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Parents' musical tastes rub off, but selectively. Mozart, M S Subbulakshmi, old film songs, ABBA and the Beatles are all part of a musical heritage they accept
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Ten students, and what they're listening to

TV, siblings and parents influence music purchases. And it looks like at least some young people have old tunes playing in their heads 


An Indian yuppie favourite: Bob DylanI've done a quirky, impressionistic survey for The Music Magazine. I spoke to ten students between the ages of 17 and 23 to get an idea of what music young people in Bangalore are buying. My survey was done when the city's colleges had closed for the summer holidays. Music stores will tell you that sales, slack during the exam months, pick up once the holiday season begins. All students who answered my questions -- I did not carry a written questionnaire -- had studied in English-medium schools and colleges, and came from environments that gave them access to a lot of Western popular music. They mostly represent the upper middle class, and come from families that dine out, own televison and music systems, and have a collection of music.

Some of the students I spoke to had postponed their music purchases during the exam season in deference to their parents' wishes, and were looking forward to acquiring tapes of their favourite musicians. Their purchases are influenced by what they see on TV, like promos for films, and music videos on MTV and Channel (V). They are also influenced by what their siblings listen to.

Parents' musical tastes rub off, but selectively. Mozart, M S Subbulakshmi, old film songs, ABBA and the Beatles are all part of a musical heritage they accept. Prithvi Raj, an MBA student, says he picks up a lot of his music from television and radio (he listens to World Space). He also picks up music he hears in restaurants and pubs. His taste ranges from Pink Floyd to Bob Marley. 'Classic' shows on the TV music channels offer him a range of old artistes to choose from.

Priyadarshini says she remembers her dad tucking her and her brother into bed while singing Blowin' in the Wind as a lullaby. Needless to say, Dylan figures among her all-time favourites. Many of the tapes she listened to she got from her uncle, and more recently TV is playing a big role in her selection. But her favourites even among recent releases are songs she feels she has heard somewhere before. In other words, she goes for familiar tunes and sounds rather than experimental ones. The lyrics play an important role in her musical experience. She enjoys watching videos, and says that's something "quite separate" from the song. Interestingly, she says watching TV and listening to music are different experiences, and she doesn't usually link them.

Kim also listens to music from her childhood. Happy Sunday afternoons in Bombay with the house filled with the smells of her mother's baking and the sounds of Louie Armstrong's saxophone have kept her smiling to the rhythms of jazz. She also listens to a lot of Gospel music, which ranges from pop versions of psalms to Jewish beats to some haunting Celtic numbers. She picks up tapes from evangelical liturgical shops. Friends pass music on to her and Seal and Talvin Singh rub shoulders on her shelf.

Khiyanur, who's currently preparing to appear for his eight grade music exams for the Trinity School of Music, says that learning classical music has helped him acquire an ear for all kinds of music. In his collection he has assorted songs, Westlife, Beethoven, Metallica and some trance albums. He says before MTV he'd got his exposure to diverse styles from shows on Doordarshan. "Videos make the music sound better," he says.

Tanuja picks up her music from what she sees on TV as well as what she hears when she's out. Friends have often recommended songs and tapes that she now likes. While her mother's bhajans may not have rubbed off on her, a lot of her father's Western classical music has. Mozart she finds "soothing". She says she listens to music "in tune" with her mood and she switches her choice of music as her moods change.

Madhu, who enjoys singing, says she likes listening to the variation of tone and depth in the voices of Tracy Chapman and Annie Lennox. She listens to Russian choirs and has the latest "masala mix" tapes that she enjoys swinging to. She says she hasn't spent money on these tapes; she has got them as gifts from friends.

Avanti, who's just finished a wildlife course, listens to remixes of old Hindi tunes and enjoys her sister's hip hop and techno tapes as well. She says that initially she was influenced by her mother's taste for rock and Gita Dutt. Her grandma, who loves Gita Dutt too, was so fond of Quit playing games with my heart that she insisted on memorising the words and singing along.

Avanti feels that such openness has had an impact on her, for she can listen to "almost any kind of music". As a child, she used to listen to her uncle's tapes, which had a lot of Tracy Chapman and Bob Marley.

As the students interviewed belong within a minority of those who have access to Western music, which is about 5 per cent of the total music-buying population of India, this random survey gives no idea of what the other 95 per cent are listening to.

But some conclusions, tentative and random again: young people are open and try to find new tunes that will enrich their own musical experience. The old isn't getting totally displaced by the new. At least some young people have old melodies playing in their heads.

Gayatri Kumaraswamy

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