Sunday, Aug 18, 2019 | Last Update : 05:17 PM IST

New look of music

Published : Jul 29, 2016, 3:16 pm IST
Updated : Jul 29, 2016, 3:16 pm IST

Shoestring budget notwithstanding, independent musicians are teaming up with experimental filmmakers to come up with interesting and innovative videos

The cast practices for Flight to Freedom
 The cast practices for Flight to Freedom

Shoestring budget notwithstanding, independent musicians are teaming up with experimental filmmakers to come up with interesting and innovative videos

For the Insta generation, a song without a video is like a smartphone without a texting app or a dessert without sugar. Keeping this in mind, independent musicians including the likes of Monica Dogra, Midival Punditz, Karsh Kale, Faridkot and Fuzzculture are increasingly going out of their way (despite their shoestring budgets) to make videos (even seeking out experimental, out-of-the-box and astute filmmakers to create an audio-visual experience for viewers) that are not just an accompaniment to a song. We speak to experts from the independent music industry about the evolution (in terms of concept, visuals and usage of technology) of videos from enduring Indie pop acts of the 1990s to the highly experimental modern age videos.

Aesthetically rich content “It’s an exciting time for independent music,” says Monica Dogra, who has made a mark in the industry as a singer, actor, composer, fashion designer and lyricist over the past few years. Her music video Say What You Like from her solo debut album Spit was recently voted among ‘Vh1 Top 50 music videos of 2016’. Sharing about the making of the video, Monica says, “Say What You Like happened in a sort of tornado like fashion. I had a limited budget of only a couple of lakhs. Director Rosie Haber and I were keen on collaborating. We went and scooped out Korean bathhouses in LA, sourced fabrics from budget stores, and I stood outside of shopping malls casting people off the streets. We shot in one day. I had Carolina Costa as my DP who has worked on Oscar-nominated films. It truly was an experience that fortified my belief in art and our global creative community. Not once did I feel less effort or care was given because no one was getting paid. It feels incredible to be on a ‘Vh1 top 50 list’ up against music videos that no doubt were given a production budget from labels or otherwise. It’s high time artists are given some funding.”

Targeting the youth Videos depicting teenage complexities and their dilemmas, their dreams and fears is another formula that’s a hit with musicians. Arsh Sharma and Srijan Mahajan of electro rock duo FuzzCulture say, “The evolution of videos also has to do with a lot of bands getting their videos up on music channels like MTV Indies and Vh1. For one of our tracks Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, we depicted the story a person who deals with schizophrenia and the multiple personalities that exist inside a person’s head, symbolised by a wolf in the video. Another video Astronomy follows the story arc of a young woman who is fed up with her life and one fine day decides to leave it all.”

Another Delhi-based duo Dehlvee’s latest single Mahira is in the form of an animated video that shows a female character running in a forest trying to overcome her fears and finding happiness. Akshay Raheja, one-half of the duo shares, “Breaking away from the image of straightforward pop, my band mate Suhail Yusuf Khan and I decided to give animated treatment to our second single. The medium of animation fit in very well. It brought out the concept behind it beautifully and in a more engaging way.”

Instagrammable videos Videos shot in relaxed settings, backstage footage or simple videos featuring the making of music are quite a rage these days, feels DJ producer Sumit Sethi. Sumit adds, “For instance, our recreated version of NoorJahan’s classic Neher Wale Pul is replete with filters in tandem with the Insta generation. It was shot real time in the studio and does not have a fake, manufactured and heavily edited feel,” says Sumit.

Videos depicting picturesque settings that transport the viewers to a new locale are instant hits on social media. “Personally, I like to keep it relatable and real. For my next release, I’ve shot the video across Spain. The video echoes my sentiments as a first timer discovering the beauty of Madrid and Barcelona while slowly weaving the narrative of the song,” adds Sumit.

Tackling social issues A lot of videos that tackle social, political, and cultural issues are another flavour of the season. Namami Gange by Trichur Brothers (Srikrishna Mohan and Ramkumar Mohan) is a case in point. Talking about the novelty of their videos, the makers say, “A good music video makes for a compelling means of communication, and we believe it should also tell a story or have a message. Our video inspired by the Sanskrit text Gangashtakam pays homage to river Ganga. It is also a call to the citizens of India to act responsibly towards our rivers. To add a real touch to the video, we covered the entire length of the Ganga and shot over 2,500 kms, from the Gowmukh to the Ganga Sagar, capturing places and life widgets in between. Most of the shots are real life stories of people who live on this vast stretch including the shots of children sitting by the banks, women washing clothes, sadhus praying to the river, etc.”

Making bold statements There is a definite shift towards making bold statements in the videos recently, feels Tapan Raj, one half of the electronica duo Midivial Punditz. “This is a welcome departure from the formula driven videos that we saw in the Indie-pop era. Also, most of the videos in the Indie scene are self-funded or crowd-funded — this is also giving rise to a guerrilla style of storyboarding, styling and shooting which is adding a bit of edginess to the videos,” he says. Visuals add another layer to the entire musical experience whether it is in a music video or at a gig. “Artists recognise this aspect and use it to connect with their audiences in a deeper manner. For instance, our track Baanwarey draws inspiration from the mythological creature Navagunjara, which is composed of nine different animals. The video also depicts the lost art of ‘Kantha’ artwork and the entire visuals for the video were hand drawn,” adds Gaurav Raina, another half of Midivial Punditz.

Evolution from 80s to now Talking about the evolution of videos, award-winning filmmaker Reema Sengupta, director and co-founder of CATNIP, a start-up that specialises in creating stylised video content with special focus on aftermovies and music videos says, “Looking back at the Indie videos of the 80s and 90s, they may seem a bit dated but they were trying to incorporate interesting post-production techniques, fiction storylines, and even underwater videography. It is difficult to technically or creatively compare videos from different times because resources, technology and exposure evolve so rapidly with time.” The digital age we live in is marked by the need for an audio-visual existence. “A lot of contemporary musicians are experimenting with a mix of post-modern imagery, old footage, animation, and stop-motion and mixed media techniques,” adds Reema.

For Dhruv Jagasia, CEO of Big Bad Wolf Entertainment and the former festival director of NH7 Weekender the evolution of music videos is like evolution of man. He puts forth, “With apps like Snapchat, Instagram, etc. people have gone from being semi-unknown celebrities to huge household names. The whole idea of shooting selfie videos and people having a conversation with their audience directly was at the beginning a quirk, but now has become a necessity.”

Challenges of video making in India Talking about one of the major challenges in video making, street arts performer-turned-musician and an alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India, Pratyul Joshi says, “The narratives are getting interesting and non-linear. However, at the same time, shoestring budgets often act as an impediment in making high-end videos.”

Best known for his song Patanga, Pratyul believes that visuals should have a purpose in the narrative of the videos. “Some of the videos by artists like Lucky Ali or Silk Route have always remained in our hearts as the intent of video goes beyond gloss or creating a buzz. Sometimes, even very organically shot but heart-at-right-place kind of videos last longer in the mind and the heart of the audience,” he says.

Content is the king, believes Karsh Kale, Indian American musician, producer and composer, and one of the pioneering figures in defining the Asian underground genre. He says, “We either get big budgets to do what someone else wants or we get little budget to do exactly what we want! The point is to keep your vision intact even with little budget so that you can control things when big budgets come your way.”