Fusion acts in Indian indie music have come and gone, but some have managed to not only stay relevant but also drive the genre forward.
Both Agam and Thaikkudam Bridge occupy a special place in the country’s fusion music landscape. Agam, the carnatic progressive rock band from Bangalore, has been a key figure in bringing carnatic music to the forefront of independent music. Kochi-based Thaikkudam Bridge makes music that can’t be neatly labelled as one specific genre or another but is still widely revered.
For the bands, the key to staying relevant has little to do with marketing or publicity and everything to do with continually making music. This formula seems to be working for both of them as they are both working on new material and gearing up for releases.
Thaikkudam Bridge believes that the progress of art and music is directly related to how much it is cared for. The video for their song Navarasam is a metaphor for the life of Kathakali and dying classical art forms.
“All classical forms are like children. They have to be nurtured and cared for and allowed to grow with respect to the genuinity of the art form. If not given the attention it needs, we will find it in a covered hole, suffocated, unable to fulfill its destiny,” the band told indianexpress.com.
Agam and Thaikkudam Bridge both performed at RED FM’s South Side Story event on September 7 at Zorba the Buddha in New Delhi. The event celebrates food and culture from Kerala.
The fusion acts spoke to indianexpress.com about their influences, inspiration behind recent work, and upcoming projects.
Excerpts from a conversation:
Who are your influences? Is there anyone you would all agree on having a profound impact on your music?
Being a fifteen-member band, it’s hard to just pick one name as influences. Each person has their own. But the common factor would be respect given for each one’s influences.
What’s the usual process behind your compositions? Is there anyone person who writes the music?
Music-making is done in parts and stages. Composing is done usually by one guy and so far, it has been predominantly done by Govind Menon. The upcoming album has Vipin Lal, Mithun Raju and Ashok Nelson contributing too. We usually have a theme and a skeleton in our mind before beginning. Then come the production and lyrics. All our Malayalam lyrics are penned by Peethambaran uncle’s daughter and Govind’s sister Dhanya. This is usually where we put the flesh on the skeleton and the song looks close to what it would be once finished. Production is done usually by Govind and Mithun. If it’s someone else’s composition, Govind sits through it too. After this, we usually do a brainstorm where we sit together and give our individual opinions on the song. The result is a song which we present to our audience.
The Navarasam music video deals with some dark themes. What was the inspiration behind that?
The song and video storyline have been single-handedly conceived by Govind, and Dhanya gave words to his thoughts and ideas. Mithun played a legendary solo, Vipin sang those words to life and Littil Swayamp made a monumental video. The idea according to what Govind told us is that the song and video are a metaphor for the life of Kathakali and what it will face if not treated with care and respect. All classical forms are like children. They have to be nurtured and cared for and allowed to grow with respect to the genuineness of the art form. If not given the attention it needs, we will find it in a covered hole, suffocated and unable to fulfill its destiny.
Do you think progressive rock or the kind of fusion that you create have room to grow in India?
We believe marketing comes after creation. Thinking vice versa kills art. Then we are talking business. Playing with factors like those is like playing with elements. You may end up blowing things up. So, make music and let someone else bother about providing growth or selling it.
What are you working on right now? Can we expect an album anytime soon?
We are working on our second album Namah of which two singles namely “Salikal” and “Inside My Head” have already been released. And we are expecting it to be out anytime soon.
Who are your inspirations as a band? Are there any artistes to whom you can attribute your sound when you were starting out?
Jagadis Natarajan: We are heavily influenced by Dream Theater and their songwriting process.
What was the process behind