In the past two decades the face of Indian music industry has changed quite a bit. Today, there are music composers in India such as Amitabh Bhattacharya and Amit Trivedi, who are not afraid to take the challenges. It is because of these composers that western music was able to come to India but still maintain an Indian background.Over the years, the face of music industry has evolved exponentially with a new breed of singers and composers who have a proper technical background and, at the same time, know their art. An example? Kary Arora.
Arora is a young DJ from Chandigarh who started her career by writing poems at the young age of four, and now she has composed a beautiful song for the critically acclaimed film, Angry Indian Goddesses.
The DJ kicked off her career as a music composer when she first wrote the jingle "Funny Happy Birthday to You" for Meow FM in 2008 and got an opportunity to work for Asian Albums by Spectral Records from Brazil. This gave her the opportunity to explore herself as an independent artist.
According to Bhaskar, Arora is among India's top five DJs to have surfaced in the past two years. It was in 2013 when she started her career in Bollywood, when she got the opportunity to meet filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, with whom she composed songs for Satya 2. The very same year, she also composed music for the film Dare You. From then on, there was no turning back.
MStars News caught up with Arora on the release day of Angry Indian Goddesses.
MStars News: You composed the song "Tinko ke Sahare" for Angry Indian Goddesses. How did this project happened?
Kary Aroa: I met Gaurav Dhingra, the producer of Angry Indian Goddesses, and he explained to me that he was making a movie on women buddy-hood and it explores the relationships and lives of women. My immediate question was, "You, being a man, how come you chose this subject?" And he replied "As a man its difficult to express feelings in words but when we researched the subject, we felt it needed to be expressed as an Indian film because in Indian cinema there is not much importance given to female characters."
He introduced me to Pan Nalin, the director of the movie and I played them "Tinko Ke Sahare" – they immediately fell for the song as it somehow fits in the movie because it's about life's ups and downs. I found Dhingra and Nalin very down to Earth, sensible and sorted in film-making.
MS: You are the fifth female to be a music composer in 100 years. Do you think the Bollywood music industry is male-dominated?
KA: Music is not gendered. We don't listen with our genitals, right? Today, few women songwriters have succeeded because they stand out in music on their own terms but I guess we are still living in a dark ages when it comes to gender equality in music studios.
Unfortunately, Bollywood sees women as visual objects and commercializes [them] for the sale of music.
Today, with the trend of different composers in one movie, it does give you an opportunity but will your song be promoted as a video? Are you sexy enough to feature in it? What's your fan following? Do you know acting and dancing? Will you be equally paid compared to the star composer of the same film? Okay, if not the video then how well your credit will be promoted? What's the length of your song featuring in the film scene? Who owns the copyright? Will you be given royalties? These are bottleneck challenges.
I miss the trend of shooting all song videos and placing them in a film because all songs generate a commercial revenue for producers, actors, singers and songwriters at that time. I understand we are cutting short the length of the film but this is India- the audience loves singing and dancing and if we follow the old trend the film producers will get higher music revenues.
Moreover, a general question of a fellow musician – be it a music producer, composer or singer – is "Hey, who is your arranger?" Most of them are fine [when] a girl is singing but can't digest a woman composer who can produce her own songs too. So my best answer to them is, I studied audio engineering and that's when I see their jaws dropping.
I am not saying all are like this. I've met many intellects, sorted, sensible producers and directors who would willingly work and explore your musical creative potential irrespective of genders so I don't mind working hard. With more and more women producers, women directors and women playing instruments, its easy to work and express myself in the industry.
MS: In India, when it comes to DJ'ing, people always picture a male behind the discs. Do you think DJ'ing in India is still male-dominated?
KA: If you would have asked this question back in 1997-2010, I would have answered yes but since 2010 onwards I saw a tremendous growth in Indian female DJs. When it comes down to bringing an international female DJ to India, different club-owners are giving their green lights. Today, talented female DJs are trending whether at home or abroad. Its just that the artist management companies and clubs needs to do a little artist research before bringing the artist to an event because people are aware of who's who and follows only the talented.
MS: If given an opportunity, who would you like to compose music or write a song with?
KA: It's a long list. To be precise I would love to compose for Jennifer Lopez because she wears different hats – actress, producer, songwriter, singer. She is an amazing dancer [too]. To work with a film company like Universal Studios would be a dream come true. In Bollywood, Farhan Akhtar is also one of my favorite artists.
MS: What are your suggestions to all those young girls who are dreaming of becoming a DJ and composer?
KA: Successful DJs need to know the pulse of the crowd, so it's best to practice skills in a club. Know your track selection like its history, time signature, key scale and moods.
Irrespective of being talented, the problems new composers face is not getting paid, no separate music videos to promote their song, copyright issues of music and lyrics, censor board issues, credit promotion issues- the list is very long. The only way to solve this and be successful is a legal contract.
MS: Being a DJ and music composer in a country like India is tough, how do you manage your personal and professional life?
KA: My personal life is full of researching concepts and relaxing the brain. I am not that much of a social butterfly. In fact, my school and college friends keep complaining that I disappear and rarely meet them but I do miss them. I feel it's peaceful when you're alone in the journey.
MS: What's next for you next?
KA: My dad once said, "It doesn't matter how fast you run in life, what matters most is how far you go." Keeping that in mind, my journey is never-ending. I still feel I have a long way to go because the day I feel I have achieved a lot I will give up.