Indian music is a vast ocean, yet all our attention seems to be focussed on the one small pond that is Bollywood music. It is time that changed.
I’ve always been amazed by the popularity of non-film songs by Punjabi artistes that are a part of all festivities. Songs like “Taarey gin” are great examples of non-film songs that became a rage across India and have lasted the test of time. These were later appropriated by Bollywood, which shows you that it doesn’t take Bollywood’s marketing clout to make a superhit song.
For the last two decades, Bollywood has been devaluing the Hindi film song, abusing its creators and pandering to short-term returns. This has led to its logical end: Bollywood is now merely regurgitating music from its past.
It has lost all creative steam and cultural credibility. It is not the incubator for the next Gulzar, Majrooh or even Amitabh Bhattacharya, or Madan Mohan, Vishal Bharadwaj or the next Shankar Mahadevan. Instead, it is a demoralizing grinder of talent.
So where will the next A.R. Rahman, Amit Trivedi, Ram Sampath, Shaan or even Divine emerge from? The answer is from the same place that Lucky Ali and KK or even I, Sona Mohapatra, emerged from. The Indie scene.
As a culture, we need to turn our gaze back to the source of creativity and not the hollow images fed to us by a rabidly toxic celebrity culture. We have to encourage artists and creators to collaborate and create timeless melodies and lyrics that inspire us for generations to come. Every generation has its own unique voice and perspective. We must create the space for those diverse voices to be heard. Music streaming can make that happen provided they are willing to fight the reductive bully that is the Bollywood music mafia.
A large onus of this lies with the audience who cannot be accepting of nursery rhymes or remixes as standard fare. Audiences need to question and reject artistes who lip sync too on the live stage.
Every artiste has an ally in technology, the internet and the social media to put out their own music, and build an audience base. One cannot just wait with bated breath for Bollywood to shine a light on you. India is vast and capable enough to spawn and have a music superstar in each mohalla. We have to stop looking towards Bollywood for all validation of talent.
New and upcoming artists deserves our attention and even in my short tenure as a judge on a national TV reality show where I met and decided to not only back and help connect a Dharavi rap group, eM Town Breakers’, to a talent agency, and help them release an anthem with Ram Sampath and Virat Kohli, but did so with several other contestants whom I believed deserved attention.
We cannot wash our hands off playing a role in nurturing future talent and giving back to where we have gotten so much from.
Most importantly, we have to remember that the music of India is truly a treasure house of great depth and width. We have so many genres of music that deserve attention, and not just film music. The film music scene is actually the stinky swamp in the garden of music which includes bhajans, ghazals, classical, folk, pop, sufi, qawwali, desi hip-hop and so many other genres.
Why is it that the audience and the entire ecosystem, including radio and media, treat non-film music like it is inferior music? There seems to be caste system in play and that is sad. Good music and artistes should be encouraged and celebrated, no matter where it is source is.
As a society and culture we stand to benefit aesthetically and even grow the size of the music industry turnover by manifold if we looked beyond Bollywood.
(The writer is a noted singer, composer and lyricist. The views expressed are personal)