In November 2019, 70’s star Asha Puthli said YESS to Le Guess Who? Festival. She performed after decades in Europe for the biggest world festival in The Netherlands. This Indian beauty talks about her musical come back and how she became the star that she is today
74-year old singer Asha Puthli was born and raised in Mumbai. At a young age, she already made it her mission to merge traditional Indian influences with Western pop. Throughout her remarkable career, she has grown to become one of the most valued musicians from India, and inspired many international artists with her wide variety of genres.
Asha Puthli’s training in classical Indian music and opera along with her education in European music formed the foundations for her lifelong ambition to merge Eastern and Western sounds. Her determination to become a successful singer took her to New York City, as well as to various countries in Europe. She had always wanted a career in the United States, the home of the jazz and soul she was in love with, and she was determined to be discovered.
Puthli’s extraordinary singing along with her personal style and exceptional performances did not remain unknown for long and soon she gained recognition from artists like Debbie Harry and Donna Summer (who both cite Puthli as an influence on their work), as well as Ornette Coleman, Martha Graham, Notorious B.I.G., the filmmakers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, and the talent scout John Hammond. Asha collaborated with Ornette Coleman on the groundbreaking jazz album ‘Science Fiction’. Symbolizing a break with the jazz tradition and marking a more avant-garde style of jazz music, the album became a major turning point for the development of jazz in general as well as Puthli’s career.
Asha Puthli’s interests ranged beyond jazz though, and besides an award-winning jazz vocalist she also became an international pop sensation with her disco records of the 70s and 80s. With a range of four octaves and her Indian-styled vocals, Puthli became known as the “disco mystic from India” and an inspiration for many artists all over the world, with her early admirers being Andy Warhol, Diana Vreeland and Salvador Dali.
“I’m a free spirit. My mind always operates on the in-betweens, like the microtones in music. I’m an artist, and it’s difficult for artists to draw lines. We draw circles — concentric and eccentric circles.”– The New York Times
The impact of Puthli’s work and career as well as her music have been acknowledged and admired by some of the greatest hiphop musicians: her songs have been sampled by artists like 50 Cent, P. Diddy, Notorious B.I.G., and Jay Z. She is also giving her own music a new lease of life with a new solo jazz album to be released, which is a tribute to all the jazz greats she worked with, including Duke Ellington, Cy Coleman, Ornette Coleman and Lionel Hampton.