Suneeta Rao during one of her earliest live gigs

#WhereAreThey series:The indie pop era was like a firefly, short-lived but bright, says Suneeta Rao

Singer Suneeta Rao kickstarted her career with Senorita, which released in 1989. While the track made her a force to reckon with in the indie pop space, it was Paree Hoon Main from her 1991 album Dhuaan, that made her popularity soar, and how! Thereafter, she went on to release albums such as Talaash (1996) and Ab Ke Baras (2000).

Rao, 54, believes the 1990s was “the golden period of indie pop in a way”. “What was different about that particular period was as artistes, we were the first ones to come up with music videos, per se. That coincided with the launch of MTV in India. It gave us exposure, as it offered us the same platform as international stars such as Madonna and Michael Jackson,” she explains.

She adds that novelty was another factor which made the period so memorable. “People got to know us for our music, we got our own gigs. Record labels began signing us,” she recalls.

Suneeta Rao during one of her earliest live gigs

However, the indie pop era was short-lived. “Like anything else in the industry, the novelty faded away after some time. We were under the condition that we’d get support for our next album only if we delivered a hit. The indie pop wave couldn’t sustain itself. It was almost like a firefly — short-lived but bright,” she says.

The Vaada Karo singer went on to do what she loved the most — performing gigs, doing theatre and writing. Despite being successful in her career, Rao admits that launching albums became an uphill task. “The most difficult one was Waqt (2008). That album had a video of a song called Sun Zara. For that, I had signed up with somebody who disappeared at the last minute,” she shares.

What makes her happy, though, is that despite film music taking precedence, people still fondly remember indie pop artistes of the 90s. “The visibility of indie pop artistes on screen made a difference. The substance that songs had was different back then. I was working organically. Every producer I worked with, including Lewis Banks, Leslie Lewis, Ranjit Barot and Anand Raaj Anand, gave different characters to my album. Today, songs lack longevity, because of sheer abundance and accessibility. I don’t listen to today’s music because it’s formula-driven,” adds Rao, who is looking forward to continuing doing theatre, promoting her last album and performing.

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