Gen­er­a­tion Asia

Mu­sic has trans­formed from com­mer­cial cover bands to orig­i­nal in­die. Is In­dia ready to em­brace the change?

Southasia - - Peace & Rehabilitation - By Aye­sha Ma­lik

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-

ten, iso­lated.

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.

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