Traditionally, the Bhojpuri music industry is perhaps best known for its absurd lyrics and racy music videos. But with the advent of demonetisation, there’s been a drastic shift to cash in on this trending topic.
The industry’s response to demonetisation has been inventive, and with all the trappings of its genre. Some of these songs are empathetic to those having to wait in long lines, others are paeans to Narendra Modi for attempting to stamp out corruption. Take this song, “Jug Jug Jiya Modi Ji” by Sakal Balamau with its subtle refrain:
Narendra Modi Jug jug jiye (Long live Narendra Modi)
Desh khatir bada kaam kaila (He took a huge step for the sake of the nation)
Kala dhan ke kaamva tamaan kaila (He wiped out black money)
Narendra Modi jug jug jiya (Long live Narendra Modi)
Purana 500, 1000 band kaila (He stopped Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes)
Kala dhan walen ka jindgi jhand kaila (He ruined the lives of those with black money)
Ghotalabaj netva ka neend haraam kaila. (He ruined the sleep of corrupt politicians)
None of the songs criticise the Prime Minister. In fact, they eulogise him and are in favour of demonetisation. And if the hits and comments are anything to go by, the songs are all the rage among fans of Bhojpuri music.
Abhishek Gupta, 27, runs a merchant store in Lucknow, and is an avid fan of Bhojpuri music and its rustic quality. He admits to really enjoying the songs on demonetisation as there is “no skin show or absurd lyrics” as compared to earlier videos.
While the rhythm and structures of these new songs aren’t that different, they are creative in their use of lyrics and situations. Gupta claimed some songs were even informative.
Take, for example, “Lagal Dilwa Par Chot Band Bhail Hazariya Ke Note (Banning the notes rattled my heart)”, sung by Nidhi Upadhyay. The song was recorded around the same time as the two high-value currency notes were recalled and was uploaded to Youtube on November 10.
The song has a woman plaintively worried about running her household with no cash. A male voice consoles her and tells her that any bank or post office will exchange her money. The male goes on to state in the most PSA manner that this (demonetisation) is for the good of the country and merely a matter of powering through the next three-four days.
Within a day, “Lagal Dilwa” had around two and a half lakh views on Youtube. As of now, it has been viewed over seven lakh times. Thanks to the popularity of the song, Wave Music’s (the distributors of these songs) YouTube channel gathered four lakh more subscribers. Most of its 420 comments are either praise for the song, or Modi.
It was on November 8 at 8 pm that Upadhyaya heard the prime minister had announced that the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes would cease to remain legal tender. “I was getting dinner ready and ribbing my brother too by singing a few impromptu lines on the ban on Rs 1000 as he had a few of them [the notes],” said Upadhyay. “That’s when it struck him, ‘Why not make a song of it?’”
Within two and a half hours, the team was ready with the lyrics. That night itself, they recorded the song, edited it and designed the posters. Being the first ones to put together a song about the hot topic paid off and it went viral.
Upadhyay was pleased at the popularity of the song and the imitations it spawned, “Several other songs surfaced online soon after my song. I’m happy people are liking it,” she said.
Statistics show these songs gained lakhs of views within the first few hours of being uploaded. The videos are all monetised – the uploader, in this instance Wave Music, has chosen to show advertisements and earns revenue.
Even if the artists are not the uploaders themselves, they still benefit from the popularity of the videos. Upadhyay said that for a single track, a singer can get paid as much as Rs 25,000. She had even booked a show in Chhapra, Bihar, to sing the song on stage. She has also been invited to sing it at a wedding in Datiya district of Bihar. The popularity of the song has seen her fame rise in Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The producer of the song, Upadhyay ‘s brother, Diwakar said they did not spend any money to promote the song. Following the success of their first demonetisation song, Wave Music, a company Diwakar has shares in, put out ten more songs on the subject, uploading them to Youtube. Demonetisation was what everyone was talking about, so the likelihood of people connecting to a song on the issue was high, according to Diwakar. Most of the songs see anywhere between one to five lakh views.
Wave Music aren’t the only players in the Bhojpuri demonitisation game. One song, “Band bhail note paanch hazaar so ke (Brother, Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes are banned)” sung by Khushboo Uttam — famous for her double-entendres –and distributed by Chanda cassettes on November has almost 12 lakh views. “We never thought that the song we made in so much hurry will become so popular. I have got calls from Bihar praising the song,” said Khusboo.
Damodar Rao, an established music director, composer and singer whose songs are popular with rickshaw-pullers and labourers, also rushed to get into the act. An industry with an already swift turnaround time, Rao didn’t have the luxury of two to three weeks for a song, but mere days to cash in.
Prabhu Jhingran, a former Doordarshan director, Lucknow and a noted film critic, said Bhojpuri cinema runs on trends. For over a decade the industry has worked to identify and work around popular trends. For instance, when the Reliance’s JIO cellular sim cards were to be launched, musicians had already found a way to tap in on it such as “JIO SIM Ke Offer”, released by Bhojpuri Hot Masti.
Despite its content, Upadhyay is insistent these songs have no political agenda. “We have no political motives or political parties coaxing us to create these songs. Bhojpuri music industry runs basically on the trend and this time, too, it’s we who set the trend,” she said.