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Is non-film music the way forward?

Following the debate around composers dubbing multiple singers to get the best voice for their song, and Sonu Nigam’s claims that record labels push composers into working with singers for their labels, many musicians feel that independent and non film space is the only way s to break shackles and form an identity

music Updated: Jul 02, 2020 19:45 IST
Nishad Neelambaran and Samarth Goyal
Nishad Neelambaran and Samarth Goyal
Hindustan Times
Independent and non-film music has become even more prominent for musicians to establish themselves, feel several popstars, ever since Sonu Nigam’s claims about the presence of “mafia” in the film-music industry.
Independent and non-film music has become even more prominent for musicians to establish themselves, feel several popstars, ever since Sonu Nigam’s claims about the presence of “mafia” in the film-music industry.

Non film music has slowly become been the space for any musician to create their mark and become stars with crazy fan following, and many feel it has only gained further importance, ever since singer Sonu Nigam accused music labels of forcing music composers of choosing singers that’s signed up with the labels.

Rapper-composer Raftaar feels that the film industry is just like any other business, and its end goal is to make money. “ You have to understand that, while doing work for films, someone else is hiring you, for something that they have created. They will have that creative freedom and the right to choose who they want to work with, or what works best for them,” he says.

“Aap film walon ke pass jaa hi kyu rahe ho ki humse gavao gane? Why can’t you do it yourself? You have your voice, you have so many avenues where you can just release your music, and people will still listen to you. Today, there are so many examples of musicians, like Darshan Raval, who started posting content on Youtube and other social media platforms. They became big there first and then came to Bollywood. So they don’t need Bollywood to sustain themselves,” he says adding that while nepotism might only be prevalent in the commercial music industry, favouritism still lurks in the shadows, when it comes to underground music.

“ Favouritism and nepotism are more valid in the commercial music scene and less in the underground independent scene. There are a lot of insecurities within the hip hop community with every rapper trying to diss another rapper’s efforts. The day we stop judging artistes by their social media stature and when the whole community stands together as one against injustice, the whole system of favouritism will crumble,” he adds,

Singer-songwriter Neha Bhasin, too echoes the similar sentiment, and feels that non film music, gives everyone the chance to keep away from the film music-record label politics. The singer was “broken” the day she was told she “didn’t need to come on the first day of recording,” for a song in the 2018 film Tumhari Sulu. But later realised that, it wasn’t such a big deal. “It was my husband, Sam, who told me that I don’t need to care about this, and that I have done some good music, and I don’t need the anybody’s validation to know that I am a good singer,” she says.


“I realised that working with big labels and looking out to sing in films was not my cup of tea. It’s just so competitive and judgemental, and I just don’t like the vibe. I focussed on doing music that I really wanted to do. I don’t like the idea, when someone says that make music for the audiences. I am making music for myself, because it is my expression, and I want people to listen to that and relate to it, and empathise with it. I know I have not done work which has got some crazy hits, but whatever I have done and whatever love I have received, I know its genuine. What matters is that fifty years down the line people listen to song and say that it was a good song,” she says.

Recently, in an interview to Bollywood spy, National Award winning singer Monali Thakur revealed that she has distanced herself from singing in films. “Whatever he said ( referring to Sonu Nigam’s comments about music labels) is true. Bohot jyada mafiagiri humare music industry me hai. Nobody gets their due. I don’t like the ecosystem of the music industry, which is why I don’t try for film songs. I alienated myself because I care about my mental health,” she said.

Singer-songwriter Arjun Kanungo too, doesn’t direct his effort towards singing songs in films, to protect his mental health. But the even bigger reason for him is to maintain his identity, which he feels can be achieved only in the non film music space. “See obviously I will be a bit biased towards the singers, but I understand where the composers are coming from. They have signed a deal with the label, or the film, knowing that they will have to do what they (producers or the labels) want. They have signed that contract willingly. So I get it,” he says.

“ That’s why it depends on how invested you are. For me, my efforts and energy is simply not there. I want to do good work, I want to be known for the good work that I do, and that’s it. I don’t want to be a part of the rat race and this entire politics, because its never ending,” he adds concluding that non film music gives him that space to “grow and work on his own terms.”



The underground rap scene, too is free from nepotism and favouritism, as pointed by upcoming rappers Deep Kalsi and Kr$na. “Rapping industry is totally free of such concept and it is truly based on one’s talent. It all depends on your content, and you grow through that. If your work is good, slowly but surely you will be recognised,” says Deep Kalsi.


“Hip hop is still new in India so there hasn’t been any generational pass on for nepotism to even exist at this point. This generation of artistes are savvy about their own potential, rights and commercial worth so the whole movement of nepotism and favouritism has somewhere found an audience. Whereas, in the past it was brushed under the carpet,” says the Delhi-based rapper Kr$na.

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