When you hear an alcohol brand’s representative use the word “enabler”, context is everything. Bacardi says its newest role is to be an “enabler and discoverer of new music talent in the country” with their platform, The Bacardi House Party Sessions (BHPS).
It was introduced with a bang last year — via comedy collective All India Bakchod’s YouTube channel, where they announced they were looking for the next party anthem just in time for the brand’s biggest event, the Bacardi NH7 Weekender music festivals in Shillong (October) and Pune (December). Tying up with Only Much Louder, they called on desi bass producer and DJ Nucleya aka Udyan Sagar to pick songs with potential.
Fast forward to half a year later and tracks by young and upcoming artists such as Ritviz Srivastava (whose song Udd Gaye has clocked over 17 million views), pop singer-songwriter Aarya (No Game has more than 600,000 views) and bass music producer MojoJojo (whose collaboration with rapper Sikander Kahlon Chak Bass has garnered more than 897,000 plays).
In April, Bacardi House Party Sessions’ fourth single featured somewhat notorious singer-rapper Babu Haabi’s incorrigible, sarcastic tune Kutta Hee Hoon Na (he had previously received flak for his video to Bobocanta, which featured an animated figure of Mahatma Gandhi dancing), which now has just over 646,000 hits, all via AIB’s YouTube channel. In turn, working on this campaign, Babu Haabi hails the “courage and instinct” of Bacardi. He adds, “Very rarely in this (music) world does one see situations where everyone is happy; this is one such case study that will go down in my book.”
At a time when record labels are more or less a sober affair, the presence of a brand like Bacardi using its monetary and media reach to give artists studio time, mentorship and a strong distribution channel is a sign of perhaps a new path. Akshay Johar aka MojoJojo says, “The audience is primarily young so naturally they are highly active on social media. Therefore, the internet becomes the most effective way to reach them.” Anshuman Goenka, the marketing head for Bacardi India, likens Bacardi House Party Sessions to an accelerated career programme for India’s unsigned talent. In the 20 years that Bacardi has gone from being famous for parties like Bacardi Blast and that one early jingle Sippin’ a Bacardi (remember “Be what you wanna be”?) to associating with music festivals and content, suddenly sifting through about 2,600 entries with AIB and Nucleya.
And with their latest release of electronic music producer Gurbax’s Aatank with rapper Dee MC (and Canadian singer Heiwah and American singer Blake Lovely) just ahead of the hype of NH7 Weekender artist line-ups in Pune and Meghalaya, there seems to be a defined identity that Bacardi has carved for itself – especially seen in the aesthetics of their music videos. From interpretive dance to comedy, BHPS’ visual style play heavily on the outlandish – like dwarves turning gangsters (Chak Bass) to middle-aged women and men dancing like there’s no tomorrow (Udd Gaye, Aatank).
Although it’s first batch of releases are heavily leaning on electronic music, Goenka says they’re “genre agnostic”. He adds, “Whether it’s a metal track, a singer-songwriter like Arya or an EDM producer, it doesn’t bother us per se. It’s about if the music can motivate you, have this intrinsic connection.” In return, these artists and future signees get as much of a free hand as needed to make some tunes, have inputs about music videos and play them on big stages like Weekender. Goenka calls the videos “distinct and relatable” in terms of appeal. He adds, “This outcome would not have been possible without the coming together of each creative mind — AIB and the teams at Bacardi and OML. We have each worked as equal partners on the conceptualisation, storyboard and design elements with the objective of positively impacting the overall vibe of the music video. The overwhelming response of these tracks echoes the success of this strategy.”
In the case of Aatank – which features a wild after-hours party for security guards at an office – Gurbax says his inputs extended to fitting the style of music. He explains, “I’m obsessed with using the element of surprise and journeying into the unknown by juxtaposing a palette of sounds from different eras and cultures to create one unique voice. I think Aatank, in a way, is an embodiment of that creative process.”
And now that they’re scaling up. Bacardi House Party Sessions wants to bring in their existing international counterparts in countries such as Singapore, Thailand, UAE and South Africa, as well as rope in ambassadors such as electronic group Major Lazer. Goenka says, “Where we come in is that we want to ensure artists create music consistently and get the chance to record songs not just within the country, but get exposure outside as well. We want to put money back into this campaign so that we can go around and find more artists the next year, so that it becomes sustainable.”
Meanwhile, the likes of Ritviz is now tasked with how he can outdo his claim to fame. But the 22-year-old says he’s not too worried. He recalls what was equally memorable about the previous song — how he wasn’t asked to sign away rights to the song, the opposite of a traditional move by any major record label. “The best part was that there was no burden of expectations. They promised me a really cool Bacardi bomber jacket though, which I'm still waiting for,” he laughs.
All photos courtesy: Bacardi
Updated Date: Aug 21, 2018 11:20 AM