The internet is crawling with singing talent. YouTube produces so many viral sensations on a periodic basis that it is as Andy Warhol famously predicted about fame in 1968: “In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.”
The success of singers such as Adele, Justin Beiber, Lily Allen, Susan Boyle were considerably boosted by the internet, where their performance videos were viewed in the millions and later lead to record signing deals and international celebrity status.
How are Indian singers who launched themselves through the YouTube video sharing platform faring in this scheme of things? Here’s a look at five singers who are worth a listen.
Shraddha Sharma At the age of 15 in 2011, Shraddha Sharma uploaded a video of her rendition of “Main Tenu Samjhawan Ki” from the Punjabi film Virsa (2010). The track had originally been sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Farah Anwar for music composer Jawad Ahmad. A million views quickly launched Sharma’s career as a cover artist.
The gawky teenager slowly transformed herself, turning her performances from basic voice-and-guitar strums to remixing “Dum Maro Dum” from Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971). Sharma also worked on an album of original songs written by Ankur Tewari called Raastey (2014), but she continues to be popular for her unplugged covers such as this video mash up of two songs “Tu Jo Mila” (Bajrangi Bhaijaan, 2015) and "Kabira" (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, 2013) sung at a venue in Singapore.
Shirley Setia Based in New Zealand, Shirley Setia’s cover version of Hindi film songs has made her a star both in her country as well as India. Her version of “Tum Hi Ho” from Aashiqui 2 (2013) was selected by T-Series, the music label that produced the film, as one of the track’s top covers in a talent competition held on YouTube. Setia’s version immediately recorded over a million views and launched her career on the web. It’s only a matter of time before Bollywood beckons.
Sanam Puri Part of this singer’s appeal is his good looks, which are generously featured in videos featuring his covers of covers popular film numbers. Music composers Vishal-Shekhar saw the video of “Teri Aankhon Se” by his band Sanam and offered Puri “Dhatt Teri Ki” in Gori Tere Pyar Mein (2013). Only a handful of original songs followed.
Viewers ardently follow Puri’s channel to watch his cover version of melodic tunes such as “Hai Apna Dil To Awara” (Solva Saal, 1958), in which he and his band members step out from a boxy studio into a seaside landscape.
Vidya Iyer She impressed Hindi movie star Hrithik Roshan, who tweeted about her YouTube mash up video “Lean On – Jind Mahi” in 2015. Iyer’s background in Carnatic music and exposure to Western music prompted her to make fusion videos which remain popular because of her unique blend of sounds and her mesmerising vocals.
In this funky mix of “How Deep Is Your Love” (2015), originally produced by Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, and the song “Balam Pichkari” from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), Iyer comes up a truly original synthesis.
Natalie Di Luccio She is from Canada, but her love of Indian melodies and her ever-growing fan base on the subcontinent could help her obtain Indian citizenship. In 2010, when Di Luccio uploaded a video of her cover version of “Tu Jaane Na” from Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009), she got a million hits and roused the curiosity of music composers such as Salim-Sulaiman, AR Rahman and Amit Trivedi. Her soprano singing voice was put to good use by Rahman in the song “Anbin Vaasale” (Italian Reprise) for the Tamil film Kadal (2013). Di Luccio also began singing in Gujarati and Marathi.
In this video “Nella Fantasia” (In My Fantasy), she collaborated with Rajasthani folk artist Sawan Khan Manganiyar to produce a rich tapestry of sounds, blending Ennio Morricone’s music with Manganiyar’s rustic voice and her operatic vocals.