If the words: “upcoming supernatural screwball comedy from the director of Bride and Prejudice and Bend It Like Beckham” aren’t enough to entice you, check out the plot description for It’s A Wonderful Afterlife: an Indian mother takes her obsession with marriage so far, she becomes a serial killer for the sake of her offspring’s successful shaadi. With an international cast including Shabana Azmi, Jimmi Mistry, US-based star of TV show Heroes, Sendhil Ramamurthy; Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins, and Zoe Wanamaker, and helmed by acclaimed director Gurinder Chahda, It’s A Wonderful Life is gathering a lot of buzz.
As is the soundtrack album – and deservedly so. Playful and contemporary, and occasionally slightly spooky, the album is a rich musical feast from predominantly British-Asian artists, featuring a mixture of styles – Bhangra, hip-hop, disco, reggae, techno; and a mixture of new tracks, remixes, and licensed songs. Clocking in at a banging 14 tracks, the IAWA soundtrack is at once an amazing snapshot of the eclectic British-Asian music scene and a boundary pushing soundtrack album, aiming at helping the characteristic desi Bhangra beats go global. In short: the album is WICKED COOL, and a must have for any music lover’s collection.
The album gets off to a lively start with Panjabi MC’s Panjabi Soldiers A Team – a fully Punjabi flavoured track, sampling the theme to the television show The A team, mixing rock, electro and traditional desi beats into an infectious instrumental that will get even the wallflowers up on the dance floor. This fantastic track really sets the tone for what is to come!
Upcoming Indian hip-hop artist Kidd Skilly brings a contemporary r’n'b flavour to the second track on the album, the smooth Bhangra Chic/Bhangra Rap. Supreme desified hip-hop – this track wouldn’t sound out of place played full volume in any club or car stereo!
The upbeat fusion of traditional Indian rhythms and instruments with modern techno beats continues in the hypnotically pulsing So Real So Right. This track comes courtesy of DJ San-j Sanj, featuring the breezily sultry vocals of Natty A.
If Larl Larl Buleya sounds familiar, it’s because you may have heard it in another incarnation: the track is a remix of a song better known as ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ by Stereo Nation. This remixed version , performed by Taz from Stereo Nation and featuring Mumzy, is very much in line with the Brit-Asian/hip-hop/reggae/bhangra vibes pervading the rest of the IAWA soundtrack album. ‘Larl Larl Buleya’ is one of two tracks from Taz on the album: the second, Crazee, is a sweet, tinkling, reggae inspired ballad.
One of the standout tracks: Do The Nach is a fantastic Sixties-inspired hip-hop/reggae infused twist from Chilltown, featuring 10shoot. If you can resist the urge to naach during this one, you really have an iron will.
With the title track Wonderful Life the tone of the album shifts away, momentarily, from the predominant Funjabi party to the solemn shoegazey classic track from famed Britpop band Black. With a vaguely Caribbean-sounding influenced backbeat, and a mournful, almost dirge-like feel at odds with the refrain “It’s a wonderful life”, this one’s a bit of a downer compared to the Punjabi party tracks surrounding it, but sounds gorgeously lush all the same.
Acclaimed Brit DJ and music producer Bally Sagoo has two tracks on this album: Disco Bhangra – a techno-bhangra fusion which pales in comparison to his second track, the hilarious Stayin’ Alive Desified. This is exactly what it sounds like: a massively desified remix of the Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’. I love it, with shouts of “oy hoy” and bhangra beats mixed all the way through.
Nikkiye (Madhiyan) is another of the album’s undeniable standout tracks. Composed by Parminder Chadha and Craig Pruess, based on a traditional Indian song, it’s a mournful and delicately beautiful song, Chadha’s voice gently melodic and accented with an array of instrumentation, from percussion to brass, to strings.
Ghum Suhm Ghum Suhm, is a collaboration between two superstars of the Punjabi music scene: Sukshinder Shinda and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Originally taken from the album Collaborations 2, this is heartfelt and haunting song of impeccable quality, adding to the increasingly dark tone of the album as we near the end.
Mica Paris’s It’s Love is a breathy, 80s influenced strings-laden romantic ballad. To me, this was the lowest point of the album – where all the rest of the songs sound original and fresh, this one sounds derivative. Skip this one
Finally, score composer Craig Pruess, a frequent collaborator with director Gurinder Chadha (having last worked with her on Bend It Like Beckham), contributes two instrumental mood tracks to the album: It’s Love – an almost unrecognizable instrumental piano version of the Mica Paris song; and Ghosts of Ealing, a gloriously effective sound/mood-scape, alternately conjuring up Pink Panther-esque screwball comedy, then tragedy, effortlessly.
Phew! This album really does manage to cover all bases for contemporary music lovers, and my prediction is that the IAWA soundtrack will be one of those classic soundtracks – a definite MUST HAVE!