Regional music in India – primarily non-Hindi music – is rapidly gaining traction among Indian consumers. A report released by Gaana.com found that regional music accounted for more than a billion music streams in December 2019, growing eight times greater over the past two and a half years. Additionally, Gaana Originals, with an initiative to promote regional music, has seen a significant response with 100 million streams per month. Similar reviews have been received from other platforms such as Jio Music, Saavn.
Rabindra Narayan, MD and Chairman of PTC, said that regional Punjabi music has grown across the country and is now being compared to Bollywood music. The various live shows and concerts they give across the world have been a major source of income for Punjabi artists. He shared a figure: “In the past year, he released nearly 200 songs in Punjabi, which were mostly from newcomers to the music industry.” This clearly suggests the enthusiasm of budding artists to enter the music scene. Renowned Punjabi singers like B Praak, Guru Randhawa, who started out with regional ones are now producing compositions which subscribe to global audiences. âPunjabi music is no longer regional but global,â Narayan said.
Singer Sukanya Ghosh validated the fact: âThe power of regional music is not only in India, but also abroad. She went to a concert abroad and sang a Bengali song there, and said that “not only Indians but foreigners also enjoyed her music”. Gaurav Dagaonkar, founder of Songfest, said: âRegional music has started to rise in other areas, like Marathi rap. One example is Marathi rapper Umesh Khade, popularly known as “Shambho”. He has a dedicated following in Marathi youth with his YouTube channel, which currently has over two lakhs of subscribers. His previous (two) songs weren’t very successful, but his last song Tan Tan Ban Ban is a super hit. Regional rap music has not only gained prominence in today’s scene, but is used as a mobilizing force for social movements. For example, rapper Sumeet Samos, born in Odisha and based in Delhi, sings in Odia, Hindi and English about the exploitation of marginalized communities in his native Koraput, Odisha. Likewise, Tamil rapper Aviru highlights hypocrisy in society through his music.
A report shared by digital music platform Music Ally said Punjabi is the second most played language on JioSaavn, ahead of English and behind Hindi. In terms of percentage increase in viewership year over year, it’s fourth on the list, which looks like this: Bangla (826%), Kannada (593%), Telugu (381% ),
Punjabi (290 percent) and Tamil (272 percent).
Lalitya Munshaw, MD, Red Ribbon Music, said, âWe have regional music, but it has to be put together in a way that makes it digestible for millennials.â The famous singer and performer has experimented with several subgenres like folk music (garba, lodi, etc.) in his work. She also added: âRight now there are a lot of digital systems so it’s easier to put content. She also pointed out that in addition to posting content, there is also a strong need to promote it. One usual way is to rearrange the original version into something more acceptable to modern audiences. Singer Jasbir Jassi said: “In my opinion, remakes have a lot of benefits and the song is reaching new audiences.”
Viraj Sheth, co-founder and CEO of Monk Entertainment, said that, like regional music, âalternative music has grown a lot latelyâ. One of the reasons he cited is the increased democratization because of the Internet. âYou can choose the genre you want to listen to. In fact, India, now a post-NH7 Weekender country, is ripe for a second alternative music revolution, and many music experts agree.
In fact, after the 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. Bands like Rida and The Musical Folks, and Tetseo Sisters from the North East are receiving wider appreciation and showing that the reach of alternative music is not limited by the language barrier.
Breaking boundaries with Bollywood
Bollywood has long been the benchmark for musical artists to launch their careers across India. Musicians, especially newcomers, are always invited to perform Bollywood acts during live performances. The music industry is still heavily localized in Mumbai and newcomers are always welcome to accompany Bollywood singers to make a name for themselves. Undeniably, there are severe struggles in terms of an artist’s creative expression in the Bollywood landscape.
On the other hand, singer, performer and music entrepreneur Munshaw shared, âI see a lot of light and hope and scope because artists just don’t want to stay in the world of Bollywood.
Despite serious challenges, the general public has given regional music its due. For example, the Marathi soundtrack to the film Sairat became a big box office hit. The composers have indeed collaborated with the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra to develop the iconic numbers. Several Bengali folk songs are increasingly incorporated into Bollywood. Veteran artists like AR Rehman have created chartbusters in South Indian languages ââone after another. To see it from another perspective, one way to draw attention to his own, let’s say regional music, is to do a score in Bollywood. For example, the famous song Dilbaro in the film Raazi is sung by Kashmiri singer Vibha Saraf, who is now widely listened to by a wider audience across the country. Most regional musicians (like in Kashmir) don’t have the will to bring music out of the state of Kashmir. The advent of digitization, which has accelerated dramatically due to the pandemic, has arguably given more wings to explore and deliver content for every artist.
Regional music has undoubtedly faced challenges similar to those of other musical genres. However, since even the big labels are also facing the cash shortage, regional music and alternative music are on a par with mainstream music. Musicians, for the moment, do not have to fight against the geographical location of the music scene (vis-Ã -vis Mumbai).
During the lockdown, artists and music fans came together and shared time on social media platforms. Experts agreed, âNow is a great time to be a music artist because online music consumption has increased. They are now freelance to research multiple sources of income available online. Manpreet Singh Kochar, founder of A&M Studio, who has worked with hundreds of musicians, advocated that artists should ensure that dependence on others is reduced.
Fouzia Dastango, the first Indian woman Dastangoi said: âAs 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, organizers asked non-traditional musicians to play a few free concerts just to make themselves known. The pandemic has intensified these challenges. âThere is no connected audience in digital concerts,â Dastango said of performances on digital platforms.
Undeniably, whether in these difficult times of Covid-19 and even in general, great music should never go unnoticed. Ustad Wasifuddin, an Indian classical singer of the dhrupad genre and son of dhrupad singer Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar, said: âArtists are the backbone of the country; they connect every part of our system. But the industry is neglecting them. If you protect the artists, you will save the genre.
This article first appeared in the print (June 25-July 9) issue of BW Businessworld. Click here to subscribe to BW Businessworld magazine.