Indipop: producing global sounds and local meanings in Bombay

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Kvetko, Peter James

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Bombay is a city of ambition, founded upon an island created by human labor and home to vast disparities and contradictions. For the past sixty years, India’s popular music industry has been dominated by film songs from Bombay. Recently, a new category of national popular music, Indipop, has emerged in tandem with economic liberalization, the rise of satellite television, and the growing significance of the global Indian diaspora. However, Indipop has struggled to achieve widespread success and remains largely a product of urban, middle and upper class experience. With roots in the cosmopolitan, westward-looking culture of Bombay’s English-educated middle classes, Indipop music cannot merely be dismissed as an example of western cultural imperialism in India. Rather, the sound of Indipop evokes a practice of individualized consumption and international consciousness that, although connected to global capitalism, is thoroughly tied to the unique histories and experiences of professional musicians and music marketers in Bombay. Through ethnographic and textual analysis, this dissertation provides a social history of Indipop in Bombay and a study of the dynamic and contested manner in which artists and promoters construct a meaning for this new genre. Finally, the struggles of these individuals to connect with wider domestic and international markets parallels the anxiety felt by many of the country’s urban elites struggling to understand their role in contemporary Indian society.