The history and evolution of Bollywood music - Blog | Splice (2022)

Hindi film music, commonly referred to as ‘Bollywood music,’ is one of the most popular forms of music in the world today.

The Indian film industry produces up to 2,000 movies each year—more than double that of Hollywood. Bollywood is the Hindi-language film industry in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.

Bollywood music is derived from song-and-dance routines in Hindi films. Due to their enduring popular appeal and cultural value, Bollywood songs and dances are a characteristic motif of Hindi cinema.

One of the reasons for the popularity of Bollywood songs has been the willingness of composers to adopt and be influenced by various musical forms including Western pop, jazz, rock, and classical music. These songs are generally composed in Hindi, though often the vocabulary and language usage deviate from that of standard Hindi and can include the use of Urdu, Persian, and English words, along with compositions in various Hindi dialects.

The beginnings of Bollywood music (1930s – 1950s)

Bollywood music was born in 1931 with the advent of India’s first sound motion film, Alam Ara by Ardeshir Irani, which featured seven songs. It was during this time that the seeds of the new musical genre were sown. The film was closely followed by Jamshedji Framji Madan’s Shirheen Farhad (1931), which featured 42 song sequences strung together in the manner of an opera.

Between 1931 and 1940, India produced around 930 feature films with an average of ten songs per film. During this period, many of the original actors and actresses sang the songs, similar to Hollywood.

However, during the ’40s and ’50s, the business began to shift away from big motion picture studios to independent producers. Since most actors who could sing would end up working for big motion pictures that paid more than independent producers, this period resulted in the introduction of a new concept called playback singing.

A playback singer, also known as a ghost singer, is a singer whose voice is pre-recorded for use in films, and actors or actresses lip-sync the songs for the camera. Many notable playback singers and major music directors came to prominence during this period, such as Lata Mangeshkar, Hemant Kumar, Asha Bhosle, C. Ramchandra, and S. D. Burman (known as the “Nightingale of India,” Mangeshkar, who recently passed away in February 2022, had a career spanning eight decades as a playback singer).

(Video) Evolution of Bollywood Music - Penn Masala

The film equipment used in this period was not high quality, making playback singing a necessity. In fact, the noise from the film equipment was so loud that all the dialogue had to be dubbed again as well. It was only in 2001, with Lagaan, that the first synchronous sound movie was produced.

Unlike the United States or United Kingdom’s music industries, the Indian music industry has not been a separate industry with a traditional growth pattern. Rather, it has emerged as a byproduct of Bollywood and has always been a subsidiary of the Indian film industry.

Two different eras

1. Studios

From 1935 to 1950, like Hollywood, Bollywood was run by film studios. Prabhat Studio was the first Hindi film studio established in 1929, followed by B N Sircar’s New Studio in 1931, Rajkamal Kalamandir in 1942, Mehboob Studio in 1943, RK Studios by Raj Kapoor in 1948, and Navketan Films by Dev Anand in 1949. This period is also referred to as the “Golden Era of Bollywood” because it gave rise to the most iconic movies, actors, and musicians of all time. And studios provided a platform for their film directors, actors, and musicians to be famous.

Eventually, film stars’ salaries were skyrocketing to the point where they became too expensive, and most studios went out of business.

2. Music Directors

As Bollywood moved away from studios running the industry, independent movie directors began to gain prominence. From 1950 – 1998, famous film directors produced their own films and paved the way for independent music directors, who became extremely crucial to the success of a film in terms of name attachment.

In Bollywood films, a music director often has a much broader role encompassing both composing music specifically for the film and securing additional licensed music. Hence, a Bollywood music director is usually also the composer and the music producer of the film.

One of the most famous music directors of this era was R. D. Burman—also known as the “King of Bollywood Music”—who worked extensively on and scored approximately 331 films from the ’60s to the ’90s.

(Video) History of Indian Music: #1 Origin of Music

The intertwined history of Bollywood movies and music

As a result of not being a separate industry, the Indian music industry has not been given the required attention by the Indian government. In fact, “India’s recorded music industry generated just U.S. $0.09 per capita in trade revenues in 2016, making it the most poorly monetized music market currently being tracked,” according to Ed Peto’s article “Interim Economy: An Introduction to India’s Digital Music Industry.” This is because the government has yet to build proper systems around licensing, copyright, publishing, etc. that cater to artists, music composers, songwriters, and music producers outside of the film industry.

