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News |  06 Jul 2007 05:20 |  By RnMTeam

Banking on faith to create music

MUMBAI: India`s youth seem to have only music on their minds, and a career in music on their agenda, if the current rash of music talent shows on television are anything to go by.

But spiritual channel Aastha will now attempt to push the envelope by marrying music with the wave of devotion that is lapping at the feet of emerging India. The next big show on the channel is an Idol inspired talent hunt, to go on air in the next two months. While its obvious TG is the young viewer who may have thus far given the religious/spiritual channel a miss, the channel`s intentions are clear. Only hymns will be allowed on air, and the grand prize includes no worldly goods, but an exotic pilgrimage, all expenses paid.

But Aastha has its feet firmly on the ground too. Says Aastha`s Director Distribution ?“ Marketing Arvind Joshi, A recent survey reveals that a majority of the younger singers take an interest in devotional and classical music, we have just been unaware of this fact. Hence, roping in quality contestants wont be a hassle."

Not surprisingly, the channel is presently in talks with a few music labels so that the winner wins not just a pilgrimage but also, a contract for a devotional music album. Obviously, the channel is targeting the 55 per cent of the Indian population under the age of 25. Add to it the statistic that Hindus make up 84 per cent of India`s more than 1.2 billion population, and that Aastha reaches 20 million households in India, the United States, Britain, Canada and the Middle East, and you have an idea why the channel has zeroed in on such a concept.

Banking on `Idol` worshipThe search for young participants across India will begin by early August and the broadcasts of the first 26 episodes will kickstart in September 2007. Something like this is the first of its kind not just on Aastha, but on all of Indian television. This show will not just cater to the elders, but aims at involving youth and children`s participation. We will begin our search for contestants from Mumbai and then, move on to the major cities across India, says Joshi, who conceptualised the show with his team.

The title of the show was the biggest concern, as the channel did not want to step on delicate territory by dubbing it ?‹?“Religious Indian Idol, and inviting ire from the international Idol format owners.

Hence, names like ?‹?“Swar Adhiraj or ?‹?“Master of Music are been given a serious thought. According to Aastha Broadcasting Network director Hiren Doshi, The show will soon be named. There are absolutely no controversies with regards to the name clashes with Indian Idol whatsoever.

The show has been envisaged as an interactive musical talent contest between teenagers from universities and religious colleges. Instead of pop tunes, the participants will perform devotional songs from the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain faiths. The backdrop for the show will be a typical ashram scene ?“ a group of religious students sitting under a tree by a river ?“ rather than a TV studio manned by a celebrity anchor. Contestants will be assessed by a panel of judges, including top devotional musicians, before facing a vote by the television audience.

The hymns will be selected by the judges and for some rounds, contestants will be allowed their choices too. As a concession to the overriding popularity of Bollywood, singing religious songs from Hindi films is authorised.

According to Joshi, Aastha currently enjoys a viewership of more than 35 million people worldwide and has more than 45 per cent market share among the spiritual channels. "This is a different kind of a format and it is a specialised show, hence we are very positive about its success, says an upbeat Joshi.

Will the show bring the mainstream advertisers on board?According to channel sources, airlines, jewellery and cosmetic companies now vie for space on the channel, earlier dominated only by garment and joss stick makers. Aastha chief executive Kirit Mehta has been quoted as saying, First we thought we were taking a risk, but it should pay good dividends. We are already being approached by advertisers."

Adds Joshi, Advertisers are responding well to the concept, so are the agencies and media houses. This is actually encouraging us to move on and give our 100% to this.

Not surprisingly, the channel is already thinking of packing in more punches, even before the show has been launched. "We are in the process of revising the prize structure for our winner, how can we ground ourselves more strongly on the programming and revenue fronts and lots more, adds Doshi.

When we came up with the concept of starting off Aastha, there were so many people with an opinion that no one would want to watch a spiritual channel all day long. But the kind of response we received and our figures, of course, say it all. And I am very sure, even this concept will give great returns. Although now, it is still at an infant level, within a fortnight all the details will be finalised," surmises Doshi.

After the pop Idols, it`s the turn of the spiritually inclined to cash in on the music wave. God willing.