BollySpice explores Bollywood covers: An interview with Ashanti Omkar & our favourite Bollywood cover songs

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The Bollywood cover song is increasingly on the rise with artists such as Arjun, Aakash Gandhi and Shankar Tucker being recognised for their unique beats and takes on Bollywood songs.
A cover can breathe refreshingly new life into an original,or it can sometimes simply, just not live up to the original.

We at BollySpice are intrigued by the Bollywood cover song and are keen to get to know what goes into making a cover song unique, powerful and extraordinarily unforgettable.

We had the opportunity to explore these questions with the help of Ashanti Omkar: Insight of Cineworld Cinemas and BBC London/WM Indian cinema expert.

We also question Ashanti Omkar on her personal favourite cover of all time, what song she would like to see particularly made into a cover and more!

Firstly, we present our interview with Ashanti Omkar followed by Team BollySpice’s favourite cover versions!

What would you say are the secret ingredients of making a cover “unique”?

A cover that I admire comes from the singer and/or instrumentalist giving their own personal take on it, with their own style and interpretation.

I personally prefer covers that use good production values, with well thought out arrangements, and most of all, a good video – even if it is simple. I love seeing the emotions of a singer or instrumentalist, up close.

Back in the day, we would see local bands playing covers of Indian cinema songs, nowadays, we hear them online via Youtube and I do enjoy the odd cover, when a musician performs a live gig.

What is your favourite cover of all time and why? 

To date, it is this,’ Jiya re’ from Jab Tak Hai Jaan (AR Rahman for Yash Raj Films, the last Yash Chopra musical) by Alaa Wardi from Saudi, for innovation, spot on harmonies and human beat-boxing to create every part of the song by this one guy, plus the brilliant videos.

No wonder this has nearly 2 Million views on Youtube! It spawned a lot of copies of this style, but none compared to how this guy did it.

For Alaa’s ‘Jai Ho’ cover, AR Rahman himself shared it to his nearly 20 Million Facebook followers, saying:

“America and the Middle East unite, for an Indian Song!”

What song would you like to see made into a cover?

One of my wishes was fulfilled when MTV Unplugged did the classic tearjerker Aaj Jaane (translated: Please don’t insist on leaving tonight), which you may have heard while watching Monsoon wedding and AR Rahman gave an impassioned rendition:

http://mtv.in.com/videos/episodes/play/unplugged-2-ar-rahman-aaj-jaane-ki-zidd-na-karo-full-song-12598.html
I’ve heard the original singers of this classic, Hariharan and Sadhana Sargam sing this live at AR Rahman’s concerts, but am yet to see a good cover of it.

The beautiful Chandra Re from Sapnay, by Rajiv Menon, music by double Grammy and double Oscar winner AR Rahman, starring Kajol, Arvind Swamy and the now famous director Prabhu Deva, who was branching out from his choreography career into acting, when he did this film.

Of course, I had seen it in Tamil, as Minsara Kanavu, in the cinema in London, as usual, in the middle of the night, back then, when Indian films were not in the newly emerging multiplexes, and had the posters in my room back then!

Some covers combine two or more songs – which two songs would you like to see united through a cover? 

I do love it when musicians juxtapose 2 songs seamlessly, to make a beautiful cover, as do I love a song that has a garland of modes strung together.

I’d love to hear something that mixes Tum Tak from Raanjhanaa (AR Rahman) with Mitwa from KANK (Shankar Ehsaan Loy).

I’d also love to hear a creative mix of an Alicia Keys song, for example, with a song like Rehna Tu from Delhi 6 (AR Rahman) or a John Legend song with something like the luscious 7 beat number Manmarziyan from Lootera (Amit Trivedi).

Why are cover versions vital and important to produce?

I personally vie for new lyrics and tunes to be created by singers, instrumentalists and bands alike, but there is something special about a musician giving an ode to their favourite composer or song, via a cover.

Covers are not important or vital, as you put it, in my humble opinion, but they are a nice way to showcase talent and innovation.

In my experience, it is very rare to hear a cover that actually tops the original.

Covers allow new voices and interpretations of the music to be made viral, for example, for those who want to spread word of their musicality, or bring genres together.

Covers allow nostalgia to come forward and they enable talents like Shankar Tucker, who rose to fame and got a lot of composition work, on the basis of the popularity of his covers via YouTube –

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheShrutibox/videos

And there we have it!

A cover version is indeed special as it not only allows room for new interpretations and but for a particular song to be celebrated.

A cover version can bring together genres and nations, introduce and inspire new talent…

So, who said that a cover version was simply a copy??!

Check out Team BollySpice’s favourite Bollywood covers below!

“O Re Piya / Rolling in the Deep” – Shankar Tucker ft. Rohan Kymal, Brendan Susens-Jackson:

“Hale Dil” –  Jeffrey Iqbal:

“Pani Da Rang” (Acoustic Cover) – Aakash Gandhi (feat Jonita Gandhi)

“Viva La Vida / Jashn-e-Bahara” – Penn Masala

“Mein Rang Sharbaton Ka/Tum Jo Aaye” – Kamil Munir

“Tum Hi Ho” (Acoustic Cover) – Aakash Gandhi (ft. Sanam Puri, Jonita Gandhi, & Samar Puri)

“Tum Hi Ho” (You got it bad Remix) – Arjun

“Someone like you/ Yaarian” – Aakash Gandhi

“Evolution of Bollywood Music” – Penn Masala

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