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Notes that nudge

Indian alternative music isn’t as ‘lifeless’, after all.

music Updated: Apr 16, 2010 01:43 IST
Malvika Nanda

It’s roughly been ten years since the Indian alternative music became a defining point in my life as well as counter culture in the country. At the fag end of the nineties, when bands were making do with paltry money (if any at all), bad sound, irreverent avenues, the conformists said we don’t have a ‘rock’ scene. In 2010 when the world is beginning to notice our acts, some are still saying the same.

Does a revolution start with a ready crowd of a hundred odd people? Are several thousands fans, of this genre across India not people who count? The music will be heard as long as there are people listeners, quantifying a form of art or its patrons means nothing to those who subscribe it; they get to it anyway. The rant that we often hear from the ‘discerning majority’ is about how the music of Indian bands isn’t ‘our’ music. What would qualify as our music anyway? Would it be an array of Indian instruments or a theme with an Indian context? When Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir plays we see some of those heads bob in awe, but when Them Clones sing In The Name of God (a song about the US war on Iraq) they call it aping the West. Who defines what’s ‘our’ music and through process vis-a-vis ‘theirs’ anyway!

Naxalism found space in British act Asian Dub Foundation’s single Naxalite, India’s foremost rock band Parikrama captured the pain of a child of a martyred soldier in But It Rained... Contentious or not, music can’t be dictated by geographical relevance. My answer to ‘what was the last politically or socially relevant song that you heard from an Indian act’, would be: is that all that matters? Even if it did, the poorly informed ‘outsiders’ may want to do a little groundwork.

MenWhoPause, for example like many Indian acts, have lent their creative energies to several socially relevant issues. Save the Yamuna being one. Their debut album Home dealt with issues ranging from incest to religious discrimination. MWP guitarist IP Singh’s explosive political satire Kaatil Sardar song takes their ‘thinking man’s music’ to another level.

Bangalore-based folk fusion act Swarathma take on the Indian political circus through the song, Topiwaale. Pentagram collaborated with Shankar Mahadevan and Javed Akhtar for a song called Price of Bullets that took a critical view of the Kargil war way back. Maybe listening to the music rather than dissecting its ulcers is a good idea. To quote from Jack Johnson’s Hope, “You don’t have to always keep your head higher than the heart.”