Is Bollywood music better than Western music today?

Taking off where my last post left off, I was going through the most played tracks on my iPod today and it turns out I’ve listened to more Bollywood music than Western music over the last couple of months. It came as a surprise to me, because I’ve never really considered myself a Bollywood music person. Is it age? Senility? Is it because I’ve spent close to 8 years in the North? Possibly.

But there’s probably more to it.

During my school days in the 80’s, Western music had a certain magnetic allure. These were the pre-liberalisation days, so anything with the ‘Made in USA’ tag was accepted like gold, frankinsence and myrrh. Jeans, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and the pre-paedophile MJ. It was a heady world. Bubble gum was cool. So was Bubbles the chimp. We craved for bootlegs of A-Team and Airwolf.

Hindi music was something akin to genital warts. In Bangalore anyway. Ocassionally when there was a blockbuster Hindi film or an impossibly catchy tune like Hasan Jehangir’s ‘Hawa Hawa’ infected people, it was a guilty pleasure. You enjoyed it but would never openly admit to liking Hindi movies because that just labeled you as common and uncool.

Probably like how listening to Country Music was in America.

30 years have passed. Kurt Cobain died a long while back. MTV came and left. The music industry is running on fumes. And Western music for several other reasons has lost its allure. It’s more about celebrityhood and fashion now, it seems. You take the top ten pop tracks and they all have that same synthetic, factory-produced Rihanna quality. I’ve never heard a single Lady Gaga track. I don’t think anyone has. But everyone talks of her clothes.

And as for rock, I have a one word summation of the state of the industry.



And there’s Beliebers and Miley Cyrus’s clitoris on display 24/7 for anyone who’d care to take a look.

Maybe I’m getting senile but Western music does seem to suck a bit.

At the same time, Hindi movies have gone through a sea change of perception. Funnily enough, it became fashionable among the hoipolloi around the time it hit its nadir, i.e. the David Dhawan era. Reverse snobbery kicked in and suddenly Govinda was cool. I never fell for that.

But things began to change slowly for Hindi films. Karan Johar and SRK brought in the overseas audiences. Multiplexes changed the nature of the old potboiler. And Hindi music has moved on from the Bappi Lahiri, Anu Malik days to more sophisticated music directors like AR Rahman, Amit Trivedi and Sneha Kanwalkar. I would even grudgingly doff my hat to Pritam who’s brought back an almost RD Burmanesque quality to melody. Is this the watershed moment?


Have we finally moved on and given up the baggage of the Raj Hangover, cantonment living and convent schools to finally embrace our own culture? Only time will tell.

Your move, Western music.