IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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Travels of musical notes: Memories of Mozart and "Jay ho!"
Madhuja Mukherjee

Last modified: 2013-01-22


This paper discusses the composition “Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa” and the networks of memory and flow that are related to it. Created by the Indian com- poser-musician Salil Chowdhury for the film Chhaya (1961), this song entered the Indian popular domain to become an iconic composition that in a self-conscious way popularised Western-classical notes. While the uses of clarinets, strings and flutes have a longer history in Indian films, Chowdhury's music underscored its influences. In my understanding, the contemporary composition “Jay ho!” (from Slumdog millionaire, 2008), by the Academy Award winner musician-composer A.R. Rahman, rearranges Chowdhury's song on a different musical plane, which is then followed up in the song (and music video) of the Pussycat Dolls. The thrust and the hook of the Pussycat Dolls number seems to be that it has reworked the idea of “Bollywood” music for global listeners. This paper tries to study such displacements, journeys and questions of authorship, as well as the role of technology in reception and the function of the musician within this contested terrain. The primary questions that come up concern the problems of memory and forgetting of certain musical notes, and the origins and passages of these notes. Moreover, the processes through which certain musical patterns enter popular culture to lose their identity and become a part of something that may be totally different are crucial here.

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