(b. Sept. 8, 1933, d. -)

Bollywood playback diva, Indipop pioneer, and legendary singer who began her career in 1948, sang 12,000+ songs in 18 languages (and counting), and has collected dozens of national and international awards.

Bhosle is a dimpled siren with a sultry voice which lilts bewitchingly between whimsical playfulness and jaw-dropping sensuality. Her work spans a lifetime, and ranges from psychedelic 1970s cabaret numbers to intensely beautiful ghazals, and everything in between.

Asha made her playback debut (playback in this context refers to the practice of having professional singers record the musical tracks for a film, which the actors then playback and lip-synch to during filming) in 1948 with the film Chunariya. She languished for years under the shadow of her wildly popular sister Lata Mangeshkar, who was called "the Nightingale of India".

In the 1950s Asha sang more songs than any other playback singer, but for small and inconsequential movies. Having made an "ill-advised marriage" (apparently a love-match rather than an arranged marriage) which alienated her from her family, she took all work offered to her in order to help support her children.

She partnered with renowned Bollywood composer O.P. Nayyar early in her career, and under his patronage she developed her own unique style, differentiating herself from the field of other playback singers of the time. Bhosle and Nayyar parted ways during the making of Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye, and Bhosle began a partnership with Rahul Dev Burman, whom she would later marry. Incidentally, Burman had been her sister's composer prior to this reshuffling.

Her most popular songs from this time come from the films Yaadon Ki Barat and Teesri Manzil. My favorite: the lilting and flirtatious Dum Maro Dum.

Asha Bhosle has recorded in virtually every Indian language, as well as Russian and Malay. She has also worked with bhangra group Alaap, Baba Sehgal, boyband Code Red and Boy George. Britpop Cornershop recorded Brimful Of Asha in her honor. It became an international hit that was eventually remixed by Fatboy Slim.

My introduction to Asha Bhosle came via a World Music Network compilation that I think is a pretty good historical introduction to the genre: Bollywood: The Rough Guide to Bollywood. Plus, it's in print and available. Finding other Bollywood recordings around here can be tricky unless you live in a Very Large City, and even then it can involve trips into the back rooms of sari shops and lots of poking around a lot of odd Asian/Indian groceries trying to find the cardboard boxes with the CDs in them.


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