Tollywood Soundtracks


When I first started posting in my blog in September of 2005 my first request was for anyone with any info on Telugu and Tamil film songs to please hit me up. Much thanks to Kumari and Toddhu and Jacques for forwarding me some items of interest. I have been obsessed with finding the musical gems of South Indian cinema ever since I got a fair hit of the genre while watching cable in Indian hotel rooms in the Spring of 2004. At the time Anjali and I were buying carton loads of Hindi and Panjabi CDs and records, but in the areas of Central and North India we were in, the music stores did not stock any South Indian CDs. Even though I was finding a lot of exciting Hindi and Panjabi music, it all seemed tame compared to the absolutely unhinged South Indian percussion fests I was watching on cable. I actually didn’t know if the movies I was watching were in Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam or Tamil. I just took a stab in the dark and figured that since the Tamil and Telugu film industries were the biggest in South India, then the movies I was watching were probably Tamil or Telugu. I could be completely wrong about this deduction, attempted solely in order to simplify my musical search.

Since then I have bought the few Tamil and Telugu soundtracks I have come across, though I have held off on a massive internet search/buying spree. From what little I heard, I determined that it was the Telugu stuff that I was really after. It may be that I just haven’t heard the right Tamil stuff yet, but the Telugu stuff I managed to get my hands on featured the percussion-riot elements that I hungered for.

When Anjali and I recently played in Seattle, we didn’t have time for shopping the Indian stores in all the outlying areas, so we focused on Bellevue, and hit the jackpot when we discovered Mayuri Food & Video. They had a huge selection of Bollywood CDs, some bhangra, and lo and behold, a rack of Tamil and Telugu soundtracks. I was a little overcome, having never seen more than a few before, and here was a rack of choices. I decided to focus solely on the Telugu soundtracks. I picked out 16 or so, and wavered entirely a few times, putting them back, and then picking them up again. I was already spending a lot of money on Bollywood and bhangra, and here was a totally unknown quantity. Would I like any of the music? Would it be a bunch of syrupy ballads? Would there be any dance songs? I decided to put my money where my musical obsession was, and I picked them all up.

I am much better about picking up stacks of music, than I am methodically and attentively listening to every last piece of music I buy. Would I manage to get around to listening and absorbing all this music? I got focused over the last couple days, and dedicated myself to listening through everything I bought. I figured if I found a song I liked every disk or two I would be doing OK, and it was worth the investment. Much to my surprise I found track after track of percussion-heavy, pop insanity. There were rave keyboards, house and techno beats, lots of surprisingly heavy metal guitar, gloriously intertwining female vocals, and sick sick sick percussion. Break after break after break. If you are a music producer who uses samples, I would highly recommend a serious investigation of Telugu soundtracks. If you want some crazy tribal percussion a la MIA’s “Bird Flu,” you just got my major tip on where to look. I have been so consistently amazed and astounded by what I am hearing that I find myself fantasizing about becoming an all Tollywood DJ. I haven’t felt that way since Anjali first introduced me to bhangra in 2000.

I am still 99.99999% ignorant about Tollywood film music, but I really want to deepen my knowledge beyond the handful of soundtracks from the last couple years I managed to acquire. I was hoping that Tollywood was a smaller industry than Bollywood just so I wouldn’t drown in the enormity, but according to the wiki, there are 240 Telugu films released annually; about three a week. I’ve got my work cut out for me. If anyone wants to provide any helpful input at all, it would be greatly appreciated.


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