NPR has featured Asha Bhosle (12,000 songs and the greatest of Bollywood divas) and her fabulous voice – this is what the text has to say (full article here and recording at Los Angeles on Ashaji’s 75th birthday)
Asha sang naughty songs, and she had somewhat of a naughty personality, and she had a personal life that also had some naughtiness in it — the fact that she had run away from home and divorces and marriage and all of that.”
Bhosle made the vamp her specialty, and “Dum Maro Dum” is one of her most famous songs in that persona. It was written by composer R.D. Burman, who not only worked extensively with Asha Bhosle, but also married her. Burman took advantage of Bhosle’s vocal versatility and created songs for her that brought Western musical influences to Bollywood — combining, say, congas with tablas, or finding some of the grooviest psychedelic rock sounds. If anything cemented her reputation as a bad girl or turned people on, it was this song, writer Lavanya Shah says.
” ‘Dum Maro Dum,’ yeah, that is about smoking pot,” Shah says. “And I would say that before women’s liberation became the catchword, she was a liberated female, long ago. In India, in villages, women would sit and clean the grain or grind chilies. And they would sing songs. Those kind of songs Ashaji has sung, and they have become so popular that every Indian female, she feels, ‘That is part of my growing up, and it is part of my life, also.’ ”
Bhosle’s influence has extended far beyond India — she’s recorded with the boy band Red Code, the contemporary classical Kronos Quartet, and even pop star Boy George. She continues to be an electrifying live performer who can sell out concert halls and arenas — not only in India, but in this country, to an audience that crosses generations. In Long Island, 25-year-old radiation therapist Sunny Thakkar is an unabashed Asha Bhosle fan.
“It is just amazing to watch her come on stage and perform, dance, with the same enthusiasm and the same qualities that a 16-year-old girl has. When she’s onstage, you just want to get up and clap and, you know, dance with her. It’s like everybody’s high on music.”