The diversity of musics arising from South Africans of Indian origin in the early 1970s provides for some really fascinating listening. This unusual album featuring six different bands is syncretic in that it compiles musical contradictions in one place - from Indian traditional music, Bollywood film scores, heavy metal "underground" music, and western pop. As the liner notes say, "all that's best in both eastern and western music, so that you can get a representative idea of what our various artiste groups sound like. ..".
What "holds" this compilation together is that all six bands featured were made up of South Africans of Indian origin. In her doctoral dissertation, "Indian South African Popular Music, The Broadcast Media and the Record Industry 1920 - 1983" (download it here), Melveen Beth Jackson explains that:
“Until the sixties, Indian South Africans were denied the civic rights that were taken for granted by white South Africans. Broadcasting, for them, was to be a concession. On being declared South Africans, broadcast programmes were expanded and designed to pacify and Indianise Indian South Africans, preparing them for their role as a middle-class racially defined group, a homelands group without a homeland. South Africanised popular music, and Indian South African Western semi-classical, popular music, or jazz performance was rejected by the SABC. Ambiguous nationalisms shaped Indian South African aesthetics.
“Global monopoly controlled the music industry. Similarly, disruptions in the global market enabled local musicians and small business groups to challenge the majors. In the late forties and fifties, this resulted in a number of locally manufactured records featuring local and visiting musicians, and special distribution rights under royalty to an independent South Asian company. The local South African records were largely characterised by their syncretic nature, and generated a South African modernism which had the capacity both to draw and repel audiences and officials alike.”
Contradictions do abound. For example, I am still not sure what to make of the track by the Nadaraja Orchestra, entitled "The Brahma Bull" which, to my untrained ear, has flamenco references underpinning a sound you would hear in 1960s Bollywood movies.
"The Shades of Purple" and "The El Pasos" lend a strong rock reference to this compilation. Among my favourites here is the cover of "25 or 6 to 4" that was a hit for "Chicago" in 1970.
Many of these bands played weddings and other social functions. As Muthal Naidoo describes of the Bharatia Band in the early 1970s (not on this compilation): "They were hired to play at weddings in the location and in Indian communities in Johannesburg, Benoni and Boksburg. They were spurred on in their efforts by rivalry from the Nadaraja Orchestra, which had a similar repertoire and was vying for the same market. When Abdul Gani, a Memon singer, despite opposition from some Muslims, joined the Bharatia Orchestra and sang a Tamil song, the rival group rushed to include people from other groups in their band. For a little while, there was even a Muslim band, the Taj Entertainers, with a lead singer, Ossie
To my untrained ear, I have found it challenging to recognise the covers of the original 1960s Bollywood songs featured in this compilation. The South Africanised versions are played by small instrumental bands with relatively simple bass-lines backing "Shadows" and even psychedelic-influenced" lead guitar work in places. Links to the original tracks are provided.
Produced by Mohamed A. Mayet.
Recording Engineer: Ian Martin.
East Meets West (Mosaic MIC 7003) 1971.
1. Oriental Dance - The Orientals
An original written by "Yousuf", Having fun with wah-wah guitar.
2. You are all I need - Shades of Purple
Psychedelic Soul roots instrumental written by Pillay / Manilall.
3. Hum Behaino Ke - The Dil Ruba
From the 1969 Bollywood movie, "Anjana" - though I must admit I find it difficult to find similarities. You can hear the original here.
4. 25 or 6 to 4 - The 1970 hit written by Robert Lamm for "Chicago" gets fuzz guitar and vocal treatment that would not be out of place on a Black Sabbath album. You can hear the original here.
5. The Brahma Bull - Nadaraja Orchestra
Flamenco references overlaid with a more discernable uptempo Indian flavour.
6. Aane Se Jiske Aaye Bahar - Naushad Entertainers
A version of the Mohammed Rafi 1969 Bollywood hit from the movie Jeene Ki Raah. You can hear the original here.
7. East Meets West - The Orientals.
Rock-driven orignal penned by "Sarwar".
8. Ride - The Shades of Purple
Attributed to "Pillay / Manilal" will bother you with its similarities to various early 70s rock hits, even down to the vocal delivery.
9. Fascination - Nadaraja Orchestra
I can picture this track filling the dance-floors at traditional celebrations like weddings.
10. Saiyan Le Gajiya - The Dil Ruba.
This track is an instrumental version, originally from the 1969 Bollywood movie "Ek Phool Do Mali". You can watch and listen to Asha Bhosle sing the original here.
11. Give Me One More Chance - The El Pasos
Seventies vocal Soul-Pop. No composer listed. Can you recognise it?
12. Tumhari Nazar - Naushad Entertainers
From the 1968 Bollywood movie Do Kaliyan. You can watch the original here.
Download link here