I’m sorry, but I hate Bombay. Always have, probably always will (Delhi, since you ask). Then again, I’ve been living in Bombay for some four years (0.38 years in dog years if anyone’s up for an unimpressive stat), which seems like a bit of an anomaly. So I can’t really deny that the city has character – it is soul-stirring and soul-crushing in equal measure. Which means there’s plenty of inspiration here, and plenty of despondency too, if that’s what you’re looking for. So attempting a compilation (or mixtape, or, as I personally call them, Now That’s What I Call Music! 4) trying to capture the essence of the city through music seems but natural.
Mumbai Boss, an irreverent publication that matches cheek and wit with nuance and intelligence, has done exactly that (in conjunction with OKListen.com). The 11-track long Bombay Sounds, curated by their Senior Editor, Amit Gurbaxani, is a foray into the indescribable; an interpretation of a city that, quite possibly, is beyond interpretation, through music and words. The highlight of the album, an album that reaches many contrasting highs, has to be Pentagram’s anthemic ‘Nocturne’, but there’s lots before that.
It kicks off with ‘Bandeh’, that iconic song by Indian Ocean that was in that charming movie by Anurag Kashyap which had that one sequence of one guy chasing another for some 20 minutes. It’s a brilliant start to a record that spreads its wings far and wide, all the while retaining its loyalty to the motif of Bombay in all its fish-soaked glory, even as the stylistic elements tread dissimilar terrains musically. Up next is the very unimaginatively named ‘Bombay Rain’, by the mostly-excellent Blackstratblues. In fact, one big problem that I have with the record is the song titles – ‘Bombay Rain’, ‘Bombay Blues’, ‘Virar Fast’ (come on), ‘I’m in Mumbai Waiting for a Miracle’ (come on), ‘Bandra Girls’ (come on). The only thing missing is a reference to the “spirit of Bombay”. Subtlety is clearly a lost art, but what’s in a name, right?
Moving on, on some level, Bombay Sounds does seem like it’s sticking to established names and songs – Raghu Dixit Project with the least inspiring song on it, Shaa’ir + Func, Something Relevant, Pentagram, Sanjay Divecha, and so forth) – but any record which has a song by Medusa/Sky Rabbit/Whatever they’re calling themselves now (the album features ‘Anti-Coke Ganpati’) automatically sidesteps any misplaced accusations of orthodoxy and affords a touch of insolent coolness to it. Essentially, Bombay Sounds works on two separate and very encouraging levels: 1) that it captures the heart of Bombay as it’s felt and heard by the indie musicians and audiences who’re responding to it, and 2) it also manages to showcase the diversity of thoughts and sounds that the city has borne or brought out in a musical context (and that’s without even getting into the lyrics). The one thing that’s missing from it is a metal song, even if it wouldn’t quite fit into the narrative of the record, and even if I would personally hate it. Or, like, a really fizzy punk song. Far too many people have pointed out to me how the city, with its frantic pace and constant buzz, lends itself to the raw aggression of metal or punk. (But once you start shouting out requests, you’re never too far from a drunk man screaming out for a Maiden or Floyd cover, so I’ll refrain.)
Bombay Sounds, for all its minor flaws (‘Bandra Girls’ by Slow Down Clown; the gimmicky traffic sounds and laughs and echoes; the song titles) is an endearing concept album with the added bonus of novelty and a degree of individualism and unique identity. And, it also shows how bands here are, or have been, evolving. Forgive the generalization, but most bands in the country tend to start off with songs of love and heartbreak, and songs about getting like so totally wasted dude. After that, they usually progress to writing about things that move them and things that are real once they’ve reached a moderate level of maturity – the city being one of the first few subjects they tackle. That growing maturity of thought and endeavour is what allows an album like Bombay Sounds to be compiled – that can only be a good thing – and at a grand 99 bucks, this record needs to be bought and heard.
Bombay Sounds is available for purchase here.
Watch the official video for 'Nocturne' by Pentagram below:
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