In July last year,Bangalore rock act Parvaaz released their first EP two years after the band was formed. The five-track album,Behosh was backed by a four-city tour of Bangalore,Mangalore,Mumbai and Hyderabad during which the band managed to garner quite a following. This,despite the fact that many from the audience did not entirely understand the lyrics since their songs are in Urdu and Kashmiri.
Their choice of language owes to the fact that the bands vocalist Khalid Ahamed and guitarist Kashif Iqbal are from Kashmir and have known each other since they were children. For me,singing in Urdu or Kashmiri is singing in a language thats in me, says Ahamed. After Iqbal moved to Delhi in high school,the two met up after they moved to Bangalore for college and
started the band that now also
has Fidel Dsouza on bass and Sachin Banandur on drums
Parvaaz is one of the many bands active in the Indian independent music circuit that sing in a language other than English. Although several established names started the trend many years ago Delhis fusion-rock act Indian Ocean,Mumbai metal band Bhayanak Maut,fusion band Advaita from Delhi,Mumbai rock act Agnee and Bangalore folk-rock band The Raghu Dixit Project the number of new acts singing in regional languages has seen a steep rise recently,such as Hindi progressive metal band Paradigm Shift and Hindi rock/ folk/ pop band Lagori.
Like Parvaaz,the choice of language is often a matter of comfort for musicians as in the case of Paradigm Shift,a four-year-old band from Thane. The bands debut EP,Coalescence,released in April last year,was well received. However,the bands vocalist Kaushik
Ramachandran believes its their somewhat unorthodox music that has earned them fans. Fusing our violin melodies with heavy progressive rock parts got us attention, says Ramachandran.
Indie music bands with lyrics in vernacular languages have not had it easy all these years. While Indian Ocean is now one of the most celebrated bands in the country,it didnt begin easily for them in the early 90s. Bands in Hindi didnt exist back then, says Rahul Ram,vocalist and bassist. They were mostly English speaking people who didnt appreciate singing in Hindi.
Even until seven years ago when Bangalore-based folk-fusion band Swarathma started playing,audiences were only learning to accept non-Bollywood and non-indipop Hindi music. When we played in some colleges in 2006,the crowd would start booing us when they realised we were not going to play any popular music, says Pavan Kumar,percussionist. So much so that they were advised not to write songs with Hindi and Kannada lyrics.
Their persistence in doing so,however,paved the way for a number of bands that have cropped up. Besides Parvaaz and Paradigm Shift,theres Highway 61,a rock band from Pune that has been active since 2008,Mumbai pop-rock act Airport,formed in 2009,Delhi alt-rock act Sifar,that has been playing since 2008 but released its first EP in 2011; and most recently,Mumbai alt-rock act Mango Man that started playing earlier this year.
While Paradigm Shifts Ramachandran believes the market for non-English indie bands today is only warming up,Bangalore-based Lagori believes Hindi bands have better career prospects. The band was initially put together by guitarists Geeth Vaz and Edward Rasquinha,who were previously in an English rock band called Fahrenheit. Despite their limited knowledge of the language,the two decided to enter the market for Hindi bands,which they believe is larger than that for English. Hindi bands get to do more shows,and that is what we wanted, says Vaz,who believes language shouldnt be a barrier if it can get a band more audience.