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The Great Divide

Delhi, it’s being asserted, has become the nation’s hub of rock and electronic expression. Other burgs may want to claim that crown, but they’re going to have to fight for it – it could get bloody. I think our North-country cousins have a hammerlock on the title for now at least. Bombay (Mum-what? You say […]

Uday Benegal Jun 21, 2009
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Delhi, it’s being asserted, has become the nation’s hub of rock and electronic expression. Other burgs may want to claim that crown, but they’re going to have to fight for it – it could get bloody. I think our North-country cousins have a hammerlock on the title for now at least. Bombay (Mum-what? You say tom-ay-to, I say Bombay) should quit that yoga pose it’s been holding for too long now – head-up-the-arse-ana. This is the town that had it all: mojo, moxie – and the money to turn that attitude into an ass-whuppin’ rock & roll scene. And it gave it up to”¦ Delhi? Not that I have anything against Delhi. It’s a nice little place, sure. Tree-lined streets, manicured roundabouts – a subway also (shame again, Bombay!). I’ve even got relatives there – the nice kind. But, come on, that’s like saying DC’s got the edge on NYC.

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UK-based electro-eclectic exponent Shri (Shrikanth to fam and friends) said it’s almost in the bag: a three-night stint at Mumbai’s Blue Frog mid-June. “This one’s going to be different from the last time around,” spake Shri. Two DJs, a drummer and rapid-speak rapper JC-001 will share the stage with the bass/flute/tabla player. One DJ, a scratch specialist, will do the bulk of the set. The other DJ will make for a reunion of sorts. Super-selector Badmarsh is likely to do a set of his own, as well as join Shri for a couple or few. Can we expect to hear stuff from their landmark album Signs? Shri: “I don’t know for sure. It could happen.” What could also happen are India dates beyond Bombay. You’ll just have to wait and see.

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Also revealed: Bollywooders Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy plan to commence work on a non-filmi album in July. Expect pop, rock and a smorgasbord of influences. In Hindi. In English: Guitar player Ehsaan’s much-awaited blues and funk album. He says he’s really keen to get that one going too. I hope he gets around to it – it’s a talent too good to be squandered. Virtuosic friends will play a significant role.

I’m told the capital is short on joints to kick out the jams. And yet they manage to churn out the talent. Bombay’s performance spaces, on the other hand, have improved exponentially since the days of yore, when offering incentives to Rang Bhavan’s caretakers was the best you could do to get out and get heard. And there was more action then! Now that we’ve got the places to play, we’ve decided to sit out the creative shit. It’s not like the talent isn’t there. I fear that most of them are just too busy getting juiced on Bollywood to bother doing what they really set out to in the first place.

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But the crass financial capital isn’t beyond all redemption. There appears to be a fairly fertile acoustic, singer-songwriter movement working its way out of a petri dish. The culture’s still tiny, but there’s a real chance that it could go somewhere. The names working the circuit these days – Nikhil D’Souza, Ashima Aiyer, Gowri.

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(Okay, so two of them are from Pune, but that’s close enough to make it local). Imagine the vibes of Damien Rice, Joni Mitchell and Ani DiFranco wafting in the Juhu air and you’ll get a sense of where this is at. The usually-electric jazz master Sanjay Divecha told me he plans to take his recently acclaimed acoustic set further – sounds great to me. More and more are stopping by the caravanserai for a taste of the good, soft stuff.

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