Asha Puthli

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Asha Puthli
Asha Puthli Bollywood awards.jpg
Background information
Origin Bombay, India
Genres Jazz, soul, funk, disco, pop, ambient music, electronica, Indian music
Years active 1970–present
Labels CBS / Sony, Polygram, TK Records, Autobahn Records, Top of the World

Asha Puthli is an Indian-born singer-songwriter, producer and actress.

She performed the vocals on the "Science Fiction" album by jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, and has recorded ten solo albums for labels like EMI, CBS/Sony, and RCA.[1]

Her recordings, which span styles like blues, pop, rock, soul, funk, disco, and techno, have been produced by the likes of Del Newman (who has produced Elton John and Cat Stevens), and Teo Macero (who has produced Miles Davis and Vernon Reid).[2]

Early life[edit]

Puthli was born and raised in Bombay, and began training at an early age in Indian classical and European opera. She listened to Western jazz and pop music on the radio, which led to her interest in fusion.[3]

She won a competition at thirteen singing "Malaguena," which gave her the encouragement some years later to begin improvising with a jazz band at local tea dances. Ved Mehta described her singing in his book Portrait of India.[4] Music journalist Ann Powers, writing for The New York Times, called her a "fusion pioneer".[5]

She graduated from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda with a B.Sc. degree.[citation needed]

Early career[edit]

After receiving her degree, Puthli received a dance scholarship from Martha Graham and moved to New York. Columbia Records impresario John H. Hammond had read Ved Mehta's portrait of her in Jazz in Bombay.[3] After hearing a rough demo, Hammond recruited her for CBS Records. She sang lead vocals on the Peter Ivers Blues Band's cover of "Ain't That Peculiar" which was reviewed favourably in magazines like Cashbox, Rolling Stone, and Billboard. The band's full album featuring her, Take It Out On Me was not released until 2009.[6]

Hammond sent her to audition for avant-garde jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, who'd been searching for a singer for his Science Fiction project (1971).[7] Puthli recorded two of Coleman's songs, "What Reason Could I Give" and "All My Life", for the album. Historian Robert Palmer called her singing "extraordinary". [8] For her work on Science Fiction, Asha shared the Downbeat Critics' Poll award for "best female jazz vocalist," alongside Ella Fitzgerald and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Despite the shower of accolades, avant-garde jazz is not a genre known for vocalists, and recording opportunities did not materialize for Asha in the United States.[3]

European Solo Albums[edit]

Asha's commercial promise was better understood in Europe,[9] where she was signed to a record deal by CBS. Mostly unreleased in the US, Asha's series of solo albums, in which she also delves into writing and producing, reflect the young singer's burgeoning interest in pop, rock, soul, funk and disco. Asha gravitated to glam, a scene populated by fashion-conscious provocateurs like Elton John and T. Rex. Her self-titled debut was produced by Del Newman, famous for his glitter rock treatment of Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and it featured languorous pop soul covers of tunes by JJ Cale, Bill Withers, and others. She also recruited Pierre LaRoche, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury's makeup artist, and glam photographer Mick Rock to shoot the cover.[10] Notable tracks included an early disco anthem rendition of Neil Sedaka's rock song "I Am a Song" (1972).[11]

The follow-up She Loves to Hear the Music continued in the vein of her debut; and her third solo album, The Devil is Loose, was hailed as an instant classic by the New York Times. Thom Jurek of AllMusic praises the psychedelic glam record as "a masterpiece of snakey, spaced-out soul and pre-mainstream disco".[12] Asha's sensual, Eastern-influenced cooing over bass-driven grooves on original songs like "Flying Fish" and "Space Talk" provided the blueprint for spacey disco hits like "I Feel Love" and "Love to Love You Baby" by Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder,[13] and they provided the sonic template for future disco, electronica and femme pop hits by Blondie, Ofra Haza, Kylie Minogue and others. Her disco album, L'Indiana, produced dance-floor hits like "I"m Gonna Dance". Recognized in critical circles as a fusion pioneer [Ann Powers], Asha's distinctive, unusual recordings predate fusion of east and west celebrated today in styles like hip-hop, worldbeat, bhangra, and electronica by almost twenty years.

Films, Fashion and Beyond[edit]

During the 1970s, Asha also branched out into films, starring in lead roles in Merchant Ivory's Savages and Bruno Corbucci's The Gang That Sold America (Italian title:Squadra Antigangsters).[10]

Her sense of fashion brought her visibility as a fashion icon: a headliner at Studio 54, she was dressed by A-list designers from Michaele Vollbracht to Manolo Blahnik, and photographed by photographers from Richard Avedon to Andy Warhol.

The new 2000s saw Asha re-emerge as an in-demand guest artist on the electronica circuit, appearing on funk experimentalist Bill Laswell's Asana Vol. 3, Hey Diwani, Hey Diwani with techno-fusion group Dum Dum Project, and a variety of rare groove and yoga music collections.

In 2005 Asha hit the UK charts once again singing lead vocals on and co-writing Stratus' Looking Glass from their album Fear of Magnetism.

Recently, her underground 1970s classic "Space Talk" − a popular tune with David Mancuso's The Loft crowd − has become a popular hip-hop break record, sampled by the likes of P.Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G., Dilated Peoples, Governor featuring 50 Cent, and Redman; and her cover of George Harrison's "I Dig Love" was sampled in 2005 for the chart-topping track "Reload It" by UK Mobo award winner Kano. She has co-writer credits with Jay-Z, P.Diddy, The Neptunes, Jermaine Dupri, SWV and The Notorious B.I.G. on the track "The World is Filled" from the multi-platinum album, Life After Death.[10]

In August 2006, she headlined Central Park Summerstage in New York City on an eclectic bill with DJ Spooky, Talvin Singh, Outernational and Prefuse 73 and special guests Dewey Redman and Dres (rapper) of the hip-hop group Black Sheep.[14]

Asha Puthli's album "Lost" was released in summer 2008 on European label Kyrone.

