Legendary Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle: I'm not retiring

“I can’t really see that this will be my last time – I really hope I get to come back and perform again,” she says

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 01 November 2017. Asha Bhosle, Indian singer and Actress at a press conference at Asha’s Restaurant in Wafi Mall. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Chris Newbold. Section: Arts & Culture.
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Asha Bhosle has played down rumours that her November 3 concert at Dubai's World Trade Centre will be her last. The legendary Bollywood playback singer is no stranger to teasing fans with rumours of her imminent live demise. Last year, she announced that her September 18 show at London's Wembley Arena would be her last. A year later, she's still performing, but rumours are again circulating that the Dubai gig could be her last.

Bhosle dismissed the claims at a press conference yesterday ahead of the gig. 

“I can’t really see that this will be my last time – I really hope I get to come back and perform again,” she said.

"Thank God this concert is happening at all in the first place. It's been three years since I last came, so you can imagine how old I am now [she's a sprightly 84], but thank you to everyone for inviting me again.

"I love coming to Dubai. It's always fun performing here, I get a lot of warmth from the audiences here whenever I perform." Bhosle is one of the biggest stars of Bollywood ever, with a career spanning six decades, more than 12,000 recorded songs, 650 movies and recordings in up to 20 languages, as well as an unlikely tribute single in the form of the 1997 track Brimful of Asha from British indie-pop outfit Cornershop, famously remixed into a hit by DJ-du-jour Fatboy Slim.

Bhosle has picked up Filmfare Awards, Zee Cine Awards, MTV Awards, a Diff Lifetime Achievement nod and many more. Her career has outlasted almost all of her contemporaries, and few, if any, in music or cinema worldwide can claim to be nearly as prolific has her.

The singer remains remarkably modest about her glittering achievements, however. 

“It just happened, really. I started to get work and then it kept going on and on,” she says, without a hint of diva.

“The secret and the passion is that I sing every song like it’s my first, and like [that] if I don’t sing it well then my reputation will be ruined forever.

“I don’t think about the awards or any of that when I sing a song. I take singing as a job. I enjoy it and I’m passionate about it, but still it’s my job and that’s how I treat it.”

Bhosle is equally humble about one of her most famous songs. Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar, on which she duetted with Mohammed Rafi for the 1961 film Hum Do, has become a genuine piece of cultural heritage and can still be heard in shops, cafes and homes across the subcontinent on a daily basis. Bhosle, however, insists she was only incidental to the song's success: "For me there wasn't actually a lot of contribution from my end," she insists.

“Most of the song is actually Mohammed, and I just kind of come in near the end. But what I do remember about that song is that when I do finally come in, I really had to sing it with so much emotion and make my voice heard. I think that’s why people over the years started to associate the song with me instead of Mohammed. It’s been remade and remixed so many times, and I feel really proud and humble to have been associated with that song and that melody.”

Bhosle is no stranger to remixes. Her songs have been remixed, covered, reworked and re-released more times than there are dancers in a big-budget Bollywood epic.

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From faithful replicas to hard-dance remixes and experimental art projects, the singers voice transcends genres, and not just in her homeland. The Prodigy, Beenie Man and The Black Eyed Peas are just a few of the western artists to have sampled her work, and she admits she’s not always a fan of the results. 

“I’m not always so keen on remixes,” she admits.

“Sometimes they make the remix and they ruin the vocal. They take a song with a beautiful vocal and place all this loud dance music or whatever over it and the vocal gets lost. If you’re going to remix a song you should leave the vocals.”

With decades of experience and an extensive CV like hers to fall back on, we’re hardly in a position to disagree.