There are moments when you hear a familiar tune or a beat, and you're convinced you've heard it before. Chances are, you're not wrong. These instances occur when songs bear an uncanny resemblance to something you've heard in the past. Sometimes, a song's compelling nature can be attributed to samples from classic Indian tracks that you've encountered while listening to music.
The echoes of classic Indian songs, featuring legendary artists like Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, and A. R. Rahman, have reverberated across the globe, leaving an indelible mark on global music. These Indian maestros have made pieces that have transcended borders, subtly weaving their tunes into the works of Western artists. The result? Western compositions occasionally exude a distinct Indianness.
Discovering Indian tracks that inspire musicians is one thing, but certain songs are so tantalising that musicians are compelled to integrate fragments or samples into their own compositions. Sampling is the famous practice of extracting a segment or a bit from a sound recording and incorporating it into a new composition.
The connection between Indian and Western music isn't always overt. Sometimes, it's a direct translation of an Indian original, while in other cases, it's the adaptation of a tune with a twist. These threads of Indian influence can be found in diverse global music genres, often adding an unexpected layer of depth to songs that have resonated with us for years. There's no one-size-fits-all approach; each sample is ingeniously reinvented within the context of Western musical narratives.
A prime example lies with Britney Spears' hit Toxic. What many may not realise is that the popular song was reconstructed from Lata Mangeshkar's Tere Mere Beech Mein. The ingenious work by Swedish producers Bloodshy and Avant transformed this snippet into an effective pop hook, the process is extremely fascinating.
Sometimes, sampling is not so subtle as you would imagine. Consider the well-known track The Bounce by Jay Z, where at the mark, the iconic Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai song comes into play, serving as the backdrop for Jay Z's rap. This juxtaposition offers an intriguing perspective on the fusion of retro Indian and rap elements, resulting in an enhanced tune.
Another not-so-subtle track is What's Happenin by Method man because its tune is entirely sampled from the classical Indian song Dum Maro Dum which is yet another timeless Bollywood hit, sung by Asha Bhosle.
However, sometimes the intersections are subtle to the point that they evade detection. I used to independently listen to both Urvashi Urvashi by A.R. Rahman and It's My Birthday by will.i.am (especially on my birthday) on different occasions. It is astonishing how I missed the connection between these songs. They are intricately intertwined, and now I can unmistakably detect A.R. Rahman's influence in will.i.am's It's My Birthday.
The most unexpected discovery has been Jay Sean’s Stolen which uses a part of another classic song called Chura Liya Hai Tumne. This confluence of Bollywood-Hollywood music becomes even more enhanced when you see that the music video features Bipasha Basu as the love interest alongside Jay Sean.
Indian music's influence isn't confined to Western tracks alone; it also extends its reach to the world of cinema. A striking illustration is the suspenseful James Bond theme song, which draws inspiration from the track Piya Tu Ab To Aaja, sung by Asha Bhosle and RD Burman. This collaboration serves to speak about the expansive impact of Indian music across both Bollywood and Hollywood, making it one of the most noteworthy collaborations between the two realms.
For electronic and futuristic pop enthusiasts, here's an intriguing fact. In 2019, Grimes included a very specific homegrown sample in one of her tracks — 4ÆM. The sample was taken from Indian film Bajirao Mastani's famous single, Deewani Mastani, sung by Shreya Ghoshal.
The practice of sampling has yielded both inspiration and legal controversies. At times, this practice of sampling has proven costly for artists who drew inspiration without providing due credits. One example of this scenario revolves around the hit track Addictive by Truth Hurts, featuring Rakim. Unfortunately, the song is marred by a colossal $500 million copyright infringement lawsuit that ensued (and eventually reached an out-of-court settlement). The source of the sampled element lies in the song Thoda Resham Lagta Hai, for the 1981 film Jyoti.
Suffice to say, these samples underscore India's musical heritage and its far-reaching impact. Lastly, amidst these intriguing discoveries, one that struck as my favourite, perhaps, because it is almost a little amusing, has to be Demis Roussos's Say You Love Me, directly inspired by R. D. Burman's Mehbooba Mehbooba.
In this subtle merging of cultural influences, something profound takes place -- voices and incredible skills of Indian musicians are given a lasting presence. Their legacy lives on, woven into the ever-changing fabric of music, merging with contemporary sounds and emerging trends. These cross-cultural exchanges speaks to music's universal language, uniting cultures, languages, and eras.