Partial discography[edit]


  • Asha Puthli (CBS) 1973
  • She Loves to Hear the Music (CBS) 1974
  • The Devil is Loose (CBS) 1976
  • Asha L'Indiana (TK Records) 1979
  • 1001 Nights of Love (Polygram) 1980
  • I'm Going to Kill It Tonight (Autobahn) 1981
  • Only the Headaches Remain (Polygram) 1982
  • Asha: The New Beat of Nostalgia (Top of the World Records) 1998


  • Angel Of The Morning/Sound Of Silence/Sunny/Fever (Columbia – ECHK 607) - 1968


  • Love/I Am A Song (Sing Me) (CBS, S CBS 1910) - 1973 (promo)
  • Right Down Here/I Dig Love (CBS, CBS 2203) - 1974 (Germany)
  • One Night Affair/Sally Go Round The Roses (CBS, CBS S 2415) - 1974
  • The Devil Is Loose/Space Talk (CBS, CBS 4623) - 1976
  • Jealousy/Jealousy (Instrumental Version) (Eurovox, VOX 8039) - 1977
  • I'm Gonna Dance/Good Night (CBS, CBS 6124) - 1978
  • Mr. Moonlight/I'll See You Around (CBS, CBS 6512) - 1978
  • Lay A Little Love/1001 Nights Of Love (Autobahn Records, 6830 314) - 1979
  • I'm Gonna Dance/Music Machine (Dedication To Studio 54) (T.K. Disco, 138) - 1979 (U.S.)
  • The Whip/Latin Lover (Autobahn Records – 6198 281) - 1979 (Germany)
  • The Whip/Sound of Money (CBS, CBS 7330) - 1979 (Italy)
  • I'm Gonna Kill It Tonight/How I Feel (Autobahn Records – 6005 027) - 1980
  • Love Song Of A Divorced Woman/My Love Won't Let You Dawn (Carrere – 49.805) - 1981
  • Fall Out Dust/We're Gonna Bury The Rock With The Roll Tonight (Vertigo – 6005 177) - 1981
  • Right Down Here/Space Talk (Jazzman – JM.054) - 2007

Appears on

  • Science Fiction - Ornette Coleman (Columbia) 1971
  • Mirror - Charlie Mariano (Atlantic) 1972
  • Squadra Antigangsters (Cinevox) 1979 - soundtrack
  • Easily Slip Into Another World - Henry Threadgill (Novus) 1989
  • Loft Classics XII - Various Artists (Loft Classics) 1995
  • Groovy Vol 1: A Collection of Rare Jazzy Club Tracks - Various Artists (Irma) 1996 - compilation
  • Groovy Vol 2: A Collection of Rare Jazzy Club Tracks - Various Artists (Irma) 1997 - compilation
  • Export Quality - Dum Dum Project (Times Square / Groovy) 2001
  • Walking on Music - Various Artists (Corona) 2001 - compilation
  • Psychedelic Jazz and Soul from the Atlantic and Warner Vaults - Various Artists (Warner UK) 2001 - compilation
  • Mpath - Wanderer - Gardner Cole (Triloka) 2003
  • Accerezzami - Fausto Papetti (n/a) 2003
  • Chillout in Ibiza, Vol. 5 - Various Artists (Smart) 2003 - compilation
  • The Karma Collection (Ministry of Sound) - Various Artists 2003 - compilation
  • Asana Vol 3: Peaceful Heart - Bill Laswell (Meta) 2003
  • The Trip - Tom Middleton, Various Artists (Family Recordings) 2004 - compilation
  • Fear of Magnetism - Stratus (Klein) 2005
  • Asana OHM Shanti - Bill Laswell (Meta) 2006
  • Cosmic Dancer - Voyage Three - Various Artists (Cosmic Dancer) 2006 - compilation


  1. ^ Pareles, Jon (August 12, 2006). "Asha Puthli, an Indian Singer Who Embraces Countless Cultures". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  2. ^ Mandel, Howard (February 2007). "Reclaiming Singularity: Asha Puthli". DownBeat. Vol. 74 no. 2. p. 26. 
  3. ^ a b c Marmorstein, Gary. The Label: The Story of Columbia Records. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press; 2007. ISBN 1-56025-707-5
  4. ^ Jhaveri, Niranjan, "Features" in Jazz Forum: The Magazine of the European Jazz Federation, No.17 (3/72), June 1972, page 69.
  5. ^ Powers, Ann (April 30, 2001). "Critic's Notebook; From India, Many Sounds, All Pulling Inward". New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2018. 
  6. ^ Frank, Josh, and Charlie Buckholtz. In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008, p. 80.
  7. ^ Huey, Steve. "Science Fiction: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  8. ^ Palmer, Robert (July 30, 1976). "Mardi Gras Indians-And a Sound Like Raga Meeting Aretha Franklin". New York Times. 
  9. ^ Bush, John. "Asha Puthli: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  10. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon, “Asha Puthli, an Indian Singer Who Embraces Countless Cultures”, The New York Times, August 12, 2006,
  11. ^ "Asha Puthli - Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  12. ^ Jurek, Thom. "The Devil is Loose: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  13. ^ Asha Puthli at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  14. ^ Sisario, Ben, "Listings: Asha Puthli, Prefuse 73, Talvin Singh (Sunday)" in The New York Times, August 11, 2006,

External links[edit]