The music of India includes multiple varieties of folk, popular, pop, and classical music. India's classical music tradition, including Carnatic and Hindustani music, has a history spanning millennia and, developed over several eras, remains fundamental to the lives of Indians today as sources of religious inspiration, cultural expression and pure entertainment. India is made up of several dozen ethnic groups, speaking their own languages and dialects. Alongside distinctly subcontinental forms there are major influences from Persian, Arab and British music. Indian genres like filmi and bhangra have become popular throughout the United Kingdom, South and East Asia, and around the world.
Indian pop stars now sell records in many countries, while world music fans listen to the roots music of India's diverse nations. American soul, rock and hip hop have also made a large impact, primarily on Indian pop and filmi music.
Many languages are spoken in India, and there are film industries for each of the major languages (see Indian cinema). Film music is mostly used in commercial Indian cinema, which is mainly produced in the centers of Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. Indian movies are best-known for their music, and composers (music directors). Today's most popular music director, A.R. Rahman, got his start in Tamil films and then moved to Bollywood. Well-known music directors of the past include Naushad, R.D. Burman and Ilayaraaja.
Most Indian films are musicals. The actors generally do not sing, but lip-synch to songs sung by such accomplished playback singers as Yesudas,Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Alka Yagnik, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar,S.P. Balasubrahmaniam and Jayachandran.
Filmi songs are extremely popular; they are sold on tape and CD, played on the radio, and featured on television programs. They combine Indian classical music, with its sophisticated, melismatic vocals and traditional instruments, with catchy tunes and stylings from Western pop music. The novel experimentation (resulting in such mixes as 'Indian hip hop') has been received well in India and continues to grow in popularity.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, rock and roll fusions with Indian music were well-known throughout Europe and North America. Ali Akbar Khan's 1955 performance in the United States was perhaps the beginning of this trend, which was soon centered around Ravi Shankar.
In 1962, Shankar and Bud Shank, a jazz musician, released Improvisations and Theme From Pather Pachali and began fusing jazz with Indian traditions. Other jazz pioneers such as John Coltrane-who recorded a composition entitled 'India' during the November 1961 sessions for his album Live At The Village Vanguard (the track was not released until 1963 on Coltrane's album Impressions)-also embraced this fusion. George Harrison (of the Beatles) played the sitar, which he had learned from Shankar, on the song "Norwegian Wood" in 1965. Jazz innovator Miles Davis recorded and performed with musicians like Khalil Balakrishna, Bihari Sharma, and Badal Roy in his post-1968 electric ensembles. Other Western artists like the Grateful Dead, Incredible String Band, the Rolling Stones, the Move and Traffic soon incorporated Indian influences and instruments, and added Indian performers.
Guitarist (and former Miles Davis associate) John McLaughlin flirted with Indian music elements in his electric jazz-rock fusion group The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and pursued this with greater authenticity in the mid-1970s when he collaborated with L. Shankar, Zakir Hussain and others in the acoustic ensemble Shakti.
Though the Indian music craze soon died down among mainstream audiences, diehard fans and immigrants continued the fusion. In the late 1980s, Indian-British artists fused Indian and Western traditions to make the Asian Underground.
In the new millennium, American hip-hop has featured Indian Filmi and Bhangra. Mainstream hip-hop artists have sampled songs from Bollywood movies and have collaborated with Indian artists. Examples include Timbaland's "Indian Flute", Erick Sermon and Redman's "React", Slum Village's "Disco", and Truth Hurts' hit song "Addictive", which sampled a Lata Mangeshkar song. British-born Indian artist Panjabi MC also had a Bhangra hit in the U.S. with "Mundian To Bach Ke" which featured rapper Jay-Z.
The arrival of movies and pop music weakened folk music's popularity, but cheaply recordable music has made it easier to find and helped revive the traditions. Folk music (desi) has been influential on classical music, which is viewed as a higher art form. Instruments and styles have impacted classical ragas. It is also not uncommon for major writers, saints and poets to have large musical libraries and traditions to their name, often sung in thumri style.
The two main traditions of classical music have been Carnatic music, found predominantly in the peninsular regions and Hindustani music, found in the northern and central parts. While both traditions claim Vedic origin, history indicates that until c. 13th century, there was only one Indian music tradition. From them on, most of north India was under Islamic rule, and Hindustani music is the result of a fusion of Mughal, Arabic and Persian traditions with traditional Indian music. Carnatic music, on the other hand, traces much of its contemporary concert repertoire to a series of composers and musicologists in the 15th and 16th centuries including Govindacharya, Venkatamakhin, Purandaradasa, Tyagaraja and Muttusvami Dikshitar. For more, see Indian classical music, Hindustani music and Carnatic music.
A towering figure of Indian music was Rabindranath Tagore. Writing in Bengali, he created a library of over 2000 songs now known by Bengalis as rabindra sangeet whose form is primarily influenced by Hindustani classical thumri style. Many singers in West Bengal proudly base their entire careers on the singing of Tagore musical masterpieces.