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Were listening to another of NPRs 50 great voices this morning. In this series, weve chosen influential singers from around the world - from Americas Mahalia Jackson to Afghanistans Ahmad Zahir. This morning, well listen to a woman who is known to a billion people or more. Thats because Asha Bhosle recorded songs for hundreds of movies in India, which means her fame in Bollywood movies may be rivaled only by her sister. Jeff Lunden has this profile.

Ms. ASHA BHOSLE (Bollywood Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

JEFF LUNDEN: Record producer Yusuf Gandhi says Asha Bhosle and her older sister are superstars in India.

Mr. YUSUF GANDHI (Record Producer): What they call playback singers in the sense that they actually sing the song, but in the movie - most of Bollywood movies are musicals - the actresses are lip synching those songs.

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

LUNDEN: Writer Lavanya Shah is the daughter of a famous Bollywood lyricist.

Ms. LAVANYA SHAH: In India, the Bollywood industry is huge. And when a singer sings a song for those, the rest of India listens.

LUNDEN: And India has been listening to the alluring voice of Asha Bhosle for decades, whether she's sings in Hindi or many of the other languages of the region. And Mumbai Mirror columnist, Aseem Chhabra, says Bhosle could act through her voice alone.

Mr. ASEEM CHHABRA (Columnist, Mumbai Mirror): She could sing a song about a drug addict in Nepal, and she could sing dancing girls, and she could sing, you know, vamps in different eras in the '50s and '60s and '70s. She could do it all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUNDEN: Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar came from a musical family and began singing for Bollywood films as girls. They became so skilled at it and were so loved by audiences, that from the 1950s into the 1990s, they were the female voices of Bollywood.

Mr. CHHABRA: Very few other female singers would get opportunities to sing, because these two women had complete - actually Lata had a complete control over the industry.

Ms. BHOSLE and Ms. LATA MANGESHKAR (Bollywood Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

LUNDEN: Those are the sisters in a duet from the 1950s. Journalist Aseem Chhabra says Asha and Lata, who had something of a sibling rivalry, also had very different vocal styles and personalities.

Mr. CHHABRA: Lata always portrayed herself as this very pure, kind of a clean woman, and also the songs that she sang were always that.

Ms. MANGESHKAR: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. CHHABRA: Asha sang naughty songs, and she had somewhat of a naughty personality, and she had a personal life that also had some naughtiness in it, the fact that she had run away from home and divorces and marriage and all of that.

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

LUNDEN: Bhosle made the vamp her specialty, and this is one of her most famous songs in that persona. It was written by composer R.D. Burman, who not only worked extensively with Asha Bhosle, but married her. Burman took advantage of Bhosle's vocal versatility and created songs for her that brought Western musical influences to Bollywood combining, say, congas with tablas or finding some of the grooviest psychedelic rock sounds.

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

LUNDEN: If anything cemented her reputation as a bad girl or turned people on, it was this song, says writer Lavanya Shah says.

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

Ms. SHAH: Dum Maro Dum, yeah, that is about smoking pot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHAH: And I would say that before women's liberation became the catchword, she was a liberated female long ago.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

Ms. SHAH: In India, in villages, women would sit and clean the grain or grind chilies, and she would able to sing songs, those kind of songs Ashaji has sung. And they have become so popular that every Indian female, she feels, that it is part of my growing up, and it is part of my life also.

LUNDEN: Bhosle's influence has extended far beyond India. She's recorded with the boy band Red Code, the contemporary classical Kronos Quartet, and even pop star Boy George.

(Soundbite of song, Bow Down Mister)

Mr. BOY GEORGE (British Pop Star) and Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing) Raise your head and lift your hands to the lord. Raise your head and lift your hands to the lord, Raise your head and lift your hands to the lord, Raise your head and lift your hands to the lord. Hare ram hare ram rama rama.

LUNDEN: Bhosle is an electrifying live performer who can sell out concert halls and arenas not only in India, but in this country.

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

LUNDEN: And that audience crosses generations. In Long Island, 25-year-old radiation therapist Sunny Thakkar(ph) is an unabashed Asha Bhosle fan.

Mr. SUNNY THAKKAR: It is just amazing to watch her come on stage and perform, dance, with the same enthusiasm and the same qualities that a 16-year-old girl has.

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. THAKKAR: When she's onstage, you just want to get up and clap and, you know, dance with her. It's like everybody's high on music.

LUNDEN: For NPR News, I am Jeff Lunden.

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

INSKEEP: You can find more artists in our list of 50 great voices at npr.org. Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Im Renee Montagne.

Ms. BHOSLE: (Singing in foreign language)

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