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MJ: Part I

The credit for all the images used in this blog goes to N, Founder, Jashn-e-Mansa.

"I like crossing the imaginary boundaries people set up between different fields - it's very refreshing.”- Maryam Mirzakhani

What happens when Maryam Mirzakhani meets Asha Bhonsle meets Emily Dickinson meets Amy Lee meets Rekha Bharadwaj meets Kishore Kumar meets Metallica meets Nirvana meets Jorge Luis Borges meets Sabaa Tahir meets Hermoine Granger meets Luna Lovegood meets Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (in a sunny yellow shade) under a Starry night?

(I promise I am neither stoned nor drunk- at least not on any banned or dangerous substances)

I have two answers: one long and one short. I will start with the long answer :).

You get an extremely rare intersection. The intersection is as close as I can get to describing Mansa Jimmy (MJ) and her singing :).

Like a continuously evolving and growing deep crust constituting everything that appeals to me: depth and expanse together, beauty, joy, pain, understanding, adventure, enigma, love- life itself, perhaps?

Watching the Milky Way in Sikkim, listening to Un Poco Loco and thinking of the Bayes Theorem?

“Sapnon ka jahan, hoga khila khila, Bharseyga Sawan jhoom Jhoom key. The first time I heard MJ(with a kitten on her shoulder), was in early 2021 BC 2 (before Covid wave 2. Yeh, I felt like naming it so). She was singing this classic sung by Ustad Rashid Khan- harnessing everything the lyrics and music had to give- anguished, soul-stirring yet promising of a bright future.

I could see myself head banging while I heard a parallel voice in my head: her singing, Main hoon jhum, jhum, jhum, jhum, jhumroo, Phakkad ghunghroo banke ghumu, Main yeh pyaar ka geet sunta chala.

I caught myself, thinking why and realized at that instant that I had finally connected to what Alex had mentioned about Malaysia Vasudevan.

That rare breed of a singer who explores and brings out pathos and melancholy – conveying the entire beauty of the expanse of gloom and grief to the listener. Lyrics, chords, music, sweetness, heck, life, and soul merge into the singer’s rendition.

When such a singer turns their attention to a joyful song- well, move over a 10,000 brilliant yellow suns, you have lost it by a few million light years :). This singer will make you nonchalantly jump, leap, hop, fly, soar, zoom, heck rocket it out to the space as that’s exactly how joy should fill you, propel you J.

Okay, time to[1] introduce.

The Artist:[2]

Mansa Jimmy (MJ- not a coincidence? There are two other MJs in my life whom I absolutely adore) is an independent artist who took the plunge into pursuing singing and creating music fulltime after an interaction/live session with Ehsaan of the Shankar Ehsaan Loy fame during Covid times.

From someone who has written and performed her own songs, to someone who recorded covers and uploaded them on Insta, to someone who opened for Lucky Ali, to someone singing in Cokestudio Bharat- MJ has already journeyed through a lot. Showered with accolades for her soul-stirring voice, she has been touted as one of the artists to watch.

Collaborating with Tajdar Junaid (Naye Armaan) to singing at a private gig for Diya Mirza to having Anoushka Shankar love her rendition of Tu Jhoom”, MJ’s trajectory has been on an upward swing. She is also a poet writing deep, deep thoughts. I will cover her poetry and original pieces in another article.

Every Artist: An Intriguing Soloprenuer/Entrepreneur, A Brand Marketer’s Delight, and a PMM’s Challenge :)

While in the Utopian world, artists would not need to find ways to earn their upkeep, we still are not in Utopia. The entrepreneur in me at some point always like to understand business models. The marketer in me automatically absorbs MJ’s branding and marketing strategies. The PMM in me keeps wondering about how an artist productises their offerings.

I will try to keep these musings short.

Apart from performing gigs, with influencer marketing breaking all barriers during the Covid times, MJ has leveraged her fan following a little. She has 265k followers on Insta for promotions. The latest with MG Comet was a great campaign-MG[3] has roped in youth icons of sorts. I don’t yet know how MG’s campaigns performed, but the branding was sweet. (Give the reference links a watch if you feel up to it).

Apart from a few promotions, MJ has mostly kept her Insta profile to share info on her songs, publish new covers, publish her own songs, share some poetry and give a li’l peek into her life- like a decadent slice.

An artist has to have two lives. One to sacrifice for the world’s eyes so that the one that remains does not have to sacrifice.

Her branding, perhaps, echoes her thoughts. The nicest thing about her branding has been that it’s all authentic. She is probably on her way to being the poster child for everything “beautifully soulfully hatke” if things swing her way a little. Some that I can immediately think of are: a Gucci with an Indian take, a Montblanc for papyrus scripts, an Osprey backpack for travelling writers, a Sony headphones for an on-the-road musician, a Merc (sorry MG Comet) with bandini prints on just the hood and designed to take pets along, handmade Stradivarius guitars from the woods of the Amazon – well I am allowed to indulge my imagination as it’s my blog after all :D

How else do musicians make money? Get gigs, go on tours, cut albums, and sell them to labels/Spotify for royalty, do music for movies- get famous and keep landing more opportunities and endorsements. Only the album and endorsements are productized.

What else can be productized? Perhaps productize learning? Teach, start a school, make it digital? It’s neither easy to do nor easy to fund.

I know that the industry has been working in a certain way. By separating all that constitute a song: the lyrics, the music, the singing, the other instruments, the arrangement, the video shooting, the editing, the sound, opportunities have opened for multiple folks in various nuanced aspects. (I am not even talking about labels and production houses).

My curiosity is more around what can and will democratise music for the artist? The ones who write, who creates, who sings or plays or strings it all together, and or does all these three? Social media has played a massive role in democratizing the access to creators and in, turn, their access and reach to an audience and potential business opportunities.

I don’t know the answer, at least not yet.

These words by Maryam Mirzakhani comes to my mind- am sure sooner than later I will discover the answer to these questions J.

P.S. A side note on going on tours: Figuring out breakeven numbers, and ensuring the crowd turns up to make sense of all the travel itself is a lesson in entrepreneurship J. My amazing mentor, and I have had a few discussions on how he is wearing a founder and marketer hat to get his band to break even. Meme marketing is something they have cracked.

I will write more on this topic when I do the interview with my mentor!


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