Back before the days of instant music streaming and media players, and even before the days of CDs, there was radio. All over the world, families huddled together for hours just waiting to listen to their new favourite song.
In the city of Kolkata India, young, future head chef Asma Khan of Darjeeling Express, came home from school during the scorching heat of the summer months to find her mother lying under a ceiling fan enjoying the now classic songs of vintage Bollywood. Bollywood films of the 1950s are characterized by their glamour, action and iconic actors, but also by the everlasting songs and musicians, embedded in the actual plots of these movies.
Asma's family was no different in their love for music. Her grandfather even had a special connection: Talat Mahmood, one of the greatest Indian singers, was a college friend. So her mother and sisters would especially listen out for those songs, sung by Mahmood, but that featured the stars of Indian cinema like Rajesh Khanna, known as the first Bollywood superstar, or Dev Anand (pictured in center), dubbed the Gregory Peck of India.
This is the music that fills the air of Darjeeling Express. Just as the cuisine of Darjeeling Express is from that era, tuning into this specialized playlist will take you back to the era of classic Bollywood music and into the daydreams of young, chef Asma.
When you go to Darjeeling Express on the third floor of Kingly Court, tucked away on Carnaby Street, you may notice everyone in the kitchen smiling and humming along to the soundtracks from time to time. It's because playing this vintage music is like playing a set of memories, connected by feel, time and the set of actors, musicians, etc. So carefully curated, the songs flow smoothly; almost magically, the types of songs you would want to hear next are the ones next in the queue.
Come listen to this set at Darjeeling Express, under the same kind of ceiling fans, and be transported to retro Indian Bollywood. You can also find a taste of it on Asma's Spotify here.