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A Survey of Raunchy Bhojpuri Music Album Covers

Vishal Rawlley

 

Fig.01

This album cover epitomizes the raunchy Bhojpuri music scene of today.

The typically punning title has been updated to English, but it remains catchy and clever as ever.

The classic encounter of the village bumpkin and the snazzy lady is depicted with characteristic humour.

Don’t miss the new coinage for the raunchy genre inside the bursting-bubble: ‘Bhojpuri Bomb Blast’

Note the interesting mug shots of the singers on the bottom left – both of whom typify marginal showbiz characters.

The male singer Vishwanath Singh [nickname: Bhootan (ghost like)] is also credited as the Assistant Director. Uniquely, even the make-up man has been credited on the album.

All in all, this album cover is really telling of the space that vernacular media now comes from. >>>

The swelling immigrant Bhojpuri population in most north Indian cities has given impetus to a sizeable Bhojpuri entertainment industry. It is the Bhojpuri music album that has been the mainstay of this media industry from the 1980s till now. This music has however acquired a predominantly raunchy flavor in its migration from the hinterland to the city. These changing cultural dynamics can be mapped out through the changing iconography of music album covers - especially the varying representations of the sexualized women on these covers.

Traditional Bhojpuri culture reveals a social structure riddled with gender, caste and religious fault lines. The urban migration of this culture has broken down some of these old divides while establishing new class associations and reinforcing certain gender stereotypes. The effect of mass media and pop-culture on regional media and the reverse impact of vernacular expressive forms on the urban ethos is the subject of this study.

Background and Context

Bhojpuri is a folk dialect. It is native to eastern Uttar Pradesh, western Bihar and Jharkhand in India. It is mostly spoken by Hindus, but Muslims and a number of tribal peoples also use it. A whole range of castes and classes speak this dialect. As Bhojpuri regions have vast impoverished populations, people from here have for long been prone to migration in search of livelihood. There is a sizeable Bhojpuri population in most large Indian cities. It mostly comprises of male daily-wage labourers: rickshaw pullers, taxi drivers, porters, etc. The process of accelerated urbanisation, starting in the mid 1990s in India, has led to a swell in Bhojpuri migrants in the various city centres.

These semi-literate and unskilled migrants from the hinterland carry with them a rich and deep-rooted folk culture. The dynamic and expressive Bhojpuri song traditions and theatre forms have provided fodder for a growing media market in this dialect. Bhojpuri music albums are widely available in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, and Bhojpuri films have overtaken the B-grade cinema houses. There is a huge demand for Bhojpuri content in Jammu and Kashmir, Jallandhar, Ludhiana, Panipat, Kurukshetra, Noida and Gurgaon. Bengal and Nepal are emerging as the next big markets. After the southern regional languages, Bhojpuri is emerging as a huge entertainment market in the country. The effect of the interaction of this regional culture with urban cultures is the subject of this study on the Bhojpuri music industry.

The Bhojpuri diaspora is also spread out in different pockets around the world – from Fiji, to Mauritius, to Trinidad. They were mostly brought in as indentured labourers to these plantation lands after the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1834. Further emigration from these lands has resulted in the dispersal of Bhojpuri population from Netherlands to New Zealand. 270 million people are estimated to speak this dialect all over the world. Even in these distant lands, with all links from the native culture having dissolved over time, the Bhojpuri diaspora has sparked new trends in music and performance, displaying a remarkable cultural dynamism.

In today’s age of increased global interaction, there is a growing possibility for greater media exchange between these dispersed Bhojpuri populations. How these long lost cousin cultures may then impact each other should provide an interesting case for examining how ‘linguistic communities’ and ‘diaspora’ evolve in the age of rapid globalisation, mass urbanisation and digital media communication.

A note of translation:

It is not always possible to vouch for the English translation of some of the album titles because some of the terms and phrases employed herein are not really a part of the dialect lexicon. Often they are freshly coined colloquialisms that make for catchy titles. Their meaning is sometimes deliberately left ambiguous, but can be guessed from similar-sounding or rhyming words. These translations have therefore been derived after consultation with Bhojpuri speakers and Bhojpuri music label executives and from a contextual understanding of their use.

Caution: This image gallery contains some visual material suited only for ADULTS (18 years and above)

 

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