One theme song too many

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Plaudits for the Delhi Commonwealth Games may be in short supply, but theme songs are aplenty. While maestro A R Rahman’s ‘Jiyo Utho Badho Jiyo’ has the “official CWG theme song” tag, it hasn’t deterred a number of other artistes like Anand Raj Anand, Palash Sen, Daler Mehndi, Kailash Kher and Shibani Kashyap from joining the chorus and releasing other Games songs. Shaan too, reportedly recorded a tentative theme song.

What has caused this musical stampede? Prathap Suthan, national creative head at Samsung’s advertizing partner, Cheil Worldwide calls it “the latest fad.” And it’s not restricted to the CWG. True, till recently, theme songs were largely associated with sporting events, television programmes and movies.

Today, joining that list are organizations, companies, conferences and even personalities. A pop song “A Man like Putin” topped the charts in Russia some years ago, and has now become the theme music for Vladimir Putin’s rallies.

“Music is the easiest thing to get a community to move together,” says Suthan, who has been involved with the production of theme songs for the India Shining campaign, ONGC and Samsung. Today, this simple truth is used to build a brand and drum up public support, be it for IPL teams, football clubs or corporates.

Suthan adds, “English Premier League clubs have had their own songs for long. A lot of companies such as the ONGC have songs that define what they are.” That’s the spirit behind the motivational songs of NSG, CRPF and BSF, Hyderabad international airport’s “Aasman”, Rahman’s “Semmozhiyaana Tamizh Mozhiyaam” for the World Classical Tamil Conference’s (lyrics by chief minister M Karunanidhi), and “Jay Jay Garvi Gujarat” for the state’s 50th foundation day.

Government programmes too are acquiring hummable ditties of their own. Later this month, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), headed by Nandan Nilekani, will release the theme song for its project, Aadhar. Singer Preeti Sagar and her sister Namita have produced it.

NGOs want to get on the theme song bandwagon too, according to lyricist, screenwriter and executive chairman McCann Worldgroup India, Prasoon Joshi. He believes that interest in musical odes is increasing because “music can ‘elevate’ people. Things that cannot be said can be expressed through music. “You can suspend logic and cynicism through music and poetry.” Joshi has written a morning prayer for the New Era Public School in Mumbai, and theme songs for the Kolkata Knight Riders, CRPF and Hyderabad airport, among others.

But theme songs per se are nothing new. Religious movements have long had songs associated with them. The Nazis, the Red Army, the Indian National Army etc had their marching songs.
As a leitmotif, songs add dignity. Generally, they are thought to make better impact than slogans and attract the attention of the masses. Preeti Sagar says,

“In villages, people come running to hear a nice melody or song.” She is clear about her brief for UID-Aadhar’s theme song “Yeh Hi Hai Meri Pehchaan”.

“We decided the song should have grandeur, dignity and ‘maati ki khushboo’.” The Aadhar song features a medley of musical instruments with some distinctive Indian ones such as the ektara, mridangam and dilruba merging with guitar strains and drumbeats.

“The most important factor in a song is that it should have a soul. Any song which has soul and melody can be a success,” says Sagar. Prathap Suthan agrees, “it has to be a new sound, has to be catchy and I should love it. The words need to be easy.” It need not be culture-specific, he adds. “There’s nothing African about ‘Wavin’ Flag’ (Coca Cola’s promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa). But the moment you hear it, you make it your own….Waka Waka is also so easily transferable and infectious.”

What should a composer charge for such creative licence? “It can be done for free or a minuscule amount, or Rs 30,000 or even more …depending upon the composer’s generosity,” Joshi suggests. Some say Rahman shouldn’t have charged Rs 5 crore for his song – rather he shouldn’t have charged anything at all for something that’s a matter of national pride.

But right now, CWG 2010 needs all the goodwill it can muster. If multiple Games songs work a miracle, the more the merrier.

[Story Source] [Contest win Rs 1000-100,000 now]

This post was submitted by Remya.

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