There’s one golden rule about the rock music scene in India: the more the ‘rock heritage’ in a town or city, the less likely it is to have a contemporary music scene. All you have to do to figure this out is to visit either Bombay, Calcutta or Shillong, where conversation is still about Louis Banks, Pam Craine, Great Bear and Lou Majaw. Past glories overwhelm anything new from breaking out. That is the general rule. Exceptions abound. Shillong’s
has gone against the headbanging ‘Metallica-Nirvana’ grain and is arguably the best blues band in the country.
In classic, rock drenched Calcutta, the exception is Cassini’s Division, who have been ploughing on for the last six years on the edge of the mainstream, readying to sign a record deal. What is striking about these four guys — vocalist Rahul Guha Roy, Guitarist Sukanti Roy, bassist JBoi and drummer Ludo — is how refreshingly original their music is. And their heavy emo-Goth rock comes with the right attitude.
But it’s not only bands that make a scene — it’s the crowds that get it going. While Bangalore and Bombay do have detours from the tried and tested, it is probably Delhi, with its ‘No Pedigree’ signboard outside the door that is making for exciting gigs and giggers. The beer is still expensive, the licence Raj still on the prowl. But the old racket of ‘passes’ are quickly turning into ‘tickets’ and tastes are spilling over into things like punk rock, electro and metal.
It seems like the right formula is to have an immigrant town mixed with moderately priced dives and the freedom of not caring whether the ‘scene’ is rocking or not. So while Shillong may be pushed as the rock capital of the country — it doesn’t have to jostle with filmi, dance or lounge music as much as Delhi or Bombay have to — it remains a bit of a showpiece. A scene, as the saying goes, has to be churning. And in that sense, it could be places like Delhi that are raising their agli heads and shaking them without peril.