Still in orbit

Parikrama, one of India’s oldest rock ‘n’ roll bands, on turning 25 and what has sustained them.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Updated: June 17, 2016 1:48:52 am

Parikrama, music band, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Jim Morrison, Deep Purple, Subir Malik, Chintan Kalra, Sonam Sherpa, Prashant Bahadur, Rahul Malhotra, music news, entertainment news The members of Parikrama

Ride your six string, For as long as you can/
Till the world is out of sight
Just feel the power of the crazy sound/
Feel it, jump deep inside

In the Fall of 1991, a gig at Delhi’s Fr Agnel School was a catharsis of sorts for the ones headbanging on the stage. The song was Xerox and special for six boys with a passion for classic rock, who bonded over Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Jim Morrison and Deep Purple. They played their hearts out on the stage and never looked back. Soon enough, they would set the stage alight every time they stepped on it. The boys who called themselves Parikrama, because they thought they would want to orbit the universe forever, were playing rock ‘n’ roll, with all its slickness and sweat in place.

After beginning as a classic rock cover band, Parikrama soon charted their own journey, making original music. “We just wanted to make music. No holds barred. And when we did, the audience and us became people we loved. We just didn’t know that it will all have such a long run,” says Subir Malik, the lead keys player of the band. The boys have now become men and complete their 25 years today.

On June 17, 1991, Parikrama started as a four-month project with four college students — Subir (keyboard), his brother Nitin (vocals), Chintan Kalra (bass), Sonam Sherpa (guitar), Prashant Bahadur (guitar) and Rahul Malhotra. Subir, a student of Kirorimal College in Delhi, roped in his younger brother Nitin for vocals, and other members from the gigs he used to attend those days.

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After four months of “trying to do music” and finding oneself, Subir was to join his family business of motor spare parts. Probably Nitin would have followed suit. Their first gig took place on September 15 in an emerging yet nascent rock scene. While Bahadur and Malhotra left to pursue higher studies, Saurabh Chaudhary (guitar) and Srijan Mahajan (drums) joined in some years later.

Parikrama, music band, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Jim Morrison, Deep Purple, Subir Malik, Chintan Kalra, Sonam Sherpa, Prashant Bahadur, Rahul Malhotra, music news, entertainment news The members of Parikrama during their first gig in September 1991

Over 3,000 gigs, numerous fans, lots of travel and brilliant music later, Parikrama has transformed into one of the better bands India has seen. But the core remains the same. Their next gig is on June 19 this year. “Frankly, it doesn’t feel like 25 years. By doing something that you love day and night, you just don’t feel that time has passed. This band and the last 25 years weren’t about survival. They were about kicking ass, kicking it well and doing what we love,” says Subir.

Another significant gamechanger was the fact that they never created a studio album, hardly recorded in studios and always gave away their music for free. “The idea was to get more gigs from a great one. No college student at that time had Rs 500 to buy a CD. We decided to give our music for free downloads the moment we found that there is something called internet,” says Subir.

At that time, every band craved a record deal. But Parikrama gave the finger to the A&R (artists and repertoire) managers who wanted to do things their way and didn’t care about what the band wanted.

The band delivered hits after hits, such as Open skies and Gonna get it and then in 1996 came But it rained. A song that followed the kidnappings in Kashmir, it spoke not about those who were taken away but those who they left behind. The members of the band can never forget the gigs where 40,000–50,000 people have sung along this piece with them, note for note, lyric for lyric.

“It’s overwhelming, to say the least,” says Sherpa. The song was also featured when the band opened for English metal legends Iron Maiden in 2007. “We were performing in Bangalore and we spotted Steve Harris, Janick Gers and Dave Murray in the wings, giving us thumbs up and telling us to go on far beyond our set time. It hit us in the right places,” says Subir about the band that has opened for the metal giants almost six times now, including once on their turf in the UK.

The journey has been a little different for the band’s current drummer Srijan Mahajan (also the drummer for Half Step Down and Fuzz Culture), who has spent a decade with the band. “I had never really seen a Parikrama gig before a call from Subir came in one day. It’s been a rollercoaster ride since then. I have travelled the world with them, learnt work ethic and so much more musically,” says Mahajan, who actually dozed off before his first gig with the band and couldn’t be found. The band was already on the stage, sans a drummer, the audiences screaming and waiting for a typical mayhem of a set to begin. “I was finally found and ran on stage. No one abused,” says Mahajan.

“What now” is a question that the band thinks is redundant. “You think of what now if you’ve finished what you started. We still like freaking out and creating music,” says Subir. A diamond jubilee is what the founder member is looking at.

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