The most sampled Bollywood songs

Published 5:30 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The most sampled Bollywood songs

Bollywood movies are one of India’s most recognizable exports. Extravagant sets, big casts, and dramatic plots are all synonymous with these lavish films, which have made their way into the world’s mainstream consciousness—but its most unmissable element is its soundtrack.

There’s something about mixing traditional Indian music and Western beats that has captivated listeners across the globe. Not only are these songs valued for their role in carrying the narrative for stories, but their unique blend of musical elements from different cultures and music genres is a trove of samples for many producers.

Many songwriters and producers have favored the scales and mixes in Bollywood songs. Industry pillars like Timbaland appreciate Bollywood’s one-of-a-kind sound, which you probably didn’t detect in Britney Spears’ “Toxic” or Black Eyed Peas’ “Don’t Phunk with My Heart.” Because of each song’s unique flavor, many have elements reused for popular records, becoming staples of pop, hip-hop, and electronic soundscapes.

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To understand its impact, Stacker looked at Bollywood songs producers sample most often, using WhoSampled, and called out some familiar tracks you can hear them in.

Lata Mangeshkar performing at a function.

Raghu Rai/The India Today Group via Getty Images

#6. ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’ by Lata Mangeshkar

Year: 1954
Samples: 9

Man Dole Mera Tan Dole” is one of the most notable songs of 1954’s “Nagin,” which tells the story of two snake-charming tribes in conflict. In the movie, one of the main actors finds herself mesmerized by the sound of the Indian pungi (a flutelike musical instrument).

The song was performed by Lata Mangeshkar, a playback singer who performs the song offscreen to be lip-synced over by the main actors onscreen. “Man Dole Mera Tan Dole” was one of the songs that started her reign as the “Queen of Melody.”

The song was most notably sampled on Bombay Bicycle Club’s 2014 song “Feel,” with the pungi’s melody used throughout the song.

Person playing sitar close up.


#5. ‘Dance Music’ by R.D. Burman

Year: 1976
Samples: 10

The bossa nova-inspired “Dance Music” from the movie “Mukti” contains notable piano and vocal harmonies, making it a favorite for hip-hop artists like Nas and Jay Rock. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib used elements of this instrumental on their 2019 song “Education,” providing a crucial bridge for featured artists Mos Def and Black Thought.

“Dance Music” came at a time when Western and Indian music were cross-pollinating and psychedelic music flourished in India, inspiring the likes of R.D. Burman. This song is particularly known for its infusion of jazz, helping popularize the genre in the subcontinent. This would be part of Burman’s legacy, catalyzing the use of rock, jazz, and electronic music in Bollywood scores.

Alka Yagnik in concert.

Yogen Shah/The India Today Group via Getty Images

#4. ‘Choli Ke Peeche’ by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Alka Yagnik and Ila Arun

Year: 1993
Samples: 11

It’s arguable that “Choli Ke Peeche” eclipsed its associated film, “Khal Nayak,” in popularity. The song, about a woman flirting with a man, helped the soundtrack sell 10 million copies and won two Filmfare awards.

Several players helped make this song possible, with Anand Bakshi penning the lyrics and music director duo Laxmikant–Pyarelal composing the music. Meanwhile, Alka Yagnik sang the playback for Madhuri Dixit, and Ila Arun sang the folk version for Neena Gupta. The vocals are sampled on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s song “The Bounce,” off the former’s 2002 album “The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse.”

Outside of its influence in hip-hop, the song was controversial at the time due to its suggestive content. It was a watershed moment, challenging the notion of how women are portrayed in Bollywood films.

Mithoon poses for a portrait.

Shivam Saxena/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

#3. ‘Sanam Re’ by Mithoon and Arijit Singh

Year: 2016
Samples: 13

The most recent song on this list, the title track of the movie made more of an impact than the movie itself. Sang from the point of view of a man professing his love and dedication to a woman, “Sanam Re” has musical elements that are referenced in songs worldwide, from Italian rapper Rondodasosa’s “Face to Face” to Dutch rapper Lijpe’s “Vergeet De Buurt Nooit.” It’s most notably heard on New York rapper CJ’s 2020 track “Whoopty,” which blew up on TikTok and other social media platforms.

Though the movie is considered a flop, the song was anything but: It was one of the most streamed songs in India in 2016.

Lata Mangeshkar attends event.

Prodip Guha // Getty Images

#2. ‘Thoda Resham Lagta Hai’ by Lata Mangeshkar

Year: 1981
Samples: 19

Associated with the 1981 film “Jyoti,” “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai” was greatly forgotten—even by its makers—until it was sampled on Truth Hurts’ 2002 hit “Addictive,” which reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A lengthy lawsuit ensued by songwriter Bappi Lahiri charging American producers, including Dr. Dre, for not crediting artists from developing nations in “Addictive.” Ironically, Lahiri was known in India for sampling heavily—and without permission—from European and American charts himself.

Still, Lahiri’s bold move helped bolster the fame of Bollywood songs, while the flutes, drums, and vocals of “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai” have become a popular choice for artists. The song, performed from the point of view of a woman, talks about how her partner needs to put in work to create a meaningful relationship.

Bappi Lahiri attends concert.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

#1. ‘Come Closer’ by Bappi Lahiri and Salma Agha

Year: 1984
Samples: 22

Off of the disco-detective film “Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki,” “Come Closer” is a mainstay in hip-hop and electronic music due to its mix of funk, jazz, and R&B elements. Denzel Curry used the vocal hook on his 2022 song “Worst Comes to Worst.”

In the movie, the song is performed by Salma Agha, who plays a young nightclub dancer trying to seduce a man for confidential information.

A masala film known for freely mixing disparate filmmaking styles such as action, comedy, and others, “Come Closer” would add to a genre that would dominate the industry throughout the next four decades, helping Bollywood reach a national audience.

Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Paris Close.