Gone are the days when independent musicians or bands were on centrestage and music lovers revelled in songs like "Mai ri" and "Sayonee". Now, "manipulated" Bollywood hit numbers not only whet the appetite of listeners but also overshadow non-film music and budget constraint makes survival tougher, musicians say.
The 1990s were ripe for music bands and independent musicians. The era saw the emergence of bands like Euphoria, Silk Route, Aryan, Junoon and Stereo Nation which carved a niche for themselves.
During the same period, pop singers like Alisha Chinnoy, Falguni Pathak, Lucky Ali, Bali Brahmbhatt, Shaan, Daler Mehdi, Adnan Sami, Mika and Baba Sehgal rose on the music firmament and earned name and fame.
But now, Bollywood has become the mainstay for Indian music and Aditya Dutt from Dravaka, a Delhi-based band, pleads that they "just want to be heard".
"We want people to hear our music. We want our music to touch hearts and change lives. We want to carve out our style of music in the world," he told IANS.
Agreeing with him, independent musician Rajnigandha Shekhawat said those of his ilk have to work much harder than Bollywood singers.
"Independent musicians have to try at least 50 times harder than mainstream Bollywood singers to make even a slight dent in the market. There are two reasons - first, the budget, and second the content," she said.
A FICCI KPMG report says the Rs.10.6 billion music industry is expected to reach over Rs.20 billion by 2017 and that live music performances have come into their own - but it's still a long way to go for non-film music.
Hefty promotional budgets make it easier for filmmakers to hammer their songs into the minds of listeners by beaming them again and again on TV channels, but independent musicians don't have that luxury and hence languish.
"A song, when played on a TV channel three times every hour, eight hours a day, for fours weeks in a row, is bound to become a hit as people hear it that many times. It becomes a manipulated hit as the producer backs the TV airplay with huge budgets," Shekhawat pointed out.
"An independent artist is barely able to get together a band or an arranger to string together a good piece of music, and usually doesn't have a budget of Rs.25 lakh a week for music channels to support his or her music," she added.
Most of the independent bands are working professionals and their passion is their only guiding force.
"While we are working professionals, music has always been our passion... and when you love something that much, you make time for it," said Ajinkya Patale, composer-lyricist with Nashik band Veda.
Shekhawat felt that Bollywood lures talent from the independent space.
"Because Bollywood is investing so heavily in promotions, it invariably picks out the best content from musicians, independent or otherwise. Independent musicians are the basic talent pool that the mainstream eventually picks up people from; so if one is good in one's area of work, sooner or later the big call is bound to happen," she said.
Not unture! Shaan and Daler Mehdi are now more active as playback singers.
While struggling for their survival, these musicians see a ray of hope in MTV Coke Studio, a television show that provides a platform to be heard and showcases talents.
"Coke Studio gives a platform to musicians young and old. For an amateur band like us it is a platform to be heard, an opportunity to bring our music to the masses," Aditya said.
LeapFROG to Coke [email protected], a collaboration between Coke, MTV and blueFROG, too focusses on discovering new musical talent.
"With the initiative, music-loving audiences can watch and motivate their favourite bands. The winners of this initiative will go on to perform in a multi-producer episode of Coke Studio@ MTVSeason 3 and will get to work with some established artists in the industry," said Wasim Basir, director, Integrated Marketing Communications, Coca-Cola India.
(Anjuri Nayar can be contacted at [email protected])