The arts, be it music dance or even painting have a
history of borrowing freely from different traditions and yet
retaining their identity and the core of their being. Fusion music
is a new in this trend where eastern and western traditions mingle,
uncaring of geographical boundaries.
The spectrum of music
practised in India ranges from simple tri-tonic structures to the
complex rage based classical music. In between lie myriad lighter
forms, folk styles, tempos, variations and applications creating an
incredible variety of living music. The era of commercially
available recorded music began in India in 1907. In the early stages
such music comprised basically Indian stuff including classical
renderings, folk forms, devotional and romantic numbers. The advent
of the talkies changed the scene and the record industry became an
adjunct to the film industry. Non-film numbers came to be called
private numbers. Such numbers included classical music,
ghazals and geets etc., and their popularity was
dependent, to a considerable extent, upon the All India Radio playing
them. Film songs rode to popularity through amateur singing in
functions of clubs, societies and institutions and by being played on
brass bands in marriage processions.
The period around
Independence brought about a turning point in the styles of film
music and popular music. The old guards, for various reasons, were
out and gave place to the new generation. It was a period of change
and experimentation that brought about the golden era of film music a
decade later. Blending of musical forms began on a big canvas
provided by the requirements and possibilities of the film
situations. Effects of Punjabi fold beats and giving rhythm a
dominant role in the structure of songs were significant features of
the music of the nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies. Western
harmonies and chords were freely deployed. There was a progressive
use of Western instruments that could not be resisted even by the
conservative. All India Radio and Indian television, the Doordarshan.
The decades of the
eighties and nineties have seen an unprecedented popularity of light
music of all hues. The most noticeable feature of this period, which
has continued well into the mid nineties, is experimentation and
aggressive marketing of recorded music. There has been an explosion
in the sale of sound reproduction systems making it possible for
persons with lesser means also to have easy access to music.
Exposure to Rock and Pop music created a desire in the Indian that
could serve the purpose of dancing, using steps of such popular folk
forms as Bhangra and Dandiya. Bhangra is a vibrant folk dance of the
rustic people of Punjab. Dandiya is a gregarious folkdance from
western India, Gujarat. The result is the birth of a form which has
thrown up singers like Daler Mehndi and given birth to several groups
practicing this form in which synthesizers, pad, guitars and the
dholak provide the accompaniment to a basic folk based
composition. The dholak is a drum used in northern parts of India.
Almost everybody knows how to play the dholak for it accompanies all
excursions into singing be it during a wedding or just an evening
Fusion music has assumed
several other forms also where Rap, Pop and Rock structures have been
presented through the medium of Indian languages. Some good
compositions hve become immensely popular such as Alishas Made
in India. There are several attempts to combine elements of
both form and content in the current scenario. Thus, we have
language combination in a single number in a continuing beat with
simple chords as well as some features of Rock, Pop, Rap and Reggae
used as patching. Some artists with classical training have come out
with skilful blending of snatchings of sargam (the octave),
double language singing and pop treatment as in the case of Colonial
Cousins. Nusrat Fateh Ali of Pakistan had also entered this
form in a big way and was very popular in India.
A noticeable feature of
this phenomenon is that the fusion movement is being furthered not by
the established front rank composers of established reputation and
superlative but mostly by newcomers including Indians living abroad
who have the will, means and tenacity to enter an increasingly
competitive music industry making use of aggressive marketing. Live
performances have gained unprecedented popularity in India as well as
in countries with applicable Asian population.
The first attempts at
creating fusion were made in the nineteen thirties by Timir Baran who
created orchestra compositions making use of Harmony and deploying
Western instruments. Film music directors have often resorted to
experimentation deploying exotic instruments and refining folk based
melodies by garnishing them suitably. Fusion experiments made by
composers like Vanraj Bhatia and Louis Banks also deserve mention
although they do not form part of the mad race for big commercial
success in this brand of new-found musical form.
The mid-nineties have
seen the arrival of Fusion music almost as a movement. The term
implies several meanings but its foundation is the combination of two
or more different elements of Indian and Western music. There could
be a combination of folk music and disco beats thereby turning the
composition into a modern dance number. Ethnic flavour is preserved
but the instrumentation is a combination of the electronic and real.
Thus, in Bhangra-pop, the dholak is retained but the beat is
reinforced with base guitars and octopad-generateed drum strokes.
The foundation of this music is the beat capable of energizing the
audience to rise and tap the floor remix versions and medley.
Reissue of old numbers under technically improved sound quality and
their cover versions are also coming out.
The possibilities opened
up for a new aspirant is limitless in the present circumstances when
rhythm is king, the Synthesizer keyboard is the Guru and public
demands are uncomplicated. Whether melody will return after some
time, only the future can tell.