When I discovered the music video for “Tunak Tunak Tun” by the Hindi pop star Daler Mehndi, I was instantly hooked. With each listen, I felt a craving to hear it again. And again. And again.
My friend Datri Bean had emailed me the video. Datri, a singer and composer, leads the Minor Mishap Marching Band, of which I’m a member, and she had written a brass version for the band to perform. I had thought we were surely on the musical vanguard and felt a certain pride that Minor Mishap could share this infectious Hindi pop creation with the good people of the United States. As it turns out, no introduction was needed.
But first, a bit on Daler Mehndi. Mehndi rose to prominence in the 1990s as one of the stars of “Indipop,” a pop music phenomenon in North India that briefly challenged the commercial dominance of the Bollywood film music industry. Mehndi’s music is based on a regional folk dance from the state of Punjab known as bhangra. Mehndi hit it big in India in the 1990s, when the record label Magnasound produced a series of wild music videos with Mehndi wearing colorfully stylish Punjabi clothing and inventing a new dance gesture with each video. His first album, Bolo Ta Ra Ra, sold half a million copies — the biggest selling non-soundtrack album in Indian history.
And then, in 1998, came the video for “Tunak Tunak Tun,” which was the first Indian video to use blue-screen technology. According to Wikipedia, Mehndi wanted to create clones of himself as a response to criticism that he was only popular because of the models in his videos. No pretty girls here, just the funkiest dude in multi-colored robes this side of the Ganges (except for George Clinton, of course).
So, without further ado, here it is:
Go ahead, watch it again. You’re not alone. As I was humbled to learn, there were hundreds of thousands of American teenagers already on a heavy “Tunak Tunak Tun” binge. It’s one of the most glorious cross-cultural viral mashups to hit YouTube. Let me take you on a tour.
You could film yourself sleeping to “Tunak Tunak Tun” and get tens of thousands of hits. Get creative, and you will attract millions. Just ask students in Bloomingdale High School in Valrico, Florida, who whipped their entire school into a Tunak frenzy — even the teachers.
The cast of thousands at Bloomingdale get a run for their money from two Canadian scuba-diving enthusiasts who love to travel (or at least that’s what I gather from their website). Their video has a simple concept. One Sunday morning, the two dudes get their hindi pop on while dancing around in swim trunks. One busts out a hand stand; another million-hit internet phenomenon is born. (This knock-off video has even inspired its own knock offs.)
Now for something completely different. “Tunak Tunak Tun” does World of Warcraft. Enough said.
I could post videos all day, but I wouldn’t want to make you a slave to the Tunak craze. You’d find yourself at work, beatboxing guttural tabla beats at the water cooler, waving your fingers to the sky. Nothing good can come of it.
Enjoy Tanuk Tanuk, but in moderation.