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Bollywood Music - It's History and Evolution

24 Feb 2022


5 min read


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History of Bollywood Music

The fanatically Bollywood-loving crowd does not need to be told about how music in Bollywood evolved over the past 7 to 8 decades. And this frenzy is not just limited to Indians. Haven’t you seen the latest social media sensation Kili and Neema Paul from South Africa lip-syncing with Bollywood songs? Evidently, the love of Bollywood movies, as well as songs, is spreading far and wide.

History & Evolution of Bollywood Music

The advent of motion pictures in India happened in the early 18th century. However, it was not until 1931 that the first Hindi film song was featured in the first sound film - Alam Ara. At the very onset, movies would feature a sequence of an exhaustive list of songs. 

The movie - Shereen Farhad released in the same year features 42 songs sequenced in an opera style. It was followed by another movie named Indra Sabha which featured a total number of 69 songs. Later, the songs were reduced in number and were made to be more appropriate to the context of the story. 

Slowly, with prolific music directors, lyricists, and singers coming together the ground was getting ready for a completely new genre of music. This new genre emerged to be an amalgam of all the Indian music traditions as well as that from foreign lands. It was meant to propel creativity and opportunities galore.

As films and film music, both moved up on the technological radar, their mass appeal spread became all-encompassing. The magic of the film songs was hard to ignore. As it pulled more and more people to the movie halls, it raked aspiration among the youth who wanted to become singers. 

Gradually, over the last 7-8 decades, it was a full-fledged industry. As per statista.com, Bollywood music contributes to 80% of the total revenue generated by the whole Indian music industry. 

The music of a movie has always played a significant role in pulling the crowd to the movie halls. Over the years, veteran singers, musicians, lyricists, and music composers have inspired the youth of India. Getting an opportunity to do playback singing for Hindi films is a cherished dream for aspiring vocalists from all over India.      

Hindi film songs have always been, is, and will remain the food for the soul of every Indian. There is one Hindi film song for every occasion and every mood. However, there was a time when Bollywood songs were ousted from the music-learning ambit. 

It was considered to be demeaning to the culture and traditions of the country that families wanted their children to adhere to. At the most, kids were allowed to sing Bhajans. But a music teacher teaching the kids any other filmy song beyond that was unimaginable. 

One positive change in this regard has been noticed in the past decade and a half. Thanks to musical reality shows on television, people have opened up to learning and performing Bollywood songs. Parents are also encouraging their kids to learn Bollywood songs. And the syllabus has gone beyond just Bhajans now. 

Notations for Bollywood melodies are also available on the internet. Soundtracks are available for singers to sing, record, and post their favorite Bollywood songs on social media. You find training vocalists recording cover versions of popular Bollywood songs now and then.     

Tracking the trends in Bollywood songs

Right from the era of classics in Bollywood movies and songs to contemporary times, the impact of a Hindi film song on the masses has been phenomenal. 

In the initial phase, Bollywood was heavily influenced by classical music. Movies such as Baiju Bawra, Pakeezah, and Amrapali are some of the best examples of this.

In the 1930s when sound was introduced in Indian cinema, actors who could sing very well were given preference.    

Playback singing came into vogue in the mid to late 1940s. The luminaries of that era include prolific music composers such as Madan, Anil Biswas, Hemant Mukherjee, and Gulam Haider, and singers like Noor Jahan, Mukesh, Md. Rafi, Geeta Dutt, and Shamshad Begum.

In the 50’s decade, the music of Bollywood gathered a lot of glorious contributors like SD Burman and OP Nayyar. Also, there was a remarkable shift in the music composition from classical music-based songs. Slowly, western influences were becoming more prominent. 

The orchestra-style instrumental ensemble that included Guitar, Harmonica, Trumpets, and Saxophones made their entries into the recording studios. Music composers and directors such as Shankar-Jaikishan and Lakshmikant-Pyarelal crafted some of the most melodious tunes that are appreciated even today.

The following three decades - the ‘60s, the ’70s, and the ’80s experienced the pinnacle of creativity, talent, and musical prowess among vocalists, composers, and instrumental music players. The trends moved from melodies to jazz and rock n roll to disco beats. 

Over time, new music composers such as Rahul Dev Burman, Bappi Lahiri, Anu Malik, and several others together made the Bollywood music industry stronger. Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Manna De, Jagjit Singh, Yesudas, and many more such luminaries made each music composition immortal. Every song was crafted with a lot of love, passion, and dedication reflected in the way the songs created an eternal impact on the listeners.

Moving ahead, there was an upsurge of talents. And names of A R Rahman, Adesh Srivastava, Shankar Mahadevan, Hariharan, Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Alka Yagnik, and many more took up the baton. Further, they were joined by Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal, Monali Thakur, Arijit Singh, and the present crop of composers, vocalists, and instrumental music players. 

In terms of music trends, Bollywood music has been extremely inclusive and profusely incremental. At present, it can be aptly termed as a melting pot of myriads of genres and styles ranging from Western styles to Indian classical music, folk, and regional music.    

Anybody can sing a Bollywood song like a pro

Essentially, singing a Bollywood song is not an unachievable dream. Whether it is a hummable melody like ‘lag jaa gale…’ or a little more complicated composition like ‘ghar more pardesia…’, with proper guidance, practitioners are recreating the magic with absolute perfection.

If you want, you can also sing your favorite Bollywood song like a pro and gather accolades from your friends and loved ones. Several prolific mentors teach Bollywood instrumental and vocal music. 

Check out ipassio.com for online Bollywood singing classes from certified music teachers.

One thing that you need to remember if you want to learn Bollywood songs. It is one genre that is an amalgam of all possible music genres from within as well as outside India. So the practice would be far more rigorous. You would be required to learn classical music. Parallelly, you should be able to adapt to several other singing styles.      

Though it is not possible to fathom the expanse of Bollywood music, here is an attempt to trace the evolution of Bollywood music. 

In Conclusion

The entertainment industry is growing bigger and bigger by the day. And music has always been an integral part of this industry. The sheer versatility of Bollywood music renders infinite scope for its creative growth. 

More importantly, common men and women who had only been listening to these songs with awe and reverence can now sing these songs just like professionals. All you require is proper mentorship and the willingness to learn.

Learn Bollywood Singing from top experienced teachers

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