Few high, mostly low notes in 2008 for music trade!

By Priyanka Khanna

New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) Music legend A.R. Rahman's Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score in British director Danny Boyle's film "Slumdog Millionaire" has brought much-needed cheer for the Indian music industry in a musically lacklustre year.

The good news comes at a time when the Rs.7.3 billion Indian music industry is plagued by piracy, struggling to keep pace with technology rapidly changing the way music is consumed, facing competition from mushrooming of radio channels, and with movie content taking precedence over all else.

Only "Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na" took an opening because of the popularity of its music album this year. "Karzzz" came in close second, though the musical classic's original score dominated the entire album of the remake. Even audio CDs of "Rock On" started moving off the racks after the film hit the screens.

Some hit songs did accompany films like "Race", "Singh Is Kinng", "Jodhaa Akbar", and "Kismat Connection", but a slew of niche movies that had little or no music at all went on the marquees, something that was unthinkable some time ago.

According to a trade weekly, film music has hit rock-bottom in its importance this year.

Last six releases - "Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!", "Sorry Bhai!", "Maharathi", "Meerabai Not Out", "Oh My God!!" and "Dil Kabaddi" had only tentative music turning away from over six decades of tradition whereby great or hit music helps get films good openings even if they plummet later or ensure a repeat value, stated the weekly.

Just released music of Hollywood-Bollywood co-production "Chandni Chowk To China" is also not much to write home about. The music seems more gimmickry, which is good for a comic thriller but not so good for selling copies of the record. This leaves the above-average track from Aamir Khan's upcoming "Ghajani" to continue leading the pack.

The score of this week's much-awaited release - "Rab Ne Bana De Jodi" - does not disappoint, but is nowhere close to the magic created by Jatin-Lalit in filmmaker Aditya Chopra's previous cinematic offering - "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge".

"Haule haule..." by Salim-Sulaiman in "Rab Ne..." has emerged as the pick of the lot while "Phir milenge chalte chalte" holds attention only on account of its five guest appearances.

Composer Salim Merchant laments the film music's domination of Indian music scene.

"We don't have a music industry here, just a film industry. All our films are musicals and just Bollywood forms a major part of our music industry. We need young talent if we want to help grow this industry better," Salim said.

"Ironically, few youths learn to play musical instruments today nor are there many to learn western classical music. We have very few orchestras, which is one of the major reasons for the current talent crunch. Our educational system also needs to change as we have only a handful of educational institutes and music schools in the country," he said.

Added Sulaiman: "Music has changed because there are very few people who want to take risks. Today, music is the face or first impression of a film. So, directors and producers don't take any risks and want numbers that not just popularise their music but also pull in the audiences. Hence, a talented musician will not be able to do a good work, but do what the producer demands."

The music industry in India also needs to keep pace with rapid technological changes.

"The music CD industry in the country is around $150 million. Technology has changed the way music is consumed today - from huge records to iTunes on one hand, and music fused with other forms of content and entertainment on the other hand," said trade observer Anurag Batra.

But the changes also present opportunities.

"Today, the shelf life of music has become very short. Bollywood forms a significant part of our music industry, but multiple players can survive and make money in this industry," said Kulmeet Makkar, CEO, Big Music & Home Entertainment.

Here is hoping that the lessons learnt this year lead to increasing digitalisation of music, concerted attempts to curb piracy and most importantly infuse new talent.

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