Dasaswamedh Road, Varanasi, India

Quiet American: Indra Chowk Hawkers | Minstrels | Sarangi Sales | Blown Cone

Michael Stearns: Varanasi Street

Pardes [Soundtrack]: I Love India (Part I)

Asha Bhosle: Jaane Kya Haal Ho Kai | Mera Naam Hai Shabnam

Traveling in the Indian subcontinent is an assault on all the senses, including hearing. Quiet American is the host of a website full of excellent field recordings of ambient sound from Nepal and other countries. The selections here capture the feeling of being in Kathmandu, including the experience of hearing Hindipop on hopelessly disastrous sound systems (Blown Speaker); also included is Nepal’s famous trekking song (Minstrels), followed by a bowdlerized rendition performed by one of Kathmandu’s ubiquitous folk-violin vendors (Sarangi Sales). From composer Michael Stearns comes some more ambient noise, this time from the most noise-polluted city I’ve ever been to (Varanasi Street).

To round out this little audio tour of the subcontinent, we have a few Bollywood classics: the epic I Love India (Part I), from the film Pardes, which was a big hit during my first visit, in 1997, and a couple of songs from Asha Bhosle, goddess of Bollywood. The voice behind a zillion Bollywood hits from the 1950s to the 21st century, Bhosle demonstrates her versatility on the lush, complex Jaane Kya Haal Ho Kai and the exuberantly sexy Mera Naam Hai Shabnam.