Friday, March 12, 2010

Music in India and Plagiarism

Today, What is considered to be good music? One just has to listen to a few creations that Coke Studio churns out every season to see that Pakistan is going down a new road. One where new sound, good music, collaboration, innovation and creativity is encouraged. This is encouraging the audience to change their listening habits, which leaves them asking for and wanting more new sound and innovation in the music that Pakistan is creating every year. New artists. "underground" talented young musicians are sprouting up every year. Albeit I dont like all of them, but thats just me, and at least we are standing witness to a creative growth spurt happening in Pakistan.

Just to the South there's India which is home to many different music industries. The sounds are as different as are its all pervading figureheads. However, one industry rises above the rest in its appeal to the rest of the world: and that is Bollywood. We'd have to admit however creatively its only a few that dominate much of the music industry in Bollywood, giving rise to the world renowned and now, Oscar Winner, A. R. Rahman and his other peers with the likes of Ismail Darbar, Shankar-Jaikishan, Illayaraja, Pritam, and well, many others.

Although I would love to discuss the merits fo some of the so-called music "directors" calling themselves such, and whenther or not I like their music, because that is entirely personal choice, I will be talking about something that has become more rampant that years of the past in Bollywood, and that something, my friend, is plagiarism.

Anyone who has been to any University of some sort, at least here in North America, knows what the word means. Plagiarism according to the Oxford International Dictionary is "The action or practice of plagiarizing; the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one's own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another"

So, then why is it that Bollywood routinely recognizes and rewards music directors who not only plagiarize music, but also admit to the fact that they do so openly?

There are numerous websites that have gone to the great pains of documenting and comparing such acts of plagiarism of music directors from Bollywood. One such website: . Pritam for instance has over 50 such cases of purported plagiarism, and yet he is one of the most decorated and acknowledged directors currently dominating Bollywood. he appears on almost all televised singing competitions as a judge, including those which feature and cater to kids. So, what are we teaching the next generation of singers, and musicians? That, plagiarizing, is not only okay, but if you have a great ear to pick out an awesome tune from Hong Kong, and think that it will break box office records, and your completely plagiarized, background score and music actually does break box office records, not only will you be recognized, acclaimed, accoladed but you will probably also manage to win a few of them awards.

So, whats the end result? Albeit, while I think the demise of good Indian music is a long ways off, I do think rewarding such behaviour only encourages such behaviour, and fails to encourage good, creative, "underground" musicians to do well in an industry which should be encouraging creativity. God knows South Asia doesnt have any dearth in rhythm and melody, so barring the few times when we would like to fuse some western elements and hence draw and be inspired by the basic principles instead of ripping someone else off entirely, why do we need to look elsewhere?!

1 comment:

  1. methinks that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. plagiarism in some form or the other has gone on for centuries and happens in the west and in Bollywood.

    your concern about the need to discourage wrong behavior is valid; at the same time, there is more to the music scene in India than Bollywood though it is probable from distant shores like in Toronto, that is all you are exposed to.

    Cheers. BF