Although standout actress Aishwarya Rai's pretty face adorns the cover of the newly released The Rough Guide to Bollywood Gold, the music presented here has little to do with the young crossover star of Bride and Prejudice. The tunes, however, are all representative of the golden era of Bollywood films that period between 1960 and 1980, when Indian cinema was at its peak. Compiled by famed BBC radio personality DJ Ritu, Bollywood Gold is both an audible treat and an educational jewel. You'll learn that, while the Beatles and other rock musicians of the '60s were enthralled by South Asian music ("Norwegian Wood" and the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" come to mind), Indian composers were going in the opposite direction, gradually learning from Western sounds. Certain tracks like Kishore Kumar's "Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana" have a traditional style with the backing of Indian instruments, but Rahul Dev Burman's "Mehbooba Mehbooba" is quite a departure featuring electric guitars and a rock 'n' roll backbeat. Listen to R.D. Burman's "Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera" and it's clear the vocals are inspired by American rock with a trumpet straight out of a mariachi song. On the gorgeous love song "Tere Chehre Se Nazar Nahin," the composers deliver a tune that sounds genuinely Indian by way of Las Vegas, thanks to the lush Italian-like string arrangement in the background. It may throw some listeners for a loop, but that is what's so impressive.
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