Music has transformed from commercial cover bands to original indie. Is India ready to embrace the change?
The film industry is always at the forefront when you talk about India. It is with good reason of course, with earnings from Bollywood constituting a large volume of the Indian economy. As a result, the music industry automatically follows suit.
India’s music heritage lies in the talent of its playback singers who hone their skills to encompass the country’s rich history and tradition. Steeped in talent, the industry boasts of world renowned names such as Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Alga Yagnik, Shreya Ghoshal and many others. Music is a strong part of the Indian culture and is treated with the same reverence. However, it is commercial film music in India that is at the forefront of the industry and emerging talent and underground bands, are more than of-
With globalization and the information age, times are changing. New music can become a worldwide phenomenon in mere hours. The recent Tamil folk ballad, ‘Why this Kolaveri di,’ which will soon be featured in an upcoming Tamil movie, is a perfect example. The song, written in mere minutes was envisioned as a casual, lighthearted attempt to express failed love. The creators uploaded an unfinished version of the song and realizing its impact, did an official release. Subsequently, an internet legend was born.
Today, young people around the world are writing original composi- tions in their own language and no longer feel obligated to sing in English for recognition in an international market. With competition abounding, originality is cherished and what better way to be original than to merge simplicity with ethnicity. Previously, young folk around the world received recognition through covering music from their favorite bands or musicians.
The upheaval of talent shows has catered to a niche market and has made the music industry, one of the most recognized roads to fame now. India is no different in this matter. Shows such as India’s Got Talent, Saregamapa, X-factor India, Idea Rocks India, all provide a platform to young people to regale the audience with their musical talents and cement their names in history as one of mil- lions of gifted musicians in India.
However, music is not treated as a form of expression and shows primarily cater to commercial music. Original music hails from India’s underground music scene. There, vocalists can be found warbling in regional languages as well as western scores; there are no covers of old songs and no remixes produced on sound editing software. The pure passion of music transcends arguments around the nationality of musicians.
A recent Indian show, ‘The Dewarists,’ is a prime example of how far the indie music scene has come in India. Artists from around the world jour- ney across India, drawing on inspiration in the form of the beauty of rural India. As they record original songs, a large part of the show promotes a sense of tolerance and comradeship in the form of music thus becoming an effective way to reach the Indian youth and convincing them to follow their dreams. Distinctive eastern as well as western themes color the concept, which has led critics to question whether the show is an identity crisis waiting to happen.
In fact, identity crisis is a big component of the Indian underground scene with the youth striving to perform like their favorite grunge bands, dress like their favorite pop stars and even act like their favorite rock stars. The media furthers this sentiment by comparing every new act to a previ- ous one in the United States or the U.K. However, these identity crises don’t only occur in the native land. In the U.K, Bhangra is prominent among the Asian youth that insists on Desi fusion with western rap. Although music forums insist that fusion of different styles of music is evolutionary, they unfortunately don’t have a very diverse audience just yet.
Domestically, the need to express oneself in regional languages is treated as a cool fad, at least for the time being. For the first time, musical tastes are diversifying and expanding to include genres that would not have otherwise been acceptable to music labels. Acceptance of one’s own culture, both good and bad, has not only been a therapeutic step for the Indian youth but has led to major breakthroughs in the field of music.
The hip-hop culture gradually meshes with legendary raags, new techniques are introduced daily into the world of music, theatrical music ballads are taking a back seat and ‘music with conscience’ is making a direct impact on our generation. The future only holds grander surprises for the music industry in South Asia and it is undoubtedly the youth that will emerge at the forefront of change.