What are the challenges and opportunities for organizing Hindustani music in The Netherlands? Charlie will be picking my brains about this topic.
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I founded DesiYUP in 2011 and organized my first concert with German musician Prem Joshua and his band in 2012. It took me a good year to organize this music concert. I saw the opportunity to start my own company in Indian music and fine arts, because I realized after I traveled and experienced Indian culture in other countries that there is a lack of variety in Indian events in Holland and to be more precise lack of theatre programming for fine arts.
So with this realization I defined my mission and vision. Which is to nourish and sustain Indian-inspired culture such as music, dance and literature. What motivated me more was the fact that anything not related to Bollywood (be it film, dance or music) didn’t receive much exposure or a great platform in Holland. Luckily some change is visible nowadays.
Back then I thought it would be a great opportunity to introduce hidden gems and maestros to a wide audience. And do it in a modern, also approachable Dutch style. And what is Dutch you might think? Well, our events start on time! And 9 out of 10 times we deliver what we promise to our audience. So we do our utmost best to give the audience a paisa wasool experience. It is worth their money.
For over a decade we have organized concerts, Master Classes, workshops for Cultural Institutes as well as Corporate Events and booked artists for diplomatic affairs. I would say that we are a bridge between the friends of India and the Indian Diaspora community in The Netherlands and over the years we have built a strong international network.
So far we have arranged more than 50 events for various occasions with the audience size ranging from 10 to 1,000 people. But the challenge is that the music that we present to the audience in the Netherlands isn’t music that people here a familiar with. And that is pretty challenging I must say.
For example there are no ethnic radio stations in Holland playing Indian classical music, which is very unfortunate. The main genre that they stick to are Bollywood, Bhajans (devotional music) and folk music which is Baithak Gana. Then you have a category of local artists singing Bollywood covers in a Caribbean style. And that is Hindi pop music.
So even though there is basically no ‘market’ for new sounds I still manage to introduce new voices and I’m trying to convince the mainstream audience to also value those hidden gems. We build an entire YouTube Channel just for this purpose, to create visibility! And shed another light on Indian Arts and Music to a very conservative audience.
Here comes the main challenge and that is the challenge of budgets. There is no budget in this world that can compete with the Bollywood marketing tools. The Bollywood marketing machine is built on promoting films through music. Which means that in most cases they do not only drop a trailer but also a music video. A spicy song well-known as an item song. The thought behind this marketing strategy is to attract an audience to watch the film in the cinema. Its very visible in action movies, that the main screen time goes to these heroes and there is one song of 5 minutes with a well-known actress that gets all the attention prior to the movie release.
To give an example a few months ago the movie Sooryavanshi was released, with 3 very well-known Bollywood superstars and there was one lead actress who played a very small role in the film, but the song that she was dancing on in the rain with the hero grabbed the attention of the internet. This is a very popular 90’s song which is re-introduced with the only change a new beat. And ironically the same hero that played in the 90’s movie was the main character in this new film. The leading actor didn’t change, but the heroine of the film was a much younger actress. But that’s another topic altogether to discuss in a next Mentza podcast.
So these songs have a similar kind of formula. A catchy beat, easy to sing along lyrics and to make it more appealing to the western audience they add some English Rap into it to make it sound ‘cool’. And globally all the ethnic radio stations will play these songs without thinking twice. While new emerging talents with their own work are waiting in line just to be heard once.
So where ethnic media is not paying attention to these wonderful musicians we made it our mission to share their music on our DesiYUP channels. And we do this in various way through interviews, articles, video’s or book them for an event. Every time when we announce an event the audience are in for a surprise. We come with refreshing themes, artistic talents, the events are easy accessible because our events are also very affordable compared to Bollywood shows, where people pay a crazy amount of money to voices performing live the same songs that the audience hear on the radio all day long.
Also listen to my music selection presented on Radio Wira Wiri