Filed under: India
Bollywood film music of India is commonly refered to as “filmi music” (from Hindi, meaning “of films”). Songs from Bollywood movies are generally pre-recorded by professional playback singers, with the actors then lip synching the words to the song on-screen, often while dancing. Playback singers are prominently featured in the opening credits and have their own fans who will go to an otherwise lackluster movie just to hear their favourites. Their songs can make or break a film and usually do.
Songs typically comment on the action taking place in the movie, in several ways. Sometimes, a song is worked into the plot, so that a character has a reason to sing; other times, a song is an externalisation of a character’s thoughts, or presages an event that has not occurred yet in the plot of the movie. In this case, the event is almost always two characters falling in love.
Bollywood films have always used what are now called “item numbers“. A physically attractive female character (the “item girl”), often completely unrelated to the main cast and plot of the film, performs a catchy song and dance number in the film. In older films, the “item number” may be performed by a courtesan (tawaif) dancing for a rich client or as part of a cabaret show. The dancer Helen Jairag Richardson Khan was famous for her cabaret numbers. In modern films, item numbers may be inserted as discotheque sequences, dancing at celebrations, or as stage shows.
As for Charanjit Singh, there is not a whole lot of information available. According to the liner notes of his “One Man Show” album which was recorded in 1977, he had apparently been playing live for two decades. But his first single was not released until 1973. Unlike other performers who chose to pay tribute to the songs of Bollywood, Charanjit played a variety of instruments. He would feature either bass, steel guitar, the electric violin or the Transicord electric accordion as the prominent instrument on each song. He would eventually switch to the synthesizer, covering entire soundtracks.
Charanjit Singh has been featured on Bombay Connection’s “The Bombay Connection Vol. 1: Funk from Bollywood Action Thrillers 1977-1984” and Sublime Frequencies‘ “Bollywood Steel Guitar”. In 2010, his only non-Filmi record from 1982 “Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat” was reissued by Bombay connection. If you any further information, please contact me.