The heart of India pulsates through its music. Enriched by a history that spans millennia and a diversity that encompasses hundreds of cultures, Indian music is a melodious testament to the country’s vibrant heritage. This article will take you on a journey, mapping the rhythms and beats that dominate the Indian music scene, focusing on the most popular Indian songs that have left an indelible mark on listeners worldwide.
A. Brief about Indian Music and its Diversity
Indian music is a complex symphony of myriad styles, each lending a unique flavor to the ensemble. From the intricate ragas of classical music that are grounded in sacred texts, to the rhythmic folk tunes that narrate the stories of the soil, and the catchy melodies of Bollywood songs that encapsulate the cinematic tales – it’s a sonic journey that mirrors the country’s diversity. The music is so inherently interwoven with the fabric of the nation that it provides a lens to understand the variegated cultural, regional, and spiritual landscapes of India.
B. Understanding the Significance of Indian Music in the Global Music Industry
The global music industry has been greatly influenced by the resonance of Indian music. With globalization and the emergence of digital platforms, Indian music has transcended borders and cultures. It’s not just in the form of chart-topping numbers in the global music scene, but also through the subtle infusion of Indian rhythms and instruments in Western music. Whether it’s the sitar in The Beatles’ tracks or the Punjabi beats in Jay-Z’s rap, the flavor of Indian music is widely savored.
Moreover, the popularity of Indian music on international platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube is a testament to its global appeal. Artists like A.R. Rahman, Ravi Shankar, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, and bands like Indian Ocean, have made significant contributions to bringing Indian music to the global forefront. Their works not only exemplify the rich tapestry of Indian music but also highlight the universal language of melodies and rhythms that speaks to hearts across geographical boundaries.
This introduction sets the stage for a deeper dive into the realm of Indian music. Join us as we explore the most popular Indian songs, understand the factors influencing their popularity, and address common queries related to this vibrant musical culture. From classical maestros to Bollywood superstars, traditional folk to trendy pop, we bring to you the melodies and beats that pulse in the heart of India. Stay tuned!
II. The Broad Categories of Indian Music
Indian music comprises an assortment of genres, each echoing a unique tale of culture, spirituality, or human emotions. The myriad forms of Indian music can be broadly classified into a few categories, which we will explore in this section.
A. Classical Music
The roots of Indian music lie in its classical traditions. The music, guided by a profound set of rules, is characterized by its complex melodies and rhythms, known as ragas and talas, respectively.
1. Hindustani Classical Music
Originating from North India, Hindustani music is deeply influenced by ancient musical traditions of the Vedic period and later by the musical legacy of the Mughals. This genre is marked by the heavy use of instruments like the sitar, sarod, and tabla. Noteworthy contributors include maestros such as Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.
2. Carnatic Classical Music
Carnatic music, primarily found in South India, retains the age-old traditions of classical Indian music in its purest form. The compositions in this genre are typically devotional and exhibit intricate melodic structures. The veena, mridangam, and violin are commonly used in Carnatic performances. Icons of Carnatic music include M.S. Subbulakshmi, Lalgudi Jayaraman, and T.M. Krishna.
B. Folk Music
Folk music is the music of the people, narrating tales of everyday life, local legends, or seasonal festivities. The rustic charm of Indian folk music varies from region to region, mirroring the vast cultural diversity of the country. Famous folk traditions include Rajasthani Ghoomar, Punjabi Bhangra, and Baul songs from Bengal.
C. Bollywood Music
No discourse on Indian music would be complete without mentioning Bollywood, the Indian film industry known for its eclectic music. Bollywood songs, also known as ‘filmi’ music, span various genres and often form the backdrop of elaborate dance sequences. From the soulful melodies of the golden era to the peppy beats of modern times, Bollywood music is an integral part of Indian popular culture.
Indi-pop emerged in the 90s as a blend of Indian folk, classical, and Bollywood music with contemporary Western pop. It allowed independent artists to move away from film music and experiment with various styles. Famous Indi-pop artists include Daler Mehndi, Alisha Chinai, and Euphoria.
E. Regional Music Genres
From Bhojpuri to Bengali, Marathi to Malayalam, each region in India has its own unique style of music, deeply rooted in local language and culture. The diverse regional music adds to the vibrant colors of the Indian music palette.
F. Fusion Music
Fusion music has gained significant popularity in recent years. It’s a genre that blends Indian and Western music to create innovative sounds. The fusion style is often characterized by the combination of Indian classical or folk music with elements of jazz, rock, or electronic music. Notable fusion bands include Indian Ocean and Shakti.
