a great musical soundtrack that delivered some phenomenal success on the charts. This album has the best music pulled together from all sides with desi artists from around the world including Honey Singh, Amaal Mallik, Guru Randhawa, Zack Knight and Rochak Kohli. Honey Singh delivered superhit dance songs Dil Chori and Chhote Chhote Peg. Knight’s UK superhit ruled the charts with Bom Diggy Diggy becoming huge on the party scene. Arijit Singh brought the Electro party home with Subah Subah to the lyrics of Kumaar. Randhawa brought his magic to Kaun Nachdi in his famous style while Mika Singh delivered the iconic Sweety Slowly Slowly with its slow seductive composition. With all the party tunes in there, there is also another gem of a slow song that became the new sound of friendship. Kohli and Arijit Singh delivered Kumaar’s touching lyrics on Tera Yaar Hoon Main. For an 8 song album, there was something for everyone and almost every song was a chart success making this the biggest album of 2018 and clearly a favourite for many around the world.

‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ (2016) – The music of ‘ADHM’ lived up to the expectations from a Karan Johar film. It was commercially very strong with Pritam and Amitabh Bhattacharya working together to deliver a great sound loved by Bollywood fans around the world. This was a well marketed album with over two months, six singles had been released individually and each took the digital world and airplays by storm. The music album demonstrated genre variety with great singing talent throughout with Arijit Singh being the clear leader. The title song and Bulleya both are perhaps the most loved romantic songs of recent times with Cutie Pie and The Breakup Song being the two huge party tunes that worked with the success of its unique melody. Each song packed great lyrics with Channa Mereya the best of the bunch and top instrumentation beautifully executed by Pritam and his band. The intricacies of the music on this album is next level and perhaps why one of the most loved soundtracks for recent times. Every song is worth listening to on a repeat and has stuck around on every Bollywood lover’s playlist.

‘Roy’ (2015) This soundtrack not only rocked the charts in India but helped Bollywood music reach wider audiences around the world. Sooraj Dooba Hai has been one of the biggest club party tunes of the decade only in competition with another song on this album itself – Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan that works like a charm be it in a wedding or in a club. These songs have been the biggest hit numbers in tons of countries in Europe and Northern America with fans from every ethnic background. The album also had a gorgeous romantic melody in Tu Hai Ki Nahi that made this a commercially good album to listen to. The success of these three mammoth hits on the international scene makes this one of the most popular Bollywood soundtracks of recent times.

‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’ (2017) – With the big names of Shah Rukh Khan and Imtiaz Ali behind this project, the pressure to deliver a strong commercially viable album is evident and Pritam was the best man to deliver that. He brought his typical style to some of the tracks and went beyond to deliver some really good exceptional tracks with the help of Irshad Kamil. Safar, Beech Beech Mein, Radha, Hawayein and Butterfly all really good songs that did well on the charts with excessive radio and TV plays. Arijit Singh was the star of the album delivering a new style on Beech Beech Mein but he was at his best on Safar. Kamil delivered with some brilliant lyrics on the album consistently from one song to another. The album crossed all borders when King Khan brought in trance superstar Diplo on Phurrr that gave this soundtrack its international credentials. Overall this was an exciting OST that had something for everyone from masses to the discerning listeners with a lot of focus on Bollywood dance and party numbers!

‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’ (2017) – A commercially powerful soundtrack that had all its five songs on the charts even before the release of the film. The songs of this movie were perhaps the most popular streamed songs on digital platforms. There was a perfect variety of genres on this OST with something for everyone there. Tanishk Bagchi is the real star of the album with two big numbers to his credit including Badri Ki Dulhania and the massive remake Tamma Tamma Again that was a lot different from so many other recent remakes. This album packed in a whole load of fun and made Bollywood remakes international. Amaal Mallik and Akhil Sachdeva support well with the romantic songs with Roke Na Ruke Naina standing out in the category and Aashiq Surrender Hua in the dance category. All singers and lyricists have done a great job on their respective songs making this an overall a great collaborative album to listen to and thus the most successful & popular music album of recent times that brought the sound of second tier cities of India to the mainstream.

‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’(2015) The cross border theme of the movie in itself made this album appeal on the international music scene. Easily the biggest blockbuster of the year and one of the top grossing Bollywood films of all time, the music clearly and surely played a major role in getting the film to that position. A wholesome album with 11 songs on this OST has a lot of work put in by Pritam. With a couple of big party tunes including Selfie Le Le and Aaj Ki Party that have ruled the club scene, and beautiful emotional songs in Tu Jo Mila and Zindagi the album managed to touch a few heart strings with listeners clearly amplified by the success of the film and its touching story. On the romantic front Tu Chahiye delivered the vibes and then a fantastic traditional qawali in Bhar Do Jholi Meri delivered the cross-border sufi sound for this OST. A super cute Chicken Song is really fun to hear too giving more character to this album. From Papon to Rahat Ali Khan to Rekha to Mika to Vishal to Atif to Adnan.. this album packs some of the best signing talent from India and Pakistan making this an album worthy of celebrating world music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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