There I was waiting for “Piku” to start. Instead, I was sitting through a series of Bollywood trailers. All of a sudden I heard a very exciting exchange between a group of women seated right behind me.
“Every Friday there is a new movie.”
“Such good movies too, nah?,” responded another.
“Summer holiday right now in India, so all these good movies are releasing now,” commented another.
“So, very Friday we will see a new film nah?”
So, I guess like them I too have my choice cut out for the next three weeks these new Bollywood films releasing. They are “Bombay Velvet,” on May 15, 2015; “Tanu Weds Manu,” on May 22, 2015, “Dil Dhadakne Do” or DDD on June 5, 2015,
Meet Mikey McCleary, musician, composer and music producer.He has been kept busy creating music for Bollywood films and Indian advertisements, and lately he has branched out to score music for Indian-American filmmaker Shonali Bose’s “Margarita With A Straw”
If his name is unfamiliar, his music must certainly be familiar to most of us. You might have heard his track from “Bombay Velvet” that releases later this year; or, his Tu Hi Tufrom “Nautanki Sala.” Perhaps this track from “Shanghai.” orKhoya Khoya Chand from “Shaitan” is a favorite. Then again, you probably would recognize the catchy jingles he put together for Vodafone or Levi’s?
We spoke with McCleary last month on a wide range of topics ranging from his early years in India to his teenage years growing up in New Zealand, the music and bands he listened to, and how he came to compose music for Bollywood films and for Bose’s “”Margarita With A Straw,” his first international film.
McCleary’s musical taste is eclectic, and this is clearly reflected in the music he is creating in Bollywood. As a teenager he listened to a wide variety of music, his favourites being David Bowie, Dire Straits, Queen, Bob Dylan and Cure. He enjoyed classical music as well. He studied music and composition in New Zealand before moving to London to work in a recording studio. It was during his stint in London that he helped his former brother-in-law (an Indian) produce his first album. They ended up working on 3 albums.
About 7 years ago McCleary relocated to Mumbai, the entertainment capital of India and home to Bollywood, the biggest film industry in the world. McCleary first worked in the advertisement industry and produced some memorable jingles. He then got a break making music for Bollywood films.
“India has a way of becoming addictive,” he says. It is not just India that is addictive, but also those vintage classic Hindi film music. His wife Diksha Basu introduced him to Hindi classic songs and he seems to have a special fondness for Geeta Dutt songs.
McCleary is reimagining some of the old Hindi songs in new ways. Often, he introduces a swing element to the the music, and the re-invented songs have found a new audience in India. In fact it is just such a re-worked version of Dutt’s song that is featured in “Bombay Velvet.”
He has produced 3 albums under The Bartender series that pay homage to old Hindi songs; one of the albums is devoted entirely to songs from Amitabh Bachchan’s films. A hallmark of his music is the manner in which he encourages his singers to be inventive with different styles without being tied down to the customery renditions traditional to Bollywood. “I like to encourage my singers to push their voices, to explore different sounds”. For instance he encouraged one his singers to cultivate an ‘Amy Winehouse’s vibe‘ in her voice. Anushka Manchanda, Shalmali Kholgade, Mauli Dave and Rachel Varghese are some of the singers he has worked with to nurture their innovative atistry.
LISTEN: MIKEY McCLEARY ON CREATING MUSIC FOR BOLLYWOOD
Besides the 3 albums devoted to Hindi classic songs, McCleary produced his first album “TV Dinners” in English. The album features songs from his popular jingles, except he extended them into full fledged numbers. There are 5 music videos that he has made featuring some of the tracks from his new album.
What is next in store for Mikey? He is working on two new projects. He is writing a story for a musical film and working on producing a new album.
And, here is a short playlist of McCleary’s music.
We spoke to Bose about “Margarita With A Straw,” a coming-of-age film, which she describes as a deeply personal film. The story is about a differently abled person’s journey of love and accepting herself is how Bose describes the film.
The film premiered at The Toronto Film Festival in 2014, which is where Masashi Niwano, the program director of CAAM Fest saw it and was instantly drawn to it. Niwano spent quite a bit of time in trying to get this film to this year’s CAAM festival.
“Margarita With A Straw” opens in India in April 2015 and in US and Canada by the end of the year.
“Margarita With A Straw,” stars Kalki Koechlin, Revathi, Sayani Gupta, Kuljeet Singh, Hussain Dalal, Tenzin Dalha and Jacob Berger. Music is by Mikey McCleary. Sound is by Resul Pokutty.
What are the sounds of Bollywood music? What are the various influences that shaped and continue shape Bollywood music?
If you delve deep into the subject of Bollywood music as Prof. Jayson Beaster- Jones has done, you will discover all sorts of musical influence from jazz, big band to gypsy music and hip-hop. American music has influenced Hindi or Bollywood music going back to the early day – think 1940s. You can hear traces of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and other big band music in the early Hindi film music. Beaster-Jones illustrates the American influence through Dorsey’s “Song of India” that was originally composed by Russian Rimsky-Korsakov‘s made famous by Dorsey and traveled to Bombay and made it to a Hindi film track.
If you fast forward to the 21st century you will discover hip-hop and rock music and the neo-swing music of Mikey McCleary, a New Zealander, who is remixing and re-imaginging those old vintage and retro Hindi film songs in new ways.
We spoke with Beaster-Jones on the various global influences that go into the making of Bollywood music and look at the American influence on Indian cinema. It comes as quite a bit of surprise to folks when you mention how strong American music influenced Hindi or Bollywood film music.
Beaster-Jones is an ethnomusicologist and teaches at University of California, Merced. He has written researched and written on the subject of Indian film music. His first book is “Bollywood Sounds: The Cosmopolitan Mediations of Hindi Film Song” and he is writing a second one called “Music as Merchandise: Music Commodities, Markets, and Values in India.”
LISTEN: Bollywood Sounds & American Influence with Jayson Beaster-Jones
Meet Mikey McCleary – a Kiwi music composer who is busy creating all sorts of musical waves from Mumbai, the headquarters for Bollywood film industry. If you ever watch Indian TV shows then you have heard his music for sure. He is the guy behind all those advert jingles for Vodafone, Levis, Titan, Coke and many, many more. He has also created soundtracks and composed music for Bollywood films like “Nautanki Sala,” “Shanghai” and many more. He recently composed music for Shonali Bose’s film “Margarita With A Straw.”
McCleary is prolific and has released a couple of albums, including a new one called TV Dinners, where he has turned those advert jingles into full-fledged songs. He clearly knows where he is going in this musical journey of his in India. And he is partial to jazz, specifically the ones that have swing and big band influence as he shared in a recent conversation I had with McCleary. Continue reading →