Bollywood's music scene is caught in a creative crisis; for proof, here's a look at the year's hits so far

Amit Gurbaxani

Sep,22 2018 13:08:46 IST

There’s a creative crisis in the Bollywood music scene, and for proof, we need only to look at a list of the 10 biggest songs released this year so far. Here are the tracks to have amassed the most listens on audio streaming service Saavn in 2018, the only app of its kind to display the number of plays for a tune.

1. ‘Tareefan’ from Veere Di Wedding by Qaran featuring Badshah (34 million plays)

2. ‘O Saathi’ from Baaghi 2 by Arko and Atif Aslam (32 million plays)

3. ‘Buzz’ by Aastha Gill featuring Badshah* (28 million plays)

4. ‘Chhote Chhote Peg’ from Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety by Yo Yo Honey Singh, Neha Kakkar and Navraj Hans, based on ‘Tote Tote Ho Gaya’ from Bichoo (2000) by Hans Raj Hans and Shweta Shetty (27 million plays)

5. ‘Jab Koi Baat’ by DJ Chetas featuring Atif Aslam and Shirley Setia*, based on ‘Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaaye’ from Jurm (1990) by Kumar Sanu and Sadhana Sargam, which itself was a copy of the American folk music ballad ‘500 Miles’ (27 million plays)

'Tareefan', 'O Saathi' and 'Dilbar' are among the Bollywood tracks to have amassed the most listens on audio streaming service Saavn in 2018

(Clockwise from top left) 'Tareefan', 'O Saathi' and 'Dilbar' are among the Bollywood tracks to have amassed the most listens on audio streaming service Saavn in 2018

6. ‘Dilbar’ from Satyamev Jayate by Tanishk B, Neha Kakkar, Dhvani Bhanushali and Ikka, based on ‘Dilbar’ from Sirf Tum (1999) by Alka Yagnik (26 million plays)

7. ‘Aashiq Banaya Aapne’ from Hate Story 4 by Tanishk B, Himesh Reshammiya and Neha Kakkar, based on ‘Aashiq Banaya Aapne’ from Aashiq Banaya Aapne (2005) by Himesh Reshammiya and Shreya Ghoshal (23 million plays)

8. ‘Bom Diggy Diggy’ from Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety by Zack Knight and Jasmin Walia, based on ‘Bom Diggy’ (2017) by the same artists (22 million plays)

9. ‘Sanu Ek Pal Chain’ from Raid by Tanishk B and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, based on ‘Sanu Ek Pal Chain’ by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (20 million plays)

10. ‘Coca Cola Tu’ by Tony Kakkar featuring Young Desi* (20 million plays)

*Non-film songs

Of the seven Hindi film tracks, only two – ‘Tareefan’ and ‘O Saathi’ – are original tunes; four – ‘Chhote Chhote Peg’, ‘Dilbar’, ‘Aashiq Banaya Aapne’ and ‘Sanu Ek Pal Chain’ – are remakes and one – ‘Bom Diggy Diggy’ is a repackaging of a recent smash by the original artist.

Notably, one man, producer Tanishk Bagchi, is responsible for three of the four remakes. He likes to call them “recreations”, a euphemism for remixes, which have earned a bad name because they’re rarely an improvement over the original.

On the other hand, Yo Yo Honey Singh’s ‘Chhote Chhote Peg’ qualifies as a genuine remake in the sense that it puts a new spin on an old composition. Singh even took the trouble to rewrite the lyrics for his cover of the silly but catchy ‘Tote Tote Ho Gaya’ by Hans Raj Hans, which appears on the Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety soundtrack.

He also remade the Punjabi pop veteran’s ‘Dil Chori’ for the same film, which features Zack Knight and Jasmin Walia’s ‘Bom Diggy Diggy’, the original version of which was released under Saavn’s Artist Originals platform last year. The movie mix is a minor variation with additional Punjabi lyrics and electronic beats.

That Bollywood has helped the song find a much larger audience is evident from the YouTube views: 319 million for the clip from the film versus 83 million for the original. But guess what? Even ‘Bom Diggy’ is connected to an old track. The chorus samples a Bengali Baul tune, which was earlier sampled by Romanian singer Iana in 2016. Given that Knight and Walia are British immigrants from Pakistan and India respectively, their hit is a truly South Asian effort.

Incidentally, the fifth most played song of the year on Saavn, DJ Chetas’ reworking of ‘Jab Koi Baat’ is a remake of a remake but it isn’t part of a soundtrack. As for the two original tracks on the list above, both follow established sonic templates. ‘O Saathi’ is the kind of romantic ballad we’ve heard many, many times before; ‘Tareefan’ is a refreshing slice of Punjabi electro-R&B, a sub-genre whose most prominent proponent, along with Badshah, is singer Guru Randhawa, whose songs ‘Suit Suit’, ‘Tu Meri Rani’ and ‘High Rated Gabru’ have all been used in Hindi movies.

Bom Diggy Diggy’ falls roughly in the category of Punjabi electro-R&B, as do the two original non-film songs in the top 10, ‘Buzz’ and ‘Coca Cola Tu’. The sound can loosely be described as laidback vocals layered over mid-tempo beats interspersed occasionally with a rap verse.

While it might seem like a new genre, the fact is that it’s been around for over a decade, thanks to British-Indian artists from the UK such as Jay Sean and Raghav, except that they sang in English. In the last few years, India-based acts like Badshah and Randhawa have made it their own and Bollywood, as with most popular genres, has taken little time to co-opt it.

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: Sep 22, 2018 13:08 PM