These are the unseen faces — the voices that sell you cars, coffees and cold creams across media. Who are these talents and what rocks their melodies? Nirmika Singh enters the world of Mumbai’s ad jingle singers
‘When I grow up, I want to become an ad jingle singer,’ said no one ever. The reigning queen of jingles, Caralisa Monteiro took up the job of singing commercials “purely to earn money” as she was the only working member in her family. “It was only after a few years that I realised I was really good; there were times when I have recorded four jingles in a day,” recalls Monteiro, who had to her credit over 3,500 jingle since she started out in 1999.
She is now ready with her debut album called Illusions. It is a multi-genre offering featuring Jazz, Soul, Rock and Blues.
Most jingle singers that are ruling the roost today stumbled upon the profession. But interestingly enough, most realised their natural flair for delivering a take — be it a four-second-long, three-word melody or an anthem-like brand promotional song — and made the most of it.
Suzanne D’Mello Misquitta
Behind the scenes
The jingle industry is quite close-knit, with the same dozen or less singers sharing most of the work. Given the short deadline for projects and meticulously laid-out demands from clients, specialisation has become the key for singers to carve a niche for themselves. And, if a singer happens to be versatile with genres and styles, then sky is the limit when it comes to the amount of work, and money.
“To earn my way, I had to unlearn a lot and learn different styles to grow more versatile. Also, I had to develop an aptitude of singing in different languages,” reveals Sharmistha Chatterjee, another established name on the circuit.
It is no surprise then that most jingle singers consider the challenging nature of job to be its most thrilling part too. “The greater the challenge, the better,” shares jingle veteran Suzanne D’Mello Misquitta, adding, “What is amazing is the faith your music director and agency have in you to do that ‘something different’.”
Upping one’s ante becomes a part of the job then. “The challenge is in staying relevant in the face of a steady stream of new singers,” feels singer Petra Misquitta.
But doing an unconventional job also guarantees its own share of fun. “For the Frooti campaign, I had to sing a jingle that had gibberish for words. I sang it in a way usually Spanish and French folk songs are sung. When it was released, there were comments on YouTube debating on the language it was sung in. Some even offered a literal translation of the words,” says Chatterjee.
Her peer, Paroma Dasgupta, has often faced an amusing predicament during client interactions. A petite girl, Dasgupta recalls that there were times when she was thought to be “too young” to lend her voice to a certain tune!
The way to go
In the past decade, the jingle industry has made giant leaps in many arenas — quality of music production, openness towards new singers and overall professionalism. “Many jingles today carry some sort of social message, and some do that with a humorous twist,” feels Keshia Braganza, who is part of the younger crop of jingle artistes. “But deadlines have become even shorter,” reminds Misquitta.
The tunes they lend their voices to might become hits overnight, but jingle singers largely live a life of anonymity. “They get their due credit within the industry; unless the jingle is a part of a huge campaign or has a Bollywood link-up, jingle singers don’t get the kind of exposure a Bollywood playback singer would,” explains D’Mello Misquitta, who has sung many Hindi film songs as well.
The way out? “There should be an awards and recognition system for the ad jingle industry, which is as equally booming within India, parallel to Bollywood,” suggests young singer Thomson Andrews.
Rs 5k-Rs 1 lakh
The amount that ad jingle singers earn for each project, depending on how famous/experienced one is
Meet the voices
Popular jingle: WeChat’s Phir Kab Miloge (feat Parineeti Chopra and Varun Dhawan)
Pic Courtesy/Roycin D’Souza
Popular jingle: Cellkon Tic Tac, Starsports.com
Popular jingle: Volkswagen The New Polo’s Feels That Good ad; Kinder Joy
Popular jingles: Mango Frooti ad (feat Shah Rukh Khan), Set Wet’s Buri Nazar Wale
Popular jingles: Limca ad with Sushma Reddy, Nescafé Reachout, Slice Aamsutra
Popular jingle: Parachute Oil (feat Nargis Fakhri); Asmi Diamonds (feat Mandira Bedi)