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Music festivals are creating a platform for independent artists, say Indian musicians

India’s prominent musicians talk about the future of independent music in India and how music festivals play an important role in it.

music Updated: Mar 08, 2018 17:47 IST
Nabanita Das
Nabanita Das
Hindustan Times
Shankar Ehsaan Loy,Astitva,Maati Baani
Shankar Ehsaan Loy completed 22 years in the music industry recently.

The Indian music scene has always been a vibrant domain with the presence of independent music, including folk, pop, rock, Hindustani classical, carnatic, and film music, which include Bollywood and other film music. However, ir is only recently that the indie music scene has received significant recognition, thanks to music festivals being held throughout the year in the country now. From Udaipur World Music Festival and Jodhpur Riff to Mahindra Blues and Sunburn, music festivals are creating a stage for indie musicians. At one such recent music festival, we spoke to musicians about the future of independent music in India.

Shankar Ehsaan Loy performed at Udaipur World Music Festival recently.

Shankar Ehsaan Loy: One of the most popular musical trio, known for their popular Bollywood music, feels that the dominance of film music on the Indian music scene is actual but independent musicians are getting their due, thanks to music festivals. “If you look at Indian music as a box or a suitcase and how much you can fill in it, Bollywood music is the biggest chunk in it, the remaining is shared by classical musicians and indie artists,” says Loy Mendonsa. Adding to this point, Ehsaan Noorani says, “It’s a struggle for a lot of indie artists to get attention. But I think music festivals are a great a platform. People get to hear new musicians and it’s great. In India, it takes time for a change to come, so the process is slow but it is evolving.”

Delhi-based multi-genre Hindi band Astitva is happy with the recognition from young fans. (Amal KS/HT )

Astitva: The Delhi-based band, which has been successfully creating music for 10 years now, feels that the command of Bollywood is a reality and that it wouldn’t go away so easily. Happy in their space of work, and supporting endeavours of celebrating music through music festivals, Salman Khan Niazi, the lead singer of the band, says, “This is the best time to be an independent musician. You compose your music, share it on the net, and your audience is able to listen to it from any part of the world. And with more and more music festivals happening around the country, it’s easy to connect with the fans, too. This increases our popularity. You are not dependent only on music labels and brands to promote your music now.” Zaman Khan, his brother, and the guitarist of the band, says, “While 90% of the crowd is listening to Bollywood, 10% listens to indie music and that is a huge number. We are happy with that.”

Maati Baani is a folk fusion band by couple Nirali Kartik and Kartik Shah.

Maati Baani: Integrating Indian folk music with jazz, Maati Baani is a band known for their contemporary rustic music. They have performed in India and abroad, collaborating with other independent and foreign artists in different music festivals. Thus, for them, music festivals have brought worldwide recognition. Nirali Kartik, the lead of the band, says, “The scenario of independent music has been great. It allows you to enjoy a freedom that’s enviable. Today, you want to make a love song, tomorrow you want to do something else; you have no restrictions. Indie space is evolving and with digitalisation, reaching out to audience is not that difficult. And music festivals are also a boon for us. We meet and connect with musicians here and have also collaborated with them later. But at times, it is risky, since you are the sole person deciding on everything — from packaging the song to the places you decide to perform.”

Bipul Chettri with his Travelling Band composes Himalayan folk music.

Bipul Chettri And The Travelling Band: Bringing the soothing music of the Himalayas to the rest of the country, Bipul Chettri says that the struggle to create a place for oneself in the Indian musical circuit is real, but thanks to music festivals, they get to perform at different places and have created an enviable fanbase. “Every independent artist in India faces a problem because Bollywood is so dominant that it stops everything else from surfacing. It’s very difficult to survive in the industry doing just independent music. Therefore, eventually people fall into the trap of doing Bollywood music. But now the scenario is changing. With festivals happening almost round the year, independent musicians are gaining popularity and that is reflected in the sale of albums, too,” says Bipul, who, apart from creating music, heads the art department in a school in Delhi.

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First Published: Mar 08, 2018 17:47 IST