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Cash? Comfortable? Lazy? Indie? What are you talking about?

Lalitha Suhasini Sep 13, 2013
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Kolkata pop rock band The Ganesh Talkies photo: Siddharth Dugha

Kolkata pop rock band The Ganesh Talkies photo: Siddharth Dugha

A recent piece in a men’s fashion magazine on the lazy indie scene brought on this reality check: alternative musicians, especially upcoming bands, are making little or no money and work as hard as experienced bands.

In 2008, when MySpace still meant something to musicians, Pentagram was on the lineup of gigs to celebrate the launch of the site in India. The Mumbai electro rock band’s drummer Shiraz Bhattacharya was limping around on a pair of crutches at Bandra Amphitheater, the venue for the launch. Eventually, he went up on stage and murdered the hell out of his drum kit. How many young bands have the kind of drive that Pentagram or any of their contemporaries do? Quite a few.

Last night, a band of young musicians from Bengaluru showed up for their debut show in Mumbai. Bassist Tushar Ganguly, of Space Behind The Yellow Room, had met with a road accident the day before the show, but he landed up at the gig at North Mumbai’s Kino 108 with stitches, a bandaged head and a wide, goofy smile. The band gave the 40-minute set their all. Sure, they played post rock, or, what I call stoner rock, which, depending on your disposition and state of inebriation, would have changed how you rated the band. I was stone cold sober and would like to watch the band again. I also liked the mellower set by Until We Last, another post rock band from Bengaluru, and I instantly took to their fluid, sparsely arranged guitar-led pieces with almost no vocal parts. Would I pay to watch them again? Yes.

Ahead of the Bengaluru bands, vocalist Kanchan Daniel, from Mumbai, belted out some fiery blues. I haven’t heard any vocalist attempt Etta James at a recent gig, and while Daniel needs a better songwriter and composer to shine a light on her talent, she can definitely hold her own on the same stage as Suman Sridhar or Soulmate’s Tipriti Kharbangar. Sure, they have a bigger range and a far more compelling stage presence than this 20-something vocalist, but she’s got the pipes. Just give her a few years. In an interview, in 2011, Suman told me how she wasn’t the kind of child woman dynamite that you see on stage today. During the bands early years between 2008-9, she stood still on stage, singing her lines straight from her gut, but as alive as a Grecian statue. Suman has worked hard, studied her craft and is matchless in her ability to inspire her audience.

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Daniel is a student of clinical psychology, who interns at a Mumbai hospital, and when I asked her how often she jams with her band, she replied, guilt tainting her expressive face when she replied, “Not very often. Twice or thrice a week.” I asked hip hop/drum n bass and reggae band Bombay Bassment’s drummer Levin Mendes, who was also at the gig, the same question and he told me that his band [all members of the band have day jobs] rehearses once a week for three hours. All members of Bombay Bassment have day jobs, but put in what it needs to show the crowd a good show, every single time. Do the math. 

Just for the record, none of the bands that performed last night were paid. Fifty six people showed up for the gig and the entry fee went into paying for the sound setup for the night.

Did I just luck out and catch good bands? No. Do I catch more than two or three acts in a month that make a positive impression? Yes. I was ready to dismiss The F16’s as an Indian version of the Brit indie band, The Arctic Monkeys, after their debut show in Mumbai at Live From The Console. I went back to hear them when they performed at the newly launched Hard Rock Café Andheri in Mumbai earlier this month. I returned and played their track “Light Bulbs” on repeat, and wanted to watch them on stage again soon.

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Ganesh Talkies, who made it to our Artists To Watch For list earlier this year, performed at the fourth edition of The Scene, organized by nh7.in  this month. The band’s frontman or frontwoman in this case, Suyasha Sengupta went on to validate what I do for a living. She had the crowd chanting “Item Song,” one of their hookiest originals. Ganesh Talkies made it to the finals of a talent hunt last year that was judged by a panel that included Shaa’ir+Func’s Monica Dogra. They won the competition and I am sure Sengupta’s easy, yet arresting stage presence made an impression on Dogra.

While Hoirong, Kamal Singh’s solo project is definitely raising the bar for bands, I wish Lounge Piranha was still around to show younger bands how it’s done. Lounge Piranha brings to mind arty stage projections, killer album art and, most importantly, had they stuck around, they would have had a bigger story to tell as a band and inspired other bands to stick it out as well. Every band member that calls it quits makes it that much tougher for me to speak up for a younger band when I discuss the scene with philistines.

Sure, there’s social media and the Internet to make a lot of noise, but this also makes it harder for bands to stand out. We’re not listening unless they’re saying something different. The scene can only grow bigger if there were more gigs. Along with bands, audiences need to grow up, open their minds and ears a bit. Of course, I’ve heard terrible bands, but dismissing an entire generation of bands and calling them lazy sounds too easy and lazy. 



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