India’s taste of Rock n Roll

Rock and roll is a genre of popular music. It originated in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  This music style originated from different styles of music such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie-woogie, rhythm and blues, and country music. This genre did not get its name until 1954. And, before this time, its presence can be glimpsed in the blues record from the 1920s and country records of the 1930s. Mainly, the instruments used to create this music style are electric guitar, bass, drums, and piano.  Initially, the rock n roll music style made use of either saxophone or piano as the leading instrument. However, this trend was replaced by the use of the guitar as the leading instrument in the middle to late 1950s. The classic rock and roll was usually played with one or two electric guitars ( one lead guitar and another rhythm guitar ), a double bass ( string bass) and after the 1950s, an electric bass guitar and a drum kit began to be used.

Elvis Presley - king of Rock n Roll
Elvis Presley – king of Rock n Roll

Rock and roll impacted American society in a major way. It was depicted in movies, magazines, televisions.  It even influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitude, and language.  This music style may have played a role in the integration of  African American and White American teenagers as this music style is liked by all the communities.

The Beatles : another rock and roll band
The Beatles: another rock and roll band

Rock music in India had a slow beginning. The musicians experimented with it and gave it an Indian touch. Gradually, Rock music gave rise to Raga-Rock which is indigenous and “desi”. Rock and roll music led to the development of Raga Rock. It is a rock or pop music that has predominantly Indian influence, either in the way in which it is created, it’s timbre, and even in the use of classical Indian instruments such as Sitar and Tabla. Rock music from the 1960s and 1970s  included South Asian musical influences and instruments, and also incorporated western perception of the Indian subcontinent. This kind of music style is known as Raga Rock. The typical instruments used are guitar, sitar, bass, drums, tambura, tabla, and electric sitar. This music style has cultural origins from the mid-1960s United States and the United Kingdom.

Ragas are melodic tunes. They are known for their use in the classical music of the Indian subcontinent.  This term Raga-Rock originated in March 1966  after the description of Rock music that featured Indian Sitar styling. According to musicologist Jonathan Bellman, “Raga Rock is to describe any rock song that evokes an Indian or general oriental mood, whether by use of sitar or any other instrument imitating it “. Sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar ‘s music influenced Rock music to a great degree. After the Raga-Rock music style was popularised, Ravi Shankar became a pop icon.

Indian classical tradition contributed many elements to the Raga-Rock such as the Sitar which acts as an electric guitar, then tambura used in classical performances and Indian harmonium used in vocal performances, modal melodies based on Indian scales also came to be used, vocal stylings, additive rhythms known as Tal was used, sawal- jawab ( question-answer) between lead instruments was enjoyed, mirroring of the vocal line by lead instruments, lyrical themes related to mysticism or religious symbolism also came to be used.

Indie Rock is another music genre that makes use of rock music with Indian music. This style is mainly India centric. Instruments used in this style are vocals, gramophone, jazz, Indian musical instruments, guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, and electric sitar. Rock and roll genre developed gradually.

The bands which were formed initially faced difficulty in gaining recognition. But, from the mid-1960s, filmy songs started using rock n roll flavor. Songs such as” Jaan pehechan ho” sung by Mohammad Rafi in Gumnaam(1965), “O Saathi Re” by Kishore Kumar in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar(1978)and Asha Bhosle’s “Dum maaro dum”  from “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” (1971) made use of rock music and were great hits.

In the 1980s and the 1990s, the true effects of rock and roll on Indian music began to be seen as various bands came into existence and they produced rock music, be it soft rock n roll, pop-rock to hard rock, and even heavy metal. However, in the early 1980s rock and roll music was dominated by a disco which also dominated the Indian pop music.

MTV was introduced and this led to the change in the taste of the music. Bands were demanded to change their style and focus on underground styles such as death metal, alternative metal, and progressive rock. India has produced many rock bands. Few of them have even a part of mainstream media and gained recognition worldwide. Kapil Srivastava, an Indian guitar player, has composed Rock and Roll fusion in his Indian gitaroo volume 2. RLC66 is an upcoming band from Mumbai. Their main endeavor is to combine various genres from western music. They are predominantly influenced by Porcupine Tree, Tool, and Dream theater. The song ‘ Abrupt’ has gathered quite a number of fans in the Mumbai underground scene.

Vivek Date, a Mumbai based bassist, released his rock and roll album ” Wrapping Paper”. This album gained popularity and its reviews were great. Some called it the gift to rock and roll of India in 2015.

Raga Rock and Indian rock are gradually developing and accumulating more Indian taste.

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About the Author: Habib

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