At 70, Asha Bhosle is still going strong.
Since her first song in Chunariya way back in 1948, there's been no looking back — she's done playback singing, has sung devotional songs and has even released her own pop albums.
What is your new album — Asha — all about?
I am fed up of shor sharaba in music. In Pandit Somesh Mathur's album, I have sung some of my favourite evergreen songs like Farida Khannum's Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo, Ghulam Ali's Chupke Chupke, Aawargi and Dil Mein Ek Lahar, Jagjit Singh's Ahista Ahista and Mehdi Hassan's Ranjish Hi Sahi, Rafta Rafta and Mujhe Tum Nazar Se.
The album features eight classic ghazals recreated with modern sounds and treatment, which take these songs into a different league.
The album strives to blend the classic ghazals with various styles of contemporary music, ranging from lounge, pop, funk to jazz rock.
How tough was it to sing these numbers?
I have been listening to these songs for ages and have always loved them. When the idea was first mooted, I knew it would be a big challenge. But I took up the challenge, though it took me a while to record all of them.
What do you sound like in this album?
You will hear a mellowed Asha Bhosle without the sharpness and shrillness of my other songs. The album's USP is its softness. To sing the numbers of legendary singers was not tough but to see to it that I did not let any of them down was.
I was actually scared of singing their numbers but I have tried to create a balance between their style and mine. It was a big challenge to me as a singer.
What is Pandit Somesh Mathur's contribution to Asha?
Somesh has composed as well as arranged all the songs for the album. Though the songs have been composed using classical ragas, he has added a lounge, jazz or soft rock flavour where required.
In the past, I have sung ghazals for albums like Meraj-e-Ghazal, Aabshar-e-Ghazal and Kashish. When I sing ghazals, I emphasise the words, putting myself in the situation. It is only then that one can express onself best. I've tried to do the same thing in Asha too.
Tell us about your International album — You Have Stolen My Heart?
The US-based Kronos Quartet contacted me saying they were huge fans of Panchamda. They called him the Mozart of India and I was very keen to work with them. I have sung Panchamda's hit as well as other numbers with fresh interpretations.
The songs in this album include Dum Maro Dum, Koi Aaya Aane Bhi De, Mera Kuch Samaan, Piya Tu Ab To Aaja, Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dilko, besides Rishte Bante Hain from the album Dil Padosi Hai. There are also a few instrumental versions.
I was really impressed by their choice of songs. They have even chosen some of Pancham's Bengali songs. And when they asked me the meaning of Mera Kuch Saaman, I did not know what to say. I finally came up with luggage.
It is said that you have sung around 25,000 songs till date.
I have sung 12,000 songs which is a record. Though several playback singers in India claim to have sung 25,000 songs, I can say with conviction that no singer in the world can possibly sing 25,000 songs. If you sing one song a day, you can sing 365 songs a year and 3,650 songs in 10 years.
I could sing 12,000 songs in my 60-year career because there have been times when I had sung up to four songs a day.
Who do you think is the best female singer today?
Latadidi is the best — among the old as well as the new. Contrary to rumours, didi and I have never had any vicious rivalry. There has always been a healthy competitive spirit between us. I used to pray to God that I should be able to sing as well as her, if not better.
What do you think of remixes?
Today's remixes are downright bad. They spoil our youth's morals with the obscene picturisations. It is sad that music companies favour them only to fill up their coffers.
Why have you cut down on playback singing?
I am no longer in the rat race. I am quite fed up. Where are the good old lyricists who used to inspire singers? Today, I can barely recognise four or five music directors.