Where Do We Draw The Line?

Ashwin-Babu-Rao-(Inferno)--Piyush-GoswamiAshwin Babu Rao by Piyush Goswami

One of the many tragedies of humankind so far is that true geniuses get completely ignored when they are alive while imitators make big bucks by working on a pre-packaged formula. More than often artistes who have abandoned lives that conform to societal normalcy with faith that music can feed them are left utterly disappointed. And, despite music reverberating in its soils for centuries; the scenario is unfortunately no different in India.

From an organiser’s perspective, a strong music scene has to be built slowly in any country with commercially successful music — music based on an already existing formula – but where do we draw the line? When do we stop promoting mediocrity and start catering to quality music? Beyond any shadow of doubt, we have reached a point today where realising and truly understanding the importance of promoting quality music in India is of prime concern despite the poor revenue it generates.

Nevertheless, this also beckons the question — if an organizer is always inclined towards commercial artistes and music then is he/she actually catering to the music scene or is it just a case of running a profit-generating business? Producer and owner of Qilla Records, Madhav Shorey , feels that any sort of innovative/fresh music or smaller movement takes sometime to gather the right amount of audience before it becomes self-sustaining and then profitable.

kohra - Koppula Photography (1)Madhav Shorey by Koppula

Moreover, in the long run, it will only work in establishing the right musical movement – one that stems from honesty and sincerity. There is no dearth of quality music nor is there a dearth of people following it or seeking it out in India. However, he also believes that the only way we could strive to achieve a musical sensibility that is attuned to both mainstream and experimental is by striking a balance between the two.
So, you start the scene with commercially successful music to establish the roots of the scene in a country but what number or what line decides that a scene or a ‘style of music’ has been finally accepted? And, when should organisers start taking the responsibility of educating people?

Having said that, it is understandable that in order to push a new wave of music organisers or promoters are often forced to play it safe and introduce a commercially successful sound purely to get the crowd accustomed to the genre before introducing them to a more eclectic musical experience. Rather than appreciating the nuances and eccentricities of an experimental sound; majority of the people today are stuck on sounds that are gaining rapid popularity. But what’s trendy today will go out of style in a few years and be inevitably replaced by a new trend or sound in music.

According to Nikhil Chinapa , co-founder of Submerge, the unique thing about dance music or “EDM” today is that it is also the ‘pop’ or popular music of this generation. That’s why it looks excessively commercialised. “Today, we have several Indian artistes playing a deeper underground sound in more clubs across India. I personally believe in balance and creating an atmosphere that’s inclusive and not exclusive. That’s why I will sometimes take chances with artistes like Felix Cartal who I’m bringing in later this year or Marcelo Vasami who I brought in last year; while continuing to promote mainstream acts like Swedish House Mafia as well as underground artistes like Richie Hawtin,” said Nikhil.


Nikhil Chinapa by Kartikey Shiva

Undoubtedly, it is important to not just feed audiences with what’s already popular, but also educate and expose them to different styles. And, this actually starts with local and resident DJs and not just international acts. In other words, it’s a symbiotic relationship between the resident DJs, the dance floor and the promoter. That’s how the scene is built; and not by any one of these entities.

If artistes, performers and organisers work hand in hand to develop a certain vision, taste and aesthetic it would work wonders for the whole country and bring about some sort of a revolution in our understanding. “If you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons, you might get fame and money for sometime but it’s not worth it. If all that effort is merged with honesty and a positive approach the feeling is unparalleled at all levels,” added Madhav.

It is of utmost importance that we engage and nurture honest efforts of musicians who have dedicated their entire lives to finding their unique expression of music rather than those who make music by a commercially successful and established formula.

Taking the leap

Musician Vinayak Karthikeyan firmly believes that there are three kinds of organisers we have today – ones who would simply like to multiply their profits; ones who absolutely love the fame and fortune that the industry could provide and the third lot who believe in music and support artistes who have dedicated their entire lives to exploring various musical possibilities.

Vinayak-Karthikeyan--Piyush-GoswamiVinayak Karthikeyan by Piyush Goswami

Organisers who have stepped into the game just for business can and will continue their efforts in the same direction of making more and more money by sticking to commercially hit acts. But what about those who get into event management to cater to quality music and support artistes?

According to Prateek Pandey , who established sLick! a few years ago, initially, the investment far exceeds the returns. And, that is where a promoter needs to take a call — whether to pursue his passion vehemently or go slow; take a few precautions and take it easy. “It has always been easy to make gigantic profits by promoting popular music but slowly a large chunk of the population, in their quest to explore diverse musical realms, has been shifting towards the underground — the lesser know sounds. In the long run, for any music scene to sustain in a country, there has to be a balance between the mainstream and underground,” said Pandey.

prateekPrateek Pandey

Accentuating on the importance of organisers also taking a strong stand on musical programming by involving ‘sincere’ musicians, artiste Ashwin Babu Rao  said that the key lies in recognising the true potential of underground music where people are in it with a sense of exploration and not imitation. “Today, the biggest players in the game are pushing the same artistes over and over again, making the ‘fresh ones’ invisible. Financially speaking, it is slightly harder to promote underground music as we know it in this country. However, I think the only kind of people who can actually make this difference are bodies that have a genuine concern for artistes,” said Ashwin.

written by Akshatha Shetty

NEWS - 04. November 2013  

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