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Monday, October 19, 2020

Punjabi music has been cutting across boundaries: Spotify India Marketing head Neha Ahuja

Spotify India's Marketing Head Neha Ahuja and Times Music COO Mandar Thakur on the popularity and evolution of the Punjabi music.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi | Updated: April 13, 2020 3:45:51 pm
punjabi music Neha Kakkar and Diljit Dosanjh are some of the most popular artistes on Spotify right now (Photo: Instagram/nehakakkar, diljitdosanjh).

Punjabi music is everywhere these days. Its presence is unavoidable and its impact on the youth and the Hindi film industry needs no proof. In fact, independent artistes such as Neha Bhasin and Diljit Dosanjh, who have now become household names, have especially found favour with the Spotify audience.

In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Spotify (India) Marketing head Neha Ahuja and Times Music’s COO Mandar Thakur spoke about the evolution of the Punjabi music, the reason behind its growing popularity and more.

Here are excerpts from the conversation.

We have various music industries in India, catering to people of different cultures. What do you think it is about Punjabi music that has struck such a chord with the Spotify audience?

Neha: In our own research, we have seen that the Punjabi music is, and has been, cutting across demographics for quite some time now. And according to our Spotify statistics, it is the third most consumed language after Hindi and English. In fact, it is a part of nearly every curated playlist that we have.

What is the age bracket of this audience?

Neha: It is certainly skewed more towards millenials and Gen Z but it’s consumed across.

Mandar: Each player has their audience. But it’s been popular among the Indian audience culturally for a decade. It started with people like Gurdas Maan and his predecessors, so you realise that this is no surprise. Punjabi music had also been dormant for a while, and now thanks to the penetration of broadband, it has sort of come to the fore. It is working wonderfully alongside Bollywood. It has been there since the days of the early Yash Raj musicals. Another thing that is working in favour of the Punjabi music is that Punjab doesn’t have a very vibrant film industry, which has given birth to a fairly dominant Punjabi music industry, which has actually changed over the years.

The sound of Punjabi music has progressed with time. Earlier it used to be folk music, then it moved on to Bhangra in the heady 90s with Daler Mehndi and the like. Then we had what was termed the British-Asian music, which saw the rise of artistes like Talwinder Singh and Bally Sagoo. And today’s Punjabi music has morphed into hip-hop.

Neha: Also, Punjabi music is more artiste-led. Huge consumption happens thanks to artistes like Badshah and their playlists. This doesn’t happen with Tamil music or even Bollywood music.

Tell us about Spotify’s Punjabi Music Campaign

Neha: We saw that Punjabi music was cutting across boundaries and was the third most consumed language on Spotify. People were actually increasingly introducing Punjabi music into a part of their everyday lives, whether it was for a workout or a drive. So we concluded that wherever there’s a need to pep up your mood, that is where Punjabi music comes in. And of course, it has always been a part of the wedding culture.

What has been the response like to the campaign?

Neha: The response has been great and we have seen huge engagement on social media platforms. We are really thankful to Neha Kakkar, Badshah and Diljit Dosanjh who posted videos and spoke about it.

How do you see the connection between Punjabi music and the Indian diaspora

Mandar: Punjabi music also owes a lot to the NRI population who probably didn’t have Punjabi films to watch and they started bringing in these artistes in the west. Singers like Daler Mehndi started touring and this whole east-west marriage began. Gradually, Punjabi music itself started taking a western tone.

Neha: There is a big market in the UK, Canada and the US. Of course, there is a difference in consumption. For instance, in India, it is more commercial sounding music, whereas the diaspora is actually consuming more folk Punjabi music.

Who are some of the most popular Punjabi musicians on Spotify right now?

Neha: Neha Kakkar, Diljit Dosanjh, Neha Bhasin, Badshah, Guru Randhawa, B Praak, Asees Kaur are a few of the many popular musicians who are in demand presently.

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