The Whole Wide World: Asha Bhosle's Precious Platinum

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One basic characteristic of Bollywood films is the fact that actors generally do not use their own singing voices during the musical numbers - that task goes to playback singers like Asha Bhosle, who over the span of six decades has participated in almost 1,000 such flicks. In the meantime, she has also kept busy doing non-film songs - including a Grammy-nominated CD with the Kronos Quartet, 2005's You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood.

In celebration of her 75th birthday (a landmark that saw her first-ever appearance at New York's Carnegie Hall earlier this year), Bohsle has released a CD of new songs written by up-and-coming songwriter Nitin Ramesh Shankar, who also performed on the sessions. Thanks to its wide musical approach, it's a surprising disc for even those familiar with Bohsle's work. 

"Parde Mein Rehne Do"

For instance, "Kamsin Kamsin Main" has a 1940s jazzy feel (think Jessica Rabbit singing in Hindi), with an impressive arrangement that showcases the individual talents of her accompanying musicians (including a hot saxophone solo by Raghav Sachar), while "Main Asha Hoon" is bona fide reggae that wouldn't be out of place on the dance floor.

Another surprise is the highly percussive "Hara Rama," which sounds like a nod to the music of Western Africa. There is plenty of more traditional material, like "Tum Jo Mile," a beautiful ballad with lush strings and a gorgeous sitar by Sunil Das, and also "Yeh Chandni," a tune that blends in several electronic elements.

Precious Platinum shows Bohle's willingness to try something new, and is also a great introduction to new listeners who had only heard her through the memorable sample from The Black-Eyed Peas' 2005 hit "Don't Phunk With My Heart." - Ernest Barteldes

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