III. An Overview of the Most Popular Indian Music Genres
In a country as diverse as India, the popularity of a music genre is often region-specific and driven by factors like cultural roots, language, and contemporary trends. Nevertheless, certain genres manage to transcend these boundaries and capture the imagination of a wider audience.
A. Description and Unique Aspects of Each Genre
Each Indian music genre brings a distinct flavour to the table.
- Classical Music is marked by its depth and spiritual undertones. Although less mainstream, it commands a dedicated fanbase. It is appreciated by listeners seeking meditative and soulful experiences.
- Folk Music resonates with the local populace for its rustic charm and cultural significance. Folk tunes are often rehashed in popular music, lending them a wider appeal.
- Bollywood Music is undoubtedly the most popular genre. From soulful ballads to dance anthems, its variety and mainstream appeal make it a hit among all age groups.
- Indi-pop had its golden period in the ’90s and early 2000s. Today, independent artists are reviving the genre by infusing it with contemporary sounds.
- Regional Music holds a special place in the hearts of locals. With the rise of regional cinema and digital platforms, it’s gaining recognition on a national scale.
- Fusion Music is a favorite among the urban audience. It breaks traditional barriers, offering a refreshing blend of Eastern and Western sounds.
B. How Popularity is Determined: Popularity Measures such as Downloads, Radio Plays, and Sales
The popularity of a song or genre is gauged by several factors including number of downloads, radio plays, streams on music platforms, YouTube views, and sales of records. Additionally, a song’s presence in popular culture – like in dance performances, public functions, and as covers by independent artists – also points to its popularity. Bollywood music typically tops these metrics, followed by regional music and fusion music.
The Most Popular Indian Songs Of All Time – List
- “Mere Sapno Ki Rani” by Kishore Kumar
- “Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein” by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar
- “Tere Bina Zindagi Se” by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar
- “Jai Ho” by A.R. Rahman
- “Chaiyya Chaiyya” by Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi
- “Ek Do Teen” by Alka Yagnik
- “Kajra Re” by Alisha Chinai, Shankar Mahadevan, and Javed Ali
- “Tum Hi Ho” by Arijit Singh
- “Mitwa” by Shankar Mahadevan, Caralisa Monteiro, and Shafqat Amanat Ali
- “Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko” by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi.
Understanding The Criteria and Methodology
The criteria for selecting the songs on this list were based on their popularity, cultural importance, and impact on the music industry. The methodology involved researching various sources, including music charts, critics’ reviews, and fan polls. The final list was compiled after careful consideration of these factors.
Number 12: A Classic Bollywood Song
At number 12 on our list is “Mere Sapno Ki Rani,” a classic Bollywood song from the 1969 film “Aradhana.” The song, composed by S.D. Burman and sung by Kishore Kumar, has become a timeless classic and is still popular among music lovers. Its catchy tune and romantic lyrics have made it a popular choice for wedding dances and karaoke nights.
Number 11: A Tribute To The Martyrs
“Sandese Aate Hai” is a patriotic song from the 1997 war film “Border.” Sung by Sonu Nigam and Roop Kumar Rathod, the song pays tribute to the Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The emotional lyrics and soulful music have made it a popular choice for Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations.
Number 10: A Wedding Song You Cannot Miss
“Bole Chudiyan” is a popular wedding song from the 2001 film “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.” The song, composed by Jatin-Lalit and sung by Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Sonu Nigam, Kavita Krishnamurthy, and Amit Kumar, is a perfect blend of traditional and modern music. Its upbeat tempo and catchy lyrics make it a must-play at Indian weddings.
Number 9: A Song That Defines Love
“Tum Hi Ho” is a romantic song from the 2013 film “Aashiqui 2.” Composed by Mithoon and sung by Arijit Singh, the song has become a modern-day classic and is still popular among music lovers. Its soulful music and heartfelt lyrics have made it a favorite among couples in love.
Number 8: An Uplifting Song For All Ages
“Chaiyya Chaiyya” is a peppy song from the 1998 film “Dil Se.” Sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi, the song features a unique blend of Indian and Western music and has become a cult classic. Its catchy tune and energetic dance moves have made it a popular choice for parties and dance performances.
Number 7: A Peppy Song For The Youth
“Kala Chashma” is a party anthem from the 2016 film “Baar Baar Dekho.” Sung by Amar Arshi, Badshah, and Neha Kakkar, the song features a fusion of Punjabi and Western beats and has become a favorite among the youth. Its catchy tune and upbeat tempo make it an ideal choice for clubbing and partying.
