German sociologist and scholar of the 20th century named Theodore W. Adorno once said, “People know what they want because they know what other people want”. This one sentence is able to explain the whole psyche of producers and consumers throughout the world. This can be applied not only to the materialist aspects of society but can be witnessed in popular culture as well. Adorno tried to explain how things produced is not only driven by market demands but is also influenced by the common consciousness shared amongst all for those desires, either in the fields of popular music, movies or literature.
Adorno’s saying is still applicable (rather, strongly) almost everywhere in the world. This is visible today in variety of changes occurring within the music industries and popular culture in general. John Lennon asking us to imagine a world characteristic of social and economic equality and justice in the 1970s is something which has almost vanished from this generation’s minds. Not only are they not curious to search for meaningful lyrics and music but they have taken a leap in the formation of a mentality of only acquiring a taste for music which can hardly be put in the category of music. One is not disregarding music which is characteristic of beats and has a ‘partying’ element within it. But just acknowledging that as music is when we are entering the ‘danger zone’. I am calling this as a danger zone because this kind of taste brings out a serious problem within our culture which is getting embedded greatly.
Indian culture of music was never dominated by artists like Honey Singh in the 80s and the 90s. That was the time when presence of vibrant folk cultures with their folk music as well as Hindustani and Carnatic styles of music could be heard creating essence within the Bollywood. If one wants, one can find problems within all styles of music, such as the well defined gender roles in raagas but this can be considered as highly subjective (like this article). But the aim here is to look at how western notions of music are penetrating in our culture with the rise of globalisation. This penetration should not be condemned as intermixing of different cultures should be appreciated but domination of one on the other can take us to another “danger zone”.
The young today is highly getting attracted to “angrezi” music, great attraction and demands for music in genres of hip-hop, pop, rap and other independent music bands have taken a rise. Not that there is any issue with liking western music but a serious drop in the taste of music, especially meaningful lyrics not being appreciated should be seen as an important issue. After all, globalisation does not only get diverse markets and contents global, but makes ideas also travel. And these influential ideas impact us massively. Indian artists’ making abusive rap songs is a transparent example of this.
While critically looking at this issue one needs to realise that the producers of such contents cannot be just the ones to be blamed. They are surrounded by constraints of the markets and consumers’ taste that partially play a role in what they are making. It is not denied that their own mentality exists within those productions but the demands for such kind of music or films also depict that somewhere the minds of the buyers needs to be analysed as well. Why is it that today we do not expect music which is inspired by Dylan or John Lennon? Why is it that rap songs that are released with great sense of misogyny and racist contents are accepted in great numbers? Does it not represent our thought process and our beliefs?
Bob Dylan’s one of the most famous songs rightly said “the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind”. Truly, when one looks around, if not answers, questions are and should surely be raised. I strongly believe that questions like these need to be asked so that we are able to critically analyse our own society’s elements. As this will lead us further to ask whether we are affecting our culture in the way we are developing our taste in music, after all, the kind of culture one generates, says a lot about its society and its people.
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