Vishal Dadlani, co-founder of Pentagram and one half of Vishal-Shekhar, does two kinds of music. One is his job and the other is his life. No points for guessing which is which. ‘I want music, real music, music that moves me – he says – I want bands that say listen to me, not look at me.’1 This is for a Channel V ad but it’s like he’s speaking for himself. When you watch him on stage, you can’t take your eyes off him – “Give me my voice now, give me that choice now”2, he urgently sings and it’s as if you’re transposed into him and you’re the one singing.
This immediacy is what strikes you about indie music right now. There’s a personal connection. The scene is taking off and it’s young, fresh and new for audiences and bands alike. No simple categories today such as rock, pop, reggae etc. Music is plastic and genres are hybrid – The Bicycle Days, a psychedelic alt(ernative) rock band from Bangalore, recently won an international award for genre-bending music and its songwriter and singer Karthik Basker, who has a voice hard to rival3, often makes up his lyrics on stage. Tempo Tantrick plays ‘electro funk, trip-hop’ and Prachir from Kolkata plays Bangla Rock. There are death metal bands too like Bhayanak Maut (which got its name from a Ramsay Brothers’ horror movie) and others with cleverly bhayanak names like Skincold and Pin Drop Violence.
Indie music has a support network all over the country with clubs (Blue Frog, Mumbai, The Living Room Café, Delhi, Bflat, Bangalore …) and festivals coming up by the day (Sunburn, I-Fest, Invasion, Storm, NH7 Weekender). They are creating a mobile new urban geography like a sparkling necklace lighting up places from metro cities to others like Hyderabad, Mangalore, Chandigarh. Bhopal, Guwahati … And it’s a geography with the North-East smack in the middle – Soulmate from Shillong play the blues with a quiet and fierce fire4. Rudy Wallang is a virtuoso guitarist. His compositions are intricate, original and dazzling. Soulmate’s singer, Tipriti Kharbangar, has a voice with an aura – and great looks to match5.
Indie music is indubitably the music of the digital generation. Bands can now produce their own music and distribute it themselves too. ‘42’, The Bicycle Days debut album was recorded in the bedroom of one its members and distributed by email. Several new labels have been created such as Counter Culture Records and Blue Frog Records which sell music online. And there are new digital products such as online shows and ringtones. Pentagram airs its own online show called PentaTV and major service providers are now offering a new weapon against pesky telemarketers – metal ringtones. This, for example, is an ad posted online : Do Not Call registries are for wimps. Haven’t you always wished you could unleash a few bars of ‘Dismembering The Fallen’ or ‘Suicidal Corpse’ upon the unsuspecting call-center drone? Well, now you can. .6
But the internet, for Generation Y, is more than just a technological tool. It is at the heart of their experience and has created a new consciousness. “Indie music is about people who are passionate about music,” says Girish ‘Bobby’ Talwar of Only Much Louder (OML), a leading indie artist management organization. This seems a banal thing to say. But it is not. There is no passion without freedom, especially from the market. Talwar also adds that “the world has become the same place everywhere”. This again may seem like stating the obvious. But he doesn’t mean standardization, he doesn’t mean a dumbing down of difference. He means a wide expansive space to explore and inhabit. People no longer need to wait to get music news or listen to new music. And bands can immediately access a worldwide audience. The internet is many things, but for the music world it is passion’s synthesizer.