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Why MTV can never befriend Indian indie rock

November 21, 2009


Disclaimer: I write for Thermal And A Quarter. But despite my own leanings, I cannot take seriously any article on the Indian rock music scene that dwells in the era of imitative cover performances, or performances of so-called originals that are so totally “inspired” by popular covers that they are no different from them at all. That stuff is so ten years ago. Maybe twenty. Without any vintage value whatsoever.

The “fascinating article” (by Arjun S Ravi on MTV Iggy) that Cicatrix speaks of in Sepia Mutiny reads like ‘The Best of RSJ (1992-1999), with Notable Exceptions’. It’s all been documented before with elan and sincerity by Amit Saigal. Today, it’s dated. Because it casually ignores a significant slice of Indian rock history — the independent music scene in Bangalore, which was where the really surprising stuff started to emerge from the mothballed closet in the late 1990s. In businesspeak, this era was when Indian rock music sought to “differentiate” itself. Not through marketing strategy (a la Parikrama et al which still have nothing to offer the discerning music fan) but through inventiveness, performance and startling creative energy. Ergo, I am not sure if Ravi’s omission stems from ignorance (which is unforgivable) or from personal bias (which is charlatan).

Thermal And A Quarter, as those who know their Indian indie scene know, began this revolution by playing entire three-hour sets comprising only originals — as early as 1999. No Indian band, repeat, no Indian band (save some in that fantastic cultural pocket — the Northeast) was doing that then. One other band that did it explosively — and I was witness to their memorable show at Madras Christian College’s Deep Woods in 1996 — was (then not-yet-Mumbai’s) Chakraview (with Dhruv Ghanekar on some serious gizmo-led guitar).

Perhaps Ravi also might want to remember that Laila Rouass-starring black-and-white music video, Colourblind, by the Mumbai band of the same name (the duo of Ram Sampath and Siddharth Achrekar). It was a brilliant new statement (very indie) and added a dimension to Indian rock that did not hitherto exist (or last). Sampath (now a composer for films and famous for his copyright victory over the Roshans for copying the music of Krazzy 4) told me off the record when I interviewed him (about Ram Madhvani’s Let’s Talk for in December 2002) that Colourblind “had not been viable”.

Viability has always been the gradient against which Indian indie rock has laboured. Indus Creed, after showing us the light, disappointed us by disbanding and resurfacing again as Alms for Shanti, with an eponymous album that was released both in English and Hindi (Kashmakash, Free Spirit, 2001). Alms for Shanti, with a name that sounded like it had been coined by an armchair Indologist at the University of Hawaii, plays the club circuit in New York where they have established themselves as export-reject exotics. Although singer Uday Benegal cribbed about the sleaze in the music industry as an aside during an interview with in 2002, he also told me this: “We went West because we were disillusioned with the East. Because the music we were doing at that time had absolutely no place here. Not that we were seeking salvation in the West. We wanted to go ahead with the music we make and look for the audience in the West.”

That’s one way to go, but if you know the audience to be here you have to be loyal to it. It must be remembered that around the same time that Alms for Shanti announced their album to a crowd of wine-sipping and tikka-nibbling celebs at a swank Tardeo lounge bar, a lot of bands that had been either influenced by TAAQ or shared the same struggle emerged from Bangalore — Kryptos, Myndsnare, Galeej Gurus, Zebediah Plush… And I am not even talking in any detail about the metal scene (which, being loud enough as it is, deserves an altogether different celebratory writeup amid a full-flowing headbangathon at Styx).

That TAAQ (still an unsigned band) was not from Bollywood-besotted Mumbai or Hindi-mein-gao-yaar Delhi or still-smoking-the-Sixties Kolkata was really what went against them when they started. Or the fact that their music was a leap year ahead of the public imagination — I mean, how many Benadryl-swillers orgasming in the moshpit had actually heard of (let alone heard) Steely Dan and Pat Metheny, or even imagined that they could influence an Indian band’s sound? The few critics of this counterculture — jealous jilted lovers of it mostly — judged the music by a myopic yardstick: the done-to-death genres of metal and dinosaur rock.

