There is something about the songs and albums from our childhoods that over the years become small mementos of the good times. They shaped our initial love for music and formed a basis for our growing preferences. Moreover, these tracks are also reminiscent of days when cassettes, CDs and walkmans were the significant mediums through which music was played.
With such immense cultural baggage, the same songs over the years become relics, to be enjoyed but not tampered with. A recent controversy in the music industry has seen online discourse following similar themes. Anyone who grew up in India during the 90s or early 2000s knows about singer Falguni Pathak, who ruled the era with gems that resonated with younger generations while still utilizing relatively traditional Indian beats.
Decked in androgynous clothing, the singer was deemed as the ‘Dandiya Queen’ and anytime one switched on the radio her hit songs would play on a loop. One such song was ‘Maine Payal Hai Chankai’, which was recently recreated by popular singer Neha Kakkar. The remixed version was not well received by the public as Pathak herself expressed disapproval on her social media platform as well as in multiple interviews.
What further irked the public was the fact that Pathak had no legal rights over her own track and hence could not stop the record label from recreating the famous song. The issue became a national subject over the past few weeks and even mainstream media channels covered the details. However, if we look back at the history of the Indian music industry, the culture of remixing old songs is nothing new or revolutionary.
The difference largely is that social networking platforms now provide a space for individuals to express their discontent and reach a large audience. The domino effect that follows is reflected in unending Twitter threads and extensive trolling. In the present state of online culture, we have become conditioned to hop on a bandwagon of hate whereas a few years back the same recreation may have been celebrated.
I by no means support the particular remix as it did disregard the original creator and refused to take into account the growing resentment for tampering with old songs but we have to agree that social media has played a huge part in changing how art is created across industries. As a result of the instant backlash, creatives are now becoming weary of dabbling into spaces that might jeopardise their entire careers.
Social media has also played a part in how we consume content, especially music. Due to the rise of Reels and Tiktok, our attention spans have been reduced to 10-15 second intervals. Many users noticed how producers are capitalising on this change by only perfecting a particular hook in each song; enhancing its chances of going viral, leaving the rest of the track largely unattended. This further gives rise to remixes that profit off old songs with a proven track record.
Things were not quite the same back in the 90s and early 2000s when MTV was a platform where remixes were celebrated by younger generations. Recreations like ‘Ek Pardesi’, ‘Yeh Mera Deewanapan’ and ‘Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar’ became sensational hits. One can see how it spoke to the spirit of the times. For the first time, globalisation had impacted the way Indian youth consumed media and these westernised remixes were more culturally relevant than ever before.
As so many hold onto the same nostalgia, it becomes increasingly difficult to replace the memories of these evergreen tracks despite recent releases that try to recreate the magic. It is vital for the industry to take into account the growing resentment in order to rebuild trust. Going forward we can only hope that art becomes a space that is as free as possible, where creators have the ability to experiment, and where the audience also feels heard.
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