Abhijit Bharadwaj
2 min readFeb 16, 2022

The Colonial Cousins were a rage in India in the 1990’s.

Perhaps the first “Hinglish” collaboration that’s intact till date, the deadly combination of the Carnatic classical vocalist Hariharan and the “western” Leslie Lewis had their breakthrough success with their debut music album “Colonial Cousins” that released to critical and global success on Oct 1,1996.

Less than a year earlier, Indians had experienced a taste of this fusion music with the hit film “Rangeela”

In a classic ode to the milieu and diversity of India and its people, 61-year Asha Bhosle singing “Yayi re” for an on screen 21-year-old Urmila Matondkar and to the tunes of a Tamilian Muslim music composer in his first solo Hindi feature film, had the entire nation on its feet and asking for more of this fusion music.

Enter Colonial Cousins

The right combination of technology (omni present TV’s), exposure to western music (MTV/Channel V), and a young population that didn’t associate themselves with the 80’s Bollywood music, gave rise to unique artists with “English” names such as Colonial cousins, Bombay Vikings ,Indian Ocean and Euphoria In many ways these bands were the bridge from cassette players to TVs for a new generation of Indians who were the recipients of economic Liberalization of the 1990’s India.

Hariharan who till then was famous for singing “Tu Hi Re” from AR Rahman’s Bombay that had released a few months before “Rangeela” the previous year, found a new audience crooning with him when he sung “Krisha ne begane baaro” and “Sani Dhapa” with Leslie Lewis’ and their unique soundtrack

Wallowing in nostalgia as I write this piece, I am going to play both these songs on loop for the rest of the evening, while fondly reminiscing the Sanyo cassette player in my home and the simpler times of the 90’s.

Abhijit Bharadwaj

Trying to write 200 words a day, everyday. Exploring ideas that are entertaining and socially relevant.