With Jupiter Cafe (2002), TAAQ’s second album, Bangalore shot into the limelight. It continued with Plan B (2004), the first album from India to be distributed with a custom Creative Commons-like license. These, inarguably, were milestones in Indian rock. Indie media (Indiecision, Split, RadioVerve… hell, even the un-indie Rolling Stone) acknowledged and celebrated them. MTV, which has always fed off the now happily moribund record industry (recently resuscitated by MJ’s passing) and now mooches off Bollywood to survive in the subcontinent, has no authority to comment on the indie scene. In the two fitful decades of Indian rock, MTV has neither recognised nor supported the indie movement. And to pay lip service to it now, with a limp biscuit such as this, is both embarrassing and shameful.

As the man who named his daughter Moon Unit said: “In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”

Part of this rant was originally posted as a comment on the muchly admired Sepia Mutiny

Photo: TAAQ from the back by SlickThief

40 Comments leave one →
  1. Bushra permalink
    November 22, 2009 8:26 am

    A true insight into what’s on the indie musician’s mind. Thank you for publicly declaring what has been “cocktail conversation” for a very long time in Bangalore at least. Bands like TAAQ, Galeej Gurus, Parachute XVI, Kryptos, and so many more of the upcoming ones need appreciation for their constant effort at keeping their creative juices flowing, against all odds. As for MTV no hopes there, but was really happy to see a few videos by Indian Bands on VH1 .
    Its time people realize that music is not all about bollywood masala or the stuff played on the dance floor. Indie music in India needs a platform and a large one at that to accommodate all the talent that we have to offer.

  2. November 22, 2009 10:28 am

    Thank you!
    Cocktail conversation is what it certainly has been. And it’s certainly a movement that has not been documented dispassionately.

  3. November 23, 2009 12:42 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better my self. Mr Bijoy. It makes very fine reading while syncing in a point, close to our collective Indie hearts.

  4. November 25, 2009 2:03 pm

    I think you’ve a great job at tracking where and how Indie / Indian rock all began. I guess the ongoing debate on whether a band should only play an ‘all-originals’ set will always be exactly that – ongoing. In my opinion, more than the crowd that wants covers, what also needs to be explored is the band members’ inclination and desire itself to play these covers along with their own stuff! At the end of the day most musicians have musical influences that will always somehow find their way on a band’s set list.

    Well I dont even remember the last time I watched MTV. Need i say more?

  5. November 25, 2009 3:11 pm

    Good observation! Musical influences are inevitable, and reinterpreting covers (jazz musicians do that all the time – quoting phrases) are all right. Wanting to play covers isn’t such a bad thing, too. There are bands that play covers– hotel bands, wedding bands, etc. — and they do a great job of playing them note for note. It’s a great, live alternative to a jukebox. But can these bands be treated as artists, and their work as art? In my opinion, no. So when someone says with aplomb that Parikrama, which has been around longer than many of us have had facial hair, is a great band, that’s looking at the scene through the wrong lens. And that calls for someone to play ophthalmologist. If only critics did their jobs better…

  6. cary permalink
    November 27, 2009 1:48 am

    God Bless TAAQ! (u did their site man?)

    Ministry of Blues, Moksha and Bhoomi are pretty darn good too. !

  7. November 30, 2009 11:20 pm

    On the subject of playing covers I’d like to hear more from other India bands (and audiences) on their stand on the subject. For me, that’s like a painter who makes a living from making copies of Van Gogh’s and Gaugin’s rather than going the distance to find a style and place for one’s own expression.
    Aside…recently we had a gig where the host hotel actually required a list of covers (if any) to meet with the IPL guidelines for hotel bands playing covers…new development in the market, but an old argument I’ve been using to take a stand with clients who insist on a list of covers before a gig.

  8. cary permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:29 am

    @rz – seconded. my aesthetic nightmare was playing @ Google, while the IPL match was being screened on tv. And playing a “screened” setlist mind you!

