Asha Puthli

Asha Puthli

Infobox musical artist
Name = Asha Puthli

Background = solo_singer
Birth_name =
Alias =
Born =
Died =
Origin = Bombay, India
Instrument =
Voice_type =
Genre = Jazz, soul, funk, pop, ambient music, electronica, Indian music
Occupation =
Years_active = 1970—present
Label = CBS / Sony, Polygram, TK Records, Autobahn Records, Top of the World
Associated_acts =
Notable_instruments =

Asha Puthli is an Indian-born singer, songwriter, producer and actress.

Best recognized for her daredevil vocals on the "Science Fiction" album by jazz iconoclast Ornette Coleman, Asha Puthli has recorded ten solo albums for labels like EMI, CBS/Sony, and RCA. She is a 'world music' pioneer and an intrepid cosmopolite.

Her recordings, which span styles like blues, pop, rock, soul, funk, disco, and techno, have been produced by the likes of Del Newman (Elton John, Cat Stevens), and Teo Macero (Miles Davis, Vernon Reid). A quick glance at some of the artists with whom she has recorded, sung or shared the stage is a testament to her eclecticism: Lionel Hampton, Alice Coltrane, Barry White, Dewey Redman, Grace Jones, Charlie Haden, Sonny Rollins, Bill Laswell, Patti Smith, Cy Coleman, Don Cherry, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Ellington, Roy Ayers, Tom Jones, The Rolling Stones, The Pointer Sisters, Ashford & Simpson and Django Reinhardt.

The Early Years

Born and raised in Bombay, Asha began training at an early age in Indian classical and European opera. With a dream to synthesize Indian music, Asha gravitated to western popular music emanating from her home radio. From "Voice of America" she consumed jazz masters like Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, and she became acculturated to British and American pop singers like Dusty Springfield and Cliff Richard through Sri Lanka's "Radio Ceylon".

She won a competition at thirteen singing "Malaguena," which gave her the encouragement some years later to begin improvising with a jazz band at local tea dances. This nascent scene was chronicled in Ved Mehta's chapter "Jazz in Bombay" from his classic book "Portrait of India". Asha's sultry, four-octave soprano that has been described by scholar Niranjan Jhaveri in the following manner: "The ability to manipulate her voice and to introduce certain glissando effects embellishments and textures descend directly from Asha's training in the Indian classical idiom. Her improvisations are the envy of the best instrumental technicians in jazz."

The New York Years

Asha made her way to New York under the auspices of a dance scholarship from Martha Graham. As luck would have it, Columbia Records impresario John H. Hammond, who had forged a career discovering acts like Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, became intrigued by Ved Mehta's portrait of Asha in "Jazz in Bombay". After hearing a rough demo, Hammond championed her as a genius and vigorously recruited her for CBS Records. Unable to find a place for the jazz singer at his increasingly rock-oriented label, Hammond nonetheless used his connections to get her top-flight session work. She sang lead vocals on the Peter Ivers Blues Band's cover of "Ain't That Peculiar" which made a critical splash in magazines like "Cashbox", "Rolling Stone", and "Billboard".

Hammond fortuitously sent her to audition for avant-garde jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, who'd been searching to no avail for a unique singer for his "Science Fiction" project (1971). A quick study, Asha learned and recorded two of Coleman's songs, "What Reason Could I Give" and "All My Life," in mere hours. Historian Robert Palmer gushed about Asha's sound in the following manner: "A sound like Raga meeting Aretha Franklin, Miss Puthli's singing is equally extraordinary. There is just enough Indian training left in her style to give it an indescribable fluid quality. Her alternation of timbre from the breathiest of sighs to gospel derived moans is unique. She improvises off an impressive range and generally walks through the album with the assurance of a master performer." For her work on "Science Fiction", Asha shared the "Downbeat" Critics' Poll award for "best female jazz vocalist," alongside Ella Fitzgerald and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Despite the shower of accolades, avant-garde jazz is not a genre known for vocalists, and recording opportunities did not materialize for Asha in the United States.

European Solo Albums

Asha's commercial promise was better understood in Europe, where she was promptly signed to a record deal by CBS honcho Dick Asher. Mostly unreleased in the US, Asha's series of inventive solo albums, in which she also delves into writing and producing, reflect the young singer's burgeoning interest in pop, rock, soul, funk and disco. Asha gravitated to glam, a scene populated by fashion-conscious provocateurs like Elton John and T-Rex. Her self-titled debut was produced by Del Newman, famous for his glitter rock treatment of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and it featured languorous pop soul covers of tunes by J. J. Cale, Bill Withers, and others. She also recruited Pierre LaRoche, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury's makeup artist, and glam photographer Mick Rock to shoot the cover.

