‘Music mafia’ or ‘no bias’? The truth lies somewhere in between

MCAI - 25 Jun 2020

Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death by suicide has shaken up Bollywood and resulted in a lot of issues and grudges – that were simmering for a while – surfacing in the public domain. Over the last week, the biggest topic of debate in the entertainment industry has been the alleged powerplay in the Bollywood music space and how it is supposedly controlled by a few music labels. It all started when Sonu Nigam, in a vlog, said, “I want to request everyone and especially our music companies to be kind because today an actor – Sushant Sigh Rajput – has passed away, tomorrow you can hear the same about a singer or a composer or a lyrics writer because unfortunately there is an even bigger mafia in the music industry than in the film industry.”

He further added that young and struggling musicians are distressed because “the composer would want to work with them, the producer and director would want to work with them but the music company would say ‘no, this is not our artist’. This is not right that the power is in the hands of two music companies only.” He also made the charge that “Even directors and producers are not happy because they are not being allowed to make the music that they wish to.”

The video sparked a debate with charges and counter-charges flying. Later, in a second video, after a few names from the industry spoke to the media and contradicted these charges, Sonu named T-Series’ Bhushan Kumar and alleged that Bhushan was trying to forcefully counter his views by getting other singers to speak against him. Soon after, Bhushan’s director-actor wife Divya Khosla Kumar, in a video, said, “I'm seeing people being able to sell lies and deceits with their strong campaigns. #SonuNigam such kind of people know how to play with the minds of the audience... Such people are thankless.” T-Series is by far the biggest player in the Hindi film music industry, with an estimated 50% market share.

Several veterans of the music industry came out in Sonu’s support after he posted the videos. While Alka Yagnik just said “Yes, it’s true I am with Sonu on this... and most of us senior singers are too,” and chose not to elaborate further on this, others shared their experience of having dealt with this “injustice.”

Creativity controlled by those who have no clue about creativity: Adnan Sami
Sharing his thoughts online, Adnan Sami wrote, “The Indian film and music industry needs a shake up. Especially in the context of music, new singers, veteran singers, music composers and music producers – who are being exploited to the hilt. Why is creativity being controlled by those who have no clue about creativity and are trying to play God? Is all that we have to offer is remakes and remixes? Stop this and allow the truly talented new and veteran artistes to breathe.”

Today, there are people who can’t sing at all, but they are the ones in the limelight: Madhushree
Madhushree, who has often given her voice to AR Rahman’s projects and songs like Kabhi Neem Neem, Tu Bin Bataaye and In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein, says, “Nepotism and music mafia have always been there. But earlier, there were really good singers, too. Today, there are people who can’t sing at all, but they are the ones in the limelight.” The singer says that she has had to face a lot of discrimination in the Bollywood music industry throughout her career and “all kind of tricks were used to ensure that my voice does not reach the public.” “But I am very grateful to AR Rahmanji who gave me so many superhit songs,” she shares.

Some, like singers Shilpa RaoJubin NautiyalAmaal Mallik, composer Rochak Kohli, lyricist Manoj Muntashir and singer-composer Sachet Tandon didn’t agree with Sonu’s claims of the music industry being biased and favouring insiders.

it wasn’t easy for me or my brother Armaan because of our surname: Amaal Mallik
Talking about nepotism, Amaal Mallik, who comes from a family of musicians, had said, “A lot of people have the notion that it must have been easier for me because I had the Mallik tag. But I don’t feel it’s right. I agree I have an advantage. I know how things work. I have seen the failures of my family members so I know and that’s the only difference. I have been doing this since the age of 19 but I got my first film at 24.” Speaking about his first film, he added, “I miserably failed in that film and that song didn’t work despite being on such a huge scale. For one year, I had no work. I don’t think anyone repeated me, just like it’s with other newcomers. It’s not happened overnight for me and my brother. Maybe, it’s even a bit tougher for people who have a name.”

The music industry has a very progressive process: Rochak Kohli
Music director Rochak Kohli added, “When I approach a singer for a song, I always tell them that I want to try you for this song. And we will try our best to keep your voice in the song because things change. It's not just for new singers. I also tell the same to people like Arijit (Singh), or Jubin (Nautiyal) and Sachet (Tandon). Everyone understands. Singers come up to me and tell me they want to sing maximum scratches. The singer also gets his taiyaari and his voice also reaches out to a lot of people. It’s indeed a very progressive process.”

Charges levied against the ‘music mafia’
- Forcing new directors to work with musicians/singers they don’t want to
- Giving chance to artistes that have signed up with their label, while sidelining other talented musicians


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