16 November 2012

16 November 2012 - Cornershop - Brimful of Asha

In 1997, I decided to get a satellite dish. My satellite provider offered MTV2 as an option.  Now, for those who don't know, MTV used to play music videos.  In the mid 90's, MTV got tired of people complaining about how they no longer played videos, so they made MTV2.  Eventually, MTV2 became just like MTV and stopped playing videos, but in 1997, they played a lot of them.  It was then that I discovered Cornershop.  Cornershop were a UK band, led by men of Indian descent.

Turns out, in the UK, there are a lot of corner shops owned by people of Indian descent.  Hence, the irony of their name.

Their name wasn't the only influence that the band took from Indian culture.  From their use of instruments not normal used in the West - like a sitar - to rapid-fire Bollywood pop culture references, they relied heavily on their heritage for their sound.  In particular, this song is full of them, starting with the title - a tribute to Bollywood vocalist (rarely seen, but her voice is in more Bollywood movies than just about anyone else's) Asha Bhosle.  If you care about the rest of the references, read on after the video.

Early in the song, you hear references to someone - saddi rani - dancing behind movie screens.  That phrase is the Punjabi phrase meaning "our queen", and, because Asha Bhosle was rarely seen, she was BEHIND movie screens.  And, as is made clear in the video, many of her song were released on 45 RPM singles.  Finally, concerning her, you notice Tjinder Singh pronounces her name "Asher" quite a bit.  That's not accidental.  It is homage to Indian pronunciation.

There are several other icons of Bollywood mentioned in this song - people like Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar, who also did singing behind the scenes for Bollywood film.  But there are other pop culture references, to All-India Radio, which is India's public radio station where a lot of these songs are played, and 2-in-1s, which were combination cassette player/radio devices popular in India.

There's one other reference I want to explain.  "We don't care about no government warnings, about their promotion of a simple life, and the dams they are building."  These are very specific references to things that were going on in Indian government, and this references makes this something of a protest song.  The Indian government - their culture in general - tends to be conservative, and so not always fond of the "obscene" and grandiose Bollywood movies.  The dams are a reference to a typical corrupt project undertaken by government contractors - to use up tax dollars, the government would order the building of ridiculous dams.

I won't insult your intelligence by explaining why everyone needs a bosom for a pillow.  Single greatest lyric ever written.

And now, your patience is rewarded with a live version of this song.

Norman Cook - AKA Fatboy Slim - was so taken by this song that he did a remix that became a huge hit in the UK.  He loved the song so much, he did it for free.  And he did it well, too.  Here it is, in a fan-made video. Frankly, I found the video creative and well-made, so I decided to feature it here. Enjoy.

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