Reimagining forgotten Indian album covers on World Music Day

An editorial collaboration

Whether stored in iPods that fit neatly into our pockets, or handed down through generations as prized, polished vinyls, music is an inseparable part of our lives. Our darkest and brightest moments find a friend in some old tunes.

On World Music Day (June 21st), when the globe celebrates the magical and soul-warming power of music, we bring together 10 contemporary illustrators to reimagine forgotten Indian Hindi and English album covers. To push things up a notch, they dig into records from before the 90s and challenge how we represent old school music. These tunes are timeless, but where are the album covers? Each artist gives an album a new identity in their own illustrative style.


Namrata Lenka: Ijaazat, 1987

The film Ijaazat and it’s music scored by R.D Burman is downright unforgettable. The song Mera Kuch Samaan is still a touching tune for the broken-hearted. While developing the artwork, I remembered the rain, the isolated train station, the monsoon, hills and streams of Panchgani from the film.


Noopur Choksi: Padosan, 1968

This artwork is an ode to my childhood memories of listening to the best of Kishor Kumar’s tunes on loop with my family. This is my take on his iconic performance in the 1968 movie Padosan. I wanted this piece to reflect his multi-dimensional personality with a touch of crazy.


Nikhil More: The Devil Is Loose by Asha Puthli, 1976

I came across Asha Puthli a couple of years back while exploring the Nu-disco genre. Her music inspired the disco wave and it is interesting that an Indian woman, who not many of us know about, was an influence for some of the artists that led the genre.


Ibrahim Rayintakath: Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam, 1962

Growing up in the 90s in a town in Saudi Arabia, my mother's mixtapes were our only access to Indian music. In college, I stumbled upon the film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam and it reminded me of times spent listening to her playlists. The music has a certain innocence about it, despite narrating a tragic story. That's what stuck with me.


Arun Chanchal: Disco Dancer, 1982

Disco Dancer, a musical drama starring Mithun Chakraborty and Rajesh Khanna, is an all-time favourite of mine. The music, composed by Bappi Lahiri, is electric and bloody infectious. If someone were to personify both disco and my visual style, there is a possibility that it would be the same person.


Pia Hazarika: Raat Andheri Thi, 1967

This piece is dedicated to my grandmother-in-law, Lolita Chatterjee. She was an actor who also held a degree in metaphysics, and a woman who lived life on her own terms. I based this illustration on the song Jaan-e-chaman Aaja, from her movie Raat Andheri Thi. I only heard it when I met for the first time about three years ago, and she was a bit aghast that I didn't really know anything about Indian cinema; there she was, with her vault of stories, singing the songs and asking if I knew anyone in the movies she had been in. She passed away earlier this year. I was in Calcutta the week after she passed and this song was playing at the house a lot, like it was playing the first few times I met her. I guess that's why I remember it; it was there at the beginning and the end.


Suzanne Dias: Shree 420, 1955

Growing up, one of the few Bollywood movies I remember watching with my mother on television was Shree 420. Mera Joota Hai Japaani was one of the first songs I danced on at a school concert. So after all these years, whenever people reminisce about these old-school movies they've watched in their childhood, I recall this movie with Raj Kapoor's Charlie Chaplin-esque character and it's iconic music as one of my first (and one of my only) tastes of Bollywood in it's golden age. 

There's just something so charming about the music of the films in that era. They transport you back to a time when everything seemed so much more genuine and pure, which is why I think they leave their mark in people's hearts and memories even today.

Concept: Ritupriya Basu
Contributing Illustrators: Namrata Lenka + Noopur Choksi + Nikhil More + Ibrahim Rayintakath + Arun Chanchal + Pia Hazarika/Pig Studio + Suzanne Dias

Ritupriya Basu