Queen – Bijou
A song for the Non-Resident Indian (NRI), by the Non-Resident Indian: Farokh Balsara. (known by his cooler planet-y name, Freddie Mercury). By all accounts, Bijou is an anthem for Non-Resident Indian-ness. Its instrumental nature mirrors the NRI experience perfectly: not overly flashy but brilliant technically. It is a song of foreignness, attempting to communicate primarily in a language other than English, relying on our ability to sense the meaning first. When the language of home is not enough, the English words are short, simple, and powerful – designed for maximum impact: “You and me are destined/ You’ll agree/ To spend the rest of our lives with each other/ The rest of our days like two lovers/ Forever, yeah, forever/ My Bijou” That’s. Fucking. it. The NRI knows English and how to use it better than we do.
Bijou isn’t a love letter to home, it is a voicemail about surrender left by Freddie Mercury on behalf of all NRI’s abroad. While he masterfully translates Brian May’s phrasing, it is the guitar that delivers the real message: I am not leaving, but I am not coming home either. I will miss you too.
Note: If anyone references ‘outsourcing,’ Kwik-E Marts, or submits Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha, they should be punched in the trachea. That’s just mailing it in.
In Bo Rhap, a Christmas present to fans, the Kleptones blatantly defy their Disney detractors and add one more megamix to the illegal Queen mashup A Night at the Hip Hopera. A dash of Weird Al here, a smattering of Guns and Roses there, and more obscure clips than you can shake a stick at, and you’re left almost yearning for the comforting coherence in Freddie’s original.
Freddie, who was born to Parsi Indian parents (check it) , was a complicated man, and no one understood him but his woman, and his many men, and I think maybe the Kleptones. I mean, who do you think Freddie would side with in the Disney vs. Kleptones debate? Money from royalties cannot buy joy, but chaotic creation and sticking it to corporations can soothe the pain of Christmas-time commercialism.
Freddie, you cannot be replaced. But there is someone who’s still around who may be able to measure up, not to your musical chops, but to your unexpected ethnic heritage.
Chilli, the “C” of TLC, was reunited with her long-lost East Indian/Middle Eastern father on the Sally Jesse Raphael show, perhaps explaining the vague Eastern-ness of this video, which almost rivals the Bo Rhap in labyrinthine structure. Look, she’s getting a boob job! Ack, someone’s gonna beat up T-Boz! Thank goodness they’re meditating on floating pods!
Ideally, one would play this video with the sound off while listening to the Kleptones song (or nothing), because the song itself is rather…fugly.
In the late sixties, as Miles Davis was going off the deep end and exploring all sorts of new sounds and styles, Indian music was beginning to influence various musicians in the United States. While many listeners, both at the time and currently, are put off by Miles’ increased use of electronics, I think it’s great. While recording the 1972 album On the Corner, Miles collaborated with several Indian musicians, notably Badal Roy (tabla) and Khalil Balakrishna (sitar), producing one of his worst-selling albums. Great.
The most prominent use of Indian instruments can be found on the album’s second track entitled Black Satin. Apparently Davis wasn’t really pleased with the sound and ultimately dropped the tabla and sitar from his tour. Nonetheless, this album is a good example of a relatively early Indian influence in jazz and fusion (the operative word being relatively, since other jazz musicians had been experimenting throughout the sixties).
Also (on an unrelated note) for a good time watch: Daler Mehndi – Tunak Tunak.