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Indian music through the decades: 1960-69



In many ways, 1960 was a landmark year for Hindi film music, and the next few years only added to the charm. The old-time Indian music directors continued to churn out beauties, and some newer names began playing an increasing role.

Take 1960. Naushad had Mughal-e-Azam and Kohinoor. Shankar-Jaikishen had Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai and the award-winning Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi. S.D. Burman had Kala Bazar. Salil Chowdhury, who had already tasted success with the 1958 film Madhumati, had Usne Kaha Tha and Parakh, featuring Lata Mangeshkar’s magical ‘O Sajana’. He had been prolific in Bengali cinema too.

The early 1960s had other highlights. Ravi released the Mohammed Rafi number Chaudhvin Ka Chand, where Shakeel Badayuni penned the immortal title song. The composer proved his consistency through the decade, scaling heights with Waqt in 1966. Roshan came up with the trend-setting qawwali ‘Na Toh Karvaan Ki Talash Hai’ in Barsaat Ki Ek Raat. Kalyanji-Anandji had a hit in Chhalia. R.D. Burman made his debut with Chhota Nawab in 1961. Two years later, Laxmikant-Pyarelal arrived with Parasmani.

This was only the beginning of the 1960s. The rest of the period saw the emergence of lyricists Anand Bakshi, Indeevar and Gulshan Bawra. Bakshi went on to become one of India’s most admired and prolific versesmiths.

Among singers, Mahendra Kapoor and Suman Kalyanpur presented popular songs. Mangeshkar continued to be on top, and moved everyone with the Kavi Pradeep-penned non-film patriotic song ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo’, written after the 1962 Indo-China war. Rafi continued to be numero uno, but Kishore Kumar slowly emulated him in the popularity stakes before the turn of the decade.




There was more variety in Hindi film music. Besides the love ballads and sad tunes, we had qawwalis, ghazals, western numbers, patriotic anthems, fun songs, the works. R.D. Burman did classical numbers as smoothly as tunes inspired by the West. His rhythmic structures were path-breaking. Laxmikant-Pyarelal had a folk touch on many songs. Kalyanji-Anandji knew the general pulse.

Classical musicians played regularly in film songs. Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, Rais Khan and Kartick Kumar contributed with the sitar. Shivkumar Sharma popularised the santoor, and Hariprasad Chaurasia’s bansuri became a regular feature.

There was an increasing use of western instruments. String sections and percussion were prominent, as were saxophone and trumpet. The accordion, often used by Shankar-Jaikishen in Raj Kapoor songs in the 1950s, became increasingly popular, and players like Goody Seervai, Kersi Lord, Enoch Daniels and Sujit Mitra did amazing work. The guitar was used increasingly, especially by R.D. Burman, and in the Jaidev-composed Hum Dono, Lord played the glockenspiel, a keyed percussion instrument.

Outside Hindi film music, a lot was happening. In movies from the south, singers Ghantasala, P. Susheela, S. Janaki, P.B Sreenivas, K.J. Yesudas and T.M. Soundararajan blossomed. The Telugu film Rammudu Bheemmudu and its Tamil remake Enga Veettu Pillai were huge musical successes. The 1965 Malayalam movie Chemmeen had music by Salil Chowdhury, with Manna Dey singing ‘Maanasamaine Varoo’.

In Calcutta, a number of non-film Bengali albums were being released by S.D. Burman, Salil Chowdhury, Hemant Kumar, R.D. Burman, Manna Dey, Suchitra Mitra, Kanika Banerjee, and Shyamal Mitra. The city was in fact a melting pot of musical cultures.


RD Burman


Park Street boasted of venues like Trincas, Blue Fox and Mocambo, frequented by jazz musicians Louis Banks, Braz Gonsalves, Pam Crain, and Carlton Kitto, besides singers Usha Iyer (later Uthup) and a very young Biddu. Indian classical musicians like Ali Akbar Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Vilayat Khan and Nikhil Banerjee spent a lot of time there, and the Dover Lane festival attracted musicians from across India.


Indian music in 1960s

The 1960s was also the time when many Indians got exposed to international music, thanks to the radio and vinyl records. Albums by Jim Reeves, Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra did well, and almost everyone with a turntable had The Sound Of Music soundtrack. Jazz greats Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Dave Brubeck performed in India.


rock music


Hindustani classical music reached out to a newer audience. In erstwhile Bombay, Rang Bhavan, Shanmukhananda Hall, and Birla Matoshri had regular shows. Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, and tabla maestro Allarakha travelled abroad regularly, with Shankar getting a great response at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969.


Ravi Shankar


While HMV (later Saregama India) kept releasing both traditional Hindustani and Carnatic records, a series of new concepts was introduced. There was an increased following of instrumental music, and Shivkumar Sharma, Chaurasia and guitarist Brij Bhushan Kabra released the landmark album Call Of The Valley in 1967. Vocalists Pandit Jasraj, Kumar Gandharva and Kishori Amonkar rose up the ranks.


Indian music collaborations with International artists

Some collaborations with international artistes also took place. Ravi Shankar teamed up with violinist Yehudi Menuhin on West Meets East, and Allarakha did the album Rich a la Rakha with drummer Buddy Rich.

Western musicians like jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and Beatles guitarist George Harrison took great interest in Indian music, and rock bands Traffic and Moody Blues used the sitar. Bombay’s Zubin Mehta began his journey as a leading international conductor, drawing huge audiences whenever he brought western orchestras to India.

Closer home, Ajit Singh was a rage on the club circuit, singing English rock and pop songs. In another sphere, Marathi songs by Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Sudhir Phadke, Vamanrao Deshpande, Vasantrao Deshpande, Jitendra Abhisekhi, Arun Date and composers Hridaynath Mangeshkar and Yeshwant Deo were hugely followed.

The Carnatic world continued to remain traditional, and the Madras Music Season grew year after year. Balamuralikrishna joined the list of great vocalists mentioned in the first two parts of this series. Subbulakshmi reached out to various parts of India with the 1963 release of Venkatesha Suprabhatam, paving the way for many devotional records.




Needless to say, a lot happened in the 1960s. Yet, the masses tuned mainly into film songs, through Vividh Bharati and Radio Ceylon, where Binaca Geetmala and its presenter Ameen Sayani became household names.

In 1969, the hit songs on radio included ‘Mere Sapnon Ki Rani’ and ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ from Aradhana, ‘Woh Shaam Kucch Ajeeb Thi’ from Khamoshi and ‘Mere Naseeb Mein Ae Dost’ from Do Raaste. They were picturised on Rajesh Khanna and sung by Kishore Kumar. The combination bloomed in the first half of the following decade. More in the next part.

Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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