    It is very romantic to talk bout voicing your opinions and all. But the fact is, what can all the whining achieve? We need a work-around. And my inspiration was Eddie Vedder. I think he is the greatest rock interpreters of all time. He has covered every damn artist, from Cat Stevens to Bruce Springsteen to of course The Beatles, in his own inimitable fashion. And while, we cant all be Eddie(correction – no one can be Eddie!), we can certainly interpret each sing with our own style. And I have played my own versions of Sweet child of mine, Layla and some Beatles songs to very receptive audiences at Barista(!!) and Opus.

    I do sneak in some covers as well.

    There ! So all is not lost my friend. Need a work-around..

  9. December 1, 2009 3:03 pm

    Hey Cary, just a word to sort out the semantic confusion here. What Rz means by IPL is Intellectual Property Law (nothing to do with T20 cricket!). Performing covers in a professional capacity usually requires clearances from the copyright holders and licensing authorities. Most bands in India perform covers without any of these licenses.

  10. cary permalink
    December 1, 2009 3:09 pm

    Hi Bijoy, thanks for the pointer, didnt know that! 🙂 but i mentioned my IPL story in reference to his talking about bands having to play covers.

    What qualifies as professional, legally? And how to obtain copyrights? Can you elaborate please..

  11. December 1, 2009 3:18 pm

    Well, it’s simply like this: If you are a band and you want to perform the songs of another band, you need some kind of agreement with them. With indie bands, this is usually an informal relationship — some bands play another band’s as a tribute, etc. But in most cases, any band that performs covers must be given explicit permission by the band’s management or record label (or whoever controls the licensing of their music) to perform songs originally written, performed and released by another band. Most of the time, even when college bands play covers, no one takes notice or bothers to slap a lawsuit or send a notice because the consequences are — well, inconsequential. The band is never going to make money performing that song. But it must be remembered that live performance without permission also constitutes a violation of the original band’s rights and the copyright-holding band can sue if it deems fit.

  12. cary permalink
    December 1, 2009 4:31 pm

    wow ! thats a whole lotta guilty musicians then! :))

  13. December 1, 2009 5:28 pm


  14. December 4, 2009 4:07 pm

    I agree with the cover thing. Totally agree with Parikrama. Do not with Zebediah Plush. They weren’t that great frankly. Some of the songs were good, but otherwise okay.

    TAAQ on the other hand, is inimitable.

  15. December 5, 2009 1:18 pm

    Hmmm, I’m not comparing bands, just chronicling the growth of indie music. Plush was no more than a college band but if you had given them time (actually, if they had given themselves time), they might have re-arranged, changed lineup and pushed the limits. Of course, that didn’t happen. But it’s always great to see such immense potential.

    You know what Saurabh, the so-called historians of Indian rock are still so besotted with not looking beyond Mumbai (such an insular city — I know from having lived and worked there) and Delhi (such a boorish attitude but a lot better than Mumbai when shown the light) that they don’t look outside for pathbreakers. In a sense, they are so fixated on the idea that excellence can only come from within their borders.

  16. cary permalink
    December 6, 2009 1:22 am

    its especially irritating when people like Ciccatrix (taken care of!) re- post the same tripe! I mean how can you miss TAAQ man ??? Unpardonable!

  17. Cowsdung permalink
    December 7, 2009 6:15 pm

    What is your definition of ‘Indie’, Bijoy? Does a band necessarily need to attempt to earn a living off music, to qualify? Where would you place the Sarjapur Blues Band, for instance? Have you heard of them? They’re an underground band that’s been around in Bangalore for more than 20 years and have never played a note that isn’t their own. 18 years ago they already had a repertoire that extended well over 3 hours; and 3-4 hour concerts were the norm till they turned 50.

    Secondly, are you suggesting that Steely Dan and Pat Metheny are musically superior influences? Is there an intellectual hierarchy in music?

    Surely, your one-liners about the music scene in Bombay (bollywood-besotted), Delhi (Hindi-mein-gao) and Calcutta are as unfair to the faithful in these cities as their dismissal of Bangalore as a source of meaningful music?

