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Youth Forum: So Contagious - Truth Hurts

Manasi Singhal

When I first heard it, I was driving in the car with my mom in the passenger seat, the radio tuned to Jammin’ 94.5 and blaring out upbeat hip-hop tunes. Suddenly, I hear the words “Kaliyon ka chaman tab bantha hai…” and I can only stare at my mother in shock. That was the first but certainly not the last I heard of the chart-topping song Addictive by newcomer Truth Hurts. Soon the initial thrill of hearing an Indian song, however unknown, as the background for a hip-hop song wore off, however, and I put the song out of my mind for a while. The next time I came across the song was when I was in New York with my family. As you may remember from a previous article, by now my family had given up watching television at home so we were all over-indulging in it a bit since the rule didn’t apply for when we were on vacation. Anyways, we had the television on MTV while getting ready to go out and suddenly there it was again, “Thora resham lagta hai, thora sheesha lagta hai…”

For those who may not know what the Indian lyrics mean, they are about a wedding garland and really have nothing at all in common with the gangster, drug, and sex themes prevalent throughout the song that uses it as a background. The music video also features Arabian belly dancers, proving that Truth Hurts really has no idea what she’s talking about when she says she has, “never heard anything like Indian music before,” yet describes Addictive as “bringing some truth to the table.” Obviously she is part of the ignorant group of people who don’t understand the differences between eastern cultures and lump India, Pakistan, and the Middle East into the same category when they are in actuality very different. Also, to add insult to injury, the only thing that the group says about the Hindi music used is that there is “some Indian girl singing in the background.” Excuse me…but Indian girl?! I don’t think anyone who knows anything could describe 73-year-old Lata Mangeshkar, who is in the Guiness Book of World Records for being the most prolific artist, as “some Indian girl!”

One must also wonder where they got such an obscure song for the background. While conducting my own search to find the origins of said song, I came across an article detailing someone else’s journey to find the same answer and the story is so strange that I just have to share it with you. The person who wrote the article, Narendra Kusnur, decided much as I did to search out the origins of the Hindi song featured in Addictive that many people recognized as being sung by Lata Mangeshkar but no one recognized from which film it came. Here is the outline of the way his day went:

1.30 pm-4 pm: I asked every possible source whether he or she had heard this song. I approached musicologists, trade analysts, music company people, film music historians and Lata Mangeshkar fans, and nobody knew. Some, probably looking for an excuse for not knowing, suspected that these might not be the opening lines. I even tried Lata Mangeshkar’s residence but was told she was abroad.

4.30 pm: A colleague received an e-mail from her brother saying he was forwarding a song which had become big in the UK. We played the song, and there it was — Addictive by Truth Hurts. It began with Lata singing “Kaliyon ka chaman jab banta hai, thoda resham lagta hai, thoda sheesha lagta hai”, and then went into a hip-hoppish vocal by Sheri. Lata’s voice was there throughout the song, playing faintly in the background when Sheri’s voice was on. From the style, I suspected it was either Laxmikant-Pyarelal or R D Burman.

5 pm: I tried to get some details about the song on the Internet. The colleague dug out this quote from Dr Dre from mtv.com. Dre said: “The song is really simple... All it is is a drum track, bassline and this Indian girl singing...” Hello, did he say ‘girl’????

6 pm: I spoke to Pyarelal, who said he’d never heard a song with those lyrics. But I kept trying others — musicologists, music buffs et al.

6.20 pm: I called Hridaynath Mangeshkar’s residence and spoke to Lata’s nephew Baijnath Mangeshkar. He said: “The song is from the film Jyoti, which has music by Bappi Lahiri. Strange nobody knows this song.”

6.35 pm: I was on line with Bappi, and explained how one of his songs had become such a hit in the US and UK. I read out the lyrics, but sorry, he hadn’t heard the song either. We then played it over the telephone, and he said: “You’re right. This is my song.” Though I told him the song might be from Pramod Chakravorty’s early 80s’ film Jyoti, Bappi wasn’t sure. “I’ll call up my office in Kolkata and get back to you,” he promised.

8 pm: Bappi still didn’t know which film the song belonged too, and was convinced it wasn’t from Jyoti. The Kolkata office was still finding out. But he said he’d find out whether the Americans had used the track after knowing whose song it was. “If they knew the original artistes, they should have given credit. How can anybody take a song without permission?” he asked.

8.10 pm: I called up Baijnath again, and he said he was sure it was from the film Jyoti. He also said he’d received a call from Lataji, who was wondering whether she had been given any credit. I said I hadn’t heard of any such thing.

8.20 pm: I called up director Pramod Chakravorty, and read out the lyrics. His reply: “No, this wasn’t in Jyoti.”

8.50 pm: Bappi called up. He beamed: “You were right. This is from Jyoti, The song has been sung by Lata didi, written by Anand Bakshi and composed by me.” I asked him whether he was planning to take any action because the American artistes hadn’t given any credit or asked for permission. Bappi’s reply: “I’ll think about that later. Right now, I am really happy that I and Lata didi, the legend of Indian music, are at the top of the international charts. This is an unforgettable day for me and for Indian music.”

Although it is true that no credit was given to either Lata Mangeshkar or Bappi Lahiri for Thoda Resham Lagta Hai, to be fair, there have been a surprising number of Indian songs that have copied the tunes of western music, the most notable examples being two songs from the superhit Maine Pyar Kiya: Aate Jaate, a complete rip of Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You and Mere Rang Mein, the tune of which is direct copy of The Final Countdown by a group called Europe. I looked into this a bit more and found a great many more Indian songs that have copied western tunes in their music, some of them even by our very own Bappi Lahiri, including Hari Om Hari from Pyaara Dushman and a few others, who is now complaining about not being given credit by Truth Hurts. (For those of you curious to find out, go to: www.angelfire.com/music4/sangeet/copiedsongs.html and http://www.pha.jhu.edu/~sundar/tp/ripoff.html. Also, I won’t even mention the increasing number of Indian movies that are copies in one way or another of American movies, the worst of which is Awara Pagal Deewana, a bizzare mixture of The Whole Nine Yards, The Matrix, and god knows what else.

But the story doesn’t end here. To my great surprise, when I went to India last month, I was watching TV when I heard the now familiar words, “Kaliyon ka chaman…” and was surprised to see a fairly young woman dancing to a modern remix of the song. At first I was confused, not having known at that point the origin of Thoda Resham Lagta Hai and thought this was the song that Truth Hurts had used as their background. It was then that I realized that the people in this video, called Kaliyon Ka Chaman and sung by Shashwati, were dressed in clothing and dancing in a way that was remarkably similar to Truth Hurts in her video for Addictive. Not only that, but this song has also been topping the Desi Pop Charts despite being a rip-off of a rip-off.

Well, I hope you found this tale as shocking, insulting, but at the same time funny and intriguing, as I did. It certainly shows how strange the world is that a song, long forgotten by the land from whence it came, so much so that even the person who composed the music for it couldn’t remember it, could now become the newest rage. It also shows quite clearly, that although all things Indian are gaining greater popularity in the western world, there is still a long way to go before the two cultures can truly understand and embrace each other.

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1.ed hardy hats April 27, 2014uhkbnusmep@gmail.com 
2.i am totally stunned December 1, 2007nazma 

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