The success of AR Rahman’s Jai Ho — the Slumdog Millionaire-soundtrack that not only topped international charts, but won a Grammy and Oscar beside selling close to 4,00,000 copies — has given the West reasons to believe that India could come up with another hit.
Universal Music, one of the largest record companies, has recently partnered with Desi Hits, a three-and-a-half-year old music label to scout and promote Indian music. “Jimmy Iovine, an investor, introduced me to David Joseph, the chairman of Universal Music Group UK. We talked about the global South Asian demographic as music consumers, about the talent that had emerged from it and why there hadn’t been more that had come through,” says Anjula Acharia-Bath, chief executive of Desi Hits.
“In my opinion it was lack of infrastructure and support. I felt our demographic had been really overlooked by the major labels and any attempt to address it had been half-hearted and under-funded.”
According to Acharia-Bath, there is much to thank Kamaljit Singh Jhooti, better known as Jay Sean, the popular British-Asian artiste who has been a consistent US Billboard chart topper.
“Desi Hits has been a big promoter of Jay’s music for years, particularly in the US, so a lot of people from the industry were approaching us. Essentially creating the label was David’s idea and he was really excited.”
Through its website, which couples as an online radio and a blog that maps popular South Asian music trends, Desi Hits plans to gauge and tap into the market. But what exactly are they looking for? “I think the Indian sound has ‘clicked’ in the west (influencing the Beatles, Madonna, Black Eyed Peas) for years, what we have not had are faces which represent it,” Acharia-Bath says.
“Jay Sean, MIA and AR Rahman are a few faces today, but there are more, and it is our quest to find them. Indian music also blends well with western music genres,” she says, adding Desi Hits could “happily sign an Indian rock band that may not claim to have an Indian sound”. “If we feel they could become worldwide icons given a global platform.”
So what would Iovine, founder and chairman of Interscope Records and the man who reportedly discovered Eminem, expect from Indian music?
“I’m really excited to create some music that’s great in a club. People like Will I Am and Timbaland have done some great work in this area already,” says Iovine.
And what is his advice to budding Indian musicians? “Bands have to be adept not only in their music but in marketing and communication as well. Take Die Antwoord out of South Africa, they did an extraordinary job using popular websites to promote their band. So using the web for young Indian artists is perfect.”