Hip-hop meets Bollywood

Soundtracks, cameos provide opportunities for collaboration

NEW DELHI -- With Indian cinema opening up to international trends on all fronts, the crucial ingredient of music is also being influenced by global grooves, especially the local strain of hip-hop.

Superstar Shah Rukh Khan recently announced that top selling artist Akon would contribute a track for his upcoming superhero caper "Ra.One," yet another example of the growing trend of foreign talent crossing over to Bollywood.

At the announcement in Mumbai in March, Akon told the media, "I will give Shah Rukh Khan a couple of versions of the song, the way I do it. And I will also integrate it with the traditional way the Bollywood films are done." The project sees Akon working with the film's composer-duo Vishal-Shekhar who are one of Bollywood's most successful film composers.

The hip-hop Bollywood connection has its roots in the early 1990s, when international DJs and producers started sampling the exotic sounds of Indian soundtracks. One of the earlier breakthrough hits came via acclaimed hip-hop producer Dr. Dre and female vocalist Truth Hurts who had a hit with 2002's "Addicted," which sampled the Hindi song "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai" ("It Takes A Little Silk") from 1981's Bollywood film "Jyoti."

Similarly, another breakout hit that cracked the Billboard hip-hop charts came with 2003's "Beware of the Boys" featuring a guest rap by Jay-Z over U.K.-based Indian producer Panjabi MC's club hit which in turn sampled the bassline from the famous theme from TV's "Knight Rider."

Perhaps the most high profile collaboration so far was for the title track of 2008's Bollywood blockbuster "Singh Is Kinng" featuring the first of its kind collaboration between Snoop Dogg, U.K.-based Indian producers RDB and top Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar. The specially shot "Kinng" video even included Snoop Dogg dressed in Indian attire and a turban grooving with Kumar. "For this project, we wanted a high profile hip-hop star and Snoop Dogg is without a doubt one of the biggest names in the game," said the film's producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah.

Snoop Dogg's involvement was coordinated by promotions agency Cashmere Asia, whose Chairman Ted Chung is also vp A&R at Snoop Dogg's label Doggystyle Records.

But the awareness for hip-hop is also increasing here with acts performing live which has seen gigs by major stars such as 50 Cent and Akon. In addition, artists are also being exposed via regular events such as Vh1 India's "Tuborg Hip Hop Hustle" launched in 2005 which has hosted the likes of Mobb Deep, Chamillionaire, DJ Green Lantern and recently New York rapper Mims (best known for the 2007 Billboard chart topper "This Is Why I'm Hot").

"What I like about Bollywood music is that it is a smorgasbord of various styles," said Mims, who performed a three-city India club tour in March and is keen to explore potential collaborations with Bollywood. "The way I'd approach a possible project is to combine the essence of the Bollywood sound with that of hip-hop without taking away anything from either genres."