August 06,2012 – Neha Bhasin
Passion and dreams have always driven me in life Faith to me is the consistent belief of my family and fans in me Eventually, faith has kept me close to my biggest passion and dream, music. As a person. I am more spiritual than religious. I do meditate, and believe that meditation has changed my life completely. It has given me a new perspective to look at things, and has created peace within me. Meditation has helped shut my mind and empowered my heart to take decisions for me.
According to me, the decisions taken by the heart are always right. Besides. I don’t judge people anymore. Today. I am a positive person, who believes in surrendering to the will of God and the will of life. and I allow it to guide me always.
Besides becoming a better human being, faith also helps you get the right meaning of success and failure. We often tag failure as negative Failure on the contrary, helps you become stronger, try harder, and eventually value success.
Failure is the best experience that tells you if this is not it, then it is not just yet.’
Hurdles come and go and must never make you angry or give up. Now that’s faith for you!
The exciting thing about humans is that everyone has an opinion. We don’t shy away from it and we don’t even mind imposing it on others. The effort here is to put up a debate and then let readers use their discretion, but as the subject is close to home and may hit a nerve, hence the disclaimer.
The world follows trends that are natural in their evolution, but years of observing the scene in India brings me to the conclusion that there is a herd mentality in our taste, which is relentless in its impact.
Music is no different in picking up new fads as and when they come along, and audiences have to bear them till the new one kicks in. Remember when Punjabi music came around with Malkit singh’s Tutak Tutak? From there on, the early 90s were a whirlwind of Daler Mehndi’s snazzy personality and gusto vocals blaring out of every music channel. His songs were the “it” thing at weddings, parties and sangeets. What came next was inevitable; we had Daler replicas in every shape, size and sound. Bollywood too would not be left out and we dealt with the Punjabi music mania till we could take it no longer.
It was a matter of time before another genre of sound took over and made our ears bleed till we numbed out. And so the era of remixes came along to ensure that the last hope of originality would be eradicated or smartly shoved under the carpet in the name of marketing. Yes, suddenly we were infested with a confused sound of quick-fix remixes, picking up old Indian melodies and backing it up with sampled loops and synth arpeggiators. As if the loud wannabe club sound was not enough, the music channels quickly stopped playing all original music and we were inflicted with desi titillation of sloppy faces, garish clothing and untrained dancing in videos. This trend alone carried on for at least four years and was carried forward by, as always, Bollywood. Every movie had a slow song and a club remix of the same track, which would then be promoted heavily to make the film popular.
Fact of the matter is that trendsetters usually do not pre-meditate the success that tends to follow, but the ones who follow trendsetters are usually the lacklustre businessmen, cashing in on the success of a sure shot thing. Unfortunately, the music industry has relied on this for far too long now.
The best example that I can put forth is the never-ending rule of the so-called “item numbers”. Every new item song is fighting to be heard, to be seen and to promote a film — whether it adds to the context of the film is irrelevant. Music directors given the brief of the last racy song that had the nation talking, lyricists expected to come up with the most shocking lyrics that would sensationalise the song, the sexy bodies of the actresses specially toned for that one song to be clad in the most scintillating choli ever, are all part of the hoopla. The whole industry, as much as it would like to deny it, is at this point being held at some gunpoint to follow the trend or be an outcast.
The sound or the quality of music is not in question anymore; everyone waits with bated breath for that one hit that can set the course for the whole decade. The argument usually is that the industry supplies what the public demands, but the reality is not as simple as it seems. If business heads put their money on formulas with no quality control, and monopolise every medium of promotion with the content they want to make available, then it’s a subtle form of dictatorship and manipulation.
Art should be footloose and not machinery driven. Let the artiste make and the promoters sell. Putting your money on the table and demanding art is like buying vadapav.
It’s my humble hope — as an artiste and as a citizen of India — that we see a country brimming with music, arts, cinema and concerts, without the fear of failing, and letting the audience deciding what they wish to subscribe to without the underhand nudges.
Art is to be shared, loved and restored. It’s neither mine nor yours.
THE ASIAN AGE July 24, 2012
Behind every successful artiste there is always another lesser-known but successful story. Till I walked my first baby steps into the pro-world of music like most music lovers, I too was oblivious of what really goes on behind the music.
There is so much more that goes on behind a song let alone a whole record. Each of these records whether Indian or international usually marks the coming together of two or more creators.
