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The battle of the wizard bands

The Harry Potter phenomenon has triggered a new genre in music called wizard rock. Ameta Bal tells more.
Hindustan Times | By Ameta Bal, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 11, 2007 01:34 PM IST

It's almost like magic - the way Pottermania has crept into everything over the last decade. Now, the Potter phenomenon has inspired the newest eccentricity by conjuring up a new genre of music, called wizard rock.

This is the first time a series of books has inspired a musical genre.

By the book
The wizard rock movement, primarily American, dates from 2002 and consists of around 200 bands which play all types of music from folk to metal.

The common thread between these wizard rock bands is that each group chooses a character from J K Rowling's Harry Potter stories and writes songs from their chosen character's perspective.

While performing live, they sometimes even dress up in film costumes.

Although most listeners of this music are fans, the genre is growing to encompass listeners beyond the Potter fan base. Most of these bands, in an attempt to promote reading as an activity, perform in libraries, bookstores and schools.

Louder Harry, louder
One of the most popular bands of this genre is, very simply, called Harry and the Potters. They are an indie wizard rock band from Massachusetts comprising brothers Joe (19) and Paul (27) DeGeorge.

The brothers dress and claim to be the book's titular character – Joe is Harry of Year 4 and Paul is Harry of Year 7.

The band debuted with a self-titled album in 2003 and went on to release five albums subsequently, with titles such as Voldemort Can't Stop The Rock and Scarred For Life.

While Paul plays the guitar, melodica and the baritone saxophone, Joe plays the keyboard, tenor saxophone, glockenspiel, tubular spells and theremin.

From playing for their first audience of six people, the brothers have gone on to tour all over the US and also the UK.

Another band Draco and the Malfoys, named after Harry's arch-rival, formed when brothers Brad Mehlenbacher and Brian Ross attended a party thrown by the DeGeorge brothers. Their lyrics are tongue-in-cheek and their music finds followers in very young Potter fans.

"Little kids really take it personally. They yell at us," said Ross recently in an interview.

Beam us up, Scottie
Even though this new craze has found followers in pre-teens and teens over the past few years, this movement is not entirely unprecedented.

There has been a category of music called filk (A popular or folk song with lyrics revised or completely new lyrics, intended for humorous effect when read) in existence since the early 1950s and popularised in the '70s. One of the many definitions of filk, as cited in online encyclopaedias, is that it is folk music with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Its origin lies in science fiction and fantasy conventions. Now there are dedicated filk conventions in Canada, England, Germany and the USA.

Wizard rock is different because of its obsession with just the Potter series. Bands such as the Moaning Myrtles, Gryffindor Common Room Rejects Squared, The Owl Post, Mostly Muggles and We-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named continue to perform at public and libraries and school auditoriums and enjoy support of fan clubs and online wizard rock websites.

A full-length feature film project documenting the wizard rock movement, Wizard Rockumentary, is also currently in production.

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