Number 6: A Soulful Song By A Legend
“Lag Ja Gale” is a romantic song from the 1964 film “Woh Kaun Thi?” Sung by Lata Mangeshkar, the song features hauntingly beautiful music and lyrics that have stood the test of time. Its soulful melody and poignant lyrics have made it a favorite among music lovers of all ages.
Number 5: A Patriotic Song That Stirs The Heart
“Maa Tujhe Salaam” is a patriotic song by A.R. Rahman that was released in 1997. The song, which features a blend of Indian and Western music, has become a symbol of national pride and unity. Its powerful lyrics and inspiring music have made it a popular choice for Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations.
Number 4: A Song That Celebrates Life
“Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli” is a philosophical song from the 1971 film “Anand.” Sung by Manna Dey, the song features deep and thought-provoking lyrics that celebrate the beauty and complexity of life. Its timeless message and poignant music have made it a favorite among music lovers of all generations.
Number 3: A Song That Touches The Soul=
“Tere Bina” is a soulful song from the 2006 film “Guru.” Composed by A.R. Rahman and sung by A.R. Rahman and Chinmayi, the song features beautiful music and lyrics that touch the soul. Its haunting melody and heartfelt lyrics have made it a favorite among music lovers.
Number 2: A Song That Echoes Through Generations
“Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein” is a romantic song from the 1976 film “Kabhi Kabhie.” Sung by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar, the song features beautiful music and lyrics that have become an integral part of Indian culture. Its timeless appeal and romantic message have made it a favorite among music lovers of all generations.
IV. The Unmissable Indian Music Icons
India has been a fertile ground for music maestros who have shaped the landscape of Indian music. Let’s pay homage to some of these stalwarts whose melodies have stood the test of time and transcended boundaries.
A. List of Prominent Artists and Composers Across Genres
- Lata Mangeshkar – The Nightingale of Bollywood, her melodious voice has graced thousands of Hindi songs spanning over seven decades.
- Ravi Shankar – The Sitar maestro who put Indian classical music on the world map with his enthralling performances.
- A.R. Rahman – The ‘Mozart of Madras’, his music is a melodious blend of Indian classical, electronic, and world music. He is a global icon, having won two Academy Awards for his work in Slumdog Millionaire.
- Kishore Kumar – One of the most versatile voices in Indian cinema, he has left an indelible mark with his soulful renditions.
- M.S. Subbulakshmi – Carnatic music’s crowning jewel, she was the first musician to receive the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award.
- Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Renowned for his Qawwali and Sufi songs, his powerful vocals have influenced a generation of musicians.
- Zakir Hussain – The tabla virtuoso is celebrated globally for his purist performances as well as fusion collaborations.
- Shreya Ghoshal – With her soulful voice, she has sung in multiple languages, earning a secure place in the hearts of the Indian audience.
- Badshah – Known for his catchy tunes and rap lyrics, he has redefined the landscape of contemporary Indian pop music.
B. Brief About Their Contributions
Each of these artists has made significant contributions to Indian music.
Lata Mangeshkar’s enchanting voice, Ravi Shankar’s sitar compositions, and A.R. Rahman’s eclectic blend of East and West have left an indelible impact on the global music stage. M.S. Subbulakshmi brought Carnatic music to the limelight, while Kishore Kumar’s versatility made him an icon of Hindi cinema music. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan enriched the Indian music scene with his soulful Qawwali and Sufi songs, whereas Zakir Hussain, Shreya Ghoshal, and Badshah have made remarkable contributions to classical and contemporary Indian music.
V. The Hall of Fame: List of the Most Popular Indian Songs
Now that we’ve understood the various genres of Indian music and met the maestros, let’s dive into the world of songs that have shaped the soundscape of Indian music. Here’s a carefully curated list of some of the most popular Indian songs across genres and times:
- “Raga Bhairavi” by Ravi Shankar – This raga is a classic example of the maestro’s prowess with the sitar.
- “Bhaja Govindam” by M.S. Subbulakshmi – This spiritual hymn in praise of Lord Vishnu showcases her divine voice.
- “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar” by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – A traditional Sufi song that has been covered by many artists but Nusrat’s rendition remains the most popular.
- “Kesariya Balam” by Padma Shri Allah Jilai Bai – This Rajasthani folk song has been immortalized by her soulful rendition.
- “Tum Hi Ho” from Aashiqui 2, sung by Arijit Singh – A modern romantic ballad that ruled the charts for a long time.
- “Mera Joota Hai Japani” from Shree 420, sung by Mukesh – An iconic song that represents the golden era of Hindi cinema.
