Wednesday, 13 June 2007

New trends in Bollymusic

A few weeks back a friend of mine suggested me to listen to a song sung by Soham Chakrabarty in a recent movie Life in a Metro. A well-known musician, Pritam Chakravorty, has composed this song. The track is called "In Dinon Dil Mera". On hearing it first, I thought it was awesome, and in many ways I still think so. The voice is new and refreshing, the tune is catchy, and the lyrics are simple and elegant.

But it is not path breaking. And in no way it looses its charm for not being so. Sometimes I feel it actually odd to even raise the question of ‘authenticity’ in this milieu of technologically-aided rapid transmission of tunes and genres and in light of evolution of ‘fusion’ music which itself is a hash of so many genres. For instance, a friend of mine recently reminded me that another song, "Bheegi Bheegi" composed by the same musician for the movie Gangster, released in 2006, was an adaptation of a very popular Bangla song which was known for its strong political message.

But this issue of authenticity should not bug us; at least it does not bother me much. Of course matters related to creativity and copyrights are crucial, especially for those who get their bread-and-butter from this trade, but currently there is something more happening in Bolly-music, which needs to be identified. Over the last few years the face of Hindi music in general and the Bolly-music in particular has changed tremendously. The decade of nineties witnessed two new things in music industry. One was the remix culture, churning old numbers in new musical arrangements, with increased use of electronic-metallic sound effects. Although they provided good hip-shaking numbers for desi clubs but I should nonetheless be excused for saying that those remixes became more popular for their visual delectations rather than for their quality of audio re-mixing. The infamous "Kaanta Laga" girl became the face of page three in all tabloids and newspapers. And for what? For apparently showing her g-string, which sent the whole nation into debating if that was actually shown. In a country of a billion plus population like India with an equal number of pair of eyes, such things can’t go unnoticed.

The second was, what I would prefer to call, the Bhangra-isation of Hindi popular music. The music industry, the music shops, the bazaar plazas, the buses, taxis, autos and rickshaws and not the least the TV sets and many living rooms through numerous music channels were flooded (could invaded be the right word here?) with Punjabi tunes and songs. The Bhangra music and its popularity definitely goes back to 80s, when Malkit Singh and his group the Golden Star became a hit in the UK and artists like Gurudas Mann became a household name in India. But a new trend of cutting private albums in the nineties gave this music a more secured place and soon it came to dominate popular tunes and lyrics. I don’t hate them, but the doses given to we listeners were too much to handle. The cars zapped around playing loud the one-after-another hits of Daler Mehndi. He was not alone; Hans Raj Hans, Mika (yes, the one who made a kissa with his kiss) and the whole bandwagon came to symbolise the power of heavy drums and fast beats. Sometimes I wonder at such happy coincidences. When the whole India was apparently shining and moving fast on its fourth gear to become a developed nation (err, we still cherish that goal, don’t we?) the music cut out to match that speed was equally paced.

However, there was one more parallel development happening in the same period that bloomed in the late 90s. And it still remains so but has actually changed its form. It is this form which currently dominates the digits of bolly-music: the ‘Indi-pop’ music. This brand of music, when it emerged, was a generic term applied to non-filmi album tracks based more on guitar tunes than on synthesisers and drums. Again, as in the case of Bhangra, the genre itself was not new in the nineties; Alisha Chinoy who is referred to as “Queen of Indi-pop” together with singers like Sharon Prabhakar, and Suneeta “Pari Hoon Main” Rao were already popular. But a major spurt came in early nineties with bands replacing the individual singers. Junoon, a Pakistani band became a living legend with their Sayyoni followed by Indian bands like Euphoria, Aryans, Silkroute, Strings, all churning out numerous memorable melodious tracks. The lyrics were kept simple, mainly the lovey dovey types, and the tunes were simple too, which a common man could hum along without much effort. The music was soothing because of its guitar base.

This is where the recent song "In Dinon" fits in. And for sure this has become the trend in last few years. This brand of music – the Indi-pop has got assimilated into the mainstream bolly-music. We can think of throat-twisting emotional twirls (I am not mean, not all can do this) of Kunal Ganjawala’s songs, we can think of Shaan’s both filmi and his non-filmi numbers, and not the least we can think of Atif Aslam, a Pakistani singer, whose revengeful-youthful voice has left many of us mesmerised with his songs in a recent movie “Bas Ek Pal”, and recently with his album “Doorie”. How far this will go, only time will tell. But let me conclude by pointing out one thing. Just count the number of times words like “pal”, “doorie”, “lamha”, kashish”, “khwaab” and so on and so forth figure in these songs. I think it is an alarming bell for our lyricists who need to keep up with this changing nature of music otherwise the very freshness, which this music promised, would become stale, sooner rather than later.