Let it never be said that The Kronos Quartet lack the gift of surprise – even after 32 years, most of them spent at the cutting edge of modern classical music. So prepare to be stunned by their collaboration with Bollywood diva Asha Bhosle and – an elephant.
It is possible that the elephant trumpeting its way through ‘Nodir Pare Uttchhe Dhnoa’ (Smoke Rises from the River) wasn’t recorded mid-stampede, but that doesn’t make You’ve Stolen My Heart any the less a jaw-droppingly risky album.
Commerce and high art rarely mix. However, this 12-track homage to the Indian ‘filmi’ music of RD Burman finds new ground. A collection of songs and instrumentals from Bollywood, it also has – it has to have – Asha Bhosle. To say that Bhosle is a mere singer would be to provoke a riot. Now in her seventies, Bhosle has made over 1,000 films, recorded more than 13,000 songs; she is the voice of Bollywood incarnate. Of course, there’s an almost hallucinatory camp about some songs – ‘Dum Maro Dum’ (Take Another Toke), especially so.
In such exalted company, the Kronos rise beautifully to the occasion, even adding vintage electronic percussion and organ for dynamic effect and texture. ‘Koi Aaya Aane Bhi De’ (If People Come) features a keyboard figure that composer Terry Riley would be proud of. But, most pleasurably, Burman’s music is taken seriously, and the quartet have transposed the music to create wonderfully fluid lines that carry both song and Bhosle along beautifully.