Big Bang Music is writing a series of guest columns for Music Ally’s readers to help you understand the latest trends in India. In this latest piece, Big Bang A&R Aranyaka Verma explains how, in a country as dynamic, multicultural, and large as India, a “regional” hit can mean hundreds of millions of streams. But what does it mean when a regional hit becomes the biggest song in the world?
In early 2020 a song called 52 Gaj ka Daman reached number one on YouTube’s Global Charts and maintained that position for four straight weeks. Released in late October 2020, it’s still in the top 10, hovering just below 1bn views – an enormous success for Desi Records and the song’s artists, including Renuka Panwar.
It’s by far the most successful song on Youtube in Haryanvi (a language spoken in the indian state of Haryana) – and this breakout success in a regional language is what makes 52 Gaj ka Daman an unlikely hit. The success has carried across to its stars: Renuka Panwar is still clocking upwards of 2.5m views per day across her catalogue on YouTube and is still in the Top 10 artists on YouTube in India.
Local song, relatable hit
The traditional center of power for the Indian music industry is perplexed. So what makes an unlikely song like 52 Gaj Ka Daman connect like this? The quick answer is: increased smartphone penetration through all demographics and geographies; and a rise in regional content.
However, that doesn’t explain the full virality of the song. While access to tech can change consumption habits and provide exposure, at the heart of this success is the song itself, which has gained an organic acceptance from music fans. And 52 Gaj Ka Daman has all the vital ingredients needed.
Most regional music outside of the Punjabi industry doesn’t boast of sophisticated production – yet it often has a catchy melody that stays with the listener. But the true heroes here were the uncomplicated, culturally relevant, and nuanced lyrics which resonated with people. 52 Gaj ka Daman is simply about a woman dressing up in a heavy traditional Haryanvi garb and going to get water from the well with other women – with a “rebellious” angle added to the video. It is a scenario that the audience entirely understands.
Representation and access driving consumption
This idea of representation also drove the song’s success. A quick scroll through YouTube comments throws up comments like, “I’m not Haryanvi, but I’m proud that regional content is doing well” and “This song has proved a super hit song can be made by showing your own culture, dresses, local location”. People want to see the relatable balanced with the aspirational, and to picture themselves achieving. Regional content – especially successful regional content – provides that representation, putting a previously inaccessible world within reach.
Regional music industries are growing rapidly, as music delivery channels are easily available to the masses, while Bollywood releases have slowed down because of COVID. But perhaps it is time to change the narrative around regional content. The demand for regional content has not necessarily increased: it is now measurable as data can be collected real time through decentralized platforms.
While the existing centralized systems have pushed content based on the realities they see or are palatable to them, a primarily rural country is now online and has the means to show everyone what they listen to – with huge success.
– Aranyaka Verma, A&R, Big Bang Music
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