A quick bite at a nearby Pizza Hut sounded like a great way to end a tiring day. The restaurant was clean, relatively empty and well staffed to take care of us. We waited outside as she set the table for us and in about a minute we were ushered in to our table. “Plus points for service, cleanliness and attention to details”, I thought. As I neared our table, I felt an itch in my ears. I checked for flies or mosquitoes, but soon realized it was the loud music inside the restaurant. It was not the loudness of the music that bothered my ears, it was Backstreet Boys!
I’ve been away from home for a while and I brushed away the Pizza Hut experience as a one off, odd situation. I was wrong. This was happening everywhere. At retail stores like Pantaloons, Shoppers Stop, Marks & Spencer and Coffee Shops like Barista and Café Coffee Day. ‘Rhythm Devine’ by Enrique Iglesias, really? Is that what ‘pop’ music is today? Or are we stuck in the 90’s? I don’t wish to take away the credibility of these artists. It is not their fault that they sell, or rather, sold millions of records. They were the only ones who played on the radio in the 90’s and they deserve credit for their work. But even Britney Spears has evolved, from the ‘Hit Me Baby’ days to ‘Womanizer’.
Bollywood is a big influence in India. No, Bollywood is synonymous to India in the pop culture world. I would even give in to the idea of playing contemporary Hindi music at these stores. Or even an old Kishore or Rafi number at a store like Fab India. If you want to cater to the masses by playing popular music, Bollywood music would do it for you. It works for an MTV or Channel V, doesn’t it? The Kailash Khers, Sonu Nigams and Shreya Ghosals deserve much more than those one minute song teasers on these music channels.
In talking to a few folks about this, I hear opinions that have got to do with copyrights and money. If there was one thing I realized after coming back to India is that in the past 5 years, the youth have earned much more than they could have ever imagined, and they have the kind of disposable income these retail stores need to survive. Survive they did, in fact, they have flourished. Spending 100 Rupees at a coffee shop does not actually spell out recession. So if they are making money, why not invest some of it to update their jukeboxes and digital playlists to keep the crowd grooving as they sip their hot cappuccino.
There was a time in India, not too long ago, when you went to a fancy Indian Restaurant (like Khyber, Mumbai) – you could always hear the wonderful Kenny G saxophone. Blame it on ignorance, limited resources, tight budgets or just the pure association of ‘fine Indian dining’ with the sound of a saxophone, it got a little monotonous too. There is a fine line between keeping something exclusive and classic, but when mass retail gets into that space, it surely feels like a miss fit.
Don’t make Enrique Iglesias the Kenny G of fine dining. They both deserve some rest. Give Black Eyed Peas a chance.