| 05 Oct 2023
Holi spells moolah time for Bhojpuri music

Raunchy Bhojpuri albums, bordering on the vulgar, were always the hot cakes that disappeared off nukkad shop shelves' in the UP-Bihar belt in the build up to Holi.

The good news for the Indian music industry this time round is that the bestsellers are no longer limited to pockets in Patna and the lanes of Lucknow. Major labels like T-Series and Saregama have been making a killing out of titles like Jeans Dheeli Karo and Lehenge Mein Laden Ghusgawa in major metros as well. Analysts claim that Delhi is a major consumer of Bhojpuri Holi titles, with Chandni Chowk, Lajpat Nagar and Paharganj said to be places that have many music stores that only sell Bhojpuri CDs and cassettes. Analysts also say that the listeners of Bhojpuri music have outnumbered those of Punjabi music, and not just during Holi.

The figures say it all. While T-Series launched a series of Bhojpuri albums for Holi- Holi Ke Baja composed by Madhukar Anand and rendered by Manoj Tiwari, Holi Mein Tower Garhbaraeel Ba and Phagua Mein Chonch Maar ke and Nirhua ke Rang Heroinen Ke Sang by Dineshlal Yadav, a considerable chunk of Saregama's 18 compilation albums for the season is Bhojpuri, the other languages being Hindi and Bangla.

T-Series has been the canny pioneer in the arena. Since 2003, industry observers say, the label has been identifying and signing up popular artistes like Manoj Tiwari and Dinesh Lal Yadav and Kalpana to record Holi albums. Last year, the label also launched the music of Bhojuri film Sajanwa Anadi, Sajaniya Khiladi. The labels keep the pricing low to attract volumes. Saregama has priced its CDs at Rs 99 and Rs 125, while the Bangla ones are priced at Rs 69. T Series has priced its products even lower - at Rs 26 and Rs 36, with one eye on the massive volumes.

Says T-Series A & R chief Ajit Kohli, Last year, we launched about 25-30 Bhojpuri titles for Holi and have launched some this week as well. There is a market for Bhojpuri music throughout India, not specifically pertaining to the northern regions. Even though we have some Hindi compilations as well, Bhojpuri occupies abut 70 per cent of our Holi sales....

T-Series' albums by popular Bhojpuri singers like Manoj Tiwari, Kalpana, Sunil Chela Bihari were out in the market last week, and are mopping up brisk sales throughout the country, although the label is loath to give out figures.

Kohli adds that the Bhojpuri television channels like Mahua, which launched last year have whetted the demand for Bhojpuri music among migrants and non-Bhojpuri loyalists as well, and this in turn, will help both the physical and digital sales during the Holi-Basant Panchami-Lohri season.

Saregama's head of new media and publishing Gautam Sarkar says, Bhojpuri music always does well and during the Holi festivities, northern regions including Bihar, UP are the strong markets. Because of migration to other states, the market has shifted to other parts like Mumbai and Delhi as well." This has been the case in the last couple of years, with sales picking up in other metros as well. Pirated copies of authorised albums, as well as original albums brought out by marginal labels - everyone is assured warm returns during Holi, as long as the lyrics are suggestive and the tunes loud.

Says a vendor at a suburban Mumbai railway station Abdul Ahmed, The demand for Holi CDs started last week itself and we sold around 15 copies a day last week. The demand has increased to 25 copies this week. The CDs don't belong to any music labels, but are compilations by unorganised small labels. The buyer profile includes north Indians aged between 17-30, who generally buy the CDs by looking at the cover. CDs with suggestive covers are a major hit among the youngsters and very few come with any song preferences. There is a small market for Hindi compilations of Holi as the frequency of Holi songs in films have reduced and only the old tracks are compiled into an album.... It is the marginal players who often catch the fancy of buyers with price tags of Rs 12 to Rs 15 too.

Saregama has launched 17-18 holi compilations in Hindi, Bengali and Bhojpuri language in MP3 and CD formats. Raunchy Bhojpuri songs, Hindi compilations, �Rang barse' and Bengali compilations for �Vasant Mela' are a major hit this year. We are also working on special promotions for CRBTs and ringtones. But there is not a huge business for ringtones as these are very topical and people don't tend to invest,... avers Sarkar.

Sarkar insists that the artists who contribute to the albums work on a freelance basis or on a album to album basis with the label.

Venus, that has been steadily acquiring Bhojpuri titles of late, too is in the Bhojpuri Holi fray. Avers Venus' Shailesh Jain, Holi is longer in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar so the sales there are definitely higher as compared to the other places like Mumbai. Physical sales go up but at the digital end, the percentage is not that high. Venus has acquired around 10-15 Bhojpuri films in the last six-seven months."

Holi, over the years

For the last seven to eight years, music labels have understood the annual importance of the Holi festival to the company's bottomlines. Risque as it may sound, titles like Rajai Bin Ratiya Kaise Kati — replete with double entendres have appealed to migrant populations from Bihar and truck drivers have helped companies like Saregama scoop up album sales that often 15,000 daily way back in 2002 and 2003.

Back then, companies like T-Series and Saregama priced the ubiquitous audio cassettes as low as Rs 34.

T-Series was one of the first to understand that remixes would not always work for Holi, bringing in Bhojpuri singers to sing original raunchy numbers, packaaged in covers that are often raunchier. These included well-established singers like Radhey Sham Rasia, Guddu Rangeela and Manoj Tiwari to render folk songs and bhajans.

By 2008, Bhojpuri Holi songs had such a huge mass market, that singers and lyricists started working overtime to cater to the demand. Price points, now for the audio and video CDs, have been kept low at below Rs 50, knowing that the model customer is the bachelor from north India who drives a taxi or works on a construction site.