It was while studying at St. Xaviers in Kolkata that Akshay George began singing for a few bands in the city. A few gigs here and there made him realise how he craved for full creative freedom and did not want to depend on guitarists. So,he taught himself how to pluck guitar strings and,anyway,had a bank of self-composed songs. Thats how he became Akshay George the singer-songwriter. This was two years ago but its only in the last six months that the 22-year-old Delhi-based artiste has bagged several local and outstation gigs.
Indie music has gradually opened gates for the singer-songwriter. While this segment may not be new (Shillong-based Lou Majaw began performing decades ago),the last year has seen a rise in the number of singer-songwriters,and the indie music community is embracing it well.
The NH7 Weekender held in Pune last November and the Escape Festival of Music and Arts held this month at Naukuchiatal gave ample space to singer-songwriters. Various gigspots at Hauz Khas Village in Delhi are their favourite haunts and even prominent venues such as Blue Frog and Manajsa,Delhi,hold singer-songwriter nights every month.
I decide what I want to play what chords,melody and songs. The taste of the audience is evolving and of course,the crazy energy of bands on stage works very well,but they need a change sometimes, says George,who penned his first song What you want when he was 17.
A mini-community of young singer-songwriters has come into existence. At a gig in Delhi,you might spot all of them in the same room encouraging each other from Devashi Sehgal who started four years ago,to the youngest singer-songwriter in Delhi,18-year-old Shantanu Pandit,to seniors such as Dhruv Visvanath and Jordan Johnson,who have albums to their credit.
Content with writing,singing,playing the guitar and the mouth organ,Pandit never really went out of his way to look for a band,for one reason comfort.
Teamwork can be fun and there are more creative juices that flow,but going solo is just more comfortable. To even perform at one gig,all members have to be free and rehearsal timings are fixed. But as a solo artiste,Im not answerable to anyone, he says. For three hours every Friday,the Delhi University student performs at Café Bel Cibo in Gurgaon.
It is,in fact,a rise in the number of venues that has resulted in more visibility for singer-songwriters in Delhi and Mumbai. The vibe that they give out is very mellow,calm and focussed on lyrics and melody there is an audience for that. Both the artiste and the audience have space for that now,with the number of venues that have cropped up in the last two years, says Girish Bobby Talwar,co-founder,NH7 Weekender.
Irrespective of the growing numbers and support of clubs and festivals,singer-songwriters still seem to get paid the least. Some feel its because the genre has just been revived while others believe its because organisers think a solo artistes job is easier than that of a bands.
I never get paid at most events; free food and accommodation,however,make up. The indie scene is still mostly band-oriented but in future,I see it getting better for us,financially, says Pandit.