The word arranger comes from the western classical culture where a composer would write a piece and the arranger would delegate the various aspects of melody, counter progressions and rhythm and melodic structure to the orchestra to perform a piece.
Similar method was used to record Indian film music before the 1980s. There would be above 100 musicians in one recording room all performing live on a song and the arranger was the man responsible for executing the musical vision of the composer.
As technology progressed and it was possible to record audio on multiple tracks the need of recording 100 live musicians at the same time started to diminish. Keyboard synthesisers were replacing live musicians with its ability to mimic most musical instruments with a touch of a button.
It opened up the horizon of music not in just a melodic way but sonically, where blips and bloops also became an inherent part of musicality. Remember Bappi Lahiri’s disco tom toms (tu du du tu du du) in Disco Dancer? Those were all simulated through synthesisers and frequency modulators. That is also one of the reasons how the 70s rock progressed to the 80s disco era, where the sound was more electronically produced.
The word producer started from the West where a producer plays the part of the new age arranger giving a vision, a sound and life to the song composed by the songwriter. Music directors, as we call them in India, are usually composers or to simplify melody makers they may not necessarily produce their own sound. MTV coke studio this year kick started with one of my favourite music producers, also a composer, Clinton Cerejo. I met Clinton for the first time when I was in the band Viva. Clinton has produced sounds for A.R. Rahman, Vishal Bhardwaj and many more composers for films like Kaminey, Saathiya. The famous duo of Salim-Sulaiman arranged many songs for Anu Malik at the start of their career. The famous song Krazy kiya re from the film Dhoom 2 was produced by them for Pritam.
One of the most famous examples is the genius producer Quincy Jones, who produced the historic thriller with Michael Jackson. The first record that the duo did together was Off the Wall released in 1979. Quincy pulled out some of the best musicians and songwriters and created history. Off the wall, as a record, raised the bar for Michael Jackson where Quincy was indeed creating a sound for what was to become legendary.
MJ’s debut song Don’t stop till you get enough was a demo that Jackson had recorded with his siblings. Quincy built the song from there and added sweeping strings, punchy horns and bass drums and handclaps to the foundation. Single notes plucked on the electric guitar folding into Jackson’s percussions created a signature sound for the singer.
Thriller is by far one of the highest selling albums of all times and my favourite song from the album Beat it is another great example of how instrumental a producer can be in the success of a record. A drum machine’s steady rhythm introduces Beat it written by Jackson himself. The groove made it a hit with dance clubs but Steve Lukather’s guitar and the famous guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen cast this song as Rock dance.
William Orbit is a success story behind many famous artistes. Madonna known for not only experimenting with her looks but also her sound, collaborated with the English producer to make her next record. The album Ray of light released in 98 changed the way audience perceived Madonna. From Candy pop, to Erotica and now Retro-sounds, infused with New age electronica palettes of sound, Madonna released legendary tracks like Frozen, Ray Of Light, Om Shanti and Beautiful stranger later on.
Music is indeed an ocean and there are so many people that make a song, a record, and a background score a success story. This has been my small ode to the lesser-known names, with a magical wand, which have left a legacy that will always live on.
The writer is a singer and songwriter
THE ASIAN AGE June 19, 2012
Who run the world? Girls! When the R&B super star Beyoncé Knowles sang the chart buster the world sat up and listened to the roar of the reigning decade of girl power.
It’s interesting to see the shift from 70s and 80s pop and rock stars to the divas taking over the music world by storm. We first saw the sparks of it in the mid 80s with Madonna shocking and wooing the world with her music and sensuality. The 90s proved to be even more definitive in reinforcing the growing trend of female dominance in the pop world.
With the launch of some of the greatest artistes in 90s like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Celine Dion and Tony Braxton to name a few, the world could not ignore their talent or escape their super stardom. The record sales of these artistes was going to change the stake of female artistes for years to come.
In a career spanning over two decades, Mariah has sold over 200 million records worldwide, making her one of the best selling artistes of all time.
In 1998, she was honoured as the best recording artist of the 90s and was also declared the artiste of the millennium in 2000. One reigning queen passed on the baton to another in 2011, when billboard announced Beyoncé as the artiste of the decade. This not only reiterated the power of the divas, but also reinforced that girl power was here to stay and was not just a temporary trend.
Women are increasingly becoming a dominant force in the pop world, stumping the boys across most genres. With female dynamos like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Adele taking the centrestage, the world cannot seem to have enough of them. With young girl fan base who want to look like them, be like them and are addicted to them, the boys too are enthralled by these powerhouse performers. Their froth and fervour decides which song gets maximum radio airplay, TV rotation and which artiste gets pushed by the record label.
