Raga rock is rock or pop music with a heavy Indian influence, either in its construction, its timbre, or its use ofinstrumentation, such as the sitar and tabla. More recently, scholars have included British rock music from the 1960s and 1970s that utilizes South Asian musical materials and instruments and Western ideas of South Asia.

Raga rock is not normally considered a specific genre of music, but rather a general aspect of any rock significantly influenced by Indian classical music. Since Indian influences are primarily limited to 1960s rock, most raga rock is limited to that decade, although heavily Indian-derived sounds are found in some post-1960s rock.


  [hide*1 Development


[1]The Byrds at a "raga rock" press conference in March 1966.

Ragas are specific melodic modes used in classical music of South Asia. Thus, any rock songs with obvious Indian influences may be deemed "raga-rock" although the term is frequently used to refer to much more explicitly Indian musical outings. The advent of raga rock is often traced to the July 1965 release of "See My Friends", a Top 10 single for The Kinks in the UK, although The Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul", released the previous month, featured a sitar-like riff by guitarist Jeff Beck.[1][2] The Byrds' March 1966 single "Eight Miles High" and its B-side "Why" were also influential in originating the musical subgenre. Indeed, the term "raga rock" was coined by The Byrds' publicist in the press releases for the single and was first used in print by journalist Sally Kempton in her review of "Eight Miles High" for The Village Voice.[3][4] However, in his 1968 Pop Chronicles interview, Byrds member Roger McGuinn denied that "Eight Miles High" was in fact raga rock.[5] The Paul Butterfield Blues Band further elevated the concept of Indian influenced rock music with a 13 minute instrumental titled "East-West", which became the title track of their 1966 album, East-West.[6]

The Beatles' song "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", which first appeared on the band's 1965 album Rubber Soul, was the first Western pop song to actually incorporate the sitar (played by lead guitarist George Harrison).[2][7] Harrison's interest in Indian music, popularized the genre in the mid-1960s with songs such as "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" (Revolver, 1966),[8][9] "Within You Without You" (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)[10] and "The Inner Light" (released in 1968 as the B-side of the "Lady Madonna" single).[11]

In the early 1970s, the British progressive rock band Quintessence began to mix elements of Indian classical music with rock and jazz.[12] Later in the decade, guitarist John McLaughlin and his band Shakti introduced a jazz-influenced version of raga rock over the course of three albums.[13]

In the 1990s, the British indie rock group Cornershop began to assimilate Asian instruments such as the sitar and dholkiinto their music, culminating with their 1997 album When I Was Born for the 7th Time.[14] The album, which fused Indian music with rock, funkhip hop and country music, featured the UK #1 single "Brimful of Asha" (itself a tribute to Indian singer Asha Bhosle) and a cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" sung entirely in Punjabi.[14][15]In 1996, the British rock group Kula Shaker, which featured Top 10 raga rock hits including "Tattva" and "Govinda", both of which included Sanskrit lyrics. British Rock group Kula Shaker released the multiplatinum album K in 1996, and reformed in 2005 after a hiatus of some years, and have since been touring in Britain, Europe and Japan, introducing new material including the raga rock "Song of Love/Narayana".[16] The Brian Jonestown Massacre released the albums Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request in 1996 and Give It Back! in 1997, both of which contained Indian and psychedelic rock influences.

Recently, a revival of sorts has been heralded by Western bands such as The Black Angels and The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Indian bands such as The Raghu Dixit ProjectAgam and Swarathma, with an increasing blend of Western instruments with the traditional Indian ones-the flute and the sitar.


See also: Indomania

Some scholars approach raga rock and other uses of non-Western musical materials in Western popular music from sociological perspectives, especially as a manifestation of Orientalism. Common themes include drug use, sexual exploration, and spirituality. Jonathan Bellman writes that "the Kinks use of eastern musical influences to allude to personal and sexual matters is directly in keeping with historical uses of exoticism as signifier for forbidden sexuality." [17]Bellman and other scholars suggest that the Orient once again becomes a Western fantasy land, mediated to mass culture audiences of the mid and late twentieth century through Rock and Roll.

A list of examples[edit]Edit

*"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)",[18] 1965, "Love You To", "Within You Without You", "The Inner Light", and "Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles *"Você Sabe" by Os Mutantes
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.