Two children aged seven walk into frame dressed in spiffy black suits with bowties. A 13-year-old readies himself near a machine and begins. He’s playing the famous beat from the controversial Michael Jackson single They Don’t Really Care About Us. It prompts the two seven-year-olds to being tap dancing. But they are only laying the backing track to the actual song, a cover of Jackson’s charity single Heal the World, featuring 45 children from India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Canada and the United States.
“We are diehard fans...no, that’s an understatement. We worship Michael Jackson,” Nirali Kartik, one-half of the Mumbai-based world music band Maati Baani, the brains behind the Michael Jackson tribute released on August 29, told Scroll.in. Kartik, a classically trained vocalist, and her husband Kartik Shah, a self-taught guitarist, are the members of the four-year-old band.
Many of their past videos were made in collaboration with brands because YouTube channels cannot subsist on views alone, said Nirali Kartik. But not this one. "It was our personal tribute to him," she said. "We did not want a third party to come in the way."
Preparation for the their Michael Jackson tribute began in November 2015. Although some, like 13-year-old rapper Sparsh Shah, were already YouTube celebrities in their own right, finding kids to collaborate with was difficult. “Children don’t have an active social media presence, so we had to contact schools and colleges," Kartik said. "Some parents knew of our band because we do collaborations with other YouTube performers, but that was not enough. We began with close to 100 children before narrowing it down to 45.”
“Even after that it wasn’t easy,” she added. Once the performers were selected, Shah, the composer of the track, began sending the parts each child had to play over the internet. The children would record their parts and send it back, which would again be edited and sent back to them, so they could shoot the final video.
Although not all the kids featured were Jackson devotees, the tap dancers were born on the same date as Jackson and loved him, said Kartik. If they are such huge fans of the King of Pop, why didn’t they perform the tribute themselves? “It’s the times we are living in. It isn’t a great time to be around,” Kartik replied. "Every day on the news you read about wars and violence. That’s why it's kids from around the world. A song like this heals."