Fusion music is a phenomenon very well-known to most Asians because it has always formed a part of the cultural heritage post-colonialism. One can start from post-partition subcontinent and the music that was being made in the film industries of both Pakistan and India. There appeared to be a connection to the colonial past with the use of instruments and tunes that were not essentially Indian but were very well-incorporated into local music. Singers like Geeta Dutt and composers like S.D. Burman made music that sometimes sounded almost like something out of an American musical film. The violin, for instance has blended into Eastern Classical music so smoothly that many a times compositions seem to be empty without the violin.
Though film culture was on the decline in Pakistan by the 1980’s, a new kind of fusion music emerged in the form of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, known as the king of qawwali singing. He collaborated with various Western artists such as Peter Gabriel and Pearl Jam’s singer Eddie Vedder. Taking a folk form of singing, he was able to amass an international audience by the new interpretation of music.
Around about the same time, the early 90’s another genre of music altogether came into being in Pakistan. This was called: sufi rock. Its main proponents were Junoon, possibly the biggest rock sensation from around the entire subcontinent, with their epic guitar riffs and the signature singing style of their frontman, Ali Azmat. The band made use of traditional folk and classical instruments with a mix of electric guitars and drums. One of the main traditional instruments usually included in most of their songs was the tabla.
Followed by this was the Coke Studio generation started in 2008, with the aim of promoting pop, rock, folk, and classical music on a single forum in the shape of lots of collaborations between singers and musicians of various genres creating new compositions accommodating the changing tastes of the masses. About 6 months back I came across the Middle East Coke Studio which actually featured collaborations between Western acts and Arab acts and it was definitely exciting to explore all the music that they are making.
Belonging to a culture, one often limits oneself to customs and traditions to that culture alone but when we outside us, our neighbouring cultures are always similar and that excites me a lot. Just like Coke Studio Middle East to the west of the subcontinent, there is fusion music being made in the east too. For that I would like to make a special mention of one of my favourite Korean dramas: Heartstrings. Possibly the best drama ever to be made after Shut Up! I think that will be part II of this article, so please wait to catch the rest!