Veteran Rocker Nandu Bhende Passes Away
November 27, 1956 – April 11, 2014
Nandu Bhende, veteran rocker of Mumbai bands such as Savage Encounter and Velvette Fogg passed away this morning in Mumbai. Bhende, the son of Marathi theater actor Atmaram Bhende and Dr Asha Bhende, was also known for having essayed the role of Judas in Alyque Padamsee’s adaption of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
Bhende wrote on his blog in a post dating back to 2009: “Back in the late Sixties, as a young teenager who had just joined college, life was like a roller coaster ride. Sex, drugs and rock ’n roll was the magic mantra in those flower power days. After girls, music was my paramount interest and I desperately wanted to be involved in its creation. Although I had no idea how to go about doing it, I was blessed to have been born at a time when it was at its creative best. The Beatles, Stones, Who, Doors, CCR, Jimi Hendrix and countless other great artistes were at their peak and new great music was being produced by the hour! The numerous beat shows in Bombay at that time, with bands like the Reaction, The Jets, Beat 4, The Savages etc. had got me hooked and I was ripe to join the rockers of the world.”
In his recently launched book India Psychedelic: The Story Of A Rocking Generation, journalist Sidharth Bhatia narrates how Bhende was considered one of the city’s pre-eminent rockers: “Nandu was an Elphinstone boy and that made Velvette Fogg the college band—it was almost natural they would be playing at the social. The group, with the long-haired and bespectacled Nandu in his trademark kurta, jeans and leather kolhapuri chappals, singing everything from ‘Light My Fire’ to his signature song, ‘Nights in White Satin”, did not disappoint… Nandu was an unlikely musician, in that though he had a good voice, he was untrained and no one in his family had been a professional musician. Nandu grew up in a westernized, English-speaking household and as a schoolboy was already singing Beatles numbers on radio shows.”
The singer also had the distinction of being one of the few rock musicians from the Seventies who considered switching to Bollywood and lent his vocals to the track “Krishna Dharti Pe Aaja” in the Bappi Lahri score for the 1982 film Disco Dancer. In an interview with ROLLING STONE India, Bhatia described the attitude that rock musicians had towards Hindi films thus: “Pure snobbery and a sense that they are rockers. I was talking to Nandu [Bhende, of Mumbai rock band Savage Encounter] the other day and he said, ‘I sang my first Hindi film song in the late Eighties’. ”
For many, Bhende will always bring to mind the Indian rock scene at its turning point in the Seventies, but several others will remember him as a mentor. In recent years, Bhende’s focus remained on InSync Studios, a company he founded in 1998 to train voiceover artists, singers and actors besides offering other facilities such as recording, editing and mastering. Bhende is survived by his wife Usha, his son Akshay and daughter Amrita.
Listen to Nandu Bhende’s 1989 song “No Way, It’s Bombay!” composed by Bhende and Leslie Lewis
Watch Nandu Bhende at the Ninth Jack Daniel’s Annual Rock Awards in February 2014 below