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Experimental Music in Indian Cinema

The Indian music industry is waking up to new genres be it through its movies or independent artistes and bands playing across the country. Though new, different genres of music take a while to get mass attention, music aficionados have been very receptive towards experimental or avant-garde music which basically refers to artistes pushing existing boundaries of the traditional genres of music and experimenting with newer genres, sometimes blurring and sometimes even merging them to create new sound streams which are unorthodox with a distinctly new path.

Popular Bollywood music directors also work with experimental music and Amit Trivedi is one of the most admired music directors to work with newer genres. His music in Udta Punjab included trance and rap music with a darker edge to it. He also uses jazz tunes in his compositions at times. He calls his way of composition as ‘method composing’ leading to the soulful music he creates.

Not only is film music style changing but a lot of bands have also come up across the country working with different sounds. Local bands are experimenting with new styles including heavy metal and other distinctive desi and indie styles like emphatic rhythms, vigorous vocals and even bass styles. The rise in popularity in avant garde genres have encouraged these bands to try something different. They are experimenting with hard metal, desi beats, and even Punjabi and regional beats.

When talking about revolutionary changes in music, one cannot forget A.R. Rahman’s contribution to experimental music. He was one of the first artistes to bring in digital sounds and technology to recording studios and is a pioneer of progressive music. Other Bollywood music directors giving us new sounds to hear are Vishal-Shekhar, Swanand Kirkire, Sneha Khanwalkar and Ram Sampath amongst others who amalgamate the sounds from various parts of the world, technology and of course an Indian soul.

Though folk music cannot be completely deigned to be said as experimental music, it is a genre which wasn’t considered part of the mainstream music scene in India. That has changed with many music directors incorporating folk flavours in their music and sometimes even dedicating whole compositions to the earthy tones. This can be seen in films like Peepli Live, Gangs of Wasseypur and Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola. This results in some beautiful fusion music which is a treat to the ears and is a surefire sign of being part of Indian film compositions in the future as well.

A lot of singers have also cropped up in Indian cinema whose style of singing is very different-be it jazz singer Shefali Alvarez, rock singer Suraj Jagan or even Vishal Dadlani who is part of a rock band. Similarly Anushka Manchanda and Mohit Chauhan are also a far cry from the sound we are used to hearing and yet they have changed the way music is perceived in the industry. Them along with Shalmali Kholgade, Mohan Kanan from Agnee and Shilpa Rao bring the indie pop flavour to the fore.

Opening up to new music has also brought international artistes to the country like Chammak Challo brought Akon to Bollywood with Ra-One and Kylie Minogue sang Chiggy Wiggy for Blue. Many Pakistani singers also have become part of mainstream Indian music be it Rahat Fateh Ali Khan or Atif Aslam. Electronic Dance Music or EDM which has taken the world by storm has also found its share of fans in India in music from movies such as Cocktail, Go Goa Gone and Dev D. Sufi music is another genre bringing global sounds to India.

A lot of new musicians are working with experimental music over the years and have introduced newer genres to the Indian music scene. People are way more accepting of newer forms and slowly and steadily, experimental music has made a place for itself.


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