The past 11 years have been extremely important for me. Eleven years ago, I was kicked out of my vocal programme in New York University, USA, for not being able to pay my college fee. I also found out that I had vocal nodes (cysts found on the surface of one’s vocal chords) 11 years ago. I was pi**ed at God. I had a bucket full of broken dreams, and a low self-esteem. I had the worst stage fright back then. I thought, once I overcome the fright, I would end up with a career in musical theatre, and then, probably, become a teacher. Never had I imagined that I’ll end up in India. I never thought I would sing Rock N’ Roll.
The big change
The music industry in India has flourished immensely for independent musicians in the past 11 years. It has grown effectively and at great speed. Eleven years ago, it was nearly non-existent. India now has countless music festivals, venues to perform, record labels and TV shows dedicated to indie music. I feel lucky to have been part of several pivotal and history-making moments.
I have watched the first-ever music festival that was held in the country. I signed with the first-ever independent record label, Only Much Louder (OML), and released my first record with them. The first-ever music festival NH7 Weekender, is now being held in four different cities across India. It hosts close to one lakh young music lovers. I have played at the first-ever Indian EDM festival, Sunburn, and have also seen the SulaFest come up in a big way. I am glad it is still going strong.The rise of music festivals can be attributed to a community of entrepreneurs such as, but not limited to, Nikhil Chinapa of Submerge and Vijay Nair of OML and Sula. They have taken huge risks. They have run such fests at a loss for a few key years in order to create festival environments, in which people with alternative tastes can enjoy. It’s because of festivals like these that so many top international DJs started coming to India. The organisers were and still are willing to pay their fee.
I still remember when the first-ever live music venue with a proper stage and sound was being built. I was among the first musicians to take the stage. Blue Frog (Lower Parel), continues to be a music venue that has hosted many independent artistes’ dream gigs. The Dewarists was the first show of its kind. It threw light on the lives of non-Bollywood musicians, who had come up from nothing. The Stage is now the first English singing reality show in India.
I feel the Internet has been the biggest weapon for indie artistes. It has helped them reach out to a wider audience, spread their work and build communities. It is a newer concept in India than it is in the west. That could perhaps be the reason why we are still in the throes of a musical revolution.
The access to the Internet has also contributed to changing the tastes of Indian audiences. There was a time when kids could not buy their favourite rock CD, unless they knew of an illegal shop to purchase it from. Now, all you need is a net connection. There have been so many firsts in the past 11 years. So much has grown, but I am still desperate to see it mushroom into an even larger industry.
As told to Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari
(Monica Dogra is an American singer of Indian origin. She is one half of the Mumbai-based electronic rock duo Shaa’ir and Func)