Bollywood's dominance and Punjabi pop singles: What to expect from India’s official music chart

Amit Gurbaxani

May 05, 2019 10:59:45 IST

In my first column of the year, I wrote about the things I’m looking forward to in 2019 and among them was the launch of India’s official music chart. Since then, I’ve obtained more details about the chart, which will hopefully be unveiled in the third quarter.

It will be a 50-position all-genre singles chart based on radio airplay and data from five audio-streaming services, Apple Music, Gaana, JioSaavn, Spotify and Wynk. Although the chart is at least two months away, I couldn’t help trying to gauge what it might look like based on the individual charts of the contributing platforms. Here’s what we are likely to see:

Unsurprisingly, it will be highly populated by Bollywood music

The advent of streaming services has showed us that the dominance of Hindi film soundtracks is slowly but surely declining. Even then, Bollywood music remains the most popular genre in India. Examining the Top 50 tracks on the all-genre charts on JioSaavn and Wynk, which are updated weekly, and Apple Music and Spotify, which are updated daily – Gaana only uploads language-specific lists – it’s clear that the majority of the most streamed tunes in the country are from recent Hindi film releases such as Gully Boy, Luka Chuppi, Kalank, Kesari and Simmba and upcoming ones like Student of the Year 2.

Bollywoods dominance and Punjabi pop singles: What to expect from India’s official music chart

Representational image. Reuters/Mussa Qawasma

I don’t have access to the test charts, yet I’m pretty sure they would reveal that the No 1 song in India right now is Luka Chuppi’s 'Duniyaa' by Akhil, composer Abhijit Vaghani’s remake of the singer’s 2016 Punjabi hit 'Khaab'. After it launches, the chart will also show us that movie music goes beyond just Bollywood, as Tamil and Telugu soundtrack smashes from Kollywood and Tollywood could appear on the survey. Currently, for instance, 'Priyathama Priyathama' from Telugu blockbuster Majili is in the top 25 of both the JioSaavn Global Top 50 and Wynk Top 100.

It will reflect the current state of Indian pop

'Duniyaa'’s closest contender for the top spot at the moment is not a film tune but a track by Akhil’s duet partner Dhvani Bhanushali: 'Vaaste', which features vocalist Nikhil D’Souza and has been composed by remix king Tanishk Bagchi. Bhanushali is among several playback singers who have released pop singles over the past couple of years, a trend that represents a sort of reversal of what happened in the early aughties when Indi-pop was cannibalised by Bollywood, leading to the genre’s subsequent near-extinction.

However, the other non-movie hits by Indian artists on the charts of streaming services are mostly those by Punjabi artists, such as 'Lamberghini' by The Doorbeen, 'Sakhiyaan' by Maninder Buttar and 'Kya Baat Ay' by Harrdy Sandhu, which in all probability – like 'Duniyaa' – will be “recreated” for a Hindi film someday soon. So despite what people say about the resurgence of Indi-pop, the genre seems to be intrinsically tied to and has a symbiotic relationship with Bollywood. As for truly independent acts, which one could define as those not signed to a label, there may be one-off instances of them breaking into the chart. Like, Hindi rapper Emiway whose 'Machayenge' is presently in the top 20 on Apple Music, top ten on JioSaavn, top 30 on Spotify and top 25 on Wynk.

It will tell us which international songs have acquired mainstream popularity

You know when some English-language tunes have crossed over into the mainstream because you hear them everywhere, from the gym to the Ganpati mandal. Over the last few years, these have included the likes of 'Shape Of You' by Ed Sheeran and 'Closer' by The Chainsmokers. The official chart will display exactly how big they are in relation to other genres. Notably, the split between domestic and international music is more or less equal on the charts of Apple Music and Spotify. In contrast, on JioSaavn and Wynk, both of which reportedly have over 100 million Monthly Average Users and a much higher listenership, Indian releases make up over 90 per cent of the 50 biggest tracks. This week, in fact, 'On My Way' by electronic music producer Alan Walker, which was featured in mobile game PUBG, is the only English song charting on JioSaavn’s all-genre survey.

International hits doing well on the other services include 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee from the soundtrack to recent box-office success Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and 'Sucker' by Jonas Brothers, a trio whose profile here has no doubt increased by band member Nick Jonas’ marriage to Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra.

Though it remains a niche genre, the substantial fandom that K-Pop enjoys might just lead to its biggest boy band BTS creeping into the official chart at least for a week or two. On Spotify, 'Boy With Luv', the first single from their new EP Map of the Soul: Persona, received nearly 1,00,000 streams on the day of its release in India, the highest 24-hour tally for any track on the platform so far.

Amit Gurbaxani is a Mumbai-based journalist who has been writing about music, specifically the country's independent scene, for nearly two decades. He tweets @TheGroovebox

Updated Date: May 07, 2019 11:55:56 IST

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