    These are just some examples: One gets the distinct impression that, having got your opening disclaimer off your chest, you feel completely free to carry your biases towards TAAQ into the article. Are your readers entitled to a bit more phrenic rigour?

  18. December 7, 2009 8:55 pm

    Foremost, thank you for leaving behind an intelligent comment that challenges me to a debate rather than an inebriated brawl. Phrenic rigour… ah, that is blood-quickening prose redolent of a time long ago. It reminds me of talking to the late Sunbeam Motha.

    Indie band… I’m not a fan of the phrase myself because I think it is a label for styles of music that you can’t/ don’t want to stick a label on. I mulled over that blog title before I posted it but I kept the word in for a reason — to catch the eye of those who debate what indie is.

    Now, to answer your question, I don’t think an indie band need make money at all. But it must make original music even if it appeals to an audience of one. And it does not even have to publish or promote this music.

    But then again, indie also refers to the endeavour to create music independently and make it available and accessible to audiences whether through performance opportunities or distribution. Derivatively, indie also refers to the infrastructure that must exist for indie musicians who want to make a living doing what they love and believe in. Most important, I feel that indie need not be seen as some preachy, charity-seeking, low-on-frills fringe movement but a sort of cooperative society for independent musicians that helps them feel proud and confident about the worth and validity of their music. Of course, this feeling of self-worth and achievement should also put money in their pockets because they too need to feed their dogs, send their kids to college, and splurge on a vacation at Bora Bora.

    Arguably, the word has substantial currency and can be used to draw a rough boundary around the murky puddle of independent musical activity and suspiciously insincere entrepreneurship that aims to promote “independent music” in India. In fact, indie has become another genre upon which the mainstream music industry hopes to capitalise. But right now, as a cash cow it is short by at least three teats. So the industry, with help from Bollywood and all the rocking that has ensued in the wake of Rock On and London Dreams, will milk it hard and dry. The recently concluded “indie conference” Unconvention is a case in point.

    Fact is, truly indie bands are never going to benefit from this so-called revolution because it plays by the same rules as the mainstream.

    In response to your question about Metheny et al, please allow me to clarify. I meant that few bands attempt to look for influences in relatively unconventional artists. I’d be more interested in listening to a band that is inspired by a relatively unconventional sound that one that is inspired by, say, Metallica or Bon Jovi. I’m not sure I would call it intellectual hierarchy but I certainly find music that is composed and arranged with intelligence and creativity — both lyrically and musically — to be more appealing than music characterised by little more than unwavering volume, energy and histrionic performance.

    My comments on Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta are a direct response to the article on MTV Iggy that celebrated bands from those cities without a word about contemporary independent bands that came from Bangalore. Perhaps, that is also the reason why my blog post appears to be biased towards TAAQ. The article in question covered the music scene starting from the early nineties to the present. Also, it focused on bands that attempted to use the media to distribute their music. In response, I limited my response to cover bands that were born during that time.

    I love the Sarjapur Blues Band though I haven’t watched a performance in a really long while. I’ve watched them as far back as the Night of the Long Guitar someplace in Bannerghatta (I was too stoned to remember where). I used to love Lady Nicotine. And if you, sir, are Vinoo, Suomitro or Dr Seshadri in disguise I am more than honoured to have you visit me here! And I’ll be at your next show if I’m allowed.

