What’s the score?

Anjali Jhangiani
Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Anjali Jhangiani speaks to artists from different genres of music about how  this year has been for the Indian music circuit and what 2018 holds

The great thing about 2017, feels Nikhil Chinapa, is that the music scene has finally got to a stage where the music is being churned. “For the past few years, music, specially in large festival formats and the dance music space, had become very stagnant. So music was being made like a copy machine. You’ve got one template and you just make lots of the same thing. Fans are beginning to reject that; DJs are beginning to make different music, and we’re beginning to hear styles of music that make you uncomfortable on the dance floor,” he says. The DJ believes that it is paramount for the dance music scene to start making listeners uncomfortable with music that is unfamiliar. “If this doesn’t happen, nothing new will happen. If you become too comfortable in your own little corner, the music scene will not grow and become more exciting for you. Now that we’ve come to this phase of a lot of music just being rubbish, and we’re going through this process of churning the music scene, hearing the music that you don’t like or agree with, it’s the best thing that can happen to the music scene. It means new styles, new artists will start to emerge from the churning. If everything is all very rosy and peachy, the angels are singing in the sky, life becomes very predictable, and unexciting,” he says.

This year, like the last couple of years, saw a boom of new artists making new music and putting it out on the internet. While some are good, some are terrible rip-offs, and some are really not worth your bandwidth. But because there’s so much music out there, artists doing good work can get lost in the crowd. “In order to stand out, you’ve got to find your own groove, your own niche, and own style. Standing out has always been a problem, back when there were 10 DJs on the planet and now when there are 10 million DJs. Yes, it has become tough because of all the competition, but the people who are able to blaze a path for themselves and make their own space are the ones who will eventually come to the foreground and stand out amongst the clutter,” he says.

With more and more artists wanting to perform across the world, Nikhil believes that they should first figure out what they want to do creatively. “Some people want to be able to play all across India and not want to go abroad, I am one of them. I have no real fascination or interest in playing abroad. However, there are some people who want to play in Brazil, Germany, Tokyo, UK, or North America — they’ve got to, more often than not, move to a place that is more centrally located because you’ve got to understand that geographically India is not the most accessible place on the planet,” he says, explaining further, “You’ve got to move either to Europe or to New York so that if someone wants to book you from say South America, you’re not a ridiculously expensive flight away, which is what you would be if you were living in India.” 

Having the courage to move base to a different country, and making music that will catch the attention of club owners abroad, and having a strong production background is important.

Nikhil’s message to those who are struggling to “be discovered” is that he’s always on the lookout for new talent. “Concentrate on the art of deejaying and making better music, because if you’re good at what you do, it’s my job to find you,” he says.

Looking forward to the year ahead, Nikhil who is busy curating the festival VH1 Supersonic, reveals that he’s trying to revive the rock scene by bringing the American rock band Incubus to India. “We’ll also have a techno stage and we’re trying to bring back trance to the festival. We’re moving into the bass-house scene rather than the pure EDM scene in the mainstream space. VH1 Supersonic has been a tastemaker festival, we’ve never really followed trends but made them,” he says.

After hits like Baaki Baatein Peene Baad, Fursat, and Ek Dafaa (Chinnama), Arjun Kanungo is out with his latest party anthem, and just in time for the season, titled Gallan Tipsiyaan, which is about being drunk in conversation. He believes this is what the Instagram generation is in search of. “When you like someone, you feel like you’re intoxicated by them. It doesn’t really have anything to do with drinking alcohol. The track has become so popular because it connects with the listeners,” he says. 

For any track to find a connection with the audience, artists needs to put an honest part of themselves into their work. “All my songs are autobiographical in some way. If you don’t connect with your songs, then how can you expect the audience to do so? The artist needs to have a very deep connection with their work. In this particular case (for Gallan Tipsiyaan), I honestly believe that you must be interested in the person that you’re seeing, have deep meaningful conversations with them, get drunk in conversation,” says Arjun.

Talking about how this year has been for the Bollywood and Hindi pop music circuit, Arjun says, “I don’t think it’s been the best year because the quality has gone down a slide. Artists are focussing too much on marketing and sales and very little stress is put into their art and making the track. Everyone’s been fighting for airtime instead of making a track that is good.”

It is because so much music is available to anyone with merely a tap on their smartphone that artists doing good work can get lost in the crowd, he says, adding that artists should focus more on visibility rather than the quality of their music, which in turn gets a massive setback. 

“But having said that, there have been a few remarkable songs in Bollywood, like the songs in Rajkummar Rao movies, and Hindi pop music. But overall, there’s been a big, disappointing, difference ratio between the good and bad songs this year,” he says, adding that songs like Na Ja by Pav Dharia, Ban Ja Rani by Guru Randhawa have successfully struck a chord with mass audiences.

He hopes artists will take notice of the deteriorating scene which is becoming rather unexciting, and start becoming more creative with their work. He is also coming out with a new track in collaboration with Neha Kakkar tentatively in the second week of January 2018. Explaining his strategy about releasing this track after the fuss about New Year’s is over, he says, “Songs take about three months to gain traction with listeners and become big so that television and radio can also pick them up. That’s why I’m waiting for January, so that the song will hopefully become big by March and not compete with my other song.”

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