Salim Merchant has expressed his displeasure over the lack of support for regional and new artistes in the current music scenario, wondering why there is only ‘Punjabi-type’ of music being promoted in the country. Salim, the one-half of music composer duo Salim-Sulaiman, says that working with regional artistes is often looked down upon in Bollywood.
Salim, along with his brother Sulaiman, owns an independent label Merchant Records, which they created in July last year. The duo has so far released more than 10 independent songs with various artistes across the country. Most recently, they collaborated with Bhojpuri star Pawan Singh for a Holi special track ‘Babuni Tere Rang Mein’.
He says, “A lot of people from the Hindi film industry think that collaborating with regional artistes is not such a great thing, but music is about different cultures and people and we are so blessed to have so many cultures and traditions. There are so many great artistes in the regional space. We have created Merchant Records to empower good music by good musicians, lyricists, and creators without it having any pressure for hit stuff. We are releasing all kinds of stuff—be it pop, Ghazal, or thumri. Music has no language, especially in a country like India which is so diverse. It is really sad that we focus on Hindi music. It should be open to more cultures, languages, and genres. Why is only Punjabi-type of music promoted?”
The singer-composer says when they started Merchant Records, they had no clue that they would be releasing the music of other artistes as their initial purpose was to structure their own music properly through a label “so that when it goes out on various platforms, it goes through a label.”
“After we released a couple of songs, Sulaiman and I had a discussion that we shouldn’t keep this label just for ourselves. Some of the music directors and composers who have launched their labels have only released their music through their labels. But we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to keep this label open for our fellow musicians, composers, and artistes who are like our family and work so hard. They should have a creative boutique label through which they can release their music too.”
“We are just having fun giving good music a platform to be amplified and heard by a wider audience through our label. We may not be as big as the so-called music labels but we are definitely a boutique label and the intent is very pure and right,” Salim adds.
Mainstream music created with real passion and intent is a scarcity these days, notes Salim. “When we make a song, we don’t really expect a reaction because the minute you start doing that you are trying to make a hit song. And, Sulaiman and my focus have always been on making a good song and not a hit song. Because we believe that when you make a good song it always turns out to be a hit. Our spirit is very clean, organic and pure that the song should do well for its musicality and the merit that it deserves and not for it to be viral.”
Salim further tears into the hypocrisy of music awards in the country and how they are manipulated by big music labels.
“Awards are sponsored by all the big labels. One of the most popular music labels has it in their contract, saying that ‘I’m going to give the Best Music Award.’ Where are we going? What are these awards? You’ll never find the best music by any individual who is worthy of it really, but it has to be someone from that particular label. They make sure that they have the best music category award,” he says.