It took Neha Bhasin 16 long years to make a mark in Bollywood music scene which, she believes, is a male-dominated arena where female singers always get the raw end of the deal. The 34-year-old singer, who won most of the big awards of 2016 for her song “Jag Ghoomeya” from “Sultan”, says it is hard for a new or unusual voice to find a footing in the industry.
“Our music industry is male-driven. There are fewer opportunities for female singers. Only Shreya (Ghoshal) and Sunidhi (Chauhan) get both quantity and quality… These days, music composers are singing themselves or making other male artistes sing. It is very tough to find a female single in a movie album and even if it is, it is just a female version of a song sung by a male artiste,” Neha said.
The singer believes the music scene in India is a subset of Bollywood and is not able to standalone as an independent industry. “The sad part is we don’t have a music industry in India. There is a film industry and music is just a part of it. Even the indie pop trend was short-lived. I feel India thrives on playback singing and Bollywood music. It does not understand the culture of non-film music. For music industry to function, there has to be a system, but we don’t have that,” she says.
Neha made her foray into playback singing with the song “Kuch Khaas Hai” from Priyanka Chopra’s “Fashion”, but she says the journey has been tough as she was an outsider and had to continuously prove her talent.
Neha, who recently released her third folk single “Chan Mahi”, says her aim is to give a contemporary twist to traditional Punjabi songs and make them popular with youth. “When I started, I was a Western singer. I didn’t get an opportunity to sing the kind of songs I wanted. I was not able to find the kind of music which I like and at the same time it resonates with the audience. With folk, I found my kind of music. When I started doing folk songs my intention was to do something which I like, but after two songs I realised there was a bigger need of popularising traditional music.”