Breakaway (also known as Speedy Singhs) is Akshay Kumar’s latest production project: an Indo-Canadian co-production slated to release at the end of September. The film, starring newcomer Vinay Virmani, Anupam Kher, Russell Peters and Rob Lowe, is centered around a young Indian-Canadian hockey player and the difficulty he encounters trying to balance the two cultures he has grown up with. His father wants him to work for the family business and devote himself to religious past-times, instead of pursuing a career in hockey (a sport most beloved by Canada).
This idea – this melding versus clashing of cultures – informs the soundtrack too.
RDB – a Canada and UK based bhangra outfit – are at the reins for the Breakaway soundtrack album and have composed an album that is unmistakeably desi at its core, but seamlessly mixes in hip-hop and dance.
The album opens with Ne Aaja Ve, a breezy dance track sung in a mixture of English and Punjabi by Veronica (with an array of vocal contributions, including a rhythmic “Balle balle balle!” from H-Dhami). The thumping beat and simple, hypnotic, repetitive vocals are kind of misleading – the more I listened to this one the more intriguing the complex beats became, not least how H-Dhami’s various Punjabi vocals are used as beats in their own right. It’s surprising a remix hasn’t been included on the album.
Attempts to combine rap/hiphop with Hindi have been, shall we say, hit and miss in the past – sometimes they are just kind of awkward, especially when someone who doesn’t know how to rap attempts rapping (I won’t name names). The second track on the album, Shera di Kaum has been highly anticipated since producer Akshay Kumar announced rapper Ludacris was on board for a collaboration with RDB. And it doesn’t disappoint. We’ve all seen the sports movies where the sports team needs to get psyched up into winning the big game: if all it takes is a song to get them pumped and feeling like winners, Shera di Khom will be it. Combining rock and rap (in English and Punjabi) against a building, intense background of wailing electric guitars, spitting synths and pounding drums, the overwhelming message is “Never lose, never fear, overcome all and persevere.” It’s not pushing the envelope much – but you can totally see how this will fit into the film and I actually love this kind of slightly cheesily motivational song.
The track I actually MUCH prefer though, in terms of a track I will listen to over and over again, is track 3, Sansar, a short but definitely intense burst of triumphant bhangra infused hiphop. RDB take a bhangra groove and build the track over the top: laying down a simple, banging beat, then letting J-Hind, Kat Eyez & Smooth battle it out with lightning fast verbal dexterity. LOVE this track: favourite on the album.
Veer da Viha is the closest to a straightforward standard Punjabi number on the album. It’s upbeat, and kind of raucous, with Jassi Sidhu handling the vocals with help from an apparent roomful of cheerful, shouting, “brrrrrrrr”-ing friends. The most interesting touch on the track is the subtle addition of brass-band flourishes along side all the bhangra goodness.
The final track on the album is Jassi Siddhu’s take on a Punjabi CLASSIC: Rail Guddi. This is a dance track, but synths and mix effects have been used pretty sparingly to emphasise the chugging “train” feel of the track and to preserve the overwhelmingly Punjabi flavour of this classic. This isn’t a song you listen to. It’s a song you form a human train to on the dance floor. Enough said. Feel the nostalgia, kick off your shoes and join the chain. If anything, this one is about fun.
Overall, the Breakaway soundtrack is kind of awesome – if you like your bhangra a little less rustic (thank you, and goodbye every single recent track feeling the need to imitate the Dabanng soundtrack) and a little more club ready. If you like hiphop, club music and bhangra, and even better, all three at once, you’ll like this album. If not – best steer clear.