  19. Cowsdung permalink
    December 7, 2009 10:15 pm

    Thank you for your polite reply, Bijoy.
    1 other point that I would like to make about the ‘evolution’ of Rock in India:
    Its history stretches far back from the 90s you mention, in fact it must start from the late 60s, when Rock first hit the Indian shores. In 1972, a cigarette brand named Simla ran a ‘Beat Contest’, where the first 2 prizes were won by original compositions – the first by a Madras band named X’lents, with a well-played piece of mainstream rock and the 2nd by a Calcutta band called Great Bear, who played a 6-minute piece that was about as non-mainstream as it gets. (A vinyl record of the finalists was produced and sold in Indian music stores in the cities.) A year or so later Great Bear did a 2+ hour themed performance – called ‘Seagull Empire’ – of entirely original music.
    In Bangalore itself, if you dig a bit, you’ll find many other, older attempts. The one that comes to my mind right now is the band called Baja (short for Bharat Mata Natch Kud Baja, or Mother India Rock and Roll Band) who are well-over 20 years old and play only their own music.
    RSJ would love to define this debate, I’m sure. Like all commercial media, they probably believe the sun shines out of their asses and that Rock in India began on the date of their first issue.

  20. Rajesh permalink
    December 8, 2009 12:15 am

    Mr/Ms Cowsdung, I’d really, REALLY like to get in touch with you as I’m equally interested in reconstructing the forgotten history of rock music in India. Please email me at if you would like to speak to me.

  21. December 8, 2009 11:25 am

    Thank you. That is a treasure of information and I hope I will have opportunity to talk to you again.

  22. December 13, 2009 10:25 pm

    Well, even I live and work in Mumbai (with JAM). Now the ‘scene’ is totally metal dominated, which leaves a sour taste. I mean, only a couple of bands actually do the ‘metal thing’ well. Rest are just mediocre. Frankly, TAAQ for me has been the best Indian band to watch and listen. I;m a guitarist myself and like Bruce’s style of playing. But regarding indie, I think we’ve been way too uptight with the definition of ‘indie’ and anyone who does make it big(read: record deal) is labelled a sellout. Frankly, I’d be happy to see an indie band even compose film music, if that music brings much more maturity to the tracks. In fact, most of the Bollywood musicians are the country’s most talented musicians. You can’t really blame them for doing what they are doing.

    Regarding the history of Indian rock, there was a really interesting thread on Gigpad I read a couple of years ago. What was interesting to read was that the parents of some our current Indian rock musicians (Warren, Johann) played in one of the first rock bands. But again, most of it is Mumbai and Pune bands. Maybe because no one from Bangalore pitched in on the discussion!

  23. December 14, 2009 10:53 am

    @Saurabh: I think metal is a different scene and deserves its own attention. I wish someone would trace the history of metal music in our cities — original stuff I mean. We had Millennium in Bangalore, but I suppose it dates much further back.

    But then again, there’s the whole question of branding bands based on genre. Maybe it is time for that — to classify bands that can be clearly classified (metal, vocal and electronic music, for instance) and those that are not easy to classify.

    Indie is often confused as a genre when it actually refers to a artist’s inclination (or choice) to not sign up with a record label or suchlike distributor. We need to step back and look at why genre-based classification came about in the first place — clearly, it is because marketers wanted to create watertight sales niches, read shelf labels.

    But truly, as you said, indie may describe any artist (not necessarily a rock band). If we can have indie films, why not indie film music?

  24. Cowsdung permalink
    December 14, 2009 11:46 am

    Somehow, the discussion on “Indie Rock’ always seems to exclude what I consider truly Indian modern music. This is music by Indian musicians bringing together all their diverse musical influences in a unique and original way. In a sense this is the most ‘authentic’ music you and I could create, since it is true to our cultural roots; and all of us who play only western music may actually be denying some of our own cultural influences – the music that our parents listened to, the music which we grew up with. Some of the oldest attempts at this ‘roots’ music came to my ears from Calcutta, by bands such as Mohuner Ghoda Guli – precursors to the current pap called Bangla Rock, though Calcutta still does produce some very interesting Ind0-Rock (if you’ll allow me to coin a phrase). Today, much of this has degenerated into largely derived rock/pop with lyrics in Indian languages. (A measure of its descent into cultural and musical meaninglessness is the extent to which it is loved by the mainstream music industry and media.) However, some bands still stand out. Indian Ocean, for instance, with music that draws influences from the Bauls of Bengal, the folk music of Rajasthan and even Malayali Mar Thomite Christian church music. Many years ago, I also heard a band called Phish for the first time at guitar-player Susmit Sen’s house (now that is an influence I like!)

