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India: Hindi Pop

A sign saying 'Buffalo Springfield'
I saw this sign on a bulldozer in Jaipur, an incongruous sight in a land where the pop music can feel like a steamroller

There is only one music cassette in use on the buses in India, and I hear it everywhere; the result is that despite several months of inserting my ear plugs whenever the bus boys crank the latest Hindi pop hits up to eleven, I still know the songs backwards (which, incidentally, improves them).

1 Often this is due to a faulty tape mechanism playing the tape too quickly; I put one of my tapes into a supposedly posh Indian tape deck, and even Sheryl Crow sounded light and shrill. I'm convinced that if the local equivalents of Andrew Eldritch's and Janis Joplin's 40-a-day voices ever appeared on the Indian pop scene, they would be burned at the stake for heresy in much the same way that Elvis was for his earth-shattering hip movements in the fifties.

2 I'm not talking about Hindi film music here, because although it might sound the same to the uninitiated, Hindi film music is really rather skilled. In the films, singer-songwriters are not common, and there's normally a composer who writes the music, a lyricist who writes the words, a group of singers who sing the songs, and the actors who mime and dance along on the screen. The composition and lyricism is in a different league to bog-standard Hindi pop, and the dancing is, without a doubt, spectacular and highly skilled, and puts western boy bands to shame. If only all Indian pop was this impressive; unfortunately, it isn't.