DJ Doll: Kaanta Laga (WMA Video Popup)
In the summer of 2003, Hindipop was suddenly all over American music. Punjabi MC’s hit “Beware of the Boys,” a bhangra banger featuring Jay-Z, was thumping from the trunks of cars rolling through the Brooklyn projects, while Britney Spears’s “Toxic” (video, IE only) and Beyoncé’s “Naughty Girl” (video, IE only) played with the sounds of Bollywood strings and even went so far as to mimic the distinctive Indian falsetto style — Beyoncé on the verses, Britney on the bridge. Later that year, Timbaland & Magoo released “Indian Flute” (video, IE only), in which they actually rhyme in Hindi.
Earlier that year, I was still in India, where pop music was moving in the other direction, closer to the West. Turn on a TV or walk down the street and you were likely to hear the “Kaliyon Ka Chaman,” a remix of an old Lata Mangeshkar song, or DJ Doll’s “Kaanta Laga.” Shashwati was the voice behind both recordings, which mixed Hindi lyrics and melodies with club beats. The tracks were controversial, at first because of the racy videos, then because the Bollywood songwriters weren’t getting their cut of the royalties for the songs. But there’s no denying that they’re also stylish and interesting records, and that the videos are fun to watch. We ended up coming home with CDs of both tracks, and now we can watch the videos again online.