Since the early 1970s the advent of cassette technology has had a profound effect on music industries worldwide. This influence has been particularly marked in the developing world, where cassettes have largely replaced vinyl records and have extended their impact into regions, classes and genres previously uninfluenced by the mass media. Cassettes have served to decentralise and democratise both production and consumption, thereby counterbalancing the previous tendency toward oligopolisation of international commercial recording industries.
While the cassette boom started later in India than in areas such as the Middle East and Indonesia, its influence since the early 1980s has been no less significant. In other publications, including a previous article in this journal, I have referred briefly to ramifications of the cassette vogue in India and other countries (Manual 1988a, pp. 173-5, 1988b, pp. 6-7, 214). This article attempts to summarise, in somewhat greater depth, albeit still superficially, the salient effects of cassette technology upon the production, dissemination, stylistic development and general cultural meaning of North Indian popular music, by which I mean to comprehend all those genres, including commercialised folk music, which are marketed as mass commodities and have been stylistically affected by their association with the mass media.