Major record labels like Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group do have an Indian division. However, the relationship between an artist and a record label is almost always a work-for-hire contract, with a lack of differentiation between labels and publishers. Most musicians are hired by film productions and the label mainly caters to the film industry (because that’s where the money comes from).

A history of complicated copyright practices

In the ’70s, ’80s, and most of the ’90s, musicians and artists were heavily dependent on movies, music labels, and production houses for opportunities in the Indian music industry. In most cases, it was the producer or the production house that benefitted most from the success of the film music. While due credits were given to the music composer, lyricists, and singers, few financial benefits were extended to them.

There have been years of mystery surrounding this situation—however, it has recently come to the forefront. Royalty checks for music creators are “often accompanied just by a covering letter, with no indication of how they have been calculated, and from which sources,” according to “India music trends: Transparency, independent artists, and more.” Therefore, the relationship between the government and private corporations in the Indian music industry has been extremely complicated.

For a more in-depth analysis of the copyright laws in India including recent developments, check out this article.

The rise of music streaming services in India

The broad consumption of music in India has also been notably different from the music industries in other parts of the world. With a population of 1.38 billion, India has been the ‘sleeping giant’ of the global music industry. The music streaming market has been rapidly growing in recent years, mainly because of the implementation of 4G, lower data costs, and an increasing number of smartphone users. The top digital music service providers that have emerged in the past four years are  JioSaavn, Gaana, Wynk Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music.

Due to the pandemic, in the first half of 2020, streaming services saw an increase in listeners by 40%. This resulted in music streaming services owning 85.1% of the Indian music business market share over that year.

(Video) Introduction to Indian Cultural Heritage –Indian Culture and Tradition | General Awareness Series

Even though the majority of Hindi music consumed on streaming services is Bollywood music, they have provided the opportunity for non-film music to break the shackles of cinema.

Looking ahead

The Indian music market is undeniably exciting and has a fantastic potential for a bright future. In the coming years, it’s likely that we’ll see significant growth in the Indian music industry as its own business, both within India and on a global scale.

Incorporate Bollywood-inspired sounds into your own productions:

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July 28, 2022


Arundhati SwaminathanArundhati Swaminathan is a New York-based singer, content strategist, active TV watcher, and social media scroller who is currently working as a Content Marketing Associate at Splice.

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How has Bollywood music changed over the years? ›

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, Annu Malik, and several others together made the Bollywood music industry stronger.

What was the first Bollywood song? ›

The first song recorded in India by Gauhar Jaan in 1902 and the first Bollywood film Alam Ara (1931) were under Saregama, India's oldest music label owned by RPSanjiv Goenka Group.

What is unique about Bollywood music? ›

Bollywood music is a blanket term for Indian music but truly only refers to Hindi music made for Bollywood movies. This means that the songs are made for different situations within the storyline, and they often convey different emotions - love, separation, happiness and celebration, anger/disappointment etc etc.

Why is the origin of Bollywood? ›

The term Bollywood

"Bollywood" is a portmanteau derived from Bombay (the former name of Mumbai) and "Hollywood", a shorthand reference for the American film industry which is based in Hollywood, California.

What is the history of Bollywood music? ›

Bollywood music was born in 1931 with the advent of India's first sound motion film, Alam Ara by Ardeshir Irani, which featured seven songs. It was during this time that the seeds of the new musical genre were sown.

What is the history of Bollywood? ›

Bollywood, Hindi-language sector of the Indian moviemaking industry that began in Bombay (now Mumbai) in the 1930s and developed into an enormous film empire. After early Indian experiments in silent film, in 1934 Bombay Talkies, launched by Himansu Rai, spearheaded the growth of Indian cinema.

Who is the father of Bollywood music? ›

Tribute to Rai Chand Boral, the father of Indian film music, on his 35th death anniversary. Rai Chand Boral (19 October 1903–25 November 1981) was an Indian composer, considered by music conoisseurs to be the father of Bollywood film music.

