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Features |  19 Jun 2015 19:06 |  By Dhairya Ingle

World music and its influence on Bollywood over the years

MUMBAI: Most music created in Bollywood today has been influenced by different sounds from all over the world. Whether it includes elements of jazz, like in the film ‘Bombay Velvet’ or adding a Latin touch to the song 'Nach Meri Jaan Nach' from the film 'ABCD 2’, western music has played an instrumental role in adding variety and helping Hindi film music evolve. An apt example is the track ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu’ from the 1958 film ‘Howrah Bridge’, which perhaps persuaded Bollywood musicians to look beyond the boundaries for inspiration and influence.

Hindi film music dates back to the year 1931, when ‘Alam Ara’, the first sound film was produced in India. The first song in Bollywood was ‘De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe Pyaare Taaqat’ from the same film, which was sung by Wazir Mohammed Khan. The track was recorded using the tabla and harmonium. From 1931 to 1940, 931 films were made, and each of these had an average of 10 songs. In the pre independence era, music composition in India was usually based on Hindustani and Carnatic music. Western music only started to impact Bollywood towards the mid 1950s.

The beginnings of Western influences

The 1950- 1960 decade was ruled by eminent composers like Naushad, Salil Chowdhury, Shankar Jaikishan, OP Nayyar, and singers like Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosale. According to a few the articles and features, the 1952 film ‘Aan’ was one of the first films to introduce western music in India. For this film, composer Naushad, became the first music director to not only use a 100-piece orchestra, but also developed the system of western notation in India. With this, he became the pioneer for introducing, western music to India. Western music appealed to the masses and came in like a breath of fresh air. By the second half of the 50s, many music arrangers like Sebastian D'Souza from Goa, came into the Bollywood industry, bringing along with them music genres like Jazz and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Not long after, most music composers started lapping up western music. These influences were so tempting, that even C Ramchandra, who was popular in the 40s for his Hindustani classical, went on to create ‘Eena Meena Deeka’, a track largely influenced by jazz sounds.

However, Naushad continued his dominance and also became the first music director to introduce the accordion to India. One of the best contributions to Indian music came from the film ‘Mother India’ in 1957, which was heavily influenced by Western and orchestral music. He went on to use, powerful symphonic orchestra with strings, woodwinds and trumpets. Another master piece he created was his compositions in ‘Mughal - E- Azam’ in 1960, wherein he used a lot of a western-style orchestra in Indian cinema, ending the decade with this magnum opus.

Bollywood adopts rock 'n' roll and disco

The beginning of 1960s witnessed Rahul Dev Burman, fondly known as RD Burman, making his debut in Bollywood as a composer. With this, there was an increasing influence of the west in Bollywood music. Rock and roll was all the rage then; a time which simultaneously marked the growing popularity of the iconic British band, the Beatles. Songs like ‘Dekho Ab Toh’ from the film ‘Janwar’ in 1965 was inspired by the well known number ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ by the Beatles. Similarly, ‘Aao Twist Kare’ from the film ‘Bhoot Bangla’ in 1965, was inspired by Chubby Cheeker’s ‘Twist Again’. The track, ‘Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charche’ from the 1968 film ‘Brahmachari’, which is relished till date, may not have been influenced by another song in particular, but did show hints of rock and roll in its melody.

While rock and roll influences maintained a place in Bollywood music in the 1970s, another soulful sound started to creep its way into compositions. As the decade progressed, music composers like Lakshmikant Pyarelal, Madan Mohan and Kalyanji Anandji became immensely popular. Whilst Madan Mohan was keen on doing soulful numbers with Hindustani Classical music, Lakshmikant Pyarlal and Kalyanji Anandji brought in elements of the west. Regardless of the new influences, RD Burman remained popular through this era by infusing Latin and Arabic elements to his music. By the end of 1970s, the fever of rock and roll died down a bit, making room for disco music, with tunes of Bappi Lahiri. With songs like ‘Apni Toh Jaise Taise’, ‘Raat Baaqi, Baat Baaqi’ and ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ in 1982, Lahiri broke into Bollywood. His disco-type melodies were appreciated, and till today, he remains one of the most well known music composers in the country.

However, by the end of ‘80s, the disco fever faded and composers like Anand Milind, whose music was mostly based on Indian melodies and folk tunes, once again made headway in Bollywood.

Indipop and current Bollywood influences

The 1990s were perhaps one of those eras which offered the best variety of music. During this time, a number of music genres surfaced for a while, and gradually vanished. Indipop was the more dominant genre, resulting in the rise of several independent musicians, who eventually, either found a place in Bollywood or faded away. The era somehow witnessed a mixed impact of western music. Alisha Chinai, Shweta Shetty, Baba Sehgal, Falguni Pathak, Lucky Ali, Band of Boys and Bombay Vikings, were some of the most well known singers from this time. Music composers like Anu Malik, Jatin Lalit, Nadeem Shravan, Aadesh Shrivastav and many more rose to fame. Every genre of music existed and the each type of music had an audience, until electronic dance music (EDM) came into the picture.

Although, initially, EDM in India was limited to DJs in clubs, music composers decided to bring elements of the same into Bollywood tracks. Today, a lot of Hindi film music has turned its attention to electronic music, which is probably a result of the growing popularity of EDM, worldwide. Composers like Vishal Shekhar, Amaal Mallik and a few others have added a tinge of EDM to Bollywood music. Songs like ‘Tu Meri’ from ‘Bang Bang’, ‘Love You Till The End’, composed by Amaal Mallik, ‘Slowly Slowly’ from ‘Go Goa Gone’ by Sachin Jigar and ‘Angrezi’ from ‘Cocktail’, composed by Yo Yo Honey Singh have deep influences of EDM. Most new age composers have been constantly introducing this particular genre into the films that they compose for.

Techno, dubstep and house have now become a part of our daily musical offerings, and have occupied space on mobile phones and music devices. Only time will tell what other genres will be adopted by tinsel town, which is growing by leaps and bounds within the country and internationally.

(Reporting by Dhairya Ingle; Editing by Sanchea D'Souza)