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Regional Music Hits The Right Chord

The category accounted for over 1 bn music streams last year, recording eight times growth in the past two -and-a-half years

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Regional music in India – mostly the non-Hindi music – is fast gaining with Indian consumers. A report published by shared that regional music accounted for more than a billion music streams in December 2019 — recording eight times growth in the past two-and-a-half years. Also, Gaana Originals, with an initiative to promote the regional music, has clocked significant response with 100 million streams per month. Similar reviews have been received from other platforms such as Jio Music, Saavn.    

Rabindra Narayan, MD & President, PTC, shared that the Punjabi regional music has grown throughout the country, and it is now compared with the Bollywood music. A major stream of revenue for the Punjabi artists have been various live shows and concerts they perform throughout the world. He shared a figure: “In the past one year, he released nearly 200 Punjabi songs, which were mostly from the newcomers in the music industry.” This clearly suggests excitement among the budding artists to enter into the music scene. Renowned Punjabi singers likes B Praak, Guru Randhawa, who started with regionals now produce compositions that subscribe to a global audience. “Punjabi music is no more regional but global,” Narayan said.

Sukanya Ghosh, Singer, validated the fact, “The power of regional music is not only in India but it is abroad as well.” She went for a concert overseas and sang a Bengali song there, and said that ‘not only Indians but the foreigners   also appreciated her music’. Gaurav Dagaonkar, Founder, Songfest, believed: “Regional music has started uplifting in other parts - like Marathi rap.” One example is Marathi rapper Umesh Khade, popularly known as ‘Shambho’. He has a dedicated audience in the Marathi youth with his YouTube channel, which presently has over two lakh subscribers. His earlier (two) songs did not get much traction but his latest song Tan Tan Ban Ban is a superhit. Regional rap music not only rose to prominence in the current scene, but it is being used as a force of mobilisation for social movements. For instance, Odisha-born and Delhi-based rapper Sumeet Samos sings in Odia, Hindi, and English about the exploitation of marginalised communities happening in his native Koraput, Odisha. Similarly, Tamil rapper Aviru highlights hypocrisy in society though his music.

A report shared by digital music platform Music Ally stated that Punjabi is the second-most played language on JioSaavn, ahead of English and behind Hindi. In terms of the percentage-wise increase in year-on-year listenership, it’s the fourth on the list, which looks like this: Bangla (826 per cent), Kannada (593 per cent), Telugu (381 per cent),
 Punjabi (290 per cent) and Tamil (272 per cent).

Lalitya Munshaw, MD, Red Ribbon Music, shared: “We have regional music but they need to be put in a manner to make it digestible to millennials.” The famous singer and performer has experimented with multiple sub-genres like folkmusic (garba, lodi, etc.) in her work. She also added, “Presently, there are a lot of digital systems and so it is easier to put content.” She also pointed out that along with putting out content there is also a strong need for promoting them as well. One usual way is to revamp the original version into something more palatable to modern audiences. Jasbir Jassi, Singer, said: “In my opinion, remakes have a lot of advantages and the song reaches a new set of audiences.”

Viraj Sheth, Co-Founder & CEO, Monk Entertainment, informed that like regional music, “the alternative music has grown a lot in the past few areas”. One reason he stated is the increased democratisation because of the internet. “You get to choose what the genre you want to listen.” In fact, India, which is a post-NH7 Weekender country now, has been ripe for a second coming alternative music revolution, and this many music experts agreed.

In fact, post-lockdown Bacardi NH7 Weekender and OML announced a series of online music festivals to bring artists of all genres to live stream performances every weekend. 

In the last 10 years of NH7 Weekender since its inception, over 600 artists from India and around the world have been featured. The bands like Rida and The Musical Folks, and Tetseo Sisters from the North-east are receiving a wider appreciation, and  shows that the alternative music scope is not limited by the language barrier.    

Breaking Boundries with Bollywood

Bollywood has long been the benchmark for music artists to kickstart their careers from across India. Musicians, particularly the newcomers, are still asked to perform Bollywood numbers during the live shows. The music industry is still strongly localised in the Mumbai and the newcomers are still asked to tag along with Bollywood singers to make their name. Undeniably, there are severe struggles in terms of the creative expression of an artist in the Bollywood landscape. 

On the other hand, Munshaw, Singer, Performer & Music Entrepreneur, shared: “I see a lot of light, hope, and scope because artists just don’t want to stick in the Bollywood world.”

Despite serious challenges, the mainstream has been giving the regional music its rightful due. For example, the Marathi soundtrack from the movie Sairat has become a major box-office hit. The composers in fact collaborated with the Symphony Orchestra of Hollywood to develop the iconic numbers. Several Bengali folk songs are increasingly being incorporated in the Bollywood. Veteran artists like AR Rehman have made chartbusters in South Indian languages one after the other. To see it from a different perspective, one way of attracting attention towards its own, say regional music, is to do a score in Bollywood. For instance, the famous song Dilbaro in the film Raazi is sung by Kashmiri singer Vibha Saraf, who is now widely listened to a larger audience from across the country. Most regional musicians (like in Kashmir) don’t have the drive to take the state’s music outside Kashmir. The advent of digitisation, which has vastly accelerated due to pandemic, has arguably given more wings to explore and deliver content to every artist.  

Pandemic Impact

Regional music undoubtedly has been facing similar challenges like other genres of music. However, since even the big labels are also facing the cash crunch, regional music and alternative music has got a level-playing field with mainstream music. The musicians, for now, do not have to battle the geographical localisation of the music scene (vis-à-vis in Mumbai).  

During the lockdown, music artists and fans have come together and shared time over social media platforms. Experts agreed, “It is a great time for being a music artist because online music consumption has increased. There are now self-dependant on to look for  multiple sources of revenues avilable online.” Manpreet Singh Kochar, Founder, A&M Studio, who has worked with hundred  of musicians,  advocated that artists need to make sure that the dependability on others have to be reduced. 

Fouzia Dastango, India’s first female Dastangoi informed, “As an artist, a big problem for me is that people expect us to do free concerts because of the Covid-19.” Even before the pandemic, the organisers have asked the non-mainstream musicians to play a few free gigs just for the sake of exposure. The pandemic has scaled up such challenges. “There is no audience connect in the digital concerts,” Dastango said on the performing in digital platforms. 

Undeniably, be it in the present difficult times of Covid-19 and even in general, good music should never go unnoticed. Ustad Wasifuddin, an Indian classical singer of the dhrupad genre and the son of dhrupad singer Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar, said, “Artists are the spine of the country; they connect every part of our system. But the industry is neglecting them. If you’ll protect the artists, you’ll save the genre.”  

This article was first published in the print issue of (25 June- 09 July) BW Businessworld. Click Here to Subscribe to BW Businessworld magazine.

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