The numbers are staggering with the women taking top spots for digital downloads, albums sold and the money made. The current crop of female artistes fortify the strong empire built by Britney Spears, Pink, Gwen Stefani, Shakira and Christina Aguilera.
The streaks over the past two decades show little sign of waning with the increasing fan base for female pop, R&B and Hip Hop artistes. Even popular male rapper Eminem had his biggest hit last year Love the Way You Lie featuring bombshell Rihanna.
Pitbull made his presence felt with help from Jennifer Lopez, collaborating on her hit songs like On the floor and Dance again. Maroon 5’s last chartbuster Moves like Jagger had Christina Aguilera lending her powerful vocals and adding glamour. Even Coldplay has given in to this trend resulting in their recent collaboration with Rihanna, Princess of China.
Amidst the chaos and terror of piracy and the dwindling numbers of downloads and album sales, the statistics show a considerable shift in digital downloads and actual record sales last year for the first time since 2004. This victory was primarily attributed to the two female dynamos Lady Gaga and Adele. The fervour that the two women managed to create worldwide showed a change in the actual power of the fans, who till then, were pirating most music specially online.
Rihanna was recently declared the biggest selling digital artiste of all time. From 2004 to 2012 — starting from her debut single Pon De Replay to her smash hit We found Love — she sold 4.5 million digital downloads.
Popular notion is that Gaga is doing well due to her bizarre demeanor or Katy tops the charts due to her overtly sexy image, but music tycoons and radio heads tell a different tale. They claim that people never get tired of listening to Gaga, Adele, Rihanna or Katy. If they do get bored, there is always a new hit single to burn up the chart.
Audiences not only find these artistes iconic, but find their music relatable. Adele managed to strike a chord with her broken-hearted world churning heart-wrenching songs like Rolling in the Deep, Someone Like You and Set Fire to The Rain. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood still remain the most popular and highest selling American idols of all time.
The reasons for this growing empire may be numerous, but the fast growing monopoly of women in the music business is built on strong foundation of some great artistes and their legacy of work. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Certified female artistes like Mariah, Celine, Madonna and Beyoncé have paved the way for new superstars like Adele, Miranda and many others. The more the merrier. Loving women hurt no one. Long live girl power!
THE ASIAN AGE June 05, 2012
It was 1992. School annual day was approaching, and I had a solo to sing. And so I bought my first music cassette. It was the Michael Jackson album Dangerous…and thus was born at the tender age of nine, the dream of pop stardom that I hoped to live one day.
The world then was changing and India was in transformation. That was also the year satellite television came to India. With music videos kicking in, music was suddenly no longer just audio, but an audio-visual experience.
Channels such as MTV and Channel V came to our homes then for the first time. Many urban music listeners and aspiring pop stars like me saw a small, but important window to pop music in India. Indipop was born.
A big smile sweeps over my face as I remember those glorious times when music was so much bigger for us than films. We were awed by the American and European artistes, but watching that wave catch up in India had its own charm. I clearly remember watching Baba Sehgal croon Main Bhi Madonna in a green outfit, rapping in Hindi, and looking at me straight in the eye through my idiot box.
The 90s saw a wave of male and female artistes with their own personalities — colourful videos and their own distinct styles — creating a genre of sound. The pop industry became a force to reckon with. Baba Sehgal, Daler Mehndi and Alisha Chinoy remain among the highest-selling Indian artistes of all time. Yes “highest selling”, because that was back in the day when people actually bought music, and music channels like MTV and Channel V were music channels, not reality TV channels.
Indipop may have had a small start, but soon with music channels and record labels seeing a future and a conducive revenue model in this industry, we saw a rapid rise in the releases. Many models, actors, playback singers, film directors, make up artistes, and choreographers, who are the backbone of Bollywood today, started their careers with Indipop.
How can we forget the sizzling Pooja Bedi in Baba Sehgal’s Dil Dhadke or the buffed up Mark Robinson in Alisha Chinoy’s Lover Girl.
Artistes like Lucky Ali and Silk Route then brought in a fresh sound, and a larger than life look ‘n’ feel to their videos in the late 90s. Lucky Ali’s album Sunnoh was very earthy, and yet very progressive for its times. A classic case of simple melodies presented with eloquent palettes of sound — a great shift from the early 90s candy pop sound and cheesy lyrics. Silk Route’s underwater video for Dooba Dooba featuring our very own Mohit Chauhan, is till date one of the best videos in the history of Indipop.
