Kabeer Kathpalia’s life may’ve gone both approach.
If it wasn’t for music, he most likely would’ve been higher remembered as a physicist.
However in school, Kathpalia, who majored in physics, discovered himself on the centre of a thriving music scene jamming to his favorite bands – Blink 182 and Inexperienced Day.
Now, 10 years on, he goes by the identify of OAFF and is profitable hearts together with his experimental music. His tune Doobey (a part of Bollywood movie Gehraiyaan), which he produced together with his school pal Savera, has greater than 50 million views on YouTube. He has been named one in every of Amazon Music’s prime unbiased artists in 2022.
The 32-year-old is a part of a galaxy of rising unbiased or indie artists in India’s fertile music trade, which has grown exponentially this yr.
Bollywood has historically dominated India’s music trade. Each Hindi movie is a musical, with songs starting from rollicking dance numbers and heart-wrenching ballads to patriotic melodramas and paeans to loss and longing.
The trade has captivated tens of millions – we snort and cry to a movie tune and we fall in love by a movie tune.
However the movie trade goes by a droop due to the pandemic and plenty of surprise if that has fast-tracked the expansion of indie music.
“Out of the highest 5 streamed songs of 2022 in India, just one is a movie tune,” says Rahul Balyan, head of music at Spotify India.
“Our flagship playlist for unbiased music, Indie India, continues to be probably the most liked and engaged. It noticed an enormous leap in followers this yr, with greater than half coming in 2022 alone.”
From new genres like gully or avenue rap to the Hindustani techno, indie music is effortlessly cool and genuinely ground-breaking. Among the most searing social commentary is coming from the fringes of India’s music communities. Even romance – the mainstay of Bollywood music – is discovering new voices in subgenres.
The rise and rise of Indie
Like elsewhere on the earth, indie music in India is predicated on a easy premise – anybody can study to play, make or document music and possibly even take the present on the highway.
However in India, indie artists are primarily those that create music exterior the nation’s movie trade.
Through the years, numerous musicians have tried this – some made it, however many could not due to an absence of funding and alternatives.
India’s Indie gold rush actually started within the Nineteen Nineties when a number of recent music channels corresponding to MTV and Channel V spotlighted unbiased artists like by no means earlier than. Hindi rock bands like Euphoria and singers like Fortunate Ali discovered tens of millions of recent followers.
But, the trade struggled to compete with movie music which has lengthy been thought of the benchmark of a profitable musical profession in India. Many outstanding faces corresponding to singer-composer Vishal Dadlani, who was the frontman of the rock band Pentagram, and Mohit Chauhan, the lead vocalist of the band Silk Route, ultimately moved to Bollywood to construct their careers.
Kathpalia nonetheless remembers how arduous it was for him to outlive in Mumbai metropolis, the place tens of millions are available in pursuit of their musical desires day by day: “I used to be paid peanuts and did not I realise that I used to be type of being exploited.”
However a change in consumption patterns has allowed aspiring musicians like him to profit each artistically and financially, decreasing their dependence on Bollywood.
The previous couple of years have seen immense technological and aesthetic shifts within the trade – there is a burgeoning live performance tradition with performances shifting away from small venues to fill total stadiums.
Extra unbiased document labels are taking it upon themselves to assist artists – touchdown them gigs, promoting and even international excursions.
However the largest shift occurred through the pandemic when movie releases stopped and OTT platforms altered the way in which content material was being consumed.
“Till 2020, folks had been consumed by what Bollywood was creating. However because the variety of movie releases decreased, an area was created for non-film music to fill. They now additionally had an opportunity to get found,” Balyan says.
Social media platforms like Instagram have additional lent power to the pattern, birthing one other pedigree of music the place everybody is usually a composer.
Reels, viral web dances and TikTok ensured their music travelled far and vast into the heartland, giving musicians a attain past the younger city demographic.
So palpable are these modifications that quite a lot of Bollywood musicians like composer Amit Trivedi and singer Armaan Mallick are diversifying into the unbiased scene with their very own tasks, Balyan says.
Indie vs Bollywood
The way in which the indie scene has remodeled and revived itself for the reason that pandemic has additionally coincided with modifications in Bollywood, which appears to be going by a disaster as most movies have did not grow to be blockbusters.
Listeners complain of how Bollywood songs have grow to be totally forgettable, or are principally remixes – a rehashed model of an previous tune with digital improvisation – which might be catchy however solely fleetingly.
Ehsaan Noorani, from the famend composer trio of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, agrees that a lot of the music has did not “create a long-lasting impression” and that “Bollywood must do a little bit of rethinking”.
“However sadly, the way in which Bollywood works is that if a movie would not do properly, then its music drowns with it. So, even when there’s a good tune, it is unlikely to grow to be a smashing hit if the movie is not one,” he provides.
Whereas Bollywood appears to be struggling to determine what works now, bands like Thaikkudam Bridge within the southern state of Kerala are bursting with freshness true to the indie spirit.
The multi-genre band based in 2013 by two brothers, Govind Vasantha and Siddharth Menon, has left an indelible mark on Indian rock.
There’s a sense of goal of their music, however what elevates the band is its means to mix unerringly candy components of people and classical Indian music with heavy metallic – one of many first songs they wrote, Fish Rock, lists a wide range of fish discovered within the state. A beautiful violin rhythm, virtually weeping in elements, provides to the attraction.
“Our music turned [a] staple for everybody in Kerala as a result of we took previous Malayalam songs and gave it new color,” says Vian Fernandes, the band’s bassist. “On the identical time, we additionally drew quite a bit from Carnatic music and western bands like Metallica, making the music an eclectic mixture of all issues relatable.”
That is evident within the band’s recognition; they’ve toured over 24 international locations and “virtually each nook of India”.
“It has been loopy to this point,” Fernandes says.
However he provides that movie music continues to dominate the scene and continues to be probably the most safe path to success.
The sentiment is shared by Kathpalia: “Bollywood is what gave me that loopy attain final yr,” he says.
For Noorani, the 2 genres will not be actually comparable.
“The expertise of unbiased artists is really wonderful. However composing Bollywood scores is completely different from producing singles and relies upon extra on the requirement of the script,” he says.