Bringing back the golden age of Bollywood ”“ Bombay Royale


Bombay Royale performs at Parramasala November 8th-11th
Parramasala Townhall Square Church St, Parramatta. Thurs 7.45pm, Fri 10.30pm, Sat 10.30pm @Outdoor Stage

By Neeru Saluja

Hail the 1960s and 1970s of Bollywood music. It was the genre of rock, hip-hop tunes and hippi culture. Indians were being influenced by western music for their tunes, but very few know that in the 1960s artists of the west were coming to India to look for inspiration. Indian classical music had a significant effect on the psychedelic rock scene of the 60s. A fusion of western music took place at both ends and swept away bands like Beatles, Doors and our very own music director RD Burman.

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2010 may have been the year of Katrina’s Sheila ki jawani and Malaika’s Munni badnaam hue, but who can forget Helen in Piya tu ab to aaja or Yeh Mera Dil?  The title song of Hare Krishna Hare Rama became a hip-hop anthem for youngsters. Bringing back the sound of the golden age of Bollywood to future is Bombay Royale, a Melbourne based band dedicated to honour and revive the disco and funky tunes.

Bombay Royale is led by singer Parvyn Kaur Singh, who comes from a family of professional musicians and has been singing and dancing on stage since the age of five in Australia. She is accompanied by male singer Shourov Bhattacharya who sings largely in Hindi while the rest of the band is drawn from the cream of Melbourne’s live music scene, featuring key members of bands such as Labjacd, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, San Lazaro, Mr Savona, Vulgagrad, Illzilla and multi-instrumentalist Josh Bennett who plays sitar, dilruba and tabla.

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The Indian Down Under caught up for an interview with Parvyn who had just come back from conducting a dance workshop for disabled school children. Gearing up for an upcoming performance at WOMADelaide, she is letting her hair down (literally) and wearing all her blingy sarees with Bombay Royale by spreading the music of love.

TIDU: Funky music, vintage Bollywood, flamboyant theatrics and a medley of the best of musicians from Melbourne. Bombay Royale has a unique vibe. Who was behind the visualisation of the concept?

Parvyn: Andy Williamson, the skipper of the band collects vintage vinyl records and amongst his massive collection were a few Bollywood records. He had heard about them, and realised no one did such music like in those days. When he played the music he thought he could come up with some instrumental music through a band. But then he came up with my character (the mysterious lady), got our male singer Shourov Bhattacharya (the tiger) and after rehearsing for six months we were ready to rock on the stage. We’re like a big gang wearing masks, where we have a mysterious lady, a jewel thief, the tiger, the skipper, the railways moghul, etc. Andy wanted to make it a Bollywood film than just a stage show, so he made us characters like in a movie and we all embraced it because it was so fun!

We have done performances all around in Melbourne like the Evelyn hotel regularly, live bars, Falls Festival, Port Ferry festival, Moomba festival, Melbourne arts festival and Parramasala.

TIDU: What made you choose the 70s music and not today’s music? How would you compare both if you want to?

Parvyn: Our music is basically the disco and funk from the 70s. It’s really a dancing style. I do like the music of today, but there is something special about those days. For example if I had to compare RD Burman’s music with AR Rahman’s music, both their merits and new styles, now music is more focussed on the base and computerised, while in the olden days there would be a massive room of live musicians making music. We should not forget those styles, now the music is more pop and horns.

I frequently sing RD Burman’s classics Dum Maaro Dum, Pechchan Ho, Kar le pyaar ke, yeh mera dil, etc. We are also releasing our debut album ”˜You Me Bullets Love’ at the WOMADelaide Festival and on our national tour in May. The album consists of our original tunes of the songs which we have written ourselves.

TIDU: You are the mysterious lady and the lead singer of Bombay Royale. How do you bring that mystic charm from that era on stage?

Parvyn: I just try to be myself on stage. It’s so peaceful just to sing and dance and enjoy the right spirit of music. Because I’m the character mysterious lady, there is a mystic touch and charm to my character like every woman has! I’m so comfortable with the musicians and my husband Josh, who plays the sitar and tabla.

TIDU: Interesting. Married to music or music brought your marriage?

Parvyn: (Smiles) I’ve known Josh for six years. He toured with Dad (famous musician Dya Singh) and then went to India to study the sitar. Then we both went to Ahmedabad to learn more about music and dance. He was always into Dad’s music, he embraced our culture, he loves Indian music and that’s where we connected.

TIDU: It’s amazing how being an Australian, Josh has embraced our culture and shown so much of interest in our music. What about other Australians ”“ how do they react when you perform?

Parvyn: Australians have embraced our music with open arms. They have no inhibitions when they listen to our music as it is a happy rhythm, and they are familiar with the guitar and trumpets. It also a theatrical touch to it so it’s a visual treat also. Funny but it’s a bit different when I perform in front of Indians. I get a bit nervous as they enjoy our music but are a bit judgemental and not quite sure about what we are doing. We want them to realise we’re having a great time while performing and we want them to do the same! Music is meant to be shared with all.

TIDU: You hold a degree in journalism but have pursued singing and dancing as a career. What do you enjoy the most?

Parvyn: I started off in engineering. Then I did a course in journalism, to learn more about my music, and to write poetry and songs. But I’m very shy to show my writing, I’m not that confident about my writing as I am with my singing and dancing in my troupe Sapphire. Both singing and dancing are very close my heart. My guru ji says “a singer dances from within and a dancer sings from within, so I enjoy both, singing with my body. I’m also a trained kathak dancer and love that form the most.

TIDU: How do you foresee the future of Indian music in Australia?

Parvyn: Indian music is becoming more known with Australian audiences now. They realise the beauty of colour, love and joy and are ready to get out there to experience the music and let go of themselves! The music is very vibrant and Triple J has started playing Bombay Royale. We are planning to tour Europe, America, Canada and South Africa and Korea and applied for a grant to tour India in January 2013. Our music is very energetic, fun and one can dance along to it. The 70s music includes the swimming step, the twist and that’s why western audiences understand it. There is a lot of fun in it and it’s all about having a good time.

TIDU: In your words, how would you define music?

Parvyn: For me, music is life, everything I see around me is music. It means everything to me. I find a lot of joy and peace in music, it makes me happy. And that would be my message to my audience ”“ find happiness and joy in whatever you do with an open mind, don’t take life too seriously!

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