‘Fusion Music’ is a term usually used for combination musics* . It has become a standard term used in the music industry. More importantly, it has become a passion and life's work for many musicians. They find it artistically stimulating to create music by integrating ideas of more than one tradition. Still, there seems to be a lot of confusion in the meaning of the term as well as the acceptability of ‘fusion music’. Let us try to analyze ‘fusion music’ to its best.
Fusion is the noun form of the infinitive ‘to fuse’. ‘To fuse’ means to melt with heat, or blend by melting according to Webster. Oxford Dictionary also, defines it as ‘to blend or amalgamate into one whole by or as by melting’.
Music is an art of arranging sound into pleasing or interesting patterns. It is used to express feelings and ideas, for entertainment, as medicine, for divine expression and understanding, relaxation and many other purposes. It is a part of every culture and society.
So, if we combine the two, ‘fusion’ and ‘music’, we can say that any type of integration or combination, of musics and/or music styles of different traditions and/or cultures, can be termed as ‘fusion music’. It should be remembered that it is not a mixture of two musics. There should not be any confusion in the meaning of mixture, integration and combination. In a mixture the two or more components can be easily separated, they do not blend to form one whole. Whereas in a combination or integration, the two or three components become inseparable and loose their earlier identity. 'Fusion Music' should bear the qualities of combination or integration or blending, not a mixture. The two or more forms used in the fusion should loose their earlier identities and gain a new identity as a whole.
Looking back in the history of fusion music, we see that though the term is quite new, in the evolution of musics of the world, we can clearly see that fusion has played an integrated role.
According to the theory of evolution, there is a natural, internal creative force, which causes nature to evolve itself into different or more complex forms. Music is no exception to this theory.
It is this creative instinct, which makes an artist try out different permutations and combinations within the musics he has learnt and heard.
In the history of music, all great musicians throughout the world have brought out seeds of their own ideas in music. Musicians traveled to different lands and spread the fragrance of their music style. Creative musicians picked up some parts from the styles, that they liked, and tried to combine it with their own traditional style. Some ideas got rooted and flourished as big and lasting trees, some sprouted, spreading their fragrance just for a while, while some seeds were lost.
Because of this process, we find in all cultures that music styles, forms and even morals have changed with the time.
If we look back in history of the changing patterns, we find among many others, a common factor of the non-acceptance of any new style by the society. It has always taken many years of listening for a style to become accepted and gain status. Sometimes the musicians were lucky to get this acceptance within a few years, say only 20-30 years. But, we also see that some musical forms have taken a few hundred years to become popularized and get social acceptance.
I will give two examples of Indian Music. If we analyze these examples we will be able to analyze and understand fusion music in a better manner.
The most popular form of music of Maharashtra (India) is ‘Natyasangeet’ or drama songs. If we go through the old magazines and newspapers, we will come across many articles and features, giving the proof of its total non-acceptance by musicians and society. It has taken around 70 – 80 years for this form of music to gain acceptance by society and more than 100 years to gain status and get the acceptance by classical musicians in the classical music repertoire.
Today’s most popular form of classical music is the ‘Khayal’. Its origin lies in the 13th century. It got popularized by the end of this century, though it did not gain status then. Even during the period of Tansen in the 16th century, Dhrupad had a status, which Khayal had not even tasted till then. Khayal had a waiting period of 5 centuries to gain status. ‘Khayal’ owes its status to the two musicians Sadarang an Adarang of the 18th century.
During the British rule in India, musicians lost their sovereign and financial backing. Indian Classical music started loosing its economic ground. At the same time Swarajya movement had gained roots and dramas became an important vehicle for campaigning of this movement. So, a few classical creative musicians started using classical music in the then prevailing drama music. In its early years this music style was criticized and looked down by musicians and society. It took a long period and lot of experimentations for it to gain acceptance.
Now this form is a combination of light music (where poetry or words have equal importance) and classical khayal music. Musically, the verse is of usually only 4 – 6 lines. It is mostly (not necessarily), set in a raga, though it does not rigidly follow the rules of the raaga. The melodic lines or tunes can be based on any form of music, from folk to classical. The rendering style, as accepted as a form of music, has a classical background. Along with the music pattern it also has a background of the situation in the drama and so has a responsibility of showing a particular mood, i.e. ‘rasa’. This form of music is grouped in semi-classical style.
This form of music is the fruit of Muslim invasions in India. During these invasions Indian and Persian musics exchanged ideas. Instruments like the Tabla and Sitar were invented. Now, the then prevalent and popular vocal form of music – Dhrupad, used pakhwaj or mridanga for its rhythmic accompaniment. ‘Tabla‘ being a percussion instrument of a softer and different style than the pakhwaj was not suited and accepted by the Dhrupad singers. Another reason for non-acceptance was its ‘fusion’ quality (it was a fusion of Indian Mridang and Persian Tabl). Also, due to political, social and religious stigmas, Muslims reverted from singing Dhrupads, which were praises or prayers of either the king or Hindu Gods The Khayal form was thus born from experiments of combining the heavy classical Indian Dhrupad style and Persian light style to suit the accompanying instrument – tabla, and the behavioral style of the muslims. Though it developed to a lighter pattern than the Dhrupad, it got accepted widely as classical music.
When we look through the phases of the evolution of any form of music, be it Indian or Western or from any other part of the world we come across many common factors.
‘Fusion’ is a common factor used by all the musicians and composers without exception, for a new style to develop.
Creative musicians overrule political, social and religious stigmas. The instinct of creativity is never afraid of criticism.
Experimentation by trial and error method is an inevitable part of evolution of music. The creative and musical instinct in a musician is very powerful. In spite of economic, social, political and religious hardships, this instinct has remained alive and kept on growing. But, because of these hardships it has made music travel from temples to immoral and/or illegal passages also.
Fusion Music has to face a lot of criticism and non-recognition by the society and many musicians. The most important reason for this criticism is that fusion music is revolutionary. Musicians are afraid of loosing the traditional music they have learnt.
‘Fusion’ is a path of creation and evolution, whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not. Any creative musician does fusion in one form or the other. The difference can be of level of using different elements. The creative instinct is beyond the rational thinking pattern and the level of the instinct is also subjective.
The creation, which will happen through a musician, will depend on his background. The factors, which will influence the creation, will be his family, learning, morals, economic, social, political, psychological background and many more factors.
The creative instinct is not afraid of the consequences. But, so that it should have all the good musical, psychological and moral aspects, it is necessary that the creator/musician should have all these qualities.
Now, music and life are no two separate entities. All these factors apply to music, in the specified path of ‘fusion music’. The musician may be creating such music for ‘n’ number of reasons and with ‘n’ number of influences. If any fusion music has to be good and lasting, the creator, i.e. the musician should be well versant with his music style, should have studied the music to be combined and above all, he should bear good moral and psychological qualities.
‘Fusion Music’ is a part of evolution whether we like it or not. ‘Fusion Music’ bearing all these good qualities may or may not be accepted and understood by today’s world. But, I am sure that such music will become a foundation of the history of the future.