I thought of naming the post as History of Alternative Music in India but then, there are too many alternatives – Alternative Pop, Alternative Rock, etc. I just wish to focus on the history of electronic music in India that came in via remixes. Remixes can again be categorized into several types of genres. As such, a remix is not a hard-definition genre but for sake of this post, we’ll consider it a genre. I will explain the term ‘remix’ in the next few paragraphs of this article about the history of electronic music in India.
Gulshan Kumar & T-Series: Bringing Remix to India
I credit Gulshan Kumar of T-Series for bringing remixes and promoting the trend of electronic music in India. Of course, there were some DJs (Disk Jockeys) as well but in the eighties, people were obsessed with original soundtracks of both old and contemporary music rather than listening to the modified soundtrack.
While talking about ‘remix”, clearly it is not a genre but is used very well in different genres, mainly dance. The history of electronic music in India is the history of remix in India.
Using a loophole in the copyright law (1957) of India, Mr. Kumar got his musicians to add “jhankar” (drumbeats and similar stuff).
I define remixing as adding one’s own music to the “original soundtrack” of some movie or other piece of creation. The emphasis here is on the original soundtrack. If it is not the original soundtrack, it is not a remix. We’ll come to that in a while.
When the other music companies holding original copyrights to music objected to this practice of Gulshan Kumar, courts modified the Copyright Act of Performing Acts (1957). The latest changes stated that none other than the production house can use the original soundtracks for a maximum of 60 years from the date of production of those tracks. But then, the court used the term “original soundtrack” which further boosted Gulshan Kumar and his music company, T-Series.
PS: It becomes necessary to mention here that the credit for bringing vinyl cassettes and tapes to the average person, goes to T-Series, which is now handled by his brother, Kishan Kumar.
T-Series & Electronic Music in India
Legal jargon is fun and can be manipulated in as many ways as one can. All a person needs is a brain that can locate ambiguous laws and use them for his own benefit. When the courts banned the usage of “original soundtracks” and said they can be used only by the production house that paid for them, the consultants of Gulshan Kumar produced an idea that boosted not only the sales of electronic music based on new movies but also brought up fresh faces/talents to the mainstream.
To understand it more clearly, T-Series stopped using the “original soundtracks” and instead, had new talents sing those songs to their own orchestra that was electronic. Now, this created much better versions of the new releases, and the “Jhankar version” (as they were called) sold more than the original records. Instead of purchasing the new records as they were released, most waited for the “Jhankar” version to be released. This was the beginning of the electronic era of music in India.
Bringing Out the Talent – T-Series
Not only the latest releases, but the T-Series also hired fresh talent to sing old songs from Hindi movies and converted them to their own electronic versions. This saw the emergence of many singers and actors (as T-Series also created movies around music). I won’t go into detail there else this post would be limited to T-Series.
Still, I would like to state that the following names owe a lot to Mr. Kumar and his T-Series:
1. Sonu Nigam – Was associated with T-Series until the fall of T-Series due to an accident explained in the second point here)
2. Anuradha Paudwal (went on to become an alternative for Lata Mangeshkar but suddenly withdrew after Mr. Kumar was assassinated by some Mafia for reasons not made public)
3. Kumar Sanu – Not only sang for T-Series but also was hired by different production houses.
4. Attaullah Khan – This was a whole different story. A Pakistani singer became famous across Asia because T-Series recognized his talent.
5. Vinod Rathore and many more…
Electronic Music & Bally Sagoo
The above section was offbeat, but the story of the T-series would be incomplete if I didn’t mention it. Bottomline is T-Series used its own orchestra, electronic, on all types of music to create a history of electronic music in India. That was in the 1990s before the famous DJs Bally Sagoo, Suketu, and Aqueel captured the market.
The numbers from Bally Sagoo were not exactly remixes because they did not use original soundtracks. Instead, someone sang the songs while Bally Sagoo arranged the music. Not all from Bally Sagoo are electronic.
This person had an amazing talent for electronic music. While Dubstep was still in its infancy – limited to Britain – Bally Sagoo produced an album called Asian Dub. This album was released somewhere in 1999 and satisfied most of the conditions of Dubstep. If you want me to be more precise, let us call it electro-dub.
The Rise of Electronic Music in India
Following Bally Sagoo, the music world came up with plenty of DJs such as Aqeel, Suketu, and more. They were not remixes but covers. They had people singing songs on live orchestra under the Dance and Pop genre. Nonetheless, both Suketu and Aqeel produced some of the best rocking numbers.
Within these names pops up a name that stands a bit apart! Bali Bhrambhatt was not much into mixing but did create several good dance numbers that rocked pubs and parties.
These DJs found a place in emerging Indian electronic music Though most of their numbers were dance & pop as discussed above, some of their creations fall under electronic mixed with other genres. I am not sure what to call them.
Then, there were music companies that knew the people in the nineties were more oriented towards fresh voices and off-beat music. They hired these talents to cater to the tastes of music lovers. Their music is still played in many pubs even all these years. There are some other names without which the nineties won’t be complete: Baba Sehgal, Alisha Chinoy, Biddu, Nirvana and not to forget, Apache Indian. They were electronic and more inclined towards pop, dance, and hip-hop. I might come up with another article to cover the rise of alternative music in India. For now, let us bring our focus back to the history of electronic music in India.
The New Age Electronic Music in India
Just when I thought the phase was over, I found talent all over India in the electronic genre and not limited to that genre. I discovered this breed accidentally in 2010 when looking for some electronic real remixes instead of covers.
Among the names I would like to take are:
1. DJ LIJO
2. DJ Akhil Talreja
3. DJ O2 & SRK
4. DJ Rink
5. DJ Jaaya (or J-Ya as she signs up)
6. DJ Tejas and
7. DJ Shadow
You will be impressed to know that in India, we have a respectable number of lady DJs: DJ Rink and DJ J-Ya deserve a mention. All of them are just experts in spinning disks. Plenty of other names exist but I can’t put all of them here. And in this case, they are remixes: electronic music over original soundtracks.
I might as well add that this too is just another good phase of the history of electronic music in India as I am now finding some other genres dependent on “electronic” already spread all over the world – created by Indians but to be accepted in India.
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