Olli and the Bollywood Orchestra
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Olli and the Bollywood Orchestra


Band World Pop


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Kitch'en (Label Caravan / Sterne Sony BMG) 2005
Tantra (Label Caravan / Bassofone! Anticraft) 2008



Ollivier Leroy, alias Olli, does not belong to the generation who, guided by the music of Ravi Shankar, used to hitch-hike all the way to India on a soul-searching quest in some remote ashram (retreat).
His passion for one of the oldest civilisations in the world has its roots in Brittany, where he was born and bred. It all started in Rennes, when the American musician and producer Bob Coke introduced him to the art of the tabla and gave him a glimpse of what would reveal itself as an incredibly rich and varied culture.
Made curious by this first experience, Olli, trained as a classical pianist and member of a rock band, decides to find out more about this terra incognita. Simultaneous studies of lyrical song, Indian raga and musical theatre will become his passport for a trip that is only just starting. In 1992, he leaves for India, where he meets the Dagar family in Bombay and perfects his mastering of the austere Dhrupad, the most ancient song of Northern India. Back in Paris, he pals up with singer Kakoli Sengupta, who specialises in Khayal, a very ornamented song including subtle vocal variations which explores the various moods found in raga.
Following a degree in Musicology, Olli wrote a dissertation on the Influence of Indian Music on French Composers after 1945. He then moved on to learn Sanskrit writing as well as the Hindi language thanks to the teachings of Aparna Narayan, a poet and painter native of Bengal. She is also the artist who, a few years later, wrote several of the texts that he set to music.
Very quickly, Olli has sought to turn this plethora of teachings into something new and profitable. He is seduced by the American minimalist movement, more precisely by the extended repetition of simple musical forms; the stretching of sounds and the use of vocals as an instrument, all of which are found in ragas (melodic themes), traditional Bhajan worship songs, Indian strings and the extreme rhythmic complexity of Indian music. Olli spins these elements into hybrid creations of his own, thus acknowledging both his Western cultural origins and the teachings of his ‘adopted’ culture.
His first musical experiments took place when he was a member of the bands Shafali and Pändip, where he combined Hindi song with rock orchestrations or Breton melodies. In 2002, he decided to take things further. His inspiration stems from Bollywood (the contraction of Bombay and Hollywood), the fortress where over a thousand Indian films are produced every year, 200 of which are musical comedies. Olli fell in love with the soundtracks from those kitsch and colourful films and still considers them to be the key to appreciating Indian culture, in the same way as the sacred song or the complex and skilful music might help to understand the collective psyche of the Indian people. He used them as the raw material for a new and original musical arrangement. This does not leave a lot of room to manoeuvre.
And yet, Olli manages to both avoid the traps of exotic mimicry and find a tone and a style of his own. Without giving in to the temptation of creating a simple collage of his influences, he goes his own, inventive way, which lead him to found Olli and the Bollywood Orchestra. The band is but a concept at this stage, but after a few visits to Calcutta, where Olli picked his musicians, recorded and tested his compositions and song in situ, the reality of it all soon started to take shape.
In 2004, a music-video-spectacle was created and presented at two prestigious Breton music festivals: Les Tombées de la nuit in Rennes and Les Vieilles Charrues in Carhaix. The outline of the show was inspired by the romantic themes which characterise all great songs in the Indian cinema since the seventies. These “hits” were reinterpreted and combined with compositions which foray into the universe of those electronic sounds about to transform the landscape of the new ‘bollywoodian’ blockbusters.
The bass, electric guitars and keyboards mingle with the tabla, mridigam, santur, sitar, and sarangi, all of which belong to traditional Indian music, and are fused into a whole new sound experience. On stage, Olli performs a duet with singer Mou ‘Jojo’ Mukherjee, backed by an orchestra of excellent instrumentalists, both French and Indian (some of whom take part in the British ‘New Asian scene’), while a video-mix is screened live by video-DJ Jesse Lucas, recreating the atmosphere of a cinema somewhere in New Delhi.
Both the public (counting 20 000 spectators) and the media were immediately seduced by this unique show, to such an extent that the band decided to organise a tour throughout France, Europe and Africa. In 2005, Olli concluded this unique and amazing challenge with the release of the album Kitch’en, which was recorded in the Prime Studio in Calcutta (which specialises in film soundtracks), and consists of two parts, one listing acoustic songs and the other introducing a fusion of song and electro.
With the release of his n