- More Than Bollywood: Studies in Indian Popular Music ed. by Gregory D. Booth, Bradley Shope
Both scholars and the general public often reduce Indian popular culture to cinema and especially Bollywood. In regard to music, the focus for decades has been on film scores, from the classical songs of 1950s and 1970s Bolly-wood movies to their contemporary versions, which have increasingly incorporated Western features such as bass sounds, rock music, or electro. But Indian popular musical life includes a variety of national and regional genres beyond Bollywood. Filmi music and its regional versions have mostly long remained under the radar of the international music industry and popular music studies. Academic interest in this topic was sparked by Peter Manuel’s seminal 1988 article in Popular Music, “Popular Music in India 1901–1986,” and his now-classic book Cassette Culture (1993). Since the early 1990s, Indian popular music has developed in many new directions due to the liberalization of the Indian economy and the growing inclusion of India in the global cultural field.
These musical genres have had a smaller audience than film songs, and their leading musicians and singers have not attained the recognition and consecration of Lata Mangeshkar or Kishore Kumar. Globalization has nurtured a more nuanced knowledge of the variety of Indian music, and Indian middle classes and their musical tastes represent a great potential global market for the music industry and the Internet. That said, the study of Indian popular music still suffers from a lack of systematic ethnographic or quantitative surveys. In this sense, More Than Bollywood is a must-read and offers a foundation on which to elevate Indian popular music studies. This groundbreaking collection provides in-depth studies of national and regional popular music developments far beyond Bollywood, such as the incorporation of rock music in India (Greg Booth), recording techniques and regional music (Stefan Fiol; Shalini Ayyagari), or devotional music (Stephen Putnam Hughes). Links between film and non-film music are addressed via Bollywood’s incorporation [End Page 114] of DJ-ing and electro music (Paul Greene). Most of these case studies rely on thick descriptions grounded in ethnographic and interview-based approaches. The diversity of the case studies is mirrored in the questions the book addresses, which revolve around issues ranging from authenticity and technology (Peter Kvetko) to the construction of femininity in Malluwood (Malayalam cinema) songs (Kaley Mason).
This collection brings together some of the finest specialists studying these less known developments of Indian popular music. It includes historical perspectives and comparative and inclusive studies of film and non-film music and of influences and contemporary remixes that are linking India more closely to the West and the global music industry. The book examines diverse musical genres, ranging from devotional music to remixing through rock and bhangra, as well as a great variety of urban and regional cultures. One could possibly regret the paucity of statistical indicators of the importance of these musical forms compared to filmi music and international repertoires. An exception is Booth’s historical study of the emergence of the Hindi song genre in Bombay in the late 1940s. Some surveys are available, for instance, through the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and local market surveyors. They may put into perspective the initial phase of the market development of these old and new genres and who their audiences are.
Readers may wish the essays were tied together through a common analytical framework, and in fact one could be derived from these various studies. Important factors in the development of non-film popular music are globalization, cultural hybridity, and the socioeconomic development of an emergent music market. Although the issue of authenticity is partially addressed (Peter Kvetko), as are cosmopolitanism and capitalism (Timothy D. Taylor), the book gives little historical perspective on the continuities and disjunctures between the...