Sounds Like a Plan

New event organisers and new listeners, the independent music scene in India is looking to expand its fan base beyond the metros.

music-m Monica Dogra of Shaa’ir
Written by Kevin Lobo | Published on:March 30, 2014 5:01 am

There is something about Swarathma’s music that made 17-year-old Vishwaraj Mahadik trek from Kolhapur to Pune to attend the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, the biggest annual indie music festival in India. The Bangalore-based folk-rock band is hugely popular for its earthy rhythm and homespun lyrics in Hindi and Kannada, and is one of the few Indian bands to have amassed a fan base in the UK. Kolhapur is closer to Bangalore than the UK, thought Mahadik, who loves Swarathma’s music so much, that he booked the band for a gig in his hometown.

“I wanted to bring a rock band to Kolhapur, something that people here have not seen before. But they needed to be a Hindi band so that people can understand what they are singing. People loved the show, and I’m planning to make this an annual affair,” says Mahadik. And while only 1,000 people attended the concert, Mahadik’s initiative is one of the many developments that is getting bands, brands and event managers excited about the independent, or indie music scene in India.

In the past five years, indie music has unshackled itself from hole-in-the-wall venues, and some select clubs in the country, to reach out to a large number of listeners with festivals such as NH7 Weekender (that travels to Pune, Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata), Escape in Naukuchiatal, UP, Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh and Hornbill in Nagaland. The indie scene now has set its sights on making their music relevant in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Agra, Baroda and Jodhpur.

“Indie music has come to a point where it does not need to stay a small cult, the music movement has become much larger, ” says Aditya Swamy, head, MTV India. The channel launched Pepsi MTV Indies last week with a format that does away with the VJ, plays only independent music in languages from all over India, and is dedicated to promoting independent endeavours in comedy, fashion and graffiti. Shows like One For The Road will see known artists such as Raghu Dixit, Shaa’ir and Func busking on the streets; Punk-Indiepedia will explain the lexicon of the indie community to new recruits. Open Files will be about album art and Tinker Tailor is a show on fashion.

Uday Benegal, vocalist of Indus Creed and Whirling Kalapas has seen the music video boom of the ’90s, its eventual implosion and now, the resurgence of independent music. “In the ’90s, both access to music and producing it as musicians was difficult. Now, a kid in a small town can produce his own music sitting at home, using software like Abelton or Logic. Whether it is rock, or electronic music, there will soon be artists from smaller towns that people will hear of,” he says.

Angaraag Mahanta, popularly known as Papon, is an example of what television can do for an artist who is not from a metro city. The Assamese musician and composer, who leads an …continued »

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