"It is the story of a writer of lurid bestsellers who goes to India in search of new sensations..."
So begins Okayplayer: The Bollywood Remake. This extraordinary remix record - my early pick for the best of 2011 - delivers on its initial promise: the album packs a sonic punch that can, and will move audiences from Bombay to Brooklyn and everywhere in between in search of "new sensations." ["Bollywood" is the nickname given to the Hindi film industry based in Bombay (now Mumbai), India.]
The British DJ who brought you last year's Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers (a delicious mash-up of - you guessed it - the Fab Four and Wu-Tang Clan) has returned with a vengeance. Combining classic Bollywood beats with a "who's-who" roster of progressive American hip-hop/soul, Tom Caruana's The Bollywood Remake is everything a proper remix record should be: innovative, intelligent, and endlessly surprising; awash with unexpected twists, turns, and tiny bits of ear candy that demand repeat listens (to say nothing of the involuntary head-bobbing it often provokes - what I consider to be the unequivocal indication of truly exceptional hip-hop).
It so happens that Tom Caruana is as generous with his time as he is talented at his craft. This lowly internet scribe recently got the opportunity to interview Tom about his art, the Bollywood Remake, and the future.
Zachary Stockill: First off, let me just congratulate you for making such a fantastic record. This thing has been on constant repeat for me for a week. Tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind this project.
DJ Tom Caruana: I always knew there was dope Indian music. I owned about five Bollywood records for about ten years and had sampled them multiple times for various projects. It just seemed like an area that I wanted to explore more. I didn't know much about it and so I started finding Bollywood soundtracks to add to my collection (I'm only really interested in the 1960's-80's). After The Wu-Tang vs The Beatles project, I hadn't really wanted to make another concept remix album, but I couldn't resist temptation. They are a lot of fun to make after all. There is a track by Mos Def produced by Madlib called "Auditorium" - I'm not sure where the sample is from but it sounds like a Bollywood soundtrack. It's a great track and I think, subconsciously, it is what inspired me to make the album.
ZS: This intersection of two seemingly-disparate musical realms - classic Bollywood and American hip-hop - works surprisingly well. Why do you think that is?
TC: The selection process has a lot to do with it. I purposefully looked for bits [from Bollywood records] that sounded like hip-hop or that would sound good with it. I like the way Indian music makes use of instruments and melodies. In fact, some of the Bollywood melodies were borrowed from other songs (quite often Western music) so sampling Bollywood is almost like recycling twice. I think it works with American hip-hop because there's a real rawness to the recordings.
ZS: You made another great record last year - the Wu-Tang Clan/Beatles project - that got a lot of attention on the blogosphere. How do you think the Bollywood project compares?
TC: I think the Bollywood album is technically better, but probably won't get as much exposure as you can't really get more popular than the Beatles or Wu-Tang. They were both a lot of fun to make, and I learned certain things from the Wu-Beatles one that influenced the Bollywood project (for instance, not making the album too long). The Bollywood Remake features live drums on several tracks and there is a bit more depth to the sound, but that is just my production developing. I think it sounds more consistent than the Beatles one and is mixed better.
ZS: Do you think Indian audiences might take to this record?
TC: I'd hope so. Tracks from the album have been played regularly on BBC Asian Network, and I did an exclusive mix and interview for them recently.
ZS: Thanks so much for your time. What's coming next?
TC: I am going to be releasing some original albums this year: The Menagerie, which is a bunch of UK rappers who I have known and worked with individually for the last 8 years. We made the majority of the album in one weekend. I've been working on a concept album for around five years now and am hoping to get it finished this year. I always have several projects on the go at one time which is a blessing and a curse - it means they all take ages to finish, but being able to have periods where I focus on different ones keeps my interest and perspective awake. Keep an eye on the website for the latest releases. There are also other remix albums available for free download.