Since the lockdown until now, singer-songwriter Leslee Lewis has released four songs independently instead of collaborating with music labels. Being one of the prominent voices of indie-pop music of the ’90s, and having worked closely with music labels, he soon shifted his focus on making music independently.
“I think these days, music labels are not able to understand the kind of music I am creating. It used to happen earlier when I was creating indie-pop. I have been associated with music labels like HMV, Sony BMG and others for my indie-pop in the past. But that time, we made music that had melody and archival value. See, there is a difference between a jingle and a song. You cannot make a jingle into a song. A jingle just needs a hook line so that you recall the product through it, like Mango Fruity, fresh and juicy, ‘Doodh doodh doodh doodh peeyo glassful, Santoor Santoor... and many more that I have been making for the last 30 years. Likewise, I cannot and will not make a song into a jingle just to get a two-minutes hit, for people to forget it later. A song has to have archival value, which was there in Paari Hoon Main, Sa Ni Dha Pa, Krishna to name a few,” said Leslee.
Starting his journey as a music composer, Leslee not only collaborated with iconic vocalists like Hariharan and made his mark with the band ‘Colonial Cousins’ and their debut album in 1996, but also discovered new talents like Suneeta Rao, Alisha Chinai, KK among others. And, the musician believes that the way marketing has overpowered creativity, it is somewhere affecting music composers to come up with original songs.
Explaining his statement, Leslee says, “In the past too, music labels used to brief us on making good songs that are worth marketing and investing money in to distribute them worldwide. Of course, that is their job and they should tell us that. But after the briefing, a composer was left alone to make the music; I was never told how to make a song and how to experiment with the sound to create what I did in ‘Colonial Cousins’. These days the music labels want us to make ‘jo chal raha hai market mein’. That cannot be the drive for an artiste; I want to make music that will resonate with my listeners.”
Leslee is now working to create a new genre and sound that he calls ‘Global Hindi’ that amalgamate the very ethos of Hindi music, lyrics and inspiration from western music.
Since September last year, he has released songs like Chandrama, Betabiyaan, Aaja Meri Baahon Mein featuring new singer Kavya Jones, Tu Kahe, and the latest Haath Ab Chodo on his YouTube channel. However, Leslee says that while he will continue making music and putting it on his YouTube channel, he does not want to judge or critcise those ‘marketing minds’.
“I understand the power of good marketing that allows our work to reach out to millions of people. Marketing people treat a song like a product that should be sellable for them instead of taking risks for a new song, in their language, a new product. The corporate world is a tough competitive space where the marketing team is counting on numbers. They are doing their job. I am not running them down. But as an artiste, my job is to write-compose-produce original songs. As an artiste, I should create something that people will listen to even after ages, and will find it relevant,” Leslee signs off.