Taj ki nayi awaaz

My other avatar as a music curator is perhaps known to you. I have been writing on music plagiarism since 1999 (on my website | on Filmcompanion) and reviewing new music across languages since 2005. Given my interest in music, I have been tracking the music of Maati Baani for quite some time. I have also seen them perform live and I’m quite a fan of their kind of music.

My classical music interest or knowledge is rather limited, so I’m more of Kartik’s fan (one half of Maati Baani) than equipped with the skills to appreciate Nirali’s (the ‘better half’ of Maati Baani) classical bent. I only know that she sings brilliantly, is blessed with incredible music sense, and together, their brand of light pop-fusion music is definitely my cup of tea.

That’s a good enough segue into this post – Nirali Kartik is the new face of Taj Mahal tea.

Now, remember that Taj Mahal tea has an illustrious past association with classical music – Ustad Zakir Hussain and his tabla are perhaps the most famous.

Lesser known are Niladri Kumar and his sitar.

And more recently, Rahul Sharma and his santoor.

Taj Mahal tea also had a brief, awkwardly non-music sojourn with Madhuri Dixit and Saif Ali Khan, but it was thankfully brief.

Given the male-dominated music angle of the brand association so far, it is long overdue and totally refreshing that Taj Mahal chose a woman musician for the first time. And the fact they chose someone not considered ‘veteran’ or ‘senior’ (like the earlier choices) and a classical singer who is more popular for Indipop-style music is even more refreshing. It could be a deliberate choice to appeal to a much younger set of audiences, unlike the earlier brand ambassadors who perhaps veered less towards ‘young’ people.

However, in line with the earlier ad films, this film too introduces Nirali Kartik only for her classical music lineage (Mewati Gharana) and completely ignores her Maati Baani identity! Nirali is no doubt an accomplished Hindustani classical vocalist, but her appeal, in my mind, is significantly leaning towards Indipop via Maati Baani, her band with Kartik Shah. I, however, understand why Taj Mahal ignores that aspect of Nirali – it is perhaps owing to their self-confined ‘classical music’ association pedigree.

Did they miss a wide swathe of audience appeal in that process with their new brand ambassador, I wonder. After all, the brand did go full-on Bollywood with 2 stars earlier. Wouldn’t that (the fact that there have been 3 classical musicians and 2 Bollywood stars in the past, in their roster) give the brand street cred to utilize the dual-qualification of Nirali, as a classical music artist and an Indipop artist?

The ad film is simple, straight and nice enough – I’m significantly more impressed with the choice of the brand ambassador than the film (made by Ogilvy India) per se.

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