As I listened to a medley of popular 70s hindi music over the last couple of weeks on Dhingana, the online music app I have recently discovered, a thought struck me. Seventies hindi music seems to have had a huge amount of western influence. Much more than the hindi film music of now and certainly more than that of the 60s, 50s or before. And a couple of days ago, this thought was reinforced by an interview on BBC. They were doing a special on the Glastonbury music festival and were interviewing the Aussie band “Bombay Royale”. The Bombay Royale, in case you have not come across them, is a bunch of white aussies and 2 people of Indian origin who have teamed up together, they say, to produce the ‘epic’ sound of 70s bollywood music. And in the interview, one of their leaders – The Skipper – mentioned that he particularly liked the fact that 70s Indian film music had a very international feel to it.
All of which, on a bit of reflection, starts to sound strange. In the 6 decades of India’s independence, there was no decade more decidedly inward-looking and clearly not international as the 1970s. Remember this was the decade when Indira Gandhi had nationalised everything leading to no need for any foreigner to be in India for business, had proclaimed the emergency which did not leave too many of leaders outside jail for them to go abroad and and had a perversely socialist streak which led to ordinary Indians being allowed a princely sum of $8 dollars for the entire trip for every person going abroad. On the whole most of us sat at home and looked longingly at our lucky cousins who went away to Africa. And to add insult to injury, Richard Nixon (or was it his sidekick Kissinger?) called India, “the largest unimportant country in the world”.
So this was the 70s in which suddenly our film music was all international. How did this happen?