Yearender 2021: music to your ears
The spirit was severely bruised in tumultuous 2021 with the second wave leaving us in a state of struggle. After a disastrous year, in which live concerts were completely absent, the music slowly and steadily returned to the forefront. And of course there were those who found music in dark times too, in studios, in their rooms and made us smile. From a heartwarming concert in Chashm-e-Shahi in Kashmir, young artists donning the mantle for the year to deliver music that made us hear despite a numb state of mind at the Grammys learning about racial diversity and acquisitions billion dollar musical events, the year has been a busy one. Here are the artists and stories from the music world of 2021.
It is not often that a classical music concert arrives in Kashmir. With the Zabarwan mountains as a backdrop, Chashm-e-Shahi, the Mughal paradise garden came alive with raag Yaman, a raga whose creation is attributed to Amir Khusrau. Eighty-year-old flute master Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia took the fundamental raga and played with it for about 40 minutes, his Parkison causing him to work harder than usual. The air was sometimes lost, but not the spirit. He was ably supported by tabla player Pt Ram Kumar Mishra and his students Devapriya, Amrita Uprety and Vaishnavi Joshi. Organized by SPIC MACAY as part of Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the concert titled Wadi-e-Kashmir was an extension of the organization’s famous “Music in the Park” series.
Independent Artist of the Year: Vasundhara Vee
A few names caught our attention including Pavithra Chari, half of Delhi-based duo Shadow and Light, Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Saachi Rajadhyaksha, and Bangluru-based L’Nee Golay, which was a sweet reminder of a Winehouse-esque Amy Ambiance, the band was led by Vasundhara Vee, who made our heads spin with his powerful and lush vocals in the absolutely uplifting single, his first solo, Run – the piece that includes ‘notes to self’ . The only name in India at this point that commands respect as the best jazz singer who can deliver soul like no one else, this time Vasundhara sounds different. There is a departure from his associated acts such as Adil and Vasundhara and more recently Merkaba. Now she is a solo artist who reveals her heart to us. The whiskey-tinged voice and honest lyrics are hard to miss. Produced by Dhruv Ghanekar, the song and video took the game several miles into 202q. Other artists will have to work very hard to get to where Vasundhara is at this point – self-aware, in love with herself, complex, hungry, and with new ideas and music in tow. Watch out for this one. She will be a pioneer in 2022.
Abhishek Raghuram: Among the young singers – Hindustani and Carnatic – Abhishek Raghuram, 36, is one of the best singers at this stage. He was in great shape in the December musical season in Chennai, most notably with performances by raag Bihag and Hamsanandi, which showcased his extraordinary vision of music and musicality. Sometimes during his performance a taan, a particular phrase, may seem incomprehensible to even some of the most experienced musicians, but the tenderness with which Raghuram tempts them is worth attending every concert of him. A pupil of the guru PS Narayanaswamy, he is the grandson of the iconic mridangam player Palghat Raghu and related to the famous Lalgudi family on his mother’s side. He is also related to the singer Ghazal Hariharan. A unique performer, he has had a special year and is likely to bring us more wonderful music in the coming year.
Pratibha Singh Baghel: Reality show contestant Pratibha Singh Baghel garnered a lot of attention as Umrao Jaan in the musical Umrao Jaan Ada which was staged in the capital in 2019 – 38 years after the screening of Umrao Jaan of Muzaffar Ali. Her Instagram posts have garnered a lot of attention, as have the online shows she did on her YouTube channel during the lockdown. But what catapulted her to fame was Bole Naina (Sufiscore), a ghazal album written by Gulzar and composed by Deepak Pandit, the violinist who performed with Jagjit Singh for years. The album also had Ut Zakir Hussain leading the percussion team. What’s interesting about Baghel’s voice is how his voice has a unique transformative quality and easily moves through ghazal, qalam sufiana, and contemporary film song, among others. Then there is a strong capacity for improvisation. Baghel is an artist to watch in 2022, with a plethora of songs and projects in the works.
Ishaan Leonard Rao: One classical artist who has gained attention this year is pianist Ishaan Leonard Rao, 17, who until a few years ago could be seen in the audience while his parents – sitar player Shubhendra Rao and the cellist Saskia Rao performed together. But the Rao family got together for a concert this year where Ishaan dove deep into the world of Mozart and worked on Indian classical scales to showcase his stormy reworkings of some of the pieces. The fact that three artists understood the rulebook of the two forms was what added to the cohesion of the concert. Ishaan also started “The Piano Project” in which he created lesson videos, a lesson book and a website for those who do not have access to piano instruction otherwise. He started his lessons with children from the Parivartan of the Takshila Education Society, Bihar. He also continued to perform at the National Gallery of Modern Art this year.
