Sirsa-born singer-songwriter Gajendra Verma, is perhaps one of the best examples from India, who went on to become a star only and only because of the Internet, apart from his crowd-pleasing musical sensibilities, of course. Much before his biggest viral hit ‘Tera Ghata’s release, Verma had already found out what how it feels to go viral on the internet.
“I found out that my song has become viral, five months after it was leaked on the Internet. A friend of many had sent a link to me on Facebook, and told me that people had fallen in love with that song,” recalls Verma.
The song, titled ‘Emptiness’ or 'Tune Mere Jaana Kabhi Na Jaana', was one of the first songs ever composed by Verma, while he was studying in college. It was meant to be for an audio-visual project, which never took off, but some how leaked along with a story, which contributed immensly to the song’s virality, but, Verma claims, he had no part in it. The fictional story was that of Rohan Rathore, an IIT-Guwahati student, who wrote a final love song, 15 days before his death from cancer, for a girl who didn’t love him back.
“I didn’t know back then what story was going around, which is why people were listening to the song. I was home, during holidays when I first got to know. I made the video, I think, in 2012. I had no idea who cooked up the story or how it all happened,” he says.
‘Emptiness’ was one of the many songs released in that time, when Internet was only still making its way into the upper-middle class households in Tier-1 cities in India, and youngsters, had only discovered the world of downloading content and, the fact that free music was literally just a click away. As a result, music which was independent, free from any interference of a record label or a corporate setup, started getting noticed and popular. Verma, in many ways, was one of the few musicians, who had unknowingly become, part of the rising new wave of independent music in India.
“The good part from all that happened, and what I took away from that entire incident, was that people were loving my music and you know, after all, it was my voice at the end. So, a major change happened to me personally, then. Before ‘Emptiness’, I always wanted to be a composer. After the scratch with my voice went viral as ‘Emptiness’, I decided to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter in the world of independent music,” he says.
But despite the popularity, it wasn’t easy for Verma, since film music, and Bollywood, was dominating air play and all mediums which generated any sort of revenue for musicians. In 2013, he wrote and sang two songs for the film ‘Table No. 21. One of them was ‘Mann Mera’, a soft-acoustic number, which established him as a singer-songwriter in the film industry, as well.
“That time Bollywood was always plan B, kind of a thing, you know. That if I don’t work out as an independent singer-songwriter, I would do something in Bollywood then,” he says.
His meetings with some of the biggest record labels didn’t bear much fruit either. “I remember all the big record labels used to tell me they didn’t think my music will become bigger or things like that,” he adds. That’s what they big labels had to say when he went to them with the scratch of ‘Tera Ghata’, which released independently in 2018, and has crossed over 450 millions on YouTube.
“I went to all the big record labels in this country and all of them told me that they didn’t think it will become big,” he says. ‘Tera Ghata’ released in 2018 is the biggest of his career so far. So big, that he even decided to “chuck” his “plan-B”, that is Bollywood, “for good”.
“Before 'Tera Ghata', I always used to wonder about things like, where will the budget come from to create an entire song, and video and everything. But after that, we got a lot of money, and more importantly I started getting calls from a lot of music producers, who suddenly wanted to work with me. That’s when I decided to stay independent, only,” he says.
Now, three years later, Verma doesn’t regret the decision he made. He has released several independent singles, since ‘Tera Ghata'. And although, they haven’t been as successful as ‘Tera Ghata’, the says he will continue to be an independent musician, since it helps him to stay authentic, which he considers, as his USP.
“The only thing I want is to be able to connect with people and the success of my songs, be it ‘Tera Ghata’, or Emptiness’, suggests that people are able to relate to my songs. When someone tells me they connected with the song, that’s when I am the happiest. Independent music gives me that chance,” he says.
“Audiences have also evolved now. They know about genres. They don’t just like or dislike a song anymore. They now notice guitar work, or drum solos and appreciate that. Unless it comes from your heart, your own experiences, you won’t be able to connect with the audience,” he signs off.