AND PASSION THAT BINDS
Bollywood music is a mammoth business and has spawned stupendous stars, but has also squeezed the space for innovation
My parents were the first to introduce me to Indian music. I was just five when I recall my mother, a professor at the University of Punjab, listening to Hindi songs while studying, and my father used to host colleagues through night- long soirees, and I grew up with them crooning melodies originally sung by K. L. Saigal, Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar, S. D. Burman and Lata Mangeshkar.
Eventually, I developed personal favourites among Indian singers, that included Kishore Kumar, Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey, Lata didi and Asha Bhosle. They have played a huge role in my choice of music as a profession, not as models to imitate but as icons to inspire. I do believe while making your own music, you should be original and have your own style, much like these veterans.
There are major differences when it comes to music of the two countries. Indian popular music has predominantly sprouted out of its film industry. Here, songs are made for situations in a film, and singers render them according to the demand of the music director and the scene. Once rendered as audio, and then visualised on actors, they gain phenomenal attention, as well as commercial and critical success.
Due to a floundering film industry in Pakistan, music found several other outlets of production and consumption. Musicians and singers not only sought playback as a means to fame, but also other forms such as the qawwali, ghazal, pop, rock, fusion, and what is now fashionably called Sufi, became more popular. Today, Bollywood has completely taken over, leaving little or no space for independent artists or un- familiar styles. Talent has very little room for expression in Pakistan. With no film industry, all that our musicians could rely upon were private music channels, which have since sunk in the ratings, as hysteria for news channels took over. Reality shows like Coke Studio are the only relief.
A lot needs to be done, though, to create synergy in music between the two countries. Musicians from both sides need to collaborate more often. Working with the trio of ShankarEhsaan- Loy, during my first Bollywood film Tere Bin Laden, was a friendly, enjoyable and valuable experience for me.
Also, music contracts in India need to be upgraded. Indian record companies need to rethink and reformulate their contracts. Composers and lyricists should always be the real owners of the music, as in the West. Rights should be shared, not bought. The singer, and everyone else involved in making a song a success, should benefit, not only from live shows, but from royalties too.
Some TV and radio airtime should be earmarked just for young emerging talent. It’s their right to be seen and heard, for the hard work they put in creating their music. Viewers have the right to hear and watch diverse talent. Seasoned veterans should have a place of their own too, which they deserve. I also strongly feel that India and Pakistan should allow their music and entertainment channels airspace in each other’s countries. In this day of the Internet, you can’t avoid communication. Better open up the skies, because sooner than later, the rhythm is going to get you.
( As told to Prachi Rege)
Ali Zafar The writer is a musician, singer and actor from Pakistan