Tunak Tunak Tun…

Daler Mehndi

1998: Magnasound (ndia) D6-P2611

  1. Tunak Tunak Tun…
  2. Ishq Da Charkha
  3. Dhol Mahiya
  4. Billo
  5. Har Pal Tadapte Hain
  6. Jalwa
  7. Sun Veh Mahiya
  8. La La Dum

It was the video that made me buy this, of course. You know the one—for the title song—if you’ve ever had a YouTube-surfing friend who likes to forward you head-shaking gems such as the video for “Tunak Tunak Tun” or Kelly’s viciously addictive “Shoes.” To those of us outside the cultural milieu of Mehndi’s material in it, that video is alternately arresting and painfully hilarious.

The first time I saw it was in probably 2002, maybe 2003, and I could NOT stop watching it…there was something so fascinating about the whole thing, and I wanted desperately to find what that might be rather than come away as most Americans would do, simply laughing about that kooky chunky guy in a turban. Eventually I sorted out three aspects which could be considered independently: the catchy music itself, the scenario for the video (apparently portraying a friendly rivalry between four elements of the physical world, although not necessarily the Western air-fire-water-earth set), and (belatedly) Mehndi’s singing. The latter was in fact an afterthought, to me, as the visuals and pace of the video rather overloaded my senses.

But when I hesitantly returned to the subject in early 2007 I discovered that Mehndi has a gorgeously rich tenor that is well worth checking out. I mean, I had scarcely noticed it while the video was playing, yet it is strong and fine, a voice to envy and beautifully expressive even with studio-imposed “enhancements” and despite the fact that I don’t understand a word of what he’s singing (the CD booklet *does* however include all the lyrics, which is a great help). It is however a voice delivering BIG overall and not in gentle balladry, though there are bits of the latter on this album.

The album’s profusely produced, so there’s more for the ear to consider than is either necessary or desirable (unless you’re into Bollywood cinematographic expansiveness already). But it’s deliciously and richly melodic and nearly irresistable in its ample enticements to dance along with those supple rhythms.