In June, Red FM radio announced the arrival of Red Indies, a platform for promoting independent artists in India. The result is a show titled
Indie Hain Hum , a weekly two-hour show on Saturdays, with a repeat broadcast on Sundays. The program is presented and organized by singer Darshan Rawal. According to Red FM COO and Director Nisha Narayanan, the show aims to strengthen the community of independent artists in India. While Rawal will enjoy complete creative freedom, listener contributions and requests will also be considered. “Besides Hindi singers, we also plan to focus on regional musicians,” she says.
It’s been nearly two decades since the term “indie” has been used in India, mostly to refer to independent artists who weren’t signed to major record labels. In the process, a lot of talent has surfaced since then. Naturally, radio and television played a major role in the construction of this genre. But today, music television is no longer what we knew in the glorious days of Channel V and MTV. Indeed, the latter launched his now defunct Indian channel, but MTV played anything and everything with little direction.
The Coke Studio series tried to promote independent artists but stalled after a while. Radio stations have made efforts, but the focus has always been on Bollywood. Radio One launched an independent music show; online channels like Mirchi Edge and Radio City Freedom, in addition to platforms like Maed In India, Trunk It and boxout.fm, have also responded to independent music.
But some things need to be discussed. First, there is no proper definition of the term. Any music that is not Bollywood, regional or classical film falls into this category. Second, independent artists are not supposed to belong to major labels. But take Sanam, for example, known for its cover versions. The Hindi group recently released an original
‘Jaane De Mujhe’ with VYRL Originals, a property of Universal Music. Is Sanam still independent then? Thirdly, many singers lend their voices to Bollywood films – Darshan Rawal being one example. Logically speaking, then are they Bollywood singers and at the same time independent? The next point is that although there are many promising acts, there is also too much clutter. Everyone uses the YouTube route to become viral sensations. Thus, too much mediocrity seeps in. Dhinchak Pooja sings anything and gets a few million views.
Last but not least, let’s see the names of the best indie bands. We immediately think of Divine, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Badshah, Indian Ocean, and others. There is no denying that they are immensely popular with their target audience. However, it has been a while since an act has been able to gain pan-Indian popularity from 90s names like Alisha Chinai, Daler Mehndi, Colonial Cousins and Lucky Ali.
The arrival of Red FM in the independent space is welcome. But what’s needed are more media players, with the ability to help create superstars. Build a few icons, the genre will take care of itself.