Earlier this year, Varun Shashidaran’s hobby morphed into his occupation. For years, the 24-year-old had performed on the side, while he was a working stiff in an IT set-up. It was a tradition he had been following since he was in engineering college. In August, he finally took the plunge. Shashidaran teamed up with friend Anurag Ghorpade, a Mumbaikar, to start Desi Media Networks, a hip hop and rap record label and entertainment company.
The music entrepreneurs are clear about what they want to do: Popularize hip hop, and give it an Indian touch. “Desi Media Networks is India’s first independent hip hop record label company which will launch a series of artistes and albums representing the genre,” says Bangalore-based Shashidaran.
Band aid: Shashidaran (left) and Ghorpade will launch more bands.
Their journey begins with an album titled They See (desi) Revolution, a hip hop and rap album in, wait for it, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and English. The 15-track album is the work of D-Nox, India’s first hip hop band, a 25-artiste group which comprises people from Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and New Delhi. “You could relate our music with Rishi Rich, Bombay Rockers, Sona Family and Raghav. The variation is that we focus on rap, and that too in English, Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil. We are planning to launch a series of artistes and albums covering this genre, and intend to explore other regional languages as there is a market for it,” says Shashidaran.
Of the founding duo, Shashidaran is a seasoned performer, and 20-year-old Ghorpade is a trained classical musician. Between the two and their creds, it wasn’t difficult to spot talent. They scouted youth hang-outs across the country, and they also knew many aspiring musicians, so it didn’t take long to bring people together for the album. The artistes who made the final list are in the age group of 18-25; the result is a harmonious blend of young talent.
On the album, for one thing, one gets to hear rap music in Tamil. The music—which targets audiences in the 15-30 age group—blends desi essence with hip hop. It is strategically aimed at music lovers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. While most tracks on the album, i.e. D-Nox is Back and They See Revolution, are meant to get you moving, some such as Bhool Naa Jaana are on a softer note. Like most well-spun records these days, They See (desi) Revolution is a good mix of rhythm—both fast and light. And for most of the artistes who make up D-Nox, this is their debut album.
Varun R., one of the founders of DogmaTone Records (a record label company which promotes rock bands), says: “The emergence of independent record label companies indicates that there’s a demand for Indian versions of rock and hip hop music. Hip hop is youth-oriented, and is picking up here because youngsters can access music through iPods and various modes.”
Desi Media Networks has also launched a music social networking site called www.clingout.com. Its purpose is two fold: While the website is a step towards starting its own online music store, it is also intended as a platform for aficionados to interact on.
The founding duo have invested around Rs57 lakh for the album, the website and marketing initiatives; if all goes well, the company hopes to break even in two years. Musician Amit Heri feels the initiative is well-timed. “There isn’t a hip hop, rap scene in Bangalore. So an effort of this kind can help in developing a new style. Like Tamil, Punjabi, too, lends itself to rap and this creative move helps in building a rap culture.”
Working out the logistics, the music entrepreneurs say they plan to sell 15,000 albums and 20,000 individual tracks in the first three months. For wider reach,They See (desi) Revolution will be retailed through channels such as leading online and digital stores. Besides tapping online music stores such as iTunes and Napster, Desi Media Networks hopes to approach investors and venture capitalist funding to help market and sell the music album.
They See (desi) Revolution is scheduled to release on Friday.