Twenty years ago, Indian pop was weirdly exotic. Not so anymore. Today artists like Jay-Z and Missy Elliot sound “Indian” — and even Britney Spears has an Indian producer.
When Jay Sean burst on the music scene several years ago, he was labelled an Indian artist.
“I think of myself simply as an R&B artist,” the native Londoner tells Metro. “But just because you’re Indian, people put you in a pigeonhole, and it’s very hard to leave that pigeonhole.”
But Jay Sean — born Kamaljeet Singh Jhooti — has succeeded. His 2004 debut album sold two million copies; this year his U.S. debut single topped the Billboard Hot 100.
Slumdog Millionaire showed that Indian pop culture has crossover appeal. So does the Internet website Desi Hits (desihits.com), which has risen to prominence along with Jay Sean.
“Slumdog has had a huge impact on people’s interest in Indian pop and rock, especially since music played such an important role in it,” says Desi Hits founder Anjula Acharia-Bath.
“So many artists, like M.I.A., Timbaland and the Black-Eyed Peas use Indian music, but people didn’t know it was Indian until they watched Slumdog.”
Acharia-Bath, a young British woman of Indian origin, founded Desi Hits after moving to the U.S. several years ago, and has fast become an entertainment power-broker known for making matches between A-list fashion producers, musicians, actors and artists.
Desi Hits now has 1.2 million unique visitors per month, a 300-per-cent increase from one year ago.
Today Jay Sean lives in New York, but he often visits his parents’ home region of Punjab.
“India has all these musical events going on,” he says. “But the mainstream media doesn’t cover them. There are lots of great festivals with 80,000 kids listening to a concert, but nobody outside India hears about it.
“The funny thing is, the music isn’t that different,” he said.