Monday, 18 January 2010

Hits of Rahul Dev Burman (The Gramophone Company of India 1973)

During the 1970s, R.D. Burman was the Bollywood dream factory's most popular composer of film songs. His music drew heavily on Western pop styles and so, on this compilation, we're treated to a healthy dose of fuzz guitars and echo chamber effects to complement the Bollywood strings and tablas. Here is the first song on the album, the classic 'Dum Maro Dum', from the 1971 movie 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna':

If you watched the video, then it should come as no suprise that the title translates to something like 'Puff, take a puff'. One of the reasons I find old records so endlessly fascinating is that they often offer us a window through which we can get a novel view of the world. This fabulous piece of film seems to be saying something about the invasion of India by disaffected Western kids in search of 'authenticity', enlightenment, and of course great drugs. This invasion started only twenty years after India was given independence from British colonial rule, and I think its worth pointing out here that much of Britain's colonial wealth and power was made during the 19th Century through its monopoly over the trade in opium.

In the 18th Century the colonial government of India expropriated land and used some of the displaced population as labour power to work the poppy plantations, increasing the production of opium for export to the lucrative Chinese market. In this way, the British government and the East India Trading Company established and maintained an opium monopoly that helped prepare the ground for capitalism in Asia by creating massive consumer markets. The trade generated enormous cash flows, while at the same time helping to establish trade routes, reorder class structures, change productive practices and create new political and economic structures throughout Asia (Fitzgerald, 2005). Even at this early stage opium was a controversial commodity subject to politicization, frequently modulating between official monopoly and contraband commodity (Fitzgerald, 2005). By the 1830's, the Chinese government came to realize it was trading away its wealth to pay for the population's growing love of the pipe; subsequent attempts to prohibit the trade led to the Opium Wars of 1839 and 1856 (Chambliss, 1977; Davenport-Hines, 2000). Marx pointed out the hypocrisy and ruthless profiteering of the British Government in correspondence for the New York Tribune. While highlighting the inflated profits resulting from the 'contraband character' of the trade, Marx also predicted the causes of the decline in British involvement in the opium trade:

"...the Indian finances of the British Government have, in fact, been made to depend not only on the opium trade with China, but on the contraband character of that trade. Were the Chinese Government to legalize the opium trade simultaneously with tolerating the cultivation of the poppy in China, the Anglo-Indian exchequer would experience a serious catastrophe”(Marx, 1858).

After 1859, the Chinese government did indeed legalize opium enabling them to levy a tax, while at the same time allowing farmers to cultivate their own poppies (Chambliss, 1977). This did not however, cause the catastrophe Marx envisaged, for the money capital generated during the opium boom flowed back to England and was used to fuel the growth of industrial capital, which by the mid 19th Century had already emerged, “...dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt” (Marx, 1990: 926).

Chambliss, W.J. (1977) “Markets, Profits, Labour and Smack” Contemporary Crises 1: 53-76
Davenport-Hines, R. (2001) The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics 1500 – 2000 London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Fitzgerald, J. (2005) “Illegal Drug Markets in Transitional Countries” Addiction Research and Theory 13 (6): 563-577
Marx, K. (1990) Capital Volume I London: Penguin
Marx, K. (1858) “Monopoly or Trade” in New York Tribune

Regardless of all that, I hope you enjoy these groovy sounds.


01 Dum Maro Dum
02 I Love You
03 Na Koi Umang Kai
04 Rampur Ka Bassi Hoon
05 Aaj To Meri Hansi Udai
06 Kahin Karti Hogi
07 Duniya Mein
08 Biti Na Bitai Raina
09 Deko Re Hua
10 Bangle Ke Peechhe
11 Jeena To Hai
12 Piya Tu Ab To Aja

Get it HERE.

There's lots more great R.D. Burman stuff to be found at Music from the Third Floor, a great blog that's well worth a look.


Anonymous said...

Interesting historical background. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

not aimed at this album but thanks for all our hard work. Froma 61 year old music freak.

tonight at noon said...

could you repost this... the mediafire link is not working. i second the person before me... this is some amazing work you put into the site... i appreciate it very much. these records are absolute classics.

Mr Tear said...

Right, the link should work now. Hope you enjoy this lovely music and, shucks, thanks for the lovely comments...

RockinToes said...

Great post!!

Asli Jat said...

Thanks so much for this rare album, looks
really good ...

Are you a fan of Bollywood then ?

Sonam said...

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