Twenty years ago, six teenagers came together to pursue their passion for rock music. They were only given four months by their parents to prove themselves, as no one in 1991 ever thought that the band would survive more than six months. Today, Parikrama has just celebrated its twentieth anniversary and is still going strong. The founder and manager of the band, Subir Malik, complete with retro style ponytail, John Lennon glasses and brightly coloured T-shirt, meets us for a chat over thin-crust pizzas and pasta at the newly opened Italian restaurant IT, at The Grand New Delhi.
In a country like India, how easy or difficult is it to survive only on music, especially non-film music?
To be honest, it is not really possible to survive only on non-film music. In all these years, Parikrama has never been a source of income for any of the band members. I had my family business till 2006 and since then I have been managing Silk Route and as many as 53 new bands that mainly perform as corporate bands (they play at corporate dos). I also manage individual performers like Mohit Chauhan and Aditi Sharma (of Dilli Dilli fame). Nitin, my younger brother and the lead vocalist of Parikrama, had earlier worked with BiTV as a music producer and now runs his own studio that handles music for documentaries, ads and jingles.
Sonam Sherpa runs the Parikrama School of Music in Delhi, while Chintan Kalra also runs his own school as well as an audio and video production unit. Saurabh Choudhary is also an audio and video producer and plays the guitar for Mohit Chauhan. Srijan, the youngest band member (he is only 22), is a full-time musician who performs with various other bands too. Parikrama is our passion and our priority, but all of us have various responsibilities and are mature enough to not think of this as our main source of income. All band members have the freedom to perform with other bands, but yes, Parikrama remains our top priority.
Parikrama is known more for doing covers. Is it easier to pull in crowds with covers than with original music?
Several people have made this allegation, but let me tell you, this is not quite true. Initially, after the band was formed in 1991, we performed covers of bands like Deep Purple and other hot favourites like Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin). But for the last four to five years, we have been performing a lot of original songs.
In fact, almost 80 per cent of our concerts now are with original songs. At the same time, we have no qualms playing covers in places like Bhatinda where, apart from our originals, we get requests for covers and we happily oblige the crowd. We have as many as 150 shows a year and are still the highest paid band. Incidentally, when Iron Maiden heard our performance at Bangalore and signed us for a seven-city tour of the UK including the mighty Download Festival at Donnington Park, it was on the basis of our originals. We have recently returned from a successful Canada and USA tour, where we played to a standing ovation at the prestigious Kennedy Centre.
In recent years, several independent bands have come up. Do they have a future?
It is heartening to see so much talent coming to the forefront and also to see how parents' mindsets have undergone a massive change. Now, most parents are very encouraging and this helps the children in a big way. I'm extremely pleased to see the number of bands that Delhi has produced especially in the last five to seven years. However, I would like to add a word of caution here. Singing in English is not that easy and you see a majority of such bands fizzle out in no time. That's why it is essential for them to be financially secure in other ways. They should also give full attention to their education. In fact, there are very few promoters of non-commercial music, there's hardly any music in MTV either. Parikrama has recently joined ArtistAloud.com, which is one of the most organised efforts I've seen in promoting non-commercial music.
Do Indian bands have any recognition abroad?
Very few of them. One of the biggest reasons is that bands singing in Hindi can't really survive. Secondly, you need an agent abroad to get the right kind of shows. A Bangalore-based band The Raghu Dixit Project does nearly 30 shows a year mainly because they have an agent out there.
Parikrama had toured all the Indian metros with Saif Ali Khan. What was that like?
It was an experimental tour that paid off very well. All of us hit it off very well as we listen to the same kind of music. Our first concert was a big hit and thousands of people came to hear us. Yes, a majority of them had come mainly due to Saif, but in the end they were listening to our music. These kinds of associations help the music industry. And I must say that the kind of music being created in Bollywood today is far more versatile and experimental than in the last decade. In fact, both Nitin and Sonam in their personal capacity are in talks with some music directors.
How important is the support of your loved ones for you and do your kids appreciate your kind of music?
Family support is a big factor in our lives. If our parents wouldn't have supported us, Parikrama would never have materialised. As for my wife Anu, she has been a real pillar of strength for me. Her unconditional support gave me the chance to fulfill my passion for music and be out on tours with feeling guilty about it. She has been there for the kids even if I'm not around. My elder daughter Ria is eleven-years-old and initially I didn't allow her to listen to any kind of Hindi music.
But, now I have left it to her to choose. She does love our music and had attended her first concert when she was just four months old. Ria also learns the classical piano and is already going for grade two of the same. As far as taking up music is concerned, it's entirely up to her. I will not force her to to take it up. My younger daughter Ira is just four-years-old and I think is way too young to decide about anything right now.
You have a keen interest in collecting LPs. Tell us more about your passion for them.
I have a passion for collecting old things and have been extremely fond of listening to LPs. I used to listen a lot to them on my wife Anu's father's turntable. Once in Kolkata I saw this old man's shop at Fleaschool Street that was full of LPs and I started buying loads of them from him. In fact, every time I would visit Kolkata, I would make it a point to pick all my favorite singers LPs from the shop. I can easily boast of having some very unique ones like the entire set of fourteen albums of AC DC and also a full box of singles by Cold Play. Almost very single song I love is there in an LP with me and I have never downloaded any music whatsoever.
The best time to listen to these LPs is early morning and though right now I have stacked in boxes, very soon I'm going to build my own library of these LPs. Incidentally, I also have a passion for collecting old Indian notes. I have a good collection of the old 100-rupee note, one rupee notes and also the notes that were used as common currency between India and Burma. I usually get these notes from Chandni Chowk and also from a person in Shillong. Recently, Mont Blanc came out with a limited edition collection of John Lennon pens, and I'm a proud owner of three of them. I am not a brand person but I love John Lennon.
From HT Brunch, July 3
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