God is on the side of devotional music

God is on the side of devotional music

Bollywood music is now considered mainstream in India, but devotional music -- an industry worth around Rs.1 billion a year -- is holding its own and coming second, says the head of Times Music. "After film music, devotional music is something that generates maximum sales not only in terms of physical sales of CDs but also mobile downloads," Adarsh Gupta, COO, Times Music said.

Times Music has taken out albums like "Krishna Forever", "Mantra Maha Utsav", "Living With Sai" and "Om Jai Jagdish" among others.

"Compared to sales of music of other genres, spiritual or devotional music albums enjoy almost 30 percent more sales. That is one of the reasons why we have been taking out devotional music albums almost every month," added Gupta.

FICCI and KPMG research estimated the size of the Indian music industry at around Rs.7.3 billion in 2008 and Gupta says the devotional music industry amounts to approximately Rs.1 billion out of that.

Artistes and music labels both emphasise the importance of this genre and have been trying to innovate as far as they can.

According to India's undisputed bhajan king Anup Jalota, the popularity of music meant for praising the almighty will never go down in India. "Devotional music is the only genre that can be described as compulsory music in life. In India we have festivals almost every second month and on such days, only devotional music is heard.

"So it's a regular thing in our lives. Even on a day-to-day basis, 90 percent people in our country listen to devotional songs in the morning before starting their day. In India devotional music sales and its popularity will never go down and in the future it will only increase," 56-year-old Jalota told IANS.

He has sung over 1,500 bhajans and over 30 years has released more than 200 albums of bhajans and ghazals.

"Even popular playback singers and famous ghazal singers are getting into this genre. This only proves the popularity of this music," Jalota added.

Singers like Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam, Jagjit Singh and Pankaj Udhas have associated themselves with devotional singing.

Bollywood singer-composer Raghav Sachar, who has recently come out with his own devotional album "Om Jai Jagdish", feels that even Bollywood can't compete with the popularity of devotional music.

"Devotional music is the most saleable. Even Bollywood cannot compete with it. People in all parts of India connect with aartis because it is a part of our upbringing and embedded in our systems. Besides, people of all age groups love to listen to devotional music," he held.

There have been cases of unknown singers recording devotional songs and quickly becoming popular.

New Delhi-based Sanjeev Sharma, who was fond of singing devotional songs, bagged a contract with Venus music five years ago and created many albums in this genre.
"I was always interested in music, but since the last 12 years, I have taken devotional singing as a career. Some of my albums have been 'Sharan Mein Le Lo' and 'Sai Aradhna'," he said.

Asked what can be done to strengthen the genre, Rajeeta Hemwani, vice president (content) of Universal Music, said: "There are a few albums or concepts in recent times that have stood apart either by content or by concept. It's really important to innovate."
Sachar added: "Devotional music is great but needs to be presented in a different manner because change is the spice of life."

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