The follow-up "She Loves to Hear the Music" continued in the vein of her debut; and her third solo album, "The Devil is Loose", was hailed as an instant classic by the "New York Times". Thom Jurek of "" praises the psychedelic glam record as 'a masterpiece of snakey, spaced-out soul and pre-mainstream disco.' Asha's sensual, Eastern-influenced cooing over bass-driven grooves on original songs like "Flying Fish" and "Space Talk" provided the blueprint for spacey disco hits like "I Feel Love" and "Love to Love You Baby," and they provided the sonic template for future disco, electronica and femme pop hits by Blondie, Ofra Haza, Kylie Minogue and others. Her disco album, "L'Indiana," produced dancefloor hits like "I"m Gonna Dance." Recognized in critical circles as a fusion pioneer, Asha's distinctive, unusual recordings predate fusion of east and west celebrated today in styles like hip-hop, worldbeat, bhangra, and electronica by almost twenty years.

Films, Fashion and Beyond

During the 1970s, Asha also branched out into films, starring in lead roles in Merchant Ivory's "Savages" and Bruno Corbucci's "The Gang That Sold America" (Italian title:"Squadra Antigangsters").

Her cosmopolitan sense of glamour rocketed her to visibility as a fashion icon: a headliner at Studio 54, she was dressed by A-list designers from Michael Vollbracht to Manolo Blahnik, and photographed by iconic lensers from Richard Avedon to Andy Warhol.

The new millennium saw Asha re-emerge as an in-demand guest artist on the electronica circuit, appearing on funk experimentalist Bill Laswell's "Asana Vol. 3", "Hey Diwani, Hey Diwani" with techno-fusion group Dum Dum Project, and a variety of rare groove and yoga music collections.

In 2005 Asha hit the UK charts once again singing lead vocals on and co-writing Stratus' "Looking Glass" from their album "Fear of Magnetism".

Recently, her underground 1970s classic "Space Talk" - a popular tune with David Mancuso's "The Loft" crowd - has become a popular hip-hop break record, sampled by the likes of P.Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G., Dilated Peoples, Governor featuring 50 Cent, and Redman; and her cover of George Harrison's "I Dig Love" was recently sampled for the chart-topping track "Reloaded" by UK Mobo award winner Ka-No. She has co-writer credits with Jay-Z, P.Diddy,The Neptunes, Jermaine Dupri, SWV and The Notorious B.I.G. on the track "The World is Filled" from the multi-platinum album, Life After Death.

Asha has a new album which will be released in summer 2008 on European label Kyrone.

Partial Discography


* "Asha Puthli" (CBS) 1973
* "She Loves to Hear the Music" (CBS) 1974
* "The Devil is Loose" (CBS) 1976
* "Asha L'Indiana" (TK Records) 1979
* "1001 Nights of Love" (Polygram) 1980
* "I'm Going to Kill It Tonight" (Autobahn) 1981
* "Only the Headaches Remain" (Polygram) 1982
* "Asha: The New Beat of Nostalgia" (Top of the World Records) 1998

Appears on

* "Science Fiction" - Ornette Coleman (Columbia) 1971
* "Mirror" - Charlie Mariano (Atlantic) 1972
* "Squadra Antigangsters" (Cinevox) 1979 - soundtrack
* "Slip into Another World" - Henry Threadgill (Novus) 1989
* "Loft Classics XII" - Various Artists (Loft Classics) 1995
* "Groovy Vol 1: A Collection of Rare Jazzy Club Tracks" - Various Artists (Irma) 1996 - compilation
* "Groovy Vol 2: A Collection of Rare Jazzy Club Tracks" - Various Artists (Irma) 1997 - compilation
* "Export Quality" - Dum Dum Project (Times Square / Groovy) 2001
* "Walking on Music" - Various Artists (Corona) 2001 - compilation
* "Psychedelic Jazz and Soul from the Atlantic and Warner Vaults" - Various Artists (Warner UK) 2001 - compilation
* "Mpath - Wanderer" - Gardner Cole (Triloka) 2003
* "Accerezzami" - Fausto Papetti (n/a) 2003
* "Chillout in Ibiza, Vol. 5" - Various Artists (Smart) 2003 - compilation
* "The Karma Collection" (Ministry of Sound) - Various Artists 2003 - compilation
* "Asana Vol 3: Peaceful Heart" - Bill Laswell (Meta) 2003
* "The Trip" - Tom Middleton, Various Artists (Family Recordings) 2004 - compilation
* "Fear of Magnetism" - Stratus (Klein) 2005
* "Asana OHM Shanti" - Bill Laswell (Meta) 2006
* "Cosmic Dancer - Voyage Three" - Various Artists (Cosmic Dancer) 2006 - compilation

External links

* [ Official Site]
* [ Official MySpace Site]

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