PREEYA KALIDIS – “Shakalaka Baby”

This could and should have been a lot stronger. It’s the lead single from Bombay Dreams, the West End’s first ‘Bollywood musical’, with tunes provided by A R Rahman, the young superstar of filmi songwriting. If, that is, you believe the press and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the producer. But the six or seven Rahman compositions I knew certainly had something going for them. The profligacy, the playfulness, the delighted and whimsical self-regard of Bollywood was there all right, but tempered by a delicacy and a sense of dynamics that aimed to build a mood rather than just surprise. They were opulent, but never obvious.

So why is “Shakalaka Baby” so drab? Why do the melodies prove so slippery and unmemorable? Why is the production limited to little stabs of guitar? Where are the tumbling ranks of strings? What is that bloody jungle beat doing, strangling the song from the start, denying it space to develop? This record sounds like a collision between a Talvin Singh outtake and a Haribo advert. Maybe Rahman didn’t want to reprise any of his more typical productions; maybe Lloyd Webber bottled out – and to be fair, Preeya Kalidis’ watery vocals don’t help either. But whatever the case, “Shakalaka Baby” makes an unwelcome trade: surefooted subcontinental flamboyance for a shaky, nervous immigrant smile.