India is a fertile ground for growth in the creative industries, particularly music education, according to a Southern Cross University researcher.
Dr David Cashman, an adjunct senior lecturer with the University’s School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS), is researching the live music scene in India as part of the India Rocks! Project. This research, funded by SASS, focuses on performance and education and is an ethnographic project.
“Music is a big part of the Indian culture. Indian classical music has been around for millennia and the music of Bollywood is huge. Live popular music is currently somewhat of a niche, but when you’re talking about a niche in a country of 1.2 billion, you still end up with large audiences,” Dr Cashman said.
“Jazz had a heyday in Bombay and Calcutta in the 1920s and 1930s, while cover bands were popular in hotels and night clubs during the 1960s. Indian music has also influenced western music, in particular Indian classical music had an influence on psychedelic rock. Of course, popular music has had a huge influence on Bollywood film music and commercial recorded Indian pop.
“While the live music scene has traditionally revolved around Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata, Delhi is now beginning to develop its own unique live music scene. From the traditional venues such as blueFROG and the Hard Rock Café, to smaller independent venues in Haas Khaz and South Delhi and venues opening in Gurgaon, Delhi seems to be developing its own live music identity.
“Festivals are incredibly important for Indian popular music, more so than in Australia. The genres are more mutable due to the lesser importance of traditional models of music sales. I’ve also noticed that there are few local instrument manufacturers and the cost of imported instruments is high meaning they are out of the reach of many Indians, which confines music making mostly to the expanding middle and upper classes.
“The other side of the research is music education. Essentially, there are three institutions that offer popular music courses, which is incredibly small when you consider the size of India. This is heightened by reports that the growth of creative industries in India are expected to skyrocket.”
The purpose of the India Rocks! Project is significant for several reasons, according to Dr Cashman.
“Firstly, India is a massive market, but it is under-represented on the world music stage,” he said.
“For many years Bollywood music has been dominant, but recently this has started to change. For pragmatic reasons, the global music industry will benefit from a greater knowledge of this enormous market.
“Secondly, many of the models of popular music studies are necessarily western-centric, based around how music operates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. A few studies have investigated non-western popular music, but investigations into India’s live music have been limited.
“Thirdly, popular music education is emerging in India. This research is observing the birth of an industry with a few western education partners getting involved combined with a few Indian institutes. The global music education industry will benefit from understanding how tertiary music education may work in India and of the potential role of international institutions.”
Last month Dr Cashman travelled to the inaugural Celestefest, a music festival held at Mussoorie, six hours north of Delhi in the foothills of the Himalayas. The festival’s line-up featured all Delhi bands and DJs.