Rock Bands: Turn off the LIGHTS

Published: December 31, 2010 - 15:44 Updated: December 31, 2010 - 15:45

The lack of media recognition and support for Indian rock has forced bands to use platforms like YouTube, Facebook, My Space and similar spaces to 'explode' their talent
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

As mist engulfs the foothills of Dehradun in Uttarakhand, Ayush Sharma and his friends unpack their bags in the basement of an old dilapidated building. Out come the guitars, amplifiers and microphones while the drummer unpacks his weather-beaten kit silently in the background. The equipment is soon plugged to power outlets and the band starts the sound check. Once satisfied, the band starts to play Megadeth's hit single A Tout le Monde and the audience - a close bunch of friends - sway with the heavy guitar riffs and drum beats. The band - No Vacancy - is scheduled to play at a concert in the city. 

Dehradun is witnessing an explosion of new bands that play a wide variety of music: from Jim Morrison to Slipknot, Jimi Hendrix to Carlos Santana, Kiss to Metallica, et al. Several smaller cities like Dehradun, Shillong, Pune, Guwahati, Durgapur and Jamshedpur, are witnessing radical paradigm shifts in the preferences of the young, who are breaking the stereotypes of "boring, mediocre Bollywood" and exploring new, heady, experimental realms in music. 

Veterans call this a consequence of the 'internet revolution'. There is a striking resemblance to the golden era of the 1970s, when groups like Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were flying on new wings of creative desire. "Internet has exposed youngsters to different genres since they can now download and upload music from the internet. Their music is being heard by people across boundaries. Like for example rock music, which has become very popular with the present generation of music lovers, and seems to have spread like wild fire in India; in this era, the credit goes to the internet," says Reuben of Undying Inc, a Delhi-based band. The band is famous for taking heavy metal to a new level. 

Also, instead of releasing an album which turns out to be a costly proposition in a rather crass, commercial music industry where powerful music companies call the shots, Indian bands are now uploading their albums online for sale. This is the new democracy of the new music. And it helps them reach out to a wider audience and cut down costs.

The lack of media recognition and support for Indian rock has forced bands to use platforms like YouTube, Facebook, My Space and similar spaces to 'explode' their talent. "The feedback is instant and this encourages bands to make more music and even experiment," says Ayush of No Vacancy. Another change is the increasing demand for original compositions as compared to the 'covers' bands were forced to do in the past.  (Doing covers means playing famous songs/compositions, not one's own, on request.) "Every band should have original compositions under their belt, otherwise they are looked down upon by other bands and listeners," says Mohammed Kabeer, director of Capital Metal, a documentary on the Delhi metal scene. 

The trend of youngsters taking up rock music can also be attributed to the rage brewing inside this generation whereby music becomes an outlet. "Our audiences are usually teenagers who aren't happy with the state of things around them. We write about the statea of the modern world, war and its implications, and the pros and cons of everyday life. Youngster relate to us and that's what makes us or any band popular," says Reuben. Also rock music has a 'cool' factor attached to it and youngsters with rich parents find it easy to pursue this expensive 'fad'. 

However, veterans are disheartened with this trend and believe that most youngsters don't understand the complexity of this music, its depth or its history. "They just learn a few riffs and download music from the internet and start playing. This is not the right way to approach serious music which takes years of practice. Look at Indian Ocean, they have been rocking for decades and are among the most popular bands. Also, they sound different as they have some Indianness about them as compared to new bands that just blindly copy Western ones. However, youngsters taking up music is certainly a welcome change," says Girdhari of Ensemble, a Dehradun-based band.  

In Dehradun, meanwhile, Ayush and his band are tired after a long session of intense music. They play the last one, not an original composition, an ode to greatness of the great The Doors: When the music is over, turn off the lights...

The lack of media recognition and support for Indian rock has forced bands to use platforms like YouTube, Facebook, My Space and similar spaces to ‘explode’ their talent
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

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