  25. MaximumMallu permalink
    December 31, 2009 12:46 am

    The article was not a comprehensive Indian rock history and was more like vignettes of the indian rock scene for someone outside India, like the MTV Iggy audience. I think you are just reading too much into it and IMO the omission of TAAQ is not intentional. TAAQ have their place in the indian rock scene, and Bruce with his convictions will always be an inspiration.

    And adding to Cowsdung’s thoughts, Indo-Rock is emerging strong with Indian Ocean, Rabbi, Avial, Raghu Dixit etc. Even the mainstream Motherjane have the indo influenced guitar riffs and the face painting.

  26. Cowsdung permalink
    January 4, 2010 3:07 pm

    I know I’m going to sound highly pedantic, dogmatic (and bombastic as well, hell, lol!), MaximumMallu; but a lot of this kind of music – including stuff from some of the bands you mention – falls short of ‘authenticity’, when you deconstruct it compositionally. ‘Authenticity’, to me, is represented by the question Robert Fripp asked, “Is this music true?”
    Much of Indo-Rock sounds like vernacular lyrics set to western pop-rock/rock; or as though someone, during the process of constructing the song said, “This is a good place to introduce an ‘Indian’ riff”, thereby creating a series of musical appendages strung together. Formulaic stuff, without heart. Then there are bands that are virtuoso players of the media: they get great coverage and are able to charge high rates, but have a repertoire of literally just a handful of Indianised rock songs. Good, but influential in the world of media rather than of music.
    Maybe I’m wrong, and these all represent varying points along the road to authenticity in Indo-Rock; and therefore musical manifestations of what many of us are trying to achieve – a meaningful assimilation of diverse cultural influences – in our own lives. (Diaspora in our own land, who’re we to differentiate between musical attempts at integration?)
    Oops, Bijoy. My apologies. I seem to be taking your statement on the dichotomy between MTV and Indie Rock in a totally different direction. I shall lay off.

  27. January 5, 2010 1:07 pm

    @MaximumMallu: Histories are never complete and always remain controversial (or what’s the fun in interpreting them?). But when the editor of an up-and-coming indie magazine represents partisan interests, he must be stopped and questioned. That’s what I think I did.

    @Cowsdung: You are most welcome to steer this discussion where it most matters. Because it’s finally getting interesting!

  28. January 5, 2010 1:22 pm

    @Cowsdung: While inspiration and initiative have been the main reasons why we see different forms of musical expression, one factor that’s altering the “creative balance” of music-making is the way the market has been selectively patronising certain kinds of “rock” music. While one may argue that this has always been the case, media technology today makes the impact of this one-sided patronage quicker and more penetrating. Perhaps that’s why, in the Cow Belt, every dhaba-that-wants-to-be-a-cafe plays Rock On!

  29. Cowsdung permalink
    January 5, 2010 3:20 pm

    @MaximumMallu: I think I agree with Bijoy. Regardless of who the vignettes of Indian Rock were aimed at, they weren’t random ones. They were chosen on some basis, and if that basis is biased, then it should certainly be refuted. Otherwise, all of us are the losers, and not just TAAQ, because some vignettes that could matter to us don’t reach us. The media (unlike most people) always claim to be ‘objective’; but more often than not I find that their motives (like most peoples’) are highly questionable. The fact that more people read RSJ and watch MTV does not make them superior to Bijoy’s blog in any way. In fact, the reverse is more likely to be true

