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Off The Charts

Two weeks, number five – Bangalore’s Thermal And A Quarter are charting high

Amit Gurbaxani Sep 27, 2012
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We may not have too many Indian music charts but I’ve found that our musicians do pay attention to the few we do. I’ve seen Facebook and Twitter updates by some of the country’s biggest bands where they’ve mentioned how chuffed they were about a song of theirs making it to, for instance, the Vh1 Top Ten. Earlier this week, I saw another chart-related message from an Indian indie act but this one was about a new tally. Thermal and a Quarter shared on their Facebook page the news that for “Two weeks running and we’re still #1 on the English Charts” with their new album 3 Wheels, Nine Lives. The chart they were referring to is a list of bestsellers on online store Flipkart’s mp3 download section, Flyte. (The 28-track album, on the EMI record label, won’t be released in a physical format until the end of the month, when it will arrive in shops as a 3-CD set.)

What they didn’t mention and what I feel is particularly impressive about 3 Wheels, Nine Lives’s sales is that it also appears on Flyte’s overall Top 10, which ranks music across all genres, unlike say, the Vh1 rankings (or Flipkart’s own English Top 10 for that matter), which are restricted to international and India indie artists. On Flyte’s cross-genre Top 10, every release competes on the same field, be it Bollywood, devotional music, regional music, international pop and rock, or Indian indie.

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Three Wheels, 9 Lives currently ranks at a relatively high No.5, below in order from No.1 to No.4: the soundtrack to Barfi!, two Kannada-language devotional music tracks (which for some reason are also listed as albums), and the Ilaiyaraaja-scored soundtrack to the upcoming Tamil film Neethaane En Ponvasantham. The veteran music director has two other OSTs in the tally, for Malayalam and Telugu films. The only other non-film related releases in the list are the album containing the songs performed on Amit Trivedi’s episode on the second season of Coke Studio @MTV, and the sole international set, Mark Knopfler’s Privateering.

Knopfler’s showing is a testimony to the fact that Indians make for loyal fans. He may not be in the news as often as the Biebers and Gagas of the world, but the guitar legend still has a place in our hearts and our CD shelves, or shall we say, hard drives. (The rest of top five of the somewhat inappropriately named “English” Top 10 is made up by Bob Dylan, MLTR and Korean-pop YouTube sensation Psy.) What’s notable is that the Knopfler and TAAQ bundles are priced the highest among all the Top 10 albums, at Rs 295 and Rs 300 respectively. Both are generous efforts, containing 20 and 28 tracks. However, the fact is that while film soundtracks, averaging at six songs each, and offered between the price range of Rs 48 to Rs 119, require far less of an investment of both time and money than Indian indie and international albums.

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The strong presence of devotional music on the Top 10 also seems to corroborate with this recent news report that according to the Indian Music Industry’s statistics, the genre constitutes 52 per cent of total music sales in the country, outweighing even Bollywood, which contributes 40 per cent.  It bears remembering that T-Series, which dominates both the Bollywood and devotional segments, is not a member of the IMI, which, of course, doesn’t also take into account the number of illegal downloads and sales of pirated albums. T-Series’s albums are however available on Flyte, and from the looks of things, while Bollywood might still tower over other styles of music in terms of CD sales, when it comes to mp3 downloads even a niche genre like Indian alt rock can hold its own. And for that, acts like Thermal and a Quarter should TAAQ a bow.

 Amit Gurbaxani is the senior editor of www.mumbaiboss.com. He has been writing about music for over a decade.

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