Delhi, today, is being touted as the rock capital of the country. But back in the 1980s and ’90s there were just a handful of bands, content with playing cover songs for an audience that had the distinction of being cloth-eared.
But that has changed, thanks to the sheer number of concerts being organised in the city and the talent emerging from it. Amit Saigal, editor, Rock Street Journal, says, “The change is tremendous. Today, almost 30 gigs are scheduled for a month in Delhi. Also, more bands are being formed here than anywhere else in the country.” Saigal should know, for he pioneered the pan-Indian platform for rockers, better known as GIR (Great Indian Rock).
And if carping critics won’t be persuaded by quantity then here are some booming facts. The GIR 2006 was won by The Superfuzz, a Delhi band. Joint Family, another Delhi band, who play Nu Metal, won a recent concert in Nagaland, considered to be the bastion of old-style rock music.
Nitin Malik of Parikrama scoffs at the very notion of Delhiites not knowing their stuff. He says, “Delhi doesn’t lack the taste for any kind of music. People know what they want and are willing to pay for it.” He is impressed by the new bands in the city that are skilled and original. Like the LSR college band, which floored him with its performance recently.
College bands—the stuff that most fledgling record dreams are made of. It’s not incidental that musicians, who are doing well, are sophomores or just out of college. There are about 50 active bands in Delhi. If you include school bands, then the number can easily swell to nearly a hundred.
People are starting early. While earlier most of them sounded like delinquents on the rampage, the music now is streamlined, with a touch of the professional. For it’s also a case of making music that sells. And this is where live gigs play their part. Vasav Vashisht, lead vocalist of Prestorika, feels the phenomenon has become popular because many schools have started promoting music as a course. “The music culture has moved on to schools. Students are increasingly listening to several genres. So by the time they enter college, they are able to give good music to the commercial market.”
There are numerous platforms available to college bands. There is no dearth of competitions promoting music in colleges. Says Adhir Ghosh, guitarist of the Kirori Mal College band, Five 8: “Delhi has come up in a big way as far as bands are concerned. There are two or three college bands playing in places like India Habitat Centre every week. One reason for the emergence of such bands is the fact that people are now willing to come forth and endorse good music. Competitions like Campus Rock Idols and Youth Nexus only go on to prove that there is strong support system.”
While most co-ed colleges have already gained a strong foothold when it comes to band music, women's colleges are not far behind either. Who's Jim? happens to be a band that has members from several girls’ colleges. Says Sunayana, a drummer in the band, "Even in girls' colleges, there are decent efforts being made to promote music. Last year, our band went to BITS-Pilani. We were the first girls' band to perform at their rock competition Rocktaves and the response we got was spectacular."
“Obviously, people buy an album after listening to the band live and judging its true worth,” says Pritwish, Them Clones. Places like DV8, Café Morrison, Turquoise Cottage and Mezz are inviting bands for an urban audience, which wants to look away from the commercial music being aired from every possible corner. The bands may or may not sell records, but they definitely have managed a following.
While good music continues to capture the fancy of young minds, the emergence of good bands in colleges is a prominent indicator of the fact that such music will go on to establish a strong foothold in the larger realm as well.