  30. Cowsdung permalink
    January 6, 2010 10:15 am

    I feel an eerie sense of deja vu when I read this, This is so much like what I used to hear in the 60s and 70s. We too complained that the market was selectively patronising only certain kinds of music, and that no one wanted to publicise Rock – which was very new, then. The local tea shops only played the latest Kishore Kumar song from the latest Rajesh Khanna starrer, and the only ‘patron’ of Rock music was that epitome of musical objectivity called AIR, with its 20-minutes-once-a-week acknowledgement of the existence of this new kind of music. We bitched about how people like Braz Gonsalves and Pam Crain were ‘sucessfully’ playing whatever they wanted, “that outdated stuff called jazz, but no one’s interested in rock, Man”. I’m not sure if I’m truly able to truly recreate the feel of that era for you. This was a time when Broadband meant an All-Woman Pop Group
    But you’re so right, Bijoy. The market has always been idiotic; and the expression ‘music market’ still continues to be an oxymoron. But this needs to be differentiated from the music media, which has become very powerful in its ability to influence preferences and opinions about music. Rolling Stone lived halfway across the world and was as much a child of its times as we were, then; neither of which is true about say, RSJ or MTV, which are products of technological change and commercial opportunism rather than chroniclers of music culture. Consider this: Some years ago, an Indian TV channel decided to form an all-girl band of pop singers and ran a contest to choose its members. Even before the band was formed, before any of them had sung even a single note on stage, the winners were told, “Congratulations, you’re a Star!” 30 years ago, anyone who heard this would have laughed. Today, the media believe that not only are they the final arbiters of who is/is not a star, not only that it is they who decide what constitutes stardom, but also that it is they who create stars and all it takes is for them to say so. And the majority of us media consumers unquestioningly accept this.

  31. January 6, 2010 11:38 am

    Broadband meant an All-Woman Pop Group- aaaahahahahahahaha! :))) good lord! Can’t stop laughing..

    @cowsdung – Thank you sire, for the inimitably overriding charm and blissful drollery. No one like this anymore. You represent an era, I so wish to have belonged to. Is there a blog where I can find more of your musings?

    In the same vein, I bet Black metal bands out there, are looking at Slayer and thinking they’re old fashioned sellouts! And Slayer’s looking at Metallica and thinking they’re old fashioned sellouts! And Metallica, I’m sure, looking inward and with all good conscience, acknowledge that indeed, they are sellouts…But anyway, the point is, mainstream is very subjective, and hence relatively ‘idiotic’ I guess. And thats what is so beautiful about music, that everyone has his/her favorite and there is no ‘best’ / ‘most deserved’ etc.

    I remember Frank Gambale at his concert in Bangalore (with Maurzio Colonna)- He played his first solo piece, and asked how many guitarists there were in the audience. NOBODY raised a hand, although the place, consisted purely of guitarists. And then he said this “I bet there were a lot more guitarists before I played that first piece huh .. but Music is a form of expression, there is no good or bad, everybody has something to say.. ” And thats something i will never forget. What a night! Cheers!

  32. Cowsdung permalink
    January 6, 2010 12:12 pm

    @ Cary: Thank you. I don’t have my own blog. I fling my dung around other peoples’ blogs, instead. Makes me a friendly (but smelly) intellectual parasite, I guess. Talking about sellouts reminds me of a line about ageing hippies like me: “An ageing hippie is one who has gone from acid to antacid”.

  33. January 6, 2010 12:47 pm

    hahah .. 🙂 where would one find @cowsdung, on say a balmy sunday evening? 🙂

  34. MaximumMallu permalink
    January 9, 2010 6:53 am

    Not only TAAQ there are many other bands were omitted in that article ergo my earlier conclusions about the article. For example 13AD ( full disclosure, I am a fanboy coming from the same city), which I would say is one of the key bands in Indian rock history, hailing from the small town way south from the big metros but had two albums of original compositions in the early 90’s on MaganSound, a label that could be classified as a major and maybe only label with nationwide releases for those times, which means they could have easily done 2 hour sets of major label released original compositions before TAAQ, but usually they played a mix of popular rock staple while mixing in some of their originals, playing to the nineties college crowd clamoring for their daily dose of hotels in California, soldiers on buffaloes and water with smoke on it. Props to other brave bands out there who started doing original only sets in spite of the popular crowd demands.

    @Cowsdung : We have such a small nascent scene in India (“Diaspora in our own land”, that pretty much captures it), I am more than happy to lay off from the authenticity part for now, till the scene grows an evolves enough, plus authenticity is a concept and I have no idea and I don’t know enough to define what is authentic anymore, for me all of Rock is derivative with variations, occasional innovations and seasonal fads along the way.

