Indian bands of the '90s made sure we never forgot them. Their videos have lived on longer than their sound. Remember Indus Creed's Pretty Child? That black-and-white video with the touching backstory that unrolled as the band played on? We even remember the corny videos (cue Shefali Zariwala's peeking blue thong in Kaanta Laga from 2002). At their best, music videos made you watch a song rather than just hear it. At their worst, they assaulted your eyes as well as your ears.
We thought the age of the video had come and gone as music jumped from TV channels to iPods. In recent years, only Pentagram (Voice from the album It's OK, It's All Good) and Tough on Tobacco (Taxi Song from their debut album, The Happy Goat) made videos.
But in 2014, videos are back with glee. Within the past year, indie artists like Your Chin, Nucleya, Nischay Parekh, Sandunes, Delhi Sultanate, Sky Rabbit, and The Koniac Net have released official music videos for the first time in their careers. Madboy/Mink and Nanok's debut videos are set to release soon.
Meanwhile, Pentagram have released a new video for their 2007 hit, Voice, and Dualist Inquiry is out with his second official video, Lumina. Shaa'ir + Func have a video out called Juxtapose. And The Ska Vengers are working on their second music video for the track, Badda. Animated, low-budget, single-frame, montages, abstract, story-centric - all kinds of videos are being produced today, as artists open to new ideas and new modes of creative expression. Suddenly, quality headphones are not all you need to enjoy indie music.
SEEING AND HEARING
"Visual culture is more engaging for the audience, and it opens up one more mode of artistic expression," says Delhi Sultanate aka Taru Dalmia, whose debut video for Fever is a homage to traditional Jamaican sound system culture - turntables, generators, speakers and a street party. Soon after it was released, Dalmia was contacted by fans in Jamaica, Canada and South America, for the first time in his career. "I guess the video truly resonated with them," he says.
The Ska Vengers video works a political agenda too. But Sandunes' (aka Sanaya Ardeshir's) debut video for Good to You has an interesting and humorous story line that gives her music a new dimension. "A video breathes new life into a song," says Sohail Arora, managing partner at the artist management and events company, KRUNK, an Indie artist management and booking agency. "The way you look at a song changes, and it also pushes artists out of their comfort zone with their creative mindset."
TV TURNS INDIE
The big motivation for this push: an up-and-running 24-hour dedicated television platform for indie music today, one that is hungry for video content. With the launch of Pepsi MTV Indies in February this year, and with other channels such as VH1, 9XO and Zee Music keen on airing local content, there is no better time for artists to dabble in video-making.
Pepsi MTV Indies reaches out to 20 million households in the country, and "[This] helps you reach out to a new audience and a new set of fans," says Sandunes. Artists such as Indian Ocean are also using television platforms to 'premiere' their seventh album, Tandanu.
"When music is aired on television, it carries with it certain credibility," says Ankur Tewari, content head of Pepsi MTV Indies. "It's not the same as an online platform, which is by the people and for the people." The channel, he says, is seeing an overwhelming enthusiasm from artists. "We started with 100 videos, and another 150 videos will be on air soon," adds Sean Pereira, assistant manager of music content at the channel.
MEDIUM AND MESSAGE
Music videos, teasers to albums and songs, and festival and event videos are also a great promotional tool for artists, say publicity and artist managers. "Music videos work in the same way that advertising does," says Neysa Mendes, founder of music publicity firm, Little Big Noise. "A good ad creates the same connect with a brand that a good music video does for a band."
Creative, out-of-the-box videos go a long way, agrees Arora. Most international promoters and bookers don't want to read a press kit. "They would rather see a quick video to gather the essence of an artist," he says.
There are also music fans who also don't follow artists on niche websites such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, and who can only be reached through mass video platforms such as YouTube. It's another reason for a new artist (or an old one looking to expand their listenership) to think of producing exciting video content for YouTube.
For Nucleya, aka Udyan Sagar, who released his debut video for the track Akkad Bakkad in November last year, YouTube was the sole platform; his video never made it to TV channels. The censor board took umbrage over the lyrics, akkad bakkad bambe bo, assuming he was using the term 'Bombay' instead of 'Mumbai'. But he is not miffed. "To release a music video online is very exciting for me, as I enjoy the instant response from the right kind of audience," says Nucleya.
GOING FOR A SONG
Artists and other scensters believe the surge of the music video is a natural progression from the rise of indie music, one that would have taken place even without the launch of TV channels. There are more artists today, the scene has evolved, and it has become much easier to produce a video.
"A big budget is not necessary at all, as you can shoot a good-quality video using a Canon 5D camera and collaborate with other interesting, creative people," says Saba Azad, one half of Madboy/Mink, who are shooting their debut video for their popular track, Lemonade. "There was a time when, as part of Bandish Projekt, we shot a big-budget video and cast actress Isha Koppikar; those days are gone. Now, you don't need to go through big production houses or record labels to make a video," says Nucleya.
Nucleya, in fact, had a stroke of luck when making his new video. He landed himself a fully-funded music video courtesy the Swedish retail clothing brand, H&M. The brand's website, H&M Life, supports trends in fashion, culture and video, and its initiative 'World Premiere' helps young artists from different parts of the world to develop their videos.
Other brands like Red Bull have also come forward to help artists in India produce good-quality and big-budget videos. They recently produced a video for a collaborative track by Bangalore folk rockers, Swarathma and The Wanton Bishops, a Lebanese blues rock duo, titled Lay it On Me. The video, directed by Misha Ghose, also saw Naman Saraiya, a writer and photographer in the indie scene as the assistant director. "This video had a budget big enough to rent three cameras, hire lights, assistant directors and a location. Most of the other videos I have shot have cost close to nothing," he says. Nischay Parekh's video for Panda was a single frame video with animation, and they used car headlights as lights as they faced a debacle on shoot day. For Your Chin's video of Run Along You Little One (co-directed with Misha Ghose), they strung together a montage of shots taken at Dadar Parsi Colony. "And most of my videos are edited by my roommate, Sourya Sen, who has worked on a lot of music films in the past," Saraiya adds.
Channels such as Pepsi MTV Indies will also help artists produce videos. "We will provide support in different ways, depending on their needs and budget. We are also creating a community of sorts, and we will help artists establish connections with directors, art directors etc," says Tewari. The channel also intends to develop other content, such as films on the history of existing bands, documenting the music movement and the process of making music.
Saraiya too is working on two documentaries for rockers, Pentagram and The Supersonics. "Constant growth is necessary for the kind of video content we are producing. Videos are a great platform for filmmakers and photographers like me, as well as artists. But the quality of videos and video content must constantly improve as well," he says.
From HT Brunch, June 29
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