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A Case for Acknowledging Lyricists

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One song that’s been making news recently is ‘Credit De Do Yaar‘, written by Kausar Munir, Swanand Kirkire, and Varun Grover. It simply requests the streaming platforms and official YouTube channels of record labels to give appropriate credit to the lyricist. As Grover’s YouTube page says, “Currently, no streaming platforms or apps have an algorithm of prominently displaying lyrics credits or making a song searchable by the lyrics writers names.”

This isn’t the first time that lyricists have requested the credit they rightly deserve. Recently, at a webinar hosted on the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) Facebook page to celebrate lyricist Anand Bakshi‘s 90th birth anniversary, his son Rakesh Anand Bakshi, filmmaker Subhash Ghai and lyricist Vijay Akela concurred that the lyricist was not given adequate recognition.

As Ghai said, “People know the songs and sing along, but are not aware who wrote them.”

 

 

Flashback to the early 2000s and companies that produced remix albums often didn’t give the due credit to lyricists on the videos and CD/ cassette covers. The issue was debated and rectified for some time. A good chunk of Wikipedia pages of films don’t carry accurate Information.

I rely on sites like “geetmanjusha” or “lyricsindia” for film music and Rekhta for ghazals.

The new song Credit De Do Yaar has been sung by Kirkire and composed by Chinmayi Tripathi and Joell Mukherjii. It has a video featuring 15 lyricists from the Hindi film world. However, this is an issue that extends beyond the movies to other genres like Classical, Ghazal, Folk, and Independent music too.

 

Let us elaborate

Any song is the result of the combined effort of a few people. The composer is the backbone as the basic tune and structure depend on him. The lyricist is the heart and soul as the quality of words can differentiate a great song from an ordinary one. The singer is the voice and expression. The musicians playing different instruments are the muscles and limbs. And the producer and sound engineer are the clothes, perfumes, and accessories. In the case of films, a song’s visibility also depends on the film star and success of the movie.

Whichever way, a song without good lyrics is like a movie without a storyline. Unless it’s an instrumental piece or background score, the lyricist has a dominant role.

 

 

Yet, for some strange reason, that role has been underplayed or even ignored over the years. This is because of a combination of factors. To begin with, the mentality of most listeners is to focus on the singer or the star appearing on the screen. Among lyricists, while some are aware of the work of Anand Bakshi, Gulzar, and Javed Akhtar, they do not know the contribution of Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Indeevar or Bharat Vyas, even though they know their songs by heart.

In some cases, they mention the hero or heroine first, before talking of the singer.

Secondly, many singers don’t announce the name of every lyricist at shows or interviews – they announce only a few people they need to please. Thirdly, labels, and streaming platforms, which is what the current issue is all about, are not crediting the writer. And finally, the media hasn’t pushed the case for lyricists across the board with their selective coverage.

 

 

If one looks outside film music, the matter is the same. Many people listening to ghazals are unaware of the poet. Everybody associates Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Karo with singer Farida Khanum, but only the diehard aficionados know it’s been written by Faiyyaz Hashmi.

Similarly, how many people know Kafeel Aazar wrote Jagjit Singh‘s famous Baat Niklegi? Or that the words of the Mausam song Dil Dhoondta Hai, credited to Gulzar, are actually taken from Muddat Hui Hai Yaar Ko, a poem by Mirza Ghalib?

 

 

The same is the case with Classical, Folk, Abhangs, Devotional and Regional music, and in recent times, the Independent genre. Though some singers mention the origins of the song, the record labels didn’t do that on album sleeves, or just wrote “traditional”. One can’t blame them because they never got the information at all, or tried to find out.

 

 

These days, many Indie singers are releasing singles. Most of them are so busy promoting themselves that the rest of the contributors only remain names on the song’s YouTube page, if at all. As a reviewer, I get many requests from singers to write about their latest song, but only one out of 10 asks for a mention of the lyricist or composer (though I still find out who they are, and credit them). A similar thing happened during the 1990s Indipop wave, where only a few lyricists were promoted by the labels.

One may argue here that the overall quality of lyrics has gone down considerably over the past few years, especially in film music. That’s definitely true, but then, the quality of films has gone down too, and the current kind of songs don’t offer the scope for much depth in lyrics. But that’s a different subject – the point here is about the basic requirement of giving credit. Let the audience decide on the quality.

 

 

What’s needed therefore is a complete overhaul in the attitude towards lyricists. Here, we aren’t blaming any segment in particular as the root cause lies in the functioning of the system. In such a situation, everybody should set a personal rule and make it a personal conscience-driven responsibility to acknowledge all the major contributors. That includes the lyricists. Unhein aur sab ko credit de do yaar!

 

 

Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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