On the night of his band’s first performance, Subir Malik’s parents gave him six months to live his dream and get it out of the way so that his real life could begin. Not that it was a threat: the senior Maliks simply believed that a rock band playing English music in India couldn’t possibly last longer than half a year.
And how wrong they were! Because yesterday, June 17, 2016, makes it 25 years since Parikrama first took to the stage. The band has had hardly any line-up changes over these years and absolutely no Bollywood music in their repertoire. Yet it seems as though they’ll be around for a while longer. Certainly more than six months.
Parikrama was Subir Malik’s idea. A fan of rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, he was desperate to find people with a similar taste in music and an interest in performing live. And he found the seed of the band that would become Parikrama at an IIT Kanpur fest.
“A young band was performing its first show and it was pretty bad, but they were playing Rolling Stones and the kind of music I wanted to play,” recalls Malik. “So I asked them if we could all work together. All the four members of this band agreed, but two quit even before the first rehearsal, and the other two said they’d have to quit as soon as their college sessions ended. This was fine with me, because I was also supposed to join my family business in six months’ time.”
So while everyone agreed that the band would only be temporary, Malik pulled in three other people to create Parikrama.
On September 17, 1991, Parikrama performed its very first show at Father Agnel’s School in New Delhi. They were to be paid Rs 500 in total for the performance. But, at the end of the show, delighted by the response, the organisers decided to pay each member of the band Rs 500, a vast sum of money in those days.
“We were so excited!” laughs Malik. “I’d never had so much money all to myself before. Our pocket money for school used to be just one or two rupees; we bought Bata Fleets for Rs 30-40. Today a kid thinks nothing of buying an iPhone for Rs 60,000, but for us, that Rs 500 was like a million.”
By the time Parikrama travelled outside Delhi for its first show six months later, at IIT Roorkee, they could charge a fee of Rs 18,000 per show - a clear indication of its growing popularity.
“We hired a 40-seater bus and even took our friends along,” says Malik. “The campus there has a huge hangar from the time of World War II, and that’s where we performed.”
Parikrama mainly focused on rock covers, though it did have an original song called Xerox to play at its first performance. The idea, says Malik, was to pay tribute to their rock heroes - Deep Purple, he points out. “But in 1995, we decided to focus on writing our own songs. So slowly, the ratio of our songs versus rock covers grew, and now we only play our own originals,” says Malik.
Xerox, the band’s very first song, written in 1991, was a peppy number about being a rock and roll band. Gonna Get It, the second song, was written in 1992. But slowly the band began to focus on social issues.
“In 1995, we read an article in India Today by Harinder Baweja about a terrorist group that had kidnapped some foreigners who were still untraced. The article focused on the relatives who came to India to look for them. That article moved us so much that we wrote a song about it titled But It Rained,” says Malik. In 1996, Don’t Cut Me Down was about deforestation, and there’s a controversial number on Free Tibet, a cause Parikrama has supported for all the 25 years of its existence.
Subir’s younger brother Nitin, the band’s lead singer, usually writes the lyrics together with Sonam Sherpa, the lead guitarist. These are then shared with the other band members for their suggestions. “Nitin writes a lot from his own experiences too,” says Malik. “For instance, he is a big fan of the Lord of the Rings, and wrote a song called Am I dreaming? for part one of the series and another called Tears of the Wizard for part two.”
A quarter century is a long time for a band to be together, but Malik believes it was not hard given how disciplined the band members are. “We began with some rules for ourselves and we still follow those rules,” says Malik. “We never touch alcohol before a performance. We are always punctual. And we all have a source of income other than Parikrama. I had told every single member this from the start: to ensure they had another source of income so that they don’t face financial problems.”
Currently, Subir Malik runs his own artist management company, Srijan Mahajan (drums) has his own studio, Gaurav Balani (bass guitar) plays with a lot of other bands, Sonam Sherpa (lead guitar) runs the Parikrama school, while Nitin Malik (lead vocals) and Saurabh Choudhary (guitar) take care of the band.
Now playing to a new generation, Parikrama has taken to social media. “I try and target 13-year-olds with our posts and we do get response from them,” he says. “But older people tend to respond with sweet messages. One person wrote on our Facebook wall that he had painted our first Parikrama T-shirt in 1991. Roshan Abbas tweeted ‘thank you for making our college days special and now for our kids too’. At LSR where we played 7-8 years ago, one of our fans came with her daughter and this little girl knew all our songs. It really feels great that though we are on the same stage, the audience keeps changing.”
But one of the band’s best memories of the past 25 years was its Iron Maiden tour. “The rock giants of the world, Iron Maiden, saw us playing in Bangalore and said they wanted us in the UK,” he says. “So in 2007, we went there for 20-25 days. And we played at a stage where no Indian band has played before - the Download Festival in Donington.” The same stage where bands like Dream Theater, Megadeth and Iron Maiden have performed. Need we say more?
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From HT Brunch, June 19, 2016
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