| Sarod exponent Rajeeb Chakraborty (left) and singer Srikanto Acharya strum together. Picture by Aranya Sen
Rabindranath and Ray are still inextricably linked to the festive season in Calcutta, if pre-Puja sales trends at the city’s leading music retail outlet are any indication. And Bengali songs continue to drive local margins in an industry hit hard by a global recession.
April-August 2003 business figures, released by MusicWorld on Wednesday, revealed a 15 per cent rise in sale of Bengali CDs, and a whopping 326 per cent jump in Bengali view-CD traffic. While renditions of Tagore songs occupied three of the top-five slots in terms of the last five months’ sales from the Park Street store, Ray films snatched seven out of the top 10 VCD positions.
Buoyed by this renewed faith imposed on regional repertoire in an otherwise sluggish scenario, the store management has decided to reach Bangla gaan to Puja pandals in other cities as well. “MusicWorld will set up special sales counters at leading Puja pandals in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi and elsewhere,” said regional manager Lalita Sinha.
To usher in the festivities, the store announced a bonanza of nearly 100 new Bengali albums by the Pujas, of which, 60 are already on the racks. Popular singer Srikanto Acharya, whose Rabindrasangeet jugalbandi with sarod exponent Rajeeb Chakraborty, Pather Sathi, has emerged the highest-selling Bengali album during this period, lit the ceremonial lamp to inaugurate the Sarodotsav sales festival at the store.
Among notable vintage Puja releases this year are Shera Pujar Gaan (Hemanta Mukhopadhyay), Sara Jibaner Gaan (Manna Dey), and Sudhu Dujane (Hemanta & Lata) from the Saregama stable. In the modern Bengali genre, Prerona (Kumar Sanu), Rater Rajanigandha (Babul Supriyo), Jabo Tepantar (Sreya Ghoshal), Ei Abelay (Lopamudra) and Rangmashal (Swagatalaxmi) are the standouts.
Bangla band Bhoomi took up the two non-Tagore slots among top-grossing Bangla albums with their maiden venture Jatra Shuru and Paal Chhutechhe. Among the oldies, Hemanta occupied pole position going by the drift of consumer choice, followed by Manna, Sandhya, Lata, Kishore and Asha.
“The most significant growth has been in Bengali VCDs, with old Uttam-Suchitra starrers and Ray masterpieces in great demand, even from outstation patrons. There are umpteen requests from Puja committees in Delhi and Chennai to include Bengali VCDs in our product-mix,” MusicWorld general manager Subrata Chowdhury said from Chennai. Aparna Sen’s Paramitar Ek Din was the only top-five punctuation in the Ray rage (Hirak Rajar Deshe, Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne, Sonar Kella and Pather Panchali sweeping the stakes).
“Bangalore has emerged the highest buyer of Bengali music outside Calcutta, followed by Hyderabad. This is an interesting phenomenon, since both are infotech hubs and there are a lot of IT professionals from Calcutta working in those cities,” observed a spokesperson for the store.