On Independence Day, mapping India's most streamed musicians, 18 states' top-3 acts

Amit Gurbaxani

Aug 15, 2019 11:15:19 IST

I lost count of the number of calls I received from PR representatives in June, asking if I was working on articles about World Music Day. Over the past week, I haven’t received any inquiries about whether I’m writing any music-related pieces pegged to Independence Day. That’s just as well. To a lot of people, India doesn’t really feel like an independent country right now and its citizenry seems more ideologically divided than any time before in recent memory.

But Independence Day is as good a time as any to take a look at the musical state of the nation. If there’s one thing that binds us all, it’s a love for music. By that, like it or not, I mean film music. Last July, when I was visiting Kashmir, my friends and I bonded with our driver over his fondness for Bollywood ballads. (No remixes for him, thank you.)

As we passed through picture-perfect spots in Pahalgam, he was happy to let me play DJ and use the YouTube app on his phone as our digital jukebox. Pretty soon, I knew what he liked. So we spent some of our happiest days of last year listening to songs of longing and heartbreak – in other words, lots of Arijit Singh.

 On Independence Day, mapping Indias most streamed musicians, 18 states top-3 acts

Arijit Singh performing at one of his concerts. Facebook/ Arijit Singh

To mark Independence Day, I decided to find out what listeners across the country are playing the most and obtained from audio-streaming service Gaana a list of the three most-streamed acts in 18 of India’s states and the union territory of Delhi, over the last six months. (I asked JioSaavn and Spotify for similar data but they said they couldn’t provide the information.) Unsurprisingly, Jammu and Kashmir is not among the regions featured. Equally unsurprisingly, Singh emerged as the most popular singer in India.

Andhra Pradesh
1 Devi Sri Prasad
2 Sid Sriram
3 SP Balasubrahmanyam

Assam
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Bihar
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Neha Kakkar
3 Arijit Singh

Delhi/NCR
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Gujarat
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Haryana
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Guru Randhawa
3 Neha Kakkar

Jharkhand
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Karnataka
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Shreya Ghoshal
3 Arijit Singh

Kerala
1 AR Rahman
2 Arijit Singh
3 Shreya Ghoshal

Madhya Pradesh
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Maharasthra
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Odisha
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Punjab
1 Guru Randhawa
2 Sukh-E
3 B Praak

Rajasthan
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Tamil Nadu
1 AR Rahman
2 Anirudh Ravichander
3 Hiphop Tamizha

Telangana
1 Devi Sri Prasad
2 Sid Sriram
3 SP Balasubrahmanyam

Uttarakhand
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Neha Kakkar
3 Arijit Singh

Uttar Pradesh
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Neha Kakkar
3 Arijit Singh

West Bengal
1 Tanishk Bagchi
2 Arijit Singh
3 Neha Kakkar

Sadly, if like me, you find most remixes unnecessary, you might just be in the minority. Bollywood composer and “recreator”-in-chief Tanishk Bagchi is the most streamed act in 13 states and in Delhi, and his popularity spans the north, west, central, eastern and north-eastern parts of India, with only the south preferring homegrown composers such as AR Rahman and Devi Sri Prasad. Interestingly, in the five regions that Bagchi is not the No 1 artist (Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Telangana), he doesn’t figure in the top three either.

india-map-825

On the other hand, playback singers Arijit Singh and Neha Kakkar can claim nationwide fame. They’re either the second or third most played artist in over a dozen areas, including Gujarat in the west, Odisha in the east, Madhya Pradesh in the centre, Uttar Pradesh in the north, Assam in the north-east and Kerala in the south.

Expectedly, Punjab stands out as the only state where non-film artists are the most heard. Guru Randhawa, Sukh-E and B Praak rule the charts there. Meanwhile, in the south, a range of regional language composers reigns supreme. Telugu music director Devi Sr Prasad is the most favoured among music fans in the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana where rising star Sid Sriram and veteran vocalist SP Balasubrahmanyam complete the top three.

Rahman is the king of playlists in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. And while the former state loves local heroes, composer-vocalists Anirudh Ravichander and Hiphop Tamizha, the latter streams Hindi film playback singers Singh and Shreya Ghoshal more than any Malayalam artists. Also, despite recent incidents of linguistic bigotry, the highest played acts in Karnataka are not Kannada crooners but Bollywood’s Bagchi, Singh and Ghoshal.

The above lists clearly tell us that Hindi film music continues to dominate the national soundscape, and that the remix trend will be around for a while more. Bagchi’s biggest tune so far this year is a leftover from 2018, his remake of the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan qawwali 'Tere Bin' from Simmba. Another cut from the soundtrack, Bagchi’s take on Viju Shah’s 'Aankh Maarey' (from the 1996 Bollywood flick Tere Mere Sapne) is Kakkar’s top track. Bagchi’s original composition 'Ve Maahi' from Kesari is Singh’s strongest 2019 hit.

Remarkably, though Singh and Kakkar have both rendered tracks composed by Bagchi, all three of them have never been part of the same song. With data driving much of music-making these days, it’s only a matter of time before they join forces. Hopefully it will be on something truly special, and not another “recreation”.

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: Aug 15, 2019 11:15:19 IST