Who is the father of Hindi music? ›

During this 16th century period, Tansen studied music and introduced musical innovations, for about the first sixty years of his life with patronage of the Hindu king Ram Chand of Gwalior, and thereafter performed at the Muslim court of Akbar. Many musicians consider Tansen as the founder of Hindustani music.

Who is the legend of Bollywood music? ›

Remembering Bollywood Music Legend Lata Mangeshkar With 5 Essential Tracks. One of the most famous singers in Indian history, Mangeshkar soundtracked hundreds of films.

What are 3 features of Indian music? ›

There are three basic layers to the texture of Indian Classical Music: MELODY (Voice, Sitar, Sarangi, Bansuri, Esraj or Sarod performing the melodic form of the Raga); DRONE (Tanpura or Harmonium performing long sustained noted); RHYTHM (Tabla performing the rhythmic Tala).

Why did Bollywood become popular? ›

As economic trade increased throughout the world, more Hindi films were subtitled and dubbed so that non-Indian and non-Hindi speaking audiences could enjoy them. This has led to the widespread commercialization and success of Bollywood films.

What culture is Bollywood from? ›

‌Bollywood, the Hindi film industry, is one of the largest centers of film production in the world. Based in Mumbai, the entertainment capital of India, it produces an average of 1,500 – 2,000 films each year, according to a report by Deloitte.

What is term Bollywood mean? ›

Bollywood, a portmanteau of "Hollywood" and "Bombay" (the former name of Mumbai), refers to the Hindi-language sector of India's movie-making industry, still based in Mumbai.

Why is it called Bollywood in India? ›

The name Bollywood is a portmanteau (a blend of two words), combining Bombay and Hollywood. The city of Bombay, which is known as Mumbai today, is where the Hindi-language Indian film industry is based — in other words, it's the Hollywood of India.

What is the origin and history of Indian music? ›

Indian classical music is a rich tradition that originated in South Asia and can now be found in all corners of the world. It's origins date back to sacred Vedic scriptures over 6,000 years ago where chants developed a system of musical notes and rhythmic cycles.

Who sang the first song in Bollywood? ›

'Alam Ara' gave India's first playback singer.

Who is the first music composer in Bollywood? ›

Saraswati Devi, born Khorshed Minocher-Homji (1912 – 9 August 1980), was an Indian director of music and score composer who worked in Hindi cinema in the 1930s and 1940s.

Who made Bollywood famous? ›

Dilip Kumar, whose real name is Muhammad Yusuf Khan, has been retrospectively referred to as the "First Khan" of Bollywood. He debuted in the 1940s, and became the biggest Indian movie star of the 1950s and 1960s.

Why is Bollywood so important? ›

Bollywood's most important cultural achievements include the emotional connections it really has built with India for individuals of many races, ethnicities, and languages, as well as the way it really has made them feel strongly connected to the Indian worldview as well as way of life, although in caricature form.

Who is the god of Indian music? ›

Sarasvati, Hindu goddess of learning and the arts, especially music.

Who is called God of music in India? ›

Saraswati (Sanskrit: सरस्वती, IAST: Sarasvatī) is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, speech, wisdom, and learning. She is one of the Tridevi, along with the goddesses Lakshmi and Parvati. The earliest known mention of Saraswati as a goddess is in the Rigveda.

Who is the king of Indian music? ›

Birth nameRamtanu
Bornc. 1493 or 1500 Gwalior
Died26 April 1589 (aged 95–96) Agra, Delhi
GenresHindustani Classical Music
2 more rows

Who is the mother of Indian music? ›

Lata Mangeshkar ([ləˈtaː məŋˈɡeːʃkər] ( listen)) (born as Hema Mangeshkar; 28 September 1929 – 6 February 2022) was an Indian playback singer and occasional music composer. She is widely considered to have been one of the greatest and most influential singers in India.

Who is the master of Indian music? ›

India's Master Musician is an album by Hindustani classical musician Ravi Shankar released in March 1959.

What is Indian music theory? ›

Indian music theory uses the concept of a shruti, which is an interval smaller than the intervals normally found between notes, similar to the concept of cents in Western music.

