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How India's most iconic 90s pop star gained viral fame in the West

90s Indian pop icon Daler Mehndi Source: DalerMehndi.com

When Western pop was preoccupied with the Spice Girls, in 90s India it was all about Indipop, and Daler Mehndi was the most iconic of the bunch.

The decade of the 1990s is known for bringing Indipop to India. It was also the first time India heard Punjabi folk in a whole new form, thanks to the iconic Daler Mehndi.

Mehndi's new Indipop style, that fused the traditional, with the pop, helped create an alternative Indian music industry to the Bollywood film music and songs that dominated the charts. 

When rest of the world was going ga ga over the Spice Girls and Ricky Martin, Indians were crooning to Mehndi’s ‘Bolo Ta Ra Ra’, 'Na Na Na Re’, 'Darrdi Rabb Rabb Kardi', and 'Tunak Tunak Tun'.

Daler Mehndi
A grab from Daler Mehndi's famous 'Tunak Tunak Tun' video
Daler Mehndi

Apart from his energetic dance songs, Mehndi brought a very distinctive voice quality that was equally matched by his colourful turban and long flowing robes.

Melbourne-based singer and musician Mohit Pandit recently chatted with Amit Sarwal of SBS Hindi about Daler Mehndi's impact on the Indian music industry.

Pandit notes that Daler Mehndi’s “recipe for creating successful Indipop music was that he was grounded in his roots for inspiration."

"In addition, he created a formula for lyrics used in his dance numbers. This was based on repetition of certain words that people liked to croon.”

Listen to Pandit's full interview with SBS Hindi below:

Mehndi is also credited with creating a new genre called "Rabbabi" – a combination of Thumri (semi-classical Indian music), Sufi (devotional religious music) and rock.

Mehndi's first album ‘Bolo Ta Ra Ra’ (1995) established him as a pop star.

WATCH VIDEO: BOLA TARA RA RA

Soon awards, recognition and Bollywood deals followed Mehndi.

“Daler Mehndi was the first artist to take centre stage in a Bollywood film, alongside Amitabh Bachchan, rather than stay as a background singer like most of his contemporaries,” adds Mohit Pandit.

WATCH VIDEO: NANA NANA NA RE FROM FILM MRITYUDAATA

But, it was Mehndi’s ‘Tunak Tunak Tun’ (1998) with it's legendary colourful music video that brought him international acclaim.

In 2014, iconic EDM artist Deadmau5 remixed ‘Tunak Tunak Tun’ and performed along with Mehndi at the Sunburn festival in Delhi.

WATCH VIDEO: DEADMAU5 FT. DALER MEHNDI LIVE AT SUNBURN DELHI

Various YouTubers soon began impersonating him and a video game company also incorporated this dance number in their game ‘World of Warcraft’.

WATCH VIDEO: 'WHEN WHITE PEOPEL LISTEN TO INDIAN MUSIC'

And then there was this video that immortalized Daler Mehndi for a whole new generation and genre.

WATCH VIDEO: TUNAK TUNAK TUN MEETS METAL

And then this viral video of Chinese baby eating food took 'Tunak Tunak Tun' to a whole new level.

WATCH VIDEO: SHANGHAIIST BABY EATING TO DALER MEHNDI'S 'TUNAK TUNAK TUN' SONG

Today, Indian Indipop is known as pre- and post-Daler Mehndi era of music.