Before popular culture in India was introduced to the dubstep wobble in Amit Trivedi’s Ishaaqzade in 2012, a movement in alternative culture was already experimenting with bass music at the turn of the decade. “Bay Beat Collective (BBC) in Mumbai, Bass Foundation in Delhi and DJ Vachhan in Bangalore were pushing bass-heavy music in their respective cities. These were small steps that needed momentum to make the scene bigger,” says Sohail Arora, founder of the artiste booking and event management agency, Krunk. This momentum came in the form of Bass Camp, Krunk’s first event which had the three crews travel to each other’s venues for massive bass music events. “From 30 people dancing to the music in Zenzi, Bandra, we suddenly had over 200 at Zenzi Mills, Lower Parel,” says Arora, who plays bass-heavy music under his solo moniker EZ Riser and with BBC.
That was 2011. This year, the company completes five years and the bass scene has grown from 200-people parties to stages dedicated to the genre at festivals such as NH7 and Sunburn. Meanwhile, Arora has moved on to promote musicians from other emerging genres. The 16 artistes he has on his roster belong to a variety of alternative spaces: future garage of Sandunes, electro pop of Your Chin, ska, reggae and dancehall grooves of Delhi Sultanate & Begum X, among others. “I have an ear for alternative sounds, and I go by my gut when it comes to choosing artistes,” he says.
Arora was part of the independent music scene since college; playing for nu-metal band Skin Cold. At 22, he joined the then-newly-opened Blue Frog as a programmer. For the next two years, Arora would go on to book over 150 acts, interacting with international booking agents and also venue managers across the country. “I realised that there was no touring circuit in India, and I wanted to create it. Krunk became the natural next step,” he says.
Initially, Krunk booked for acts such as Shaa’ir + Func, Scribe and Sridhar/ Thayil. But it soon evolved with a focus solely on DJs and producers. Most of the artistes, currently on their roster, are newbies when they sign up with the company, playing genres seldom heard in clubs. Gigs for them would have been difficult to come by, but Arora has tapped his network from Blue Frog days to provide them with a platform. “I make sure that people are seeing the artist non-stop at gigs. From there it is up to the artiste to take it to the next level.”
Take for instance Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes who had played just a couple of gigs before she approached Arora. He started with booking her at smaller club venues, first in Mumbai, then across the country. As interest in Ardeshir’s music grew, she started getting calls from the festival circuit. Currently, she is being offered sponsorship for her gigs.
Arora is now on the expansion path. He wants to start managing artistes, adding live artistes to his roster again and maybe even launch a Krunk festival sometime next year. “I have gone from being arrested for keeping a club open too late in my first year to getting a stage dedicated to Indian artistes at Outlook Festival in Croatia last year. The scene is new and we’re always learning.”
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