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Fossils – Digging Up Dirt

Almost ten years after it was formed, Fossils remains one of the hardest-hitting – and most popular – Bangla rock bands

Shamik Bag Sep 09, 2008
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Neelutpal Das

Outside the windows of the SUV we are travelling in, the dust has spared little. Headlights of approaching trucks collect in rolls of wintry smog and leave the dust particles in them animated. The lights also show up shadowy figures gathered around dank roadside tea stalls and around closed factory doors.

This was once the industrial basin of Bengal; the new economy, old mindsets and a general turn of fortunes have now reduced the area at the northern fringes of Kolkata to a mere dustbowl. The SUV pulls up alongside two guys riding bicycles, forcing them to momentarily hold back the furious pedalling. The driver partially rolls down the tinted glass of the window. “Which way to the college?” he asks. “Oh! You mean where Fossils is performing tonight? Go straight and take the right. We are going there too,” cyclist replies.

As the car winds through a maze of shanties and reaches the college’s gate in Sodepur, a human passageway emerges. It stiffens, gawks and bends to make way for the vehicle to pass. A hand jabs at my co-passenger’s window; someone screams “Rupam da, Rupam da“, grim-looking volunteers attempt to bring about order.

Later, at the hostel room allotted to him, Rupam Islam, 34, the singer-songwriter of the hard rocking Bengali band Fossils is seemingly flustered. Not because there is a pileup of autograph seekers, but because half a dozen mobile phone cameras are trained at him. A freak accident had left him with a gash on his forehead and Islam consciously offers the intact other half of his face to the cameras. Seeing me he points at a locked wooden cabinet – “Take a look inside.” A college student unlocks the cabinet and scribbled inside with felt pen is the legend ‘U rock’ followed by what should be Islam’s signature. Islam offers a gloated smile while the student closes the cabinet on what is likely to become a campus collectible.

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For Islam and the band he fronts, there are reasons to gloat. 2.5 lakh copies of the Fossils’ eponymous debut album sold, around 1.7 lakh copies of the follow-up, Fossils 2, followed closely by Mission F, its third album released in 2005. Last year, Asha Audio, the Kolkata-based record label which has so far released all the Fossils albums, introduced a video album of the bands’ songs and an audio-visual compendium of their best, which too is reportedly selling well though figures are not yet available. Last year alone, the band, it is claimed, performed at 100-odd concerts charging anything between Rs 65,000-Rs 1,20,000 for a gig. Fossils’ thudding sound – a marriage between the best of Eighties-styled melody-driven glam and progressive rock styles with gloomy post-Nineties grunge – reckons Islam, has gone down well with the Bengali consciousness.

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