| 13 Apr 2024
Live bands edge out albums this Navratri

MUMBAI: Till a few years ago, one could see men and women dressed up for the Navratri, swirling their ghaghras and twirling their dandiyas, dancing around a cassette player blaring out prerecorded music.

But today, even in the outskirts of Gujarat, youngsters fancy dancing to the beats of a live band rather than to a CD. Does this mean that the age of Garba cassettes and CDs is over?

Raj Audio, a label that has released only three albums this year, would tend to agree. The company's latest offering is Jalawadi Jabli (Vol 1 and Vol 2) recorded by a stage artiste, Mridula Desai. Till last year, the label would release around 25 albums before each Navratri. The label that sticks to only releasing cultural and folk songs in a world dominated by Bollywood, is in a dilemma. "There's 20-40 per cent dip in turover, caused mainly by an increase in production costs. Piracy is a major issue all the albums are easily available with hawkers at the local railway stations. Besides that, small retailers have their own problems too," says a source from Raj Audio.

The big names routinely churn out Navratri fare too, as they have done this year too. But that's merely a ripple in their calendar of events. This year, T-Series has brought out five albums - Dholna, a pacy album with old Gujarati traditional songs interspersed with the new, sung by Archana Dave, 41 Non-stop Gujarati Dhamal, Kesariya Dhola are musical and complete with a racy video, Dandiya Masti 2008 encompasses T Series superhits including Karzzzz, remixed with Dandiya music and a devotional Gujarati album Jagone Albeli Ammba with Prabhatiya songs set to the beat of the ektara, a tribute to Ammba Mata.

Times Music too has released a Non-stop Dandiya Mix featuring Dandiya Remixes of songs from its hits 'Singh is Kinng', 'Welcome' and chart-busters like Pardesia, Paree Hun Mein, Mere Angne Mein, Pallo Latke, Disco Station, Odhni Odhae and many more. Not to be outdone, radio station My FM that has a big presence in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, has brought out a special CD that includes the �Varnan'of nine incarnations of Maa Durga, the Godess of Power, alongwith the Shlokas chanted in sonorous Sanskrit pronunciation. This is interwoven with Maa Durga Bhajans. The CD has been developed by MY FM in association with Tata Indicom. YRF Music too has released Go Jhoom, a two CD collection of foot-thumping, club rocking remixes of superhit songs from Yash Raj Films, 115 minutes of pulsating non-stop remix medleys and remixes, its USP being 'danceable medleys at differing speeds, starting at 112 beats per minute and going up to as much as 134 beats per minute'. Included in this non-stop medley are some of the biggest club and popular hits, over 30 songs from Yash Raj Films including Chak De India, Chhaliya, Mere Haath Mein, Dil Haara, Salaam Namaste, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Dhoom Again, Halla Re, Crazy Kiya Re, Dhadak Dhadak, Dil Dance Maare, Kajra Re, Hockey Doongi, Chand Sifarish, Tere Liye, Lucky Boy and Bachna Ae Haseeno.

Not surprisingly, Bollywood dominates at the big lables. But officials at Soor Mahal, another label that banks on Navratri music, say, "Gujaratis would buy close to 1.2 million Garba cassettes and CDs till about four years ago. Now, Navratri barely a few days away, recording companies and distributors say that sales will barely cross 50,000 this year."

The easy availability and novelty of having a live band on the premises is adding to the labels' woes. Many small organizers and housing societies that depended on cassettes and CDs are keener on live performances. Besides, the music business has shifted from the shops to larriwalas who sell pirated copies, keeping the composer and the singer away from recording studios.

On the other hand, the dips in the recording business have proved to be extremely beneficial for the Live Garba bands who charge around Rs one to 1.5 million for the 10 day extravaganza. Nikhil Shah of 'Beaters' says, "The bookings happen three to four months in advance. We play for five hours at a stretch, people enjoy it when a band plays live instead of the recorded numbers. They can request whatever they want and we play it. It's more fun because it's live – that's the advantage". Shah further reasons, "Most women don't get an opportunity to dance – though they love dancing. Navratri gives them a good opportunity to dance to a live band, giving them a discotheque like feel."

This time, the band plans to add Marathi, English and even Telugu songs to their play list - including popular Marathi numbers like Kombdi, Nauri Natli, and Ricky Martin's Cup of live and about five songs of the famous pop band Vengaboys with a Garba flavour. Of course, the garba version of Bryan Adams 'Summer of 69' and 'Khamboo' a Gujrati version of Shakira's Hips don't lie are on many bands' must have list.

In Mumbai, Navaratri celebrations take a refreshing meaning for the mind and soul when playback singer Falguni Pathak joins thousands of enthusiasts in their Dandia-raas dance shows during the nine-day festivities organised by 'Sankalp'. Every day, more than 35,000 people come to listen to the name synonymous with Dandiya. The 10 pm deadline on loudspeakers is no deterrent as revelers are now are well aware of the timings and don't mind coming in early. Besides the normal junta, celebrities, actors and film stars increase the glam quotient.

Apart from Mumbai, an equally extravagant Dandiya is celebrated in the heart of Gujarat at Maa Shakti (Vadodara), an event which was previously known as 'Aarki'. Nitin Sandeshara, a local businessman, had started the event with a wish to take 'Navratri' on a global stage. However, Sandeshara, who started this theme, discontinued organizing the event and for the last eight years, the event is better known as Maa Shakti Rishabh Group. But, nevertheless, the popularity is intact. Maa Shakti also holds a record with the Limca book of World records of holding the largest amount of dancers in the ground - close to 38,850.

Another event that promises glamour and a 'filmi' quotient is the one in Surat, organised by composer Ismail Durbar, who took a horde of Zee's Sa Re Ga Ma Pa finalists to the event last year to perform, raising a lot of ill will between the composer and the TV channel. A repeat performance this year seems unlikely, though Durbar is still silent on the details.

Most event organisers, particularly in Gujarat, stress on the traditional aspect of the event and therefore follow some rules, for instance, only traditionally dressed dancers are allowed. Besides that, only traditional or folk music is played – no film music! The same can be observed in parts of Mumbai and even overseas.

With the entire fiesta getting a complete makeover, recording labels and artist who used to wait for this period of the year are left with no option. Singers and musicians can still manage to perform live, but the record labels from whom Navratri meant money spinning, are now searching for new ideas.