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New Record Labels Have Sprung Up to Claim Space in Indian Non-Film Music

Everyone from Vishal Bhardwaj to talent management head Tarsame Mittal have emerged with new plans to release music

Anurag Tagat Jul 16, 2020

Mumbai-based composer and singer Amit Trivedi. Photo: Courtesy of SulaFest

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In the larger scheme of things for music in India, few would have seen that the coronavirus pandemic would cause the shift that we’re currently seeing in the country’s film soundtrack industry. With movies either being released on OTT platforms or being pushed back to later in the year or early 2021, film music that usually dominates the airwaves has been slowly reneging influence.

Before the pandemic struck, non-film music was slowly beginning to take up space in India. Labels like Jjust Music, Big Bang Music, IncInk, Kalamkaar, Gully Gang and more had already made their presence felt but 2020 might just be the year that sees more action in this sphere than ever before.

The music industry’s top players began making these moves as early as March, when Amit Trivedi announced a label for his non-film music compositions, called AT Azaad. It wasn’t exactly a reaction to the pandemic, since he said in a statement via Twitter, “I’ve been composing music for feature films since 2007. I’ve been creating music for films for 13 years and I totally enjoy and love doing that. However, I have a lot of music inside me which I want to share with you all in a different way.” So far, Trivedi has released two projects – Songs of Faith and Songs of Dance – featuring multilingual songs like “Morniye” as well as contemporary arrangements for seemingly devotional celebratory music, heard on songs like “Moti Veraana.”

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A similar statement came from veteran composer and filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, who announced the launch of his label VB Music, along with his wife and vocalist Rekha Bhardwaj. Vishal said in a video statement posted on Twitter, “I’ve said this many times before that I became a film director so that I can keep my inner music composer alive. But films have their own restrictions — in terms of situations, characters and many more […] I have thought for many years on how to present the tunes that do not go with films.” The first song, “Dhoop Aane Do,” included lyricist legend Gulzar and released on July 6th.

Although no strangers to releasing non-film music, composing duo Salim-Sulaiman have been widely known for their work in Bollywood. Earlier this week, they launched Merchant Records in partnership with digital media company Qyuki and its first song “Maangi Duaein,” featuring singer Raghav Chaitanya. The label promises two new songs every month. Sulaiman said in a statement, “We intend to release a lot of new and fresh content through this label.” The duo dedicated the song in memory of Qyuki’s late founder Samir Bangara. “I wanted this song to be the first release under Merchant
Records, a label which Sulaiman, Samir, Sagar [Gokhale, Qyuki’s chief operating officer] and I, had been thinking about for a couple of years.”

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One of the country’s top artist companies, TM Talent Management – helmed by Tarsame Mittal – also announced their own music release label approach in April with TM Music. Partnering with artist and music services company Believe, Mittal said in a press statement at the time of launching, “The country has a host of unexplored talent and with the digital revolution has opened up a wide market, this talent can be brought to the fore. We aim to create some great music with these passionate and talented people under the guidance of the best minds in the industry.” They have so far released music by the likes of singers Asees Kaur and Goldie Sohel, rapper Badal, vocalist Meghna Mishra and a collaboration between Ishq Bector and Charu Semwal.

What remains to be seen is how much of the same old industry influence is exerted upon the creative decisions and curation with these labels, considering there’s plenty of independent artists in India keen to reach their music to a wider audience with a label push. In an ideal situation, this non-film music is one that shouldn’t sound exactly like film music, minus the big name actors and this might just be the biggest challenge for new labels purporting to push “independent” artists.

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