Raga Rock: Popular Music and the Turn to the East in the 1960s

Brian Ireland, Sharif Gemie

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    In this paper we analyse one particular interaction: the development of a self-consciously ‘Eastern’ sounding music within Western pop music. We understand this in the context of several ‘journeys to the East’: some virtual (the interest in Oriental religions, the adoption of Eastern musical forms) and some real (the journeys taken to the East by some musicians and by thousands of young people). We will consider, firstly, the milieu within which these changes took place, and then analyse the methods, scale and motivations of those western artists who took inspiration from eastern, mainly Indian, music in the 1960s and 1970s to create what became known as ‘Raga Rock’. Our aim is to demonstrate that these developments added up to a ‘neo-Orientalism’: resembling the older, imperialism Orientalism in its tendency to simplify and romanticise the East, but different from it in the passionate sincerity of its admiration for certain Eastern forms, which were taken to the point of challenging dominant cultural and even political norms within the West.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-38
    JournalJournal of American Studies
    Early online date9 Jun 2017
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2017


    • Raga rock
    • 1960s Pop and Rock Music
    • Eastern musical influences
    • hippy trail
    • Indian music
    • Music, history
    • British and American artists
    • Oriental religions
    • neo-Orientalism
    • musical cultures


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