- “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire, composed by A.R. Rahman – An Academy Award-winning song that put Indian film music on the global map.
- “Roop Tera Mastana” from Aradhana, sung by Kishore Kumar – A classic from the 70s that showcased the charismatic voice of Kishore Kumar.
- “Made In India” by Alisha Chinai – A 90s pop anthem that catapulted Alisha to national fame.
- “Tunak Tunak Tun” by Daler Mehndi – This Punjabi pop song is internationally recognized for its upbeat music and catchy lyrics.
- “Amma Mazhakkarinu” from Madambi (Malayalam), sung by M. G. Sreekumar – A popular song showcasing the richness of regional cinema music.
- “Aalaporan Thamizhan” from Mersal (Tamil), composed by A.R. Rahman – A modern Tamil song that celebrates Tamil culture.
- “Bandeh” by Indian Ocean – This fusion song from the film Black Friday blends folk music with rock elements.
- “Breathless” by Shankar Mahadevan – An impressive fusion track where the entire song is seemingly sung in one breath.
VI. Frequently Asked Questions about Popular Indian Music
To further deepen our understanding of popular Indian music, we will now address some commonly asked questions. This section will help clarify any lingering doubts and provide more detailed insights into this fascinating world.
A. Why is Bollywood Music so Popular?
Bollywood music is popular primarily because it is an integral part of Indian cinema, one of the main sources of entertainment in India. The songs often narrate the plot, express emotions, or are used in dance sequences, making them highly memorable. Additionally, they encompass a wide range of genres, from classical to pop, catering to the diverse musical tastes of the audience.
B. What Makes a Song Popular?
A song’s popularity can be influenced by many factors. These include the melody and lyrics, the artists involved, its promotion, and its connection to a popular movie or event. Moreover, the song’s relevance to the listener’s personal experiences or emotions can also contribute to its popularity.
C. How Has the Popularity of Indian Music Changed Over Time?
The popularity of Indian music has evolved significantly over time. Traditional genres like classical and folk music were more popular in the past. With the advent of the film industry, filmi music gained widespread popularity. The late 20th century saw the rise of Indi-pop, and recent years have witnessed an increase in fusion music and independent artists. The advent of digital platforms has also democratized music distribution, allowing regional and indie music to gain wider recognition.
D. How Can I Explore More Popular Indian Music?
You can explore more popular Indian music by tuning into radio stations, subscribing to music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, or Indian platforms like Gaana and JioSaavn. You can also follow the works of prominent artists, explore film soundtracks, or attend live music concerts and festivals. YouTube also houses numerous music channels that cater to various Indian music genres.
E. Are there any Popular Indian Music Festivals?
Yes, there are several music festivals in India that celebrate its rich musical heritage. Some of the popular ones include the Dover Lane Music Festival (Kolkata) for classical music, the NH7 Weekender (Pune, Bangalore, Shillong) for contemporary and indie music, the Sufi Music Festival (Delhi) for Sufi and mystic music, and the Sunburn Festival (Goa) for electronic dance music.
VII. Conclusion: The Melodious Journey of Indian Music
The popularity of Indian music can be attributed to its myriad forms that capture the diversity of the country’s cultural, linguistic, and geographical landscapes. Its richness lies in its ability to seamlessly blend the traditional and the contemporary, creating an evolving soundscape that continues to enthrall listeners worldwide.
From the soul-stirring melodies of classical music to the rustic charm of folk tunes, the immersive narratives of Bollywood music to the vibrancy of Indi-pop, the localized appeal of regional music to the experimental blend of fusion – each genre holds a unique place in the heart of Indian music.
The popularity of a song is not just a measure of its reach but also a testament to its ability to touch hearts and stir emotions. The list of popular songs we explored offers a glimpse of this beautiful journey through various eras, genres, and moods.
Artists, with their immense talent and passion, have left indelible marks on this journey, pushing boundaries, experimenting with styles, and in the process, creating melodies that transcend time.
Indian music, in its entirety, is not just a mode of entertainment but a vibrant expression of India’s soul, narrating tales of its past, reflecting the realities of the present, and echoing aspirations for the future.
As we continue to explore and appreciate the diversity and richness of Indian music, we become a part of its ongoing journey – a symphony that celebrates unity in diversity, a melody that resonates with a billion hearts.
The essence of popular Indian music is best encapsulated by the words of the late maestro Ravi Shankar: “The highest aim of our music is to reveal the essence of the universe it reflects, and the ragas are among the means by which this essence can be apprehended. Thus, through music, one can reach God”.