Bollywood music has been under the scanner for quite some time now. The trend of remakes, YouTubers entering the industry and new talent not getting enough opportunities has become a never-ending debate. So, we sat down for a chat with the celebrated singer Shaan who is currently seen judging Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs.
Here are excerpts from the exclusive conversation:
You have your own YouTube channel. Why did you feel the need for it?
Of late I have more time on my hands than I used to because Bollywood offers have dried out and let’s not delve into what the reasons for that are. People feel Shaan had his full run and now it’s time for something else, someone else. But I am making the best of it. I am using the opportunity to create my own music, compose new songs and do videos. I am putting out songs. It gives me a chance to go back to my roots when I used to do Indie pop.
What do you think about YouTubers influencing the music industry?
The influence of YouTubers is something that is created by YouTube. The popularity of each song is weighed on the basis of how many views each song has got, not on how good the song is or how well-trained the artiste is. Singers like Honey Singh, Hardy Sandhu, Guru Randhawa, Darshan Rawal and many other singers have a strong fan base because of YouTube. So, when they sing a song in a movie, they add to the views. So, I think that is why it is happening.
How has the competition coming from YouTube affected the industry?
We are the pre-YouTube generation and we were not discovered on YouTube. We are those who sold millions of CDs at some point. We were happy to be evaluated by the number of people spending money and buying our CDs. However, now you make your own video, spend on making your own song and on buying views too, so it’s one-way traffic and it’s like a huge investment. We, the artistes from the early 2000s, were not used to investing in ourselves. That’s why I don’t have a PR to whom I pay monthly. But, now I feel if you want to play the game, that is how it’s done. However, the one thing I won’t do is buying views because that is cheating. It is about creating a perception which is not real and fooling the audience.
So much discussion is going around Indian music hitting a low because of remakes. Being a part of the industry, what do you have to say?
I think music companies are up to something and there is something more to it. They are changing the copyrights of the original songs and giving credit to those who have not composed the song. But, clearly, they can’t be so obsessed with recreations especially when people are not liking them. Why are they still doing it? You can always hear the original. It is there in the archives. If you want to hear “Aankh Maare”, the original is available. I would actually want someone to investigate and find out what’s the copyright issue or what’s the business related to recreations is. How are they profiting from it?
The composer is not given enough credit for people to recognise him. Do you remember the name of the composer of original “Aankh Maare”? More than half of the people will not remember it. It is composed by Viju Shah who has given innumerable massive hits. But no one knows him. The entire song is Viju Shah’s composition and the lyrics are by Sameer. You put two lines in the song and call it yours, it doesn’t make any sense. It is the music companies who are pushing for it. Only time will tell what the actual deal is, but I am sure there is something. To create a whole new plethora of music programmers as composers is a perforating sight.
Reality shows have often been criticised for being too dramatic. What do you have to say?
Reality shows used to be more dramatic earlier. But sometimes the drama just kind of unfolds in front of you. Someone starts crying and human emotions are heightened and they show it so that you can connect to what is happening. Television is for a different audience. Who watches television? I think everyone under the age of 30 is not watching TV anymore. There might be an exaggeration of something, but all of it is real. Nothing which is shown is a lie because at the end of the day there are no actors who are performing. It is the truth of their lives which comes on the screen.
Do you think Bollywood is not giving a platform to new singers?
It makes me feel even more frustrated because we had a great run and there is nothing which I can complain about. In fact, I can only be grateful for whatever I have got from the music industry. I am worried about the really good talent that is there, but they don’t get that opportunity. They want raw voices or untrained singing or singers who sound just like a common man, without the real finesse and polished sense. This is what is expected from a singer and then you say that just because he sings like a common man and has a very regular kind of voice is why people love it. This is all business. Where’s the art form? All those who don’t know how to sing, who need tuning and pitching are doing all the work these days because either they are a YouTube sensation or have some connection.
Earlier too, while there were many singers, most of the work happened among 6-7 singers because that time the real challenge was to sing live and match with the expressions of the heroes. Singing for Hindi films was a specialised skill. It’s not a specialised art form any more. Today, there are certain singers who guarantee the popularity of the song. If music companies get them to sing their songs, they will get 10x views. So it doesn’t matter if the voice matches the situation or if they sing it well or not. Then there are these deals happening between music companies and singers and the singers who are a part of this deal will be favoured. But these things are not healthy for music as even before you make it, you are seeing how will you sell it.