Its histories in India, and beyond

Authored by: Jayson Beaster-Jones

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music History and Heritage

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138237636
eBook ISBN: 9781315299310
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines the cultural and musical histories of film songs as a popular genre of music in India and abroad. It shows how the songs that are commissioned for films have long been the dominant popular musical form in India and are an important component of Indian cultural heritage and social memory. The chapter shows how these film songs have remained relevant in India for many decades through particular compositional practices that fuse many local and international styles, vocal techniques and instruments into a distinctive genre of music that is suited to local audiences yet has changed dramatically over time. After discussing the practices of playback singing and stylistic mediation, the chapter unpacks the media discourses surrounding film songs. It focuses upon the media policies of the Indian government and how the anxieties about the cultural value of film songs in Indian society – as compared to folk and classical musics – are reflected through these policies. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the contemporary film music industry and the disruptive influence of new media technologies like mobile phones and internet streaming sites in ways that enhance and reframe film songs as India’s cultural heritage.

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