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Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai's Film Studios

by Gregory D. Booth

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Beginning in the 1930s, men and a handful of women came from India's many communities-Marathi, Parsi, Goan, North Indian, and many others--to Mumbai to work in an industry that constituted in the words of some, "the original fusion music." They worked as composers, arrangers, assistants, and studio performers in one of the most distinctive popular music and popular film cultures on the planet. Today, the songs played by Mumbai's studio musicians are known throughout India and the Indian diaspora under the popular name "Bollywood," but the musicians themselves remain, in their own words, "behind the curtain"--the anonymous and unseen performers of one of the world's most celebrated popular music genres. Now, Gregory D. Booth offers a compelling account of the Bollywood film music industry from the perspective of the musicians who both experienced and shaped its history. In a rare insider's look at the process of musical production from the late 1940s to the mid 1990s, before the advent of digital recording technologies, Booth explains who these unknown musicians were and how they came to join the film music industry. On the basis of a fascinating set of first-hand accounts from the musicians themselves, he reveals how the day-to-day circumstances of technology and finance shaped both the songs and the careers of their creator and performers. Booth also unfolds the technological, cultural, and industrial developments that led to the enormous studio orchestras of the 1960s-90s as well as the factors which ultimately led to their demise in contemporary India. Featuring an extensive companion website with video interviews with the musicians themselves, Behind the Curtain is a powerful, ground-level view of this globally important music industry.… (more)
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Reviewed by Joseph Getter in Asian Music 43/1 (Winter/Spring 2012: 131-137. DOI: 10.1353/amu.2012.0002 .
  AsianMusicReviews | Dec 21, 2011 |
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Beginning in the 1930s, men and a handful of women came from India's many communities-Marathi, Parsi, Goan, North Indian, and many others--to Mumbai to work in an industry that constituted in the words of some, "the original fusion music." They worked as composers, arrangers, assistants, and studio performers in one of the most distinctive popular music and popular film cultures on the planet. Today, the songs played by Mumbai's studio musicians are known throughout India and the Indian diaspora under the popular name "Bollywood," but the musicians themselves remain, in their own words, "behind the curtain"--the anonymous and unseen performers of one of the world's most celebrated popular music genres. Now, Gregory D. Booth offers a compelling account of the Bollywood film music industry from the perspective of the musicians who both experienced and shaped its history. In a rare insider's look at the process of musical production from the late 1940s to the mid 1990s, before the advent of digital recording technologies, Booth explains who these unknown musicians were and how they came to join the film music industry. On the basis of a fascinating set of first-hand accounts from the musicians themselves, he reveals how the day-to-day circumstances of technology and finance shaped both the songs and the careers of their creator and performers. Booth also unfolds the technological, cultural, and industrial developments that led to the enormous studio orchestras of the 1960s-90s as well as the factors which ultimately led to their demise in contemporary India. Featuring an extensive companion website with video interviews with the musicians themselves, Behind the Curtain is a powerful, ground-level view of this globally important music industry.

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