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Rocker round the clock

Years ago, Uday Benegal and his band Indus Creed were at the forefront of Indi rock. Now they’re back – to kick up a storm.

music Updated: Nov 06, 2010 17:12 IST
Sharin Bhatti

What do you get when you revive one of India’s best-known rock bands after 11 years? In the case of Indus Creed (born Rock Machine in 1984), many things have changed – the on-campus stages have given way to air-conditioned indoor venues, grungy outfits have metamorphosed into rocker chic ensembles, glam rock and lead solos have given way to electronic samples – but one thing has stayed the same.

That would be Uday Benegal’s powerhouse voice and performance. Right from the time the band burst on to the country’s music scene, the rocker has hooked audiences with his style. Benegal now again hopes to take centre stage with the newly reformed Indus Creed (now boasting two new members) and performed recently in front of old fans, and a scattering of new ones as well.

Live and Let Die
“We knew from the beginning that if there was ever a chance that we wanted to get back on stage when Indus Creed disbanded in 1999, we would revive it if we had a chance. The lure of the stage was too much to ignore,” says Benegal. The 32-year-old, who joined a young campus rock band in 1984 called Rock Machine and renamed it Indus Creed in 1993, still exudes the same amount of enthusiasm as he did when he wrote India’s only original rock anthems Pretty Child, Trapped and the first India-instrumentalised tracks with Alms for Shanti: the word percussionist Superbol and the melodic Kashmakash.

Indus Creed set many trends – cool videos, the first international tour by an Indian rock band, and pioneered the introduction of Hindustani classical music in rock (Pretty Child was the first Indian rock song to feature a tabla.) Benegal smiles, saying, “Jayesh (Gandhi – the band’s original lead guitarist) tells me that sometimes when he hears a mediocre fusion set he still thinks ‘Look what we started’. But we felt the instruments added great value to our tracks at that point.”

Despite success, the band disbanded in 1999, when Benegal left for New York. When quizzed about the split, despite numerous questions, Benegal has just one thing to say. “Jayesh and I told the band we wanted to leave. I love Mumbai and grew up here, but I had just had enough. No one else wanted to move, so Jayesh and I did,” he explains.

In the US, Benegal prepped for another chapter. “New York enticed me. I was a novice and there was so much to learn,” he says, adding, “My wife and I would visit theatres and drink in world cinema, which opened up my mind. But Jayesh and I still wanted to experiment with fusion music. That’s when we formed Alms for Shanti.”

Alms for Shanti played a number of gigs in the big Apple, introducing New Yorkers to the sitar, sarangi and tabla, and collaborating with the likes of Taufiq Qureshi. “As I grew as a musician, I also fell in love with movies and decided to become a filmmaker,” says Benegal, who enrolled in a New York film school, adding, “Now, I want to make movies.” Benegal is currently shopping for financers and producers for his script.

Rock & Roll is King
Music, however, continues to attract Benegal. “In 2008, I moved back to Mumbai and met with Mahesh (Tinaikar), who was in Indus Creed and we started jamming,” says Benegal. That led to the creation of an acoustic group (with Tanaikar) called Whirling Kalapas. And two years later, Benegal revived Indus Creed. “We have two new members and our sound has evolved because we have all evolved as musicians. The basis of our music is still the same – melodic rock. But we’re making new music, using electronic samples and will hope to digitally release our music,” says Benegal. “We will be playing in New Delhi and will hit the studio soon,” he signs off.

Indus Creed formed in 1984 as Rock Machine and changed their name in 1993. The original line-up had Mahesh Tinaikar on lead guitars, Mark Selwyn on bass, Uday Benegal on vocals, Jayesh Gandhi on rhythm and lead guitars, Mark Menezes and Adrian Fernandes on drums and Zubin Balaporia on keyboards. The band disbanded in 1999.

Some highlights
*Indus Creed released three albums: Rock ‘n’ Roll Renegade (1988), The Second Coming (1990), Indus Creed (1995)
*The band also represented India at the Festival of India in the USSR
*It performed with Bon Jovi to 40,000 people in Mumbai and performed live with Guns & Roses guitarist Slash in Bangalore at an MTV concert