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Meet Pune Blues Rockers Lal And The People

Vocalist-guitarist Rohit Lalwani who fronts the revolving band tells us what it’s like to travel to the blues and back

Keifer Lobo Jul 09, 2019

Lal and the People perform at High Spirits Cafe in Koregaon Park, Pune. Photo: Prithwish Patra.

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The blues has always been a staple in India’s music scene with artists such as Shillong veterans Soulmate, Kolkata’s Arinjoy Trio and Mumbai’s Blackstratblues, Ehsaan Noorani and Kanchan Daniel and the Beards being torchbearers of the genre. Add to it the growing success of the Mahindra Blues Festival which completed its ninth edition at Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio earlier this year and you get a sense of how many people in the country love the blues. 

Pune-based musician Rohit Lalwani also caught the blues bug early and has been fronting his revolving band Lal And The People since 2014. With a performance at Mahindra Blues Festival in 2016 and an EP under his belt titled Bad Case Of Blues released that same year, Lalwani has pursued the increasingly rare sound of old school blues rock, inspired by the overwhelming shadows of genre-defining American artist B.B. King as well as in Lalwani’s opinion underappreciated American blues artist Jimmy Thackery. With the premonition of the never-ending forward march of the digital age, the fight for a shred of individuality is fought with tooth and nail. Creativity is being squeezed out of every orifice of fusion genres and scraped off every modern rendition of the classics. 

But how does the ever-critical voice of change respond to Lal and The People’s refusal to join the fray?  When we caught up with Lalwani at a recent gig in Mumbai he had this to say before paying tribute to Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. “I’m still stuck within the old albums, so our music always ends up sounding old school,” he says.

Lalwani has no problem describing the blues on stage as he pulls out an endless stream of solos that bend and lick just to make you smile. He says, “Well the blues can’t be described verbally with much honesty.” He adds, “It’s just the everydayness that everyone feels. The kind of everyday sorrows that makes us up.” It’s cruel and hilarious that the blues make us smile. The guitars cry out, the lyrics weep and we stand there tapping our feet like idiots. 

Their track “Footprints On The Heart” is a ballad with a sedative melody that leads your mind into a slow dance while the rest of your body is eventually sweet-talked into it by measured vocals. When asked about the song, Lalwani says, “It comes from an old heartbreak in my teenage [years]. Hey, no worries! At least I got a good song out of it, right?” 

The band will introduce you to a side of music that is too tired to care about what kind of performance will lead them to their next. “We’ve played at the Mahindra Blues Festival as well as a lot of intimate gigs. The difference is surprisingly not that much as long as you have an audience that’s there to listen to your music,” explains Lalwani.

For all the eager ears who have enjoyed their previous material, with the obvious favorites being the addicting “Eyes On You” and the sultry “Bad Case Of Blues,” Lal and The People have announced a forthcoming single titled “You Don’t Matter.” The frontman keeps up his distrust in the permanence of everything, from here till the edges of the universe, even in this next new piece. His new single promises to tell you that the collapse of the galaxies, as well as all the stars and souls within it, would be highly inconsequential. 

The musician says, “Whatever happens, it’s all okay if it turns out a few good songs in the end.” Lalwani gives you the feeling of someone only tethered to the ground by his guitar strings. So, unconcerned with the proceedings of the rest of the world, Lal And The People continue turning everyday sorrows into beautiful music.

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