The small-town YouTube millionaire
YouTube star Gajendra Verma's songs never fall short of a million hits. He tells us why he is this generation’s Lucky Ali
Unlike my generation, which listened to artistes like Lucky Ali and KK, the college-going youth of this generation, have no such idols. It’s Bollywood or nothing,” says YouTube sensation Gajendra Verma. "The English music types have their Pink Floyd, and the ones who like Hindi music, like me."
'Like' could be considered an understatement. Ever since he released his first song Tune Mere Jaana Kabhi Nahi Jaana (Emptiness) in 2011, which till date has around 6 million views, he has been singing originals (mostly romantic songs) on YouTube that get an average of 2 million views. His just-released song, Tera Hi Rahun, from the album From Lost to Found (which releases in August) already has almost 3 million views in three weeks. His fans are mostly college kids from small towns. “I have even played at places that don’t have an airport like Ahmednagar near Lucknow, and Biawar near Ajmer,” he says laughing. But they do have YouTube and hence, for them, Verma is a star.
Verma was born in Sirsa in Haryana and is a small town boy, hailing from Jaipur. His father, Surender Verma, was a well-known poet and theatre personality, and hence his biggest influence. When he shifted to Mumbai in 2007 to pursue an audio engineering degree, he always knew he wanted to make his own music. He produced Emptiness at his audio school, and showed it to a couple of people, and as luck would have it, it got leaked online. At the time, Verma was miffed, but in retrospect, it got him a following. "At that time, I didn’t even know if YouTube was a 'workable' platform." After the first song, he released Phir Suna, which got four million views. Verma has a very simple explanation for why his songs work. "I think college kids relate to my songs. Sometimes Bollywood songs are very generic, but I put their feelings to paper." It could also be because his conventional good looks are accentuated by a soulful voice. He comes across as the dreamer, and that could only be a good thing for an indie singer/songwriter.
"That day, I was missing the hills and was cooped up because of the rain. So I just sat down and penned a few lines. Songwriting is a constant process."
He also ends up inspiring others it would seem. YouTube is replete with covers and guitar tutorials of his songs. “It’s overwhelming, but I think it’s because they are looking for a star to call their own." Right now, as he readies to release the next video of his album next month, he is soaking in the admiration. "It's very sweet how fans have followed my career, and still comment on every song, every post (he has 2 and half lakh followers on Facebook). The boys think of me as the brother,” he says. And the girls, we ask? "They say 'marry me'," he laughs. We don't doubt it.
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