Although the literal definition of Bollywood refers to the Hindi-language spectacular films of Mumbai, it is also used to describe Indian cinema and the music that drives it. The word is a combination of Bombay (the prior name of Mumbai) and Hollywood. Bollywood music runs of the gamut of opera-like chronicles to pop music spectacles, and everything in between.
Bollywood music is essentially comprised of the songs and music that accompany the action in Bollywood movies. In general, this music is pre-recorded by playback singers and lip-synced by the actors in the film. Playback singers do not hide from the limelight, however. They receive major billing on cast lists and credits, and support their own fan bases. Music producers often remix film soundtracks to create new releases.
Bollywood music is an umbrella term for a myriad of musical types. Classical, North Indian classical, instrumental and orchestral works are typical for lavish and romantic films. There are ceremonial and marriage songs, oldies, patriotic music and meditation chants. There is Bollywood karaoke and dance mixes. Regional variations can be found as well, with Bengali, Gujarati, Bhangra, Malayam, Qawwali and Tamil artists represented.
Bollywood music performs a significant function in films. In an article for Time magazine, Richard Corliss describes it as "pop opera," saying that the extreme pathos, slapstick humor and romance of Bollywood scripts make music and dance inevitable and necessary to capture the high emotion. Bollywood music expresses passion, heartbreak, joy and violence, echoing a movie's narration like a Greek chorus.
Bollywood far surpasses its Hollywood namesake in terms of cinematic output, thus generating fertile ground for many singers, bands and orchestras to perform and record. Some of the top musical artists include Asha Bhosle, Alka Yagnik, Geeta Dutt, Talat Mahmood, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar and Udit Narayan. The two top Bollywood music legends are Mohammed Rafi and the prolific Lata Mangeshkar, who has been recording for Bollywood for 60 years.
Bollywood music's popularity has generated followings outside of India. Many cultures follow the latest singing stars and films, including the people of Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal and Russia. Hollywood is not immune to the temptations of Bollywood music and cinema, either, with recent years seeing the American release of "Chandni Chowk to China," not to mention the Bollywood-infused ending of the Oscar award-winning "Slumdog Millionaire."
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