Some of the greatest and most innovative music has been created when artists from two different worlds have come together for a song.
Apart from coming up with hit records, the dream teams have opened the doors for others, created new genres and inspired fellow artists in some way.
Eastern Eye went back in time to find 12 unforgettable collaborations that crossed musical frontiers and inspired others to follow.
Pandit Ravi Shankar and The Beatles: The Indian sitar maestro and the internationally renowned pop group were from two different worlds, but when they came together, the result was path breaking. The super group gave Indian classical music an incredible global platform and Shankar, in turn, influenced their music by giving it a different perspective, so much so that the band incorporated the sitar in songs like Norwegian Wood. Their collaborations led to the birth of east-west fusion music, which would explode in subsequent decades. The bond between Shankar and band member George Harrison would remain for a lifetime.
Buddy Rich and Ustad Allah Rakha: The musician who made tablas the coolest of the classical Indian instruments was Ustad Allah Rakha and his legendary album Rich a la Rakha played a major part in that. He teamed up with American jazz drummer and bandleader Buddy Rich for the 1968 fusion album, which became hugely popular and influential. The collection of songs would lead to musicians taking the tabla across new frontiers in the future. They included Ustad Allah Rakha’s superstar son Ustad Zakir Hussain and later, Asian Underground pioneer Talvin Singh.
Shankar Jaikishan and Rais Khan: The legendary Bollywood music duo were at the top of their game when they decided team up with sitar maestro Rais Khan and step out of their comfort zone with the album Raga Jazz Style. The album made a major contribution towards the development of jazz music in India. The hit songs also helped create the Indo-Jazz genre, which would later become popular and influence various musical styles.
Biddu and Nazia Hassan: He was an established Indian music producer working in the western mainstream on global smash hit songs like Kung Fu Fighting while she was a young Pakistani teenager dreaming of becoming a pop star. The duo came together for the song Aap Jaisa Koi from Bollywood film Qurbani. Despite this being their first time in the Hindi film industry, the success of the magical song would lead them to iconic album Disco Deewane which, in turn, would launch the pop scene in India and Pakistan.
Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Peter Gabriel: When the qawwali maestro teamed up with western mainstream musician Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack to The Last Temptation Of Christ he couldn’t have imagined the impact it would make. The soundtrack received a Golden Globe award nomination, was later released as a stand-alone album, and won a Grammy in 1990 in the Best New Age Album category. The collaboration helped take qawwali music to a global audience and resulted in Khan doing further big collaborations in the western mainstream, including more movies. Today Sufi music continues to combine with diverse genres.
Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Bally Sagoo: One was a grand qawwali maestro rooted in the classical tradition of the ancient genre, while the other was a young Indian-origin music producer remixing bhangra songs with western dance floor vibes. They unexpectedly came together for iconic album Magic Touch, which would become a sensational smash hit. Apart from bridging the gap between contrasting genres and generations, it opened the door to traditional classical and folk-based music being successfully mixed with dance floor beats.
Asha Bhosle and Adnan Sami: The cross-border collaboration saw the legendary Indian singer team up with Pakistani singer and musician Adnan Sami for the album Kabhi To Nazar Milao. The super hit album turned Adnan into an overnight superstar and also opened the door in India for top Pakistani singers like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam. It also led to music directors in Bollywood looking towards Pakistani compositions for inspiration.
Panjabi MC and Jay-Z: Bhangra song Mundian To Bach Ke was already a huge hit before Panjabi MC decided to get together with Jay-Z to add his lyrical flow to the track. The addition of the rapper helped to turn the Punjabi song into a global juggernaut and opened loads of doors for bhangra music in the western mainstream. What followed was a number of western artists either injecting bhangra influences into their songs or delivering Punjabi music-fuelled remixes, with varying degrees of success.
Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle: The legendary Bollywood singer teamed up with the American string quartet for classy cover versions of her late husband RD Burman’s compositions. The resulting album You’ve Stolen My Heart gave traditional Bollywood songs a classical edge and received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary World Music Album in 2006. Since then a huge number of Bollywood musicians, including AR Rahman, have collaborated with western classical orchestras to bring traditional Bollywood songs to life in the live arena. Other subcontinental genres, including qawwali artists, have also continued collaborating with western classical musicians.
RDB and Snoop Dogg: The British Asian music producers had already delivered big bhangra anthems and were finding their feet in Bollywood, while he was a globally famous hip hop star with a string of hits behind him. They joined forces for title track of Bollywood film Singh Is Kinng and the amazing success of the song led to Bollywood producers getting more mainstream pop stars like Kylie Minogue and Akon to deliver film songs. The track also helped give Bollywood songs a more international edge.
Wynton Marsalis and Sachal Jazz Ensemble: Pakistani group Sachal Jazz Ensemble came to prominence with their unique brand of music, which saw them use traditional Indian classical instruments to play western jazz classics, and attracted global attention with live collaborations with legendary musician Wynton Marsalis. This not only got their unique brand of music popularity, but also helped open the door to other musicians around the world wanting to do the same type of songs and helped develop a brand new audience. This also added momentum to the continued revival of classic music in Pakistan.
Jay Sean and Lil Wayne: One was a British Asian singer who was forced to become an independent artist after losing a major record deal and the other was a massively successful American hip hop artist who also fronted a major music banner. They came together for the single Down, which took America by storm and topped the charts. That success inspired other British Asian artists to dream big and for overseas artists to believe that they could top the charts anywhere in the world.