Universal Music Group (UMG) has officially inked a deal to acquire the catalog of UK-based South Asian record label Oriental Star Agencies.
UMG formally announced the buyout agreement today, about four months after debuting Desi Trill Music to zero in on South Asia’s quick-growing markets. Founded in 1966 in Birmingham by one Muhammad Ayyub, Oriental Star helped bring “authentic South Asian music to a British audience” and played “a pivotal role in the establishment of the UK Bhangra genre,” according to Universal Music.
Meanwhile, 2017 is said to have seen Oriental Star’s owners finalize a sale, evidently not including the operation’s IP, “to Hi-Tech Music Ltd, another British record label with a strong history spanning 35 years,” per UMG.
Then, in early 2023, Hi-Tech and Oriental Star faced allegations of uploading works they didn’t own to streaming services, according to a paywall-blocked Law360 piece.
Back to today’s buyout, the purchasing party opted against publicly disclosing the price tag associated with the play. But the Big Three label did note that the transaction encompasses “approximately 18,000 songs, concert and video recordings,” a total that includes “all of the label’s recordings and where held, publishing rights.”
On the talent side, Oriental Star’s roster included acts such as Pakistan-born qawwali singers Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Amjad Sabri, bhangra singer Malkit Singh, Alam Lohar, and DJ Bally Sagoo, to name just some.
Addressing the catalog acquisition, UMG EVP of market development Adam Granite indicated that the deal “will further increase Universal Music Group’s exposure to, and participation in, a fast growing and rapidly changing market.”
“I am particularly pleased that Universal Music Group will become the next custodian of Oriental Star Agencies, a label that has played an unparalleled role in bridging the musical identities of the UK and South Asia, taking the unique sounds of its artists to a broad audience,” proceeded Granite. “We believe this catalogue has huge potential, and look forward to taking it to the next generation of music fans globally.”
Of course, Universal Music is hardly alone in working to broaden its presence in the South Asian music sphere, and particularly India. 2023 saw Warner Music purchase Indian management company E-Positive, expand its partnership with leading Punjabi music consortium Sky Digital India, and take a majority stake in South Indian digital-media company Divo.