Sona Mohaptra's Open Letter: Stop looking towards Bollywood for validation
After Sonu Nigam lashed out at 'music mafia,' Sona Mohapatra puts the onus on artistes, the audience to reject mediocrity and nurture talent.
Indian music is a vast ocean, yet all our attention seems to be focussed on one small pond that is Bollywood Music. It's time that changed.
While it is critical to have a discussion about music label monopolies and the lopsided clique driven power structure in the film industry, it is equally a time for all of us to self reflect. This includes the media which has little or no space for music or concert reviews and award shows that continue to give lip-sync acts by actors precedence over actual musical performances. It is important that even audiences start rejecting such mediocrity and aspire for world class standards in entertainment which comes from being more demanding of authenticity and integrity from our entertainers
I've always been amazed by the popularity of non-film songs by Punjabi artists that are a part of all festivities. Songs like Taarey Gin 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 to you that it doesn't take Bollywood's marketing clout to make a super hit 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's not the incubator for the next, Gulzar, Majrooh Sultanpuri, even Amitabh Bhattacharya or Madan Mohan, Vishal Bhardwaj or the next Shankar Mahadevan. Instead, it's a demoralising 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 & not the hollow images fed to us by a rabidly toxic celebrity culture. We have to encourage artists & creators to collaborate and create timeless melodies, 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 artists who lip sync (too) on the live stage
Every artist has an ally in technology, the internet and 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 super star in each mohalla. We have to stop looking towards Bollywood for all validation of talent.
New and upcoming artists deserve our attention, even in my short tenure as a judge on a national TV reality show where I met, decided to not only back and help connect a Dharavi Rap Group 'M Town Breakers' to a talent agency; 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, Ghazal's, Classical, Folk, Pop, Sufi, Qawali, Desi Hip Hop and so many other genres. Why is it that the audience and entire ecosystem including radio and media treat non-film music like it's some inferior music? There seems to be a caste system in play and that is sad. Good music and artists should be encouraged and celebrated no matter where it's source is.
As a society and culture, we stand to benefit aesthetically and even grow the size of the music industry turnover by many folds if we looked beyond Bollywood.
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