Catalyst

Musical messages to drive away Lockdown Blues

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on May 10, 2020 Published on May 10, 2020

LK Gupta

The web is alive with the sounds of music! As lockdown isolates us, lilting songs with positive lyrics are hitting a chord with many, forming powerful social connections. Yes, professional artistes have been giving us free virtual concerts but it’s the amateurs with the voice and talent who are bringing the music up close and personal in their own unique ways. And when ad and marketing professionals pitch in with their notes, the musical communication is orchestrated to give us hope.

Early this week, the International Advertising Association’s India chapter released a heart-warming musical video with four Marcomm professionals singing an evergreen number. As brand strategy advisor Prabhakar Mundkur, ad professional and BrandMusiq founder Rajeev Raja, CEO, BBH India, Subhash Kamath and VP (Marketing), Inox Leisure, Shalini Gupta, belted out Louis Armstrong’s chart-busting 1967 classic, What a Wonderful World, it acquired new meaning in these trying times, reminding us that amidst the pain there is much to be grateful about too.

Watch video here

 

On the choice of the song, Prabhakar Mundkur, who opens the song in the video, says, “We had a few candidates but finally zeroed in on Wonderful World for more than one reason. First, it is hugely popular as a song. The other factor was that it was a positive, optimistic song. We figured that right now we needed something uplifting, happy and cheerful.”

 

Mundkur, who has trained in classical piano, and along with Rajeev Raja and others, was part of an advertising band tongue-in-cheek called ‘Wanted Yesterday’ (because of the crazy deadlines), has been jamming with musician friends during the lockdown, each one playing from their own homes. Other than the IAA video, he has also been doing home recordings on his own and uploading them on Youtube.

For a better tomorrow

Another song that wafted over Instagram and Twitter, resonating with social media users, was the one sung by Sonal Dabral, former Vice-Chairman and Group Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy, South and South-East Asia, who posted a soulful rendition of Kishore Kumar’s heart-tugging Aa chal ke tujhe, main le ke chaloo.

Watch it here:

“I have always loved Aa chal ke. It is one of those songs that will lift you up any time any place,” says Dabral. “I was sitting one evening humming it when it suddenly struck me that this song of hope and a better tomorrow is a perfect song to share with everybody in these times,” he says. The response was overwhelming and Dabral points how he has always felt songs are a powerful vehicle for communication. “Even in advertising I have relied on music and songs whenever I felt it will be more powerful than a normal 30-second commercial. When we were briefed on creating a campaign for McDowell’s No.1, I decided to write a friendship anthem, Yeh No.1 Yaari hai, instead,” he points out.

He describes how watching people groove to the Uber ICC World Cup anthem, Way-O-Way-O (which he wrote), during the India West Indies match made him experience first-hand the power of music in bringing people together.

Forming new connections

Meanwhile, marketing consultant and former CMO at LG Electronics, LK Gupta, known also for his crooning skills, has been doing highly popular gigs on Zoom during lockdown. “We know that music can bind people, but the sure proof is how many of us come together on my Zoom Gig. It started with my condo (The Icon) residents asking me to lift their spirits through music, so I started singing on Zoom for them just for fun. One thing led to another, and I’ve now performed 12 gigs in the last 30 days,” he says.

LK Gupta

 

Some 90 to 100 people log onto LK‘s virtual concerts, not just his neighbours but also many who are social media acquaintances. He feels he has become richer because of the lockdown music connections. “I have made many new friends who introduce me to other singers they know. So, now each show brings new guest singers — professionals and amateurs — from across Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, even Singapore once! We’ve performed across genres — Bollywood, ghazals, instrumentals, even rock and blues,” says Gupta.

Behind the video

For veteran adman Ramesh Narayan, Vice-President and Area Director for IAA, APAC region, who put together the Wonderful World music piece, it was adding another rich note to the meaningful messaging that the ad association has been doing during the lockdown. IAA had done campaigns on elder care, domestic violence, etc, with industry professionals lending their expertise pro bono. “Then the thought occurred to deliver a musical message of hope and optimism. I first reached out to Prabhakar Mundkur because he and I had sung as part of what was called the “Abby Road Band” (taking off from Abbey Road!) at the Abby Awards function in 1997,” says Narayan.

Mundkur, in turn, roped in Subhash Kamath and Rajeev Raja while Narayan pulled in Shalini Gupta . “We agonised over the nuances of pitch, copyright and key, and finally decided to request Rajeev to request his friend Merlyn D’Souza to arrange the music score, with Rajeev pitching in with his flute,” describes Narayan.

It required a fair amount of coordination to get each one to record their solo pieces. The pianist put down the backing track with a metronome or click track. The backing track was sent to the individual singers who recorded audio and video simultaneously on their phones, which was then sent to the video editor. “The Hansa team and I add the supers and effects and voila, we have a viral hit on our hands,” says Narayan.

Proof that it is viral? He chuckles as he recounts: A friend forwarded it to me and said “you are a part of the industry. Thought you would like to see this. It's a wonderful world.”

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Published on May 10, 2020
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