In my Indian American family, where no occasion passes without celebration, entering into the Christmas spirit means grooving to Bollywood music. Though none of our elders grew up celebrating Christmas, they’ve embraced it wholly, and once we come together for Christmas dinner at my in-law’s home in Los Angeles, everyone has a task. While the mothers roast the nuts with chaat masala and the dads gather ’around the wine, my job is to sync my phone to a bluetooth speaker and play deejay. My father-in-law, Vrajesh Lal, the family’s patriarch, begins the evening with a full glass of pinot noir and a request for “something Christmas-y,” like “Elvis’ Christmas Album.” (Having immigrated from India to the U.S. in 1972, Vrajesh is a giant fan of Elvis.) But when the nuts give strategy to Cornish game hens and cumin-crusted squash (for the vegetarians), he never fails to flag me down with a recent directive: “Let’s placed on some Bollywood, huh?” My playlist includes Bhangra-style covers of Christmas music, with beats that hail from north India, songs from the Bollywood Brass Band and a few of my father-in-law’s favorite Bollywood hits. Even the King cannot compete with this family’s compulsion to rejoice Christmas with jams from the mother country.
The album, “A Jolly Bolly Christmas,” features Bollywood and Bhangra versions of Christmas classics. Credit…Keda Records