Australia is famous for many things including being home to some world-class tribute bands. Bjorn Again (ABBA) and The Australian Pink Floyd Experience (Pink Floyd) both have enormous fan bases and critical support around the world. The most recent addition to the tribe is The Bombay Royale which pays musical homage to the Golden Age of Hindi cinema when the likes of R.D Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal and Bappi Lahiri ruled the studios and manned the sound boards.
The Bombay Royale is a Melbourne-based but very globe-trotting band fronted by two Indian diaspora-wale Parvyn Kaur Singh and Shourov Bhattacharya who along with their numerous band mates are directed by the ‘Skipper’ Andy Williamson, on saxophone. They’ve created quite a fun lively stir in the clubs around the country and recently played Glastonbury as well as other dates in the UK. In a very multi-cultural country it seems almost unremarkable that such a unit—the world’s first Bollywood Tribute Big Band—should emerge. But as is the case with Hindi cinema music, at its best, it is always noteworthy and exciting, and so is Bombay Royale. The real question is not, how did such a band come together, but where have you been all my life?
Their only album today is under the big spotlight tonight. Its called You Me Bullets Love which leaves no doubt that they are about having fun. Of the 10 tracks, eight are originals. The band, made up of the above mentioned vocalists, who sing in Hindi as well as Bengali and English, draws on a full complement of brass instruments, including trumpets, trombones and saxes as well as a mand and a half of various stringed instruments and percussive drums.
The brew that flows from their magical connection is spectacularly on-the-mark. They are able to capture that wide screen bombast that opens and closes the great flicks of the 60s and 70s—fast moving, gay and as sharp as the point on Shammi Kapoor’s tie. The title track is a clear high point which manages not only to get the sound right but also the feel. The rapid fire back flirty chorus (hum tum, tum, mein, hum, tum) is a perfect slice of vintage Bombay.
The Perfect Plan, sung in English, has more in common with a mid-sixties Hollywood thriller than anything that came out of India but fits right into the vatavaram (atmosphere) of the album. The closing number Phone Baje Na, is a moody stunner. Just the right mix of tribute and original masala to be worthy of many repeated listens.
To my mind the Everest of this collection is a jaw dropping cover of Sote Sote Adhi Raat. Lifted from the Qurbani era (1980) when ‘disco’ numbers were just getting an airing in films, SSAR, replicates the music to a tee, down to the little electronic bursts that in those early films signalled the arrival of a hat lady on the dance floor.
The other cover, the internationally renowned and beloved rocker Jan Pechaan Ho originally heard on the 1965 superhit film Gumnaam, sadly doesn’t deliver. Bhattacharya gives it a real go but he just does not possess the vocal chords of Mohammad Rafi whose singing led the raucous clatter of the band in the original. In this version Bhattacharya seems to be drowning and holding on for dear life. It is a brave but ultimately failed attempt to try to recreate a stone classic. Just click here to hear and watch the fabulous original.
Overall, the Bombay Royale exceeds expectations. The band delivers not just the sound, affection, feel and style of the original music but like all successful tribute bands transforms it and develops into something fresh and new.
Goli maro yaar!
01 Monkey Fight Snake
02 You Me Bullets Love
03 Jaan Pehechan Ho
04 Sote Sote Adhi Raat
05 The Perfect Plan
07 Mahindra Death Ride
08 Oh Sajna
09 Dacoit’s Choice
10 Phone Baje Na