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History of Indian Pop Music
by Alex Cosper (4/13/13)

India's music history is very different from other nations, especially those of western culture. The music was traditionally more improvisational, as in ragas, which formed the basis of Indian classical music. While other cultures used music more for entertainment or to deliver folk messages, Indian music traditionally was focused on taking the listener to a level of a hypnotic dream state. India was perhaps the earliest country to consider music to be a science. One of the many elements that differentiates Hindu music from European music is that Hindu music uses a wider scale of tones. In other words, Indian music has notes that do not typically exist in western music. The Indian scale is simply divided more than western scales, giving India extra notes in between western notes.

Many ragas evolved over centuries, never taking on one finished form. This traditional music relied on singular note melodic progressions and not so much harmonies. Ragas were historically performed on the sitar, the vina zither, sarod, tambura and percussive tablas. The most important types of ragas correspond with seasons: Sri Raga (winter), Vasanta (spring), Bhairava (summer), Megh (rainy weather) and Natana-rayan (late fall). Other types of ragas include Malkauns, Hindol, Dipak and Carnatic.

The music of India gained attention from a coupe of western events. In 1955 Ali Akbar Khan from Bangladesh performed a concert in New York, which provided an initial peak at what would later influence psychedelic rock. HIs album that same year called Music of India - Morning and Evening Ragas helped bring ragas to western culture. A decade later the Byrds' hit "Eight Miles High" used raga elements. Then the Beatles introduced the western world to the sitar on their 1966 song "Norwegian Wood."

The Beatles became friends with Ravi Shankar, who symbolized the bridge between Indian and western music in the 60s. Shankar had already gained popularity in India with songs such as "Raga Jog" and "Raga Rageshri." Shankar helped influence the merging of ragas with jazz. Shankar further popularized raga to western youth at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Woodstock in 1969 and George Harrison's Concert for Bengla Desh in 1971. One of the most dramatic songs on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album of 1967 was the Harrison tune "Within You, Without You," which was heavily influenced by their association with Shankar.

By the early 1980s the term "indipop" was introduced by the British band Monsoon, who mixed Indian sounds with their music. Singer Sheila Chandra was an actress born in London but came from Indian ancestry. Soon the term spread to other artists such as Pakistani's Nazia Hassan and Zohaib. They were produced by Biddu Appaiah from Bangalore, India. Biddu produced many other million sellers such the early disco 1974 international hit "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas. After producing a string of Bollywood movie soundtracks, Biddu produced an album called Made In India in 1995 for indipop singer Alisha Chinai. The album became so huge in India, it made her a superstar.

Many indipop artists were popularized by Bollywood films. Bollywood is a major part of India's film industry based in Mumbai, the most populated and wealthiest city in India. The nickname Bollywood comes from Hollywood and Mumbai's former name Bombay, which was renamed in 1996. Some of these film artists have included Baba Sehgal, Sunali Rathod and Sagarika. One of the Bollywood musicians who helped influence acid house music in India was Charanjit Singh with his 1982 album Ten Ragas to Disco Beat. Although the album was not a hit at the time, it serves as a time marker that influenced later electronic music. Only a handful of elite Bollywood producers had access to synthesizers until the mid-1990s. By the end of the decade electronica was popularized in India by Ram Sampath, Bombay Black Collective and MIDIval PuditZ.

Since the 90s indipop artists Rishi Rich and Panjabi MC have gained fame in the western world working with American artists. Norah Jones, the daughter of Ravi Shankar, rose to popularity throughout the world recording jazz in the 2000s. One of the most famous rock artists of Indian ancestry was Queen singer Freddie Mercury, who was born in the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar with the name Farrokh Bulsara. He grew up in India until his teenage years when he moved to Great Britain.

While the worldwide music industry declined the first decade of the 21st century, India's music sales represented one of the fastest growing markets in the world. Between 2008 and 2012 its music sales grew by over 40 percent, according to the IFPI, which reports worldwide music industry statistics. The organization ranked India the 14th biggest music market in the world in 2012.

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