Comments (0)
News |  16 Nov 2016 19:08 |  By Suhas Thobbi

Dear UMI, the 5 acts that you could have endorsed instead of Ananya Birla

(Image: L-R: Anze Skrube (choreographer), Jim Beanz (music producer), Ananya Birla, Rock Jacobs (music director), Devraj Sanyal (UMI))
(Image: L-R: Anze Skrube (choreographer), Jim Beanz (music producer), Ananya Birla, Rock Jacobs (music director), Devraj Sanyal (UMI))

MUMBAI: Two days before the launch of Ananya Birla's debut single 'Livin' the Life', one of the biggest record label companies in the world, Universal Music's Indian division invited the press and everyone involved in the making of industrialist Kumarmangalam Birla’s daughter’s first musical effort for an exclusive meet-and-greet in a Mumbai cafe. That she was born with a silver spoon did not have any influence on the label’s endorsement of the young aspiring musician, insisted UMI, so we will take their word and drop the factor out of the reasons why the label could have found better acts and artists to truly become ‘India’s export to the west’. To briefly review the song – it’s yet another peppy upbeat composition insisting that life is too short not to be ‘lived’, with clichéd lyrics, exotic locations and VR video support.

Indian mainstream and alternative music scene has never had a dearth of talented musicians, although unfortunately for the artists and the ‘scene’, these names never reached the ‘universal’ status that a few deserve to. Today, Priyanka Chopra’s single (again endorsed by Universal Music India) has been viewed on YouTube more than contributions of every ‘indie’ act put together in last five years. Mainstream market and corporate labels never really cared for the alternative music scene, or to put it bluntly, these players never really cared for what they believed was a non-profitable effort. Record labels and streaming services in India have reached a position where risks can be afforded. And honestly, some of these acts would not only garner handsome profits for the label, but earn the labels’ trust and confidence from the musicians drifting away from generic channels for outreach. More and more musicians are associating themselves with streaming services or independent labels for obvious reasons. Take India’s most in-demand act, Nucleya. The DJ shares his music for free, although now you would need a subscription from Saavn, but the bottomline is that the music can be heard for free.

The F16s

For an act to be truly recognised in the west, the essential components are – ‘universal’ lingo, ‘universal’ sound and ‘universal’ appeal. Although history, through the examples of Pandit Ravi Shankar, his daughter Anoushka Shankar and even the Pakistani band Junoon, has proved that popularity of an act does not strictly depend on these factors. Chennai-based band The F16s, however, adheres to the three ‘essentials’, and possesses what it takes to be a truly global act. And from a record label’s perspective, the band’s refreshing sound coupled with its image as new-age ‘rock’ sound does act as a saleability quotient. The band’s latest album ‘Triggerpunkte’ received rave reviews across the music reviewing publications, and as expected, the mainstream media focused more on Shraddha Kapoor’s singing ‘prowess’. In fact, UK-based Metropolis Publishing Studio, the entity associated with Ananya Birla’s music’s outreach in Europe, heaped praises in favour of The F16s. A deserving push from a label like UMI would do wonders for the band and the scene that it represents.

Bombay Bassment

Continuing with its unique (at least to the Indian music scenario) sound for a decade, Bombay Bassment finally received much deserved acknowledgement from the music community in the West when the act was invited to perform at the Glastonbury Festival 2016. To perform at any of the Glastonbury stages, for some musicians in India, is nothing short of a dream. And Bombay Bassment performed twice in the same edition. The band, similar to The F16s, complies with the essentials for a record label approval, but unfortunately, for some reasons the hip-hop act never found a suitor in the form of any of these players. Imagine the output if Jim Beanz (Empire’s music director, also Birla’s music producer for the single) had worked with a hip-hop act, a genre that escalated Beanz’s popularity and success in the world of music.


Some have already declared it as the most promising band to have ever emerged from the Indian sub-continent for a long time, and while ranking a band is a futile discussion anyway, there lies no debate in accepting this Bengaluru-based band as a good example of ‘East meets West’. Kashmiri lingo accompanied by Pink Floyd-esque essence to the entire set-up of Parvaaz’s sound steers the band into a league of its own. Parvaaz is one of the most mature and experimental bands, but the entire Parvaaz concept finds a few similarities to some of the successful tried-tested-and-successful formulae for commercial and critical recognition. The band’s DIY efforts towards its live shows and concerts has been encouraging to notice, and a little push from a record label like UMI would only guarantee massive outreach inside the country and beyond.

Tajdar Junaid

With multiple originals in international films and advertisements, it’s perhaps highly unlikely that one may not have come across a Tajdar Junaid-composed tune. The singer-songwriter moulds diverse sounds and culture into a composition that has invited comparisons with acclaimed ‘indie’ songwriters of the west. Junaid continues to remain one of the finest examples of a true musician sans the unnecessary PR machinery or marketing that most of the independent bands have recently adapted to (and rightly so). An artist like Tajdar Junaid would not only present the new Indian music culture to the west, but Junaid also possesses the ability to change how west still perceives Indian music. In fact, that stands true for every artist mentioned in this article.


Possibly the most toured act overseas, metal band Skyharbor has, more or less, surprised the American and European event promoters’ and audience’s reservations about the Indian metal scene. A record label considers promoting a metal act, let alone an India-based one, a risky affair from commercial point of view, and of course, the label holds every right to promote or reject a band on its will. However, UMI (or any Indian record label) holds a unique opportunity to break the norm and stand as an example to its competitors and the naysayers by becoming the first label of a global reputation to endorse and promote a metal act with no holds barred. And if the doubts pertaining to its sell-ability remains, then attending one of the Skyharbor upcoming India tour venues would wash away any misconception about its popularity, or rather the lack of it.

These are the five of the most ‘known’ bands from the alternative music scene. Sure, Universal Music India has lent support to a few ‘indie’ bands before, but never has the label jumped outside its usual comfort zone to balance the two kinds of acts (alternative and mainstream) that it represents. Once again, the label has every right to promote and reject whoever it wishes to, but hoping Ananya Birla would be India’s sound to the west seems a bit unfair and far-fetched. Hindustan Times reports that the 22-year-old would perform alongside Coldplay at the upcoming Global Citizen Festival, and that is exactly where things start to become a bit of cause for concern. Sure, none of these bands can dance to pop tunes, or wear flashy clothes and auto-tune their voices, but Universal Music India, these bands need you (or someone like you) more than ever.