In the millennium, we caught the last phase of Indipop in the mainstream arena. In 2002, Channel V produced its very first all-girl pop group called Viva. The band members, of whom I was one, were selected following a nationwide talent search that was aired as a reality show and brought the group massive popularity.
2003-04, however, saw the final spurts of pop stardom with bands like Aasma and Band of Boys enjoying their moment in the sun before Indipop went into seemingly terminal decline.
As I write this article, I can’t help but wonder — where are our pop stars today? While the West is producing a new icon every few months, why has Indipop withered into oblivion? Did the pioneers of Indipop willingly give up their throne to the film stars who use the same tool of videos today to promote films? But the faces have been replaced with actors and actresses. The gradual migration of pop stars into playback singing — is that a choice that they made, or a decision made because of lack of choice?
I end with a hope for a new beginning for all artistes who choose to express themselves without worrying about the numbers, the limitations, the target audience or the doubts if they will rule the market. I hope artistes can find the space to just be artistes.
Neha Bhasin is a singer and a songwriter
THE ASIAN AGE
During my last vacation at home, I woke up to a familiar song from my childhood:
“Naam gum jaayegaa, cheharaa ye badal jaayega / Meri aawaaz hi pehchaan hain, gar yaad rahe.” (The name will be lost, the face will change/My voice is me, if you remember it)
It’s an old number in the glorious voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder. The soul-stirring lyrics were by Gulzar Sahab and R.D. Burman made that evergreen music for the film Kinara that released in 1977.
The movie’s name may have been lost in the recesses of memories. The trends in music have changed. But the sound of that era still lingers. I miss the Indian blues. I grew up in the 1990s and even though the music I chose to listen to was primarily in English, the uniqueness of Hindi music from the 60s and 70s and part of the 80s, with their love for tragedy, held my attention even at the age of 10.
I often felt very drawn to what I call the Indian blues. I remember replaying the soundtrack of Anand with dialogues and weeping, living the pain of each song.
“Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai, kabhi yeh hasaye, kabhi yeh rulaye” (lyrics: Yogesh). It was truth, so profound, but said so easily.
And the poetic version of marrying the night in “Kahin door jab din dal jaye, saanjh ki doolhan badan churaye, chupke se aaye.”
Some songs had a very deep impact on me. To name a few, “Aansu bhari hai jeevan ki rahein, Koi use keh de humein bhool jaye” from the film Parvarish (1958). I first heard this is in Lataji’s voice on an album Shraddhanjali that I found in my mother’s cabinet, later to discover the original in Mukeshda’s voice. The reflective pain in the words stirred me even as a child and I remember connecting to the song and singing it often.
The great introspection in songs like “Zindagi ka safar, hai yeh kaisa safar, koi samjha nahin, koi jaana nahin” (1970) touched me even when I didn’t quite understand the intensity of the lyrics. Even today, the song makes me want to sit down and just listen. The poetry in these songs was very deep, real and with a flavour of great pathos in it.
My mother used to often sing “Mera kuch saaman tumhare paas pada hai” from the film Ijaazat (1986). The romance with which Gulzar saab told the tale of a broken heart had a charm of its own. It carried the melancholy, the saudade (in Portuguese, meaning a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing), of unrequited love.
Thinking of it brings me to the question that often strikes me: Have we forgotten to feel, in this era of quick downloads and the trash button? Have lyrics merely become the free French fries we get along with our main meal?
Even mainstream music, which in our country is film music, kept the legacy of pathos, blues and poetry alive for as long as they could, till the fast food generation kicked in.
Yes, we enjoy the way music has progressed, but it would be great if we could keep the spirit of the yesteryear alive. Audio technology has advanced in leaps and bounds for both creators and listeners, and has given us great ability to attractively package the product with surround sound, but has it also taken the soul out of its core?
Today, as a grownup, I marvel at the maturity of artistes and listeners of the earlier generations. There was a sense of alignment between what the creators made and the audiences at large accepted. Even though technologically we may have advanced, those olden times were what I truly call modern. They had a greater sense of art, had the luxury to enjoy it and a much higher acceptance for poetry, introspective lyrics and a spirit of romance.
I hope we, the artistes of today, can give the 10-year-olds of this generation something to reminisce. I hope we can leave a sound they will remember long after the names are lost and the faces wrinkled.
The writer is a singer and songwriter