· By Jay Bhalala

Unveiling the Journey and Transformations of Bollywood Music

Bollywood music, also known as Hindi film music, stands as a global musical phenomenon with a rich history and an ever-evolving narrative. This article takes you through the captivating journey of Bollywood music and its intricate connection with the Indian film industry.

Originating from the song-and-dance routines embedded in Hindi films, Bollywood music has become a distinctive hallmark of Hindi cinema due to its enduring popularity and cultural influence. With over 2,000 movies produced annually, Bollywood surpasses Hollywood in film production, making it a powerhouse of creativity and entertainment.

The charm of Bollywood songs lies in their adaptability, as composers willingly embrace influences from diverse musical genres such as Western pop, jazz, rock, and classical music. While predominantly composed in Hindi, these songs often incorporate elements of Urdu, Persian, and English, along with various Hindi dialects, adding to their linguistic diversity.

The Genesis (1930s – 1950s):

Bollywood music had its inception in 1931 with the release of India's first sound motion film, "Alam Ara," followed closely by "Shirheen Farhad" in 1931, featuring 42 song sequences akin to an opera. The era from 1931 to 1940 witnessed around 930 feature films with an average of ten songs per film, with actors often lending their voices. The '40s and '50s marked the shift to independent producers and the introduction of playback singing, giving rise to legendary playback singers like Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar.

Two Distinct Eras:

  1. Studio Era (1935 – 1950): Marked as the "Golden Era of Bollywood," film studios like Prabhat Studio, New Studio, Rajkamal Kalamandir, Mehboob Studio, RK Studios, and Navketan Films played a pivotal role in shaping iconic movies, actors, and musicians.
  2. Music Directors (1950 – 1998): As Bollywood transitioned away from studio dominance, independent movie directors and music directors gained prominence. Figures like R. D. Burman, hailed as the "King of Bollywood Music," left an indelible mark on the industry.

The Intertwined History:

Bollywood music, unlike the independent music industry in the West, has always been a subsidiary of the Indian film industry. The challenges faced by the Indian music industry in terms of licensing, copyright, and publishing, with major record labels have occurred catering primarily to the film industry.

Complex Copyright Practices:

The '70s, '80s, and most of the '90s witnessed musicians relying heavily on movies, music labels, and production houses. The intricate relationship between the government and private corporations in the Indian music industry, including issues with royalty checks, is discussed.

Rise of Music Streaming Services:

The unique consumption patterns in India's music industry can be led back to the rapid growth of music streaming services. Providers like JioSaavn, Gaana, Wynk Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music have reshaped the industry, especially with a significant surge in streaming during the pandemic.