  35. soup permalink
    April 12, 2010 10:07 pm

    Ah, I know I shouldn’t get into this debate at THIS particular soapbox, on THIS forum, but I’m depressed about Indian rock music, for more reasons than ten. Now hear me out, why don’t you.

    I sifted through everyone’s comments, and the last word in rock music evolution seems to be Pearl Jam. I had long suspected, that Indian rock bands are stuck at a Vs. era Pearl Jam or Blood Sugar era RHCP, and I have partially confirmed it to be true.

    My friend Tony Das used to play for TAAQ, so I won’t dis them but who cares about Pat Metheney? Seriously, even within the cultural landscape of jazz, who gives a shit? The only worthwhile (my opinion is entirely subjective, qualitatively, but cultural impact in terms of influence isn’t) album PM ever did was with Ornette Coleman. And OC was way past his prime, and he totally showed him up. Regardless.

    The things that stuck out for me, that I wanted to address at this message board:

    1. Mohiner Ghoraguli – Stellar band, truly pioneers. But that’s my bengali bias talking.

    2. In the 70s the dialogue one used to have in India about bollywood/lounge jazz vs. the new rock is NOT analogous to the metal vs. jam band discourse. The dynamics, boundaries and honestly even the medium is quite diff.

    3. Black metal fetishes exist everywhere. If people turned up in hordes in India and just concertedly laughed at them, they would quietly vanish, like they have worldwide, trust me. Ditto pre-packaged boybands/girl bands. They’re not even the threat. The question one should be asking about the Indian rock scene is NOT why do we focus on metal so much, but why do all the bands have such a limited scope? Why do they all suck so much?

    4. I’m disappointed to learn that Indian Ocean guitar player Susmit Sen was at one time influenced by lame – o jam band Phish. I live in the Northeastern US, and dear god, the cult of Phish is sickening. But I shall not speak ill of the dead, moving along.

    5. I am not sure, but why is ‘broadband’ being an all female pop group funny? What a weird way to be sexist. And where are the women in Indian rock? Where’s our riot grrls? Or even X Ray Spex? Of course we don’t have to follow established patterns (even though the male bands do), but shouldn’t we have some equivalent feminine representation?

    6. Finally, where’s the evolution? Where’s our sonic youth? Or Glenn Branca? And a litany of noise rock/no wave/experimental pioneers? Where’s the room for uh (I know I’ll be crucified, but still) punk/post punk? Or white soul? Ska? Electronica played with real instruments and not a Mac? Avant Garde? Heck, where’s our Yoko Ono? All those who decry RS india to be non-indie please examine your prefereces for a minute (Middlebrow AOR>70’s frat-rock>Steely Dan, really?).

    7. I’ve always wanted to investigate the roots of Indian rock, but shouldn’t this be placed within a broader cultural discourse of the history of rock music worldwide? Who at RSJ/JAM/RS India/Gigpad/slew of Indian rock magazines thinks that 70s rock was defined by anyone besides prog rock, Led Zeppelin or Steely Dan? Cough, Television, cough, New York Dolls, cough fr’instance?

    Okay, rant over. Woops punk rock bias showing, gotta leave.

  36. July 26, 2010 1:35 pm

    @ I agree with the ‘limited scope’ you are talking about. To date, I haven’t heard a single “indie” band from India (apart from Indian Ocean) that I thought was innovative. Maybe a couple more bands like TAAQ and heck, a second band doesn’t even come to my mind. Seriously, most of the bands that have been mentioned here on this page haven’t done anything remotely rocking – mostly regurgitated radio rock.
    A lot of the Indian music I enjoy comes from classical musicians collaborating with producers like Bill Laswell – like the awesome Tabla Beat Science project.
    Why aren’t more musicians drawing from the deep well of Indian classical? Seriously man, people need to get crazier than just a verse chorus verse thingie.


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