Bollywood music has become such an international phenomenon, taken on by musicians around the world to spice up their music, that it’s not surprising a punk-rock band in Queens, N.Y. is giving its own twist to Indian classics by Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi and others.
Describing themselves as “Bollywood revisionists” the group, Do the Needful or DTN, is bringing its set of classic playback covers to Jackson Heights, a community that was once dominated by Indian-Americans and continues to be referred to as Little India. They will play at Espresso 77 on Dec. 16.
Several boroughs of New York City have groups of Indian music-lovers getting together, like Brooklyn Raga Massive or Red Baraat, a funk band using sounds from Indian wedding music, and DTN joins these unusual sounds.
The band is led by indie singer-songwriter Jamie Osborne on guitar and keyboard. Osborne, who spent many months with his family living and working in Bangalore and Chennai, returned to the U.S. in search of a band that captured the essence of Bollywood but filtered the covers through a punk-rock, garage soul sensibility.
While there are many U.S. groups and individuals who cover the material, Osborne told Desi Talk he found pristine note-for-note karaoke covers wanting. “I missed the soulful Indian pop sounds that were the ubiquitous soundtracks to my daily bus, rickshaw, and taxi rides while living in the subcontinent,” he said.
The band emerged from Osborne’s search for the “unfindable” as he got together acquaintances, through Craig’s List, and worked with them learn the music of old and beloved Bollywood crooners.
“We learnt the music together in a way that was respectful of the older songs but infused them with the
western sound we play,” Osborne said.
The group features the vocals of Sunny Pathak “with much love to Kishore Da and Rafi Sahab” Osborne says; Kenny Soule is on drums, Daniel Baer on violin, Thommy Minnick on stand-up bass, and Tom Devaney on electric and lap-steel guitar.
“DTN digs into classic playback material in a manner that is a little darker and raw, by mixing in punk and garage soul, with an edge of psychedelia,” Osborne says. “DTN traffics in unreliable interpretations that are always respectful, but often prone to improvisation and inserting fragments of their favorite musical conversations.”
The current set-list includes the music of RD Burman, Shankar Jaikishan, and Kalyanji – Anandji and takes inspiration from western sounds of Marc Ribot, The Detroit Cobras, and the Daptones.
Osborne, in his professional life, works in New York City’s Department of Transportation, and indulges his first love of Bollywood music the rest of the time.