Is Bollywood music classical? ›

Bollywood revels in pop energy, but many of those buoyant choruses are informed by the far older traditions of North Indian classical composition. Mixing ancient Vedic chants with folk modes, Hindustani ragas offer a deep melody bank ripe for cinematic plunder.

What Indian music is called? ›

Hindustani music, one of the two principal types of South Asian classical music, found mainly in the northern three-fourths of the subcontinent, where Indo-Aryan languages are spoken. (The other principal type, Karnatak music, is found in the Dravidian-speaking region of southern India.)

What are the 5 classifications of Indian music? ›

There are predominantly 5 types of them. There is a traditional system for the classification of instruments. This system is based upon; non-membranous percussion (ghan), membranous percussion (avanaddh), wind blown (sushir), plucked string (tat), bowed string (vitat).

Who is the queen of music in Bollywood? ›

Legends are forever and singing legends even more. Many female playback singers have sung the beautiful old Hindi songs. But only one of them is a Guinness Book of World Record holder for the most recorded artist in the world.

Who is the queen of Bollywood Music industry? ›

Lata Mangeshkar, Queen of Bollywood Music NPR's Alex Chadwick talks with music critic and historian Ken Hunt about Indian film singer Lata Mangeshkar. Known as the "Queen of Bollywood Music," Mangeshkar is an international pop icon, and some of her most famous songs are featured on a new CD.

Who is king of singer in Bollywood? ›

Arijit has a fan following all over the world. Arijit performs in the majority of the movies in Bollywood. He is a great singer, composer, musician and playback singer in the world. Let's know more about his life, his music industry journey, and how he made it to the bigger stage.

What is the most important element of Indian music? ›

The raga/raag/ragam is the essential melodic element in Indian classical music. A raga is a series of pitches similar to a European idea of a scale. (It is the vocabulary of notes for a piece of music.) A raga often has distinctive melodic shapes, a pitch hierarchy and characteristic ornamentation on specific pitches.

What are the 4 qualities of music? ›

These qualities relate to different aspects of the sound, such as the volume or the duration. There are four sound qualities: pitch, duration, intensity and timbre.

What is the nature of Indian music? ›

Indian music consists of folk, classical (Hindustani and Carnatic) and pop music, among others. The Classical music is characterized by microtones (or shruti), notes (or swara), ornamentations (or alankar), among others.

Who is the founder of Bollywood? ›

First full-length Bollywood silent movie “Raja Harishchandra “ was created in 1913 by Dadasaheb Phalke. Its great success paved the way for the countless movies that followed him and the expansion of the indian cinema industry to incredible heights.

What was Bollywood influenced by? ›

The earlier dances in Bollywood films were dominated by classical dance forms of Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Folk dances from different parts of India. Since 1980's Bollywood dancing style has been influenced by Western dance styles. Bollywood Dance style incorporates head, neck and body movements, mudras and footwork.

How Bollywood is famous in the world? ›

Though they're fewer in numbers, Bollywood films are by far the most popular in India. They are also the most popular Indian films abroad, second only to Hollywood films in box-office take worldwide. India has the most prolific film industry in terms of sheer output and numbers of viewers.

What country is known for Bollywood? ›

Today's Wonder of the Day is going to take a closer look at one country in particular: India. India's national cinema industry goes by a much more popular name: Bollywood. The name is obviously a play on the word Hollywood. The “B" comes from the Indian city of Bombay, which is now called Mumbai.

How does Bollywood impact society? ›

Bollywood deeply impacts the Indian youth not only because of the movie scenes but the profound influence of the actors and actresses of the movies on their life. Youth account for 32% of the population and more than 15% of their population has the access to mass media.

Is Bollywood a popular culture? ›

Originating from the world of cinema, these artifacts from Bollywood penetrate, negotiate, and in the process alter contemporary art, religion, culture, and politics in India making it an omnipresent force in popular culture.

What are the different types of Bollywood? ›

Bollywood, Pollywood, Tollywood, and More - Film Industry Nicknames Around The World
  • Bollywood. Bollywood is part of the larger Indian Film Industry based in Mumbai and produces the Hindi language based films. ...
  • Pollywood. ...
  • Lollywood. ...
  • Chhollywood. ...
  • Conclusion.