After embalming the hearts of quarantined Sri Lankans, 28 “Manika maake” by Yohani D’Silva It reached India, garnering over 110 million views in no time. The Sinhala song broke the internet, with celebrities to common people getting excited over its simple melody on repeat. From Hindi film actors Madhuri Dixit, Parineeti Chopra and Tiger Shroff, everyone sang and danced on the room and posted videos on their social media. The popularity spawned covers from all over the world, both instrumental and in many languages - Tamil, English, Telugu, Konkani, Hindi, Bengali, and Kokborok of Tripura, among others. This has boosted a number of TikTok videos, Instagram posts, and memes. YouTube pushed Silva to instant fame. In Colombo, the YouTube star was sitting at her home watching what it was like to go viral. It was the worldwide moment of the unintentional single. “It was a really random rendition of the song. It wasn’t planned. We never thought it would appeal to so many people,” de Silva told The Indian Express in a video interview.
Smooth like butter
In May of this year, the seven-member boy band BTS became the first K-pop group topped the Billboard 200. They also put their fans – the ARMY as they are called – especially a plethora of teenage girls around the world in hysterical rapture. Their song Butter went viral and the fluid synths of the pop dance number and those fabulous dance moves brought back memories of the pop world past. The song sounds good to begin with – a fun number that hit us while on lockdown. But then it sticks, grows in your heart until you hum.
Lesson for the Grammys
The year began with the Recording Academy coming under fire for lack of diversity in its nominations. Three of the five nominees for the Best Children’s Album category refused to accept the nomination because of “all white” musicians, including themselves. Fit since America questioned and continues to question racial fairness. Musician Alistair Moock and comedians Dog on Fleas and the Okee Dokee Brothers didn’t want to be nominated for the Grammys. Conversations ensued that led to policy changes by the Academy, resulting in a very different type of nominating list in 2021 – five artists of color were nominated. Under the new policy, applicants in non-craft categories such as children’s music will be chosen by their peers. A marked change from the lack of transparency that existed in the system. The ceremony is slated to take place in January 2022. What makes the category interesting is the nomination of Indian-American singer Falguni Shah, who placed in the top five for her album A Colorful World.
The music acquisition arena was a hotbed of activity in 2021. After nearly decades of instability over piracy and free access issues that have reduced demand for the purchase of new music, the music industry music has seen billions of dollars poured into it. There were huge deals in which artists sold their music and their copyright. The trend started in 2020 when Universal Group acquired Bob Dylan’s entire music catalog for nearly $ 400 million. The catalog, comprising over 600 songs from six decades, covered iconic tracks like “Blowin in the Wind” and “Like a Rolling Stone”. Months after Dylan, the music of singer-songwriter David Crosby was finally acquired in March 2021 by US entertainment executives Olivier Chastan and Irving Azoff’s Iconic Artist Group just after the company bought a controlling stake. in Beach Boys Intellectual Property, including recording, editing and branding. Colombian pop star Shakira followed, selling his catalog of 145 songs, including his Olympic anthem “Waka Waka”, and popular tracks like “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Whenever, where” to Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a publicly traded investment company based UK which has also acquired music catalogs from Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young, former Fleetwood singer Mac Lindsey Buckingham, English musician Steve Winwood and award-winning producer Andrew Watt. Grammy Award, among others. The company is valued at $ 2.21 billion.
The streaming platforms and their increased revenue possibilities are one of the main reasons here. Streaming services like Spotify and iTunes, among others, have created an atmosphere that encourages many businesses, large and small, to want to invest in music. They understand that GenZ and millennials spend big on streaming platforms. The trend is also expected to continue this year.
Shershaah’s songs – Rataan lambiyaan and Raanjha top the charts on most streaming platforms. But for us, it was B Praak’s old composition “Metho tera man bhareya” that stood out as a musical beauty in the same film. A notable mention here is Arijit Singh Pagglait’s debut album. A one hour 34 minute album is a thing of the past but Pagglait gave us old world nostalgia. It was a very cleverly designed album with folk melting into the contemporary with a lot of finesse. The best was the background score, which was absolutely lovely. Another song that stood out this year was “Bandar baant” in Sherni by Amit Masurkar. From the secular story – Two cats and the monkey – Hussain Haidri’s satire is composed by Bandish Projekt. As fabulous as the poetry is, we would like it to be sung a little clearly. Some words get lost because it’s sung too fast.