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Bollywood is Big!

The whole scenario of Indian cinema, (the so-called "Bollywood"), is big business at the moment. Channel 4 is in the middle of a series called "Bollywood Star"- the search for a British-born actor to star in a Hjindi blockbuster. Bollywood films are increasingly influencing, or being referred to in, mainstream Western culture, as part of a great "East Meets West" movement. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams is a Broadway hit, and Indian sounds and sights are more and more evident in movies, pop music, and commercials (remember the Indian youth "remodelling" his car?).

And now Bollywood is about to hit the cultural heights of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival as the Picture House transports us to Mumbai on Festival opening night 19th June in the company of the Bollywood Brass Band.

The Bollywood Brass Band (BBB) is the UK's first Indian wedding brass band, playing hits from Indian films, bhangra and other South Asian styles, in arrangements by members of the band. A brass band from London that plays Bollywood - Indian filmi - music might seem unlikely. However, there's a strong brass band tradition in Indian culture - a legacy of the Raj- and the BBB has been in existence for almost a decade, a firm branch of the burgeoning Anglo-Asian music scene, with one self-titled album under their belts, and a new release on the way.

Strictly a street band in its early years, the Bollywood BB now performs equally on stage, combining the dynamism of the street with hand drums such as tabla and dholak, flutes and other sounds. In their concerts the band is joined by live dancers and uses video projections of sequences from the original Bollywood films. The BBB style has evolved into "a London masala of film melodies and Bhangra beats, with flavours from jazz and world musics."

The "Bollywood fever" which has swept the UK over the past couple of years is now taking off elsewhere, and the band recently played Valentines Day in St Marks Square as part of the Venice Carnival.

Although they play more and more Festivals, either as stage performers or street musicians, they try and remain true to their roots in the Indian wedding scene. But that's not without its problems, as band member Mark Allen explained. "While there's no shortage of brass players, it's harder to find players prepared to learn by heart massive amounts of music, wear costumes and do dance steps. The hardest thing is to get up at 6am on Sunday to play outside the bridegroom's house as he leaves to get married - that's not why most people become musicians!"

Their appearance at the Picture House on 19th June is at the more civilized time of 8 p.m. Great to watch, great to dance to, with a bar in the foyer for the evening, the brilliant BBB "strikes a blow for cultural fertilization - and makes music that's great fun"

The Festival continues for the following two weeks, until 4th July, and full details are in the a little pink and black programme, and on the Festival website (www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/festival). The Festival Box Office (on Albert Street, tel 01422 842684) is open daily from June 5th from10 till 5 (noon on Sundays) and postal bookings can be made using the form in the programme.

25th May

Hebden Bridge Arts Festival