Is Bollywood a dance form? ›

Bollywood dancing is a colourful, dynamic and highly theatrical dance style seen in Indian films. It combines classical forms of dance including traditional Indian, folk, salsa, belly-dance while also incorporating more contemporary western forms such as hip hop, jazz and funk.

Which city is known as Bollywood? ›

Bollywood. Bollywood, India's largest and one of the world's largest film industries is synonymous with Mumbai. The city has accordingly established itself as the film capital of India.

Is Bollywood part of Indian culture? ›

Indeed, the term Bollywood is also used to symbolise the fact that Indian film production challenges the cultural hegemony of Hollywood. While it may borrow from the North American film industry some of the creative ideas, clichés, and characters, it remains culturally Indian in many ways.

How did music change over the years? ›

With time, more and more musical instruments have been developed and people started to play them with one another. This resulted in even more sophisticated and even complex sounds being made. The rhythms, the tempo, the beat and more all changed along with the culture.

How has music production changed over time? ›

Arguably the most significant change in music production is that artists no longer require a studio to record. Previously, sessions at recording studios would take place at great expense. Music would be recorded in a live performance while producers simultaneously mixed the music.

How did Indian music develop? ›

Indian classical music is a rich tradition that originated in South Asia and can now be found in all corners of the world. It's origins date back to sacred Vedic scriptures over 6,000 years ago where chants developed a system of musical notes and rhythmic cycles.

How has the music industry changed over time? ›

The Use Of A Record Label

With the advent of streaming services and digital downloads, music is now more accessible. As a result, artists are no longer reliant on record labels to distribute their music.

What is the evolution of music? ›

Thus, musical evolution is the result of selection at multiple levels: within individuals (producers), among individuals (consumers), and among groups (social networks of consumers).

When was the evolution of music? ›

Music first arose in the Paleolithic period, though it remains unclear as to whether this was the Middle (300,000 to 50,000 BP) or Upper Paleolithic (50,000 to 12,000 BP). The vast majority of Paleolithic instruments have been found in Europe and date to the Upper Paleolithic.

What are the 4 main periods in the history of music? ›

Here's a quick guide to the four key periods we usually learn about in music theory: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century and beyond.

Why is the evolution of music important? ›

This development of art and music was an important evolutionary step in forming the communicative scaffolding for social interactions that have become so crucial or our species.

Who changed the music industry in India? ›

Bollywood publicist Dale Bhagwagar practically invented the music PR segment in India for independent publicists when he handled the media for all the top singers in the music industry, followed by PR for around 80 music albums and numerous singles and music videos.

How has music evolved in the 21st century? ›

21st century also saw the rise of genres like Dance-Pop, Indie Rock, Emo, Pop-Punk, Contemporary R&B, Hip-Hop, Teen Pop, Boy Bands, Disney Artists, Country, Country-Pop, and Latin Pop etc. With so many genres of music prevailing, people also realized the potential of the Internet to portray their musical talents.

What is the culture of Indian music? ›

There are two major traditions of Indian classical music. They are Carnatic music, a style associated with South India, and Hindustani music, a style associated with North India.

What are the 4 main areas of the music industry? ›

Key Takeaways

Currently, the four major record labels (known as the Big Four) are EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. Indie record labels are smaller labels that operate without financial assistance from the Big Four and typically produce less commercially viable music.

Who has the biggest impact on the music industry? ›

Most Influential Musicians: 30 Artists Who Changed Music Forever
  • 8: Bob Marley. ...
  • 7: Kate Bush. ...
  • 6: Prince. ...
  • 5: Pink Floyd. ...
  • 4: Led Zeppelin. ...
  • 3: Jimi Hendrix. ...
  • 2: The Beatles. The Beatles have always been, and remain, a phenomenon. ...
  • 1: David Bowie. Nobody changed music as much as art rock chameleon David Bowie.
12 May 2021

What are the three main sectors of the music industry? ›

This basic structure has given rise to three core music industries: the recorded music industry—focused on recording and distribution of music to consumers; the music licensing industry—primarily licensing compositions and arrangements to businesses; and live music—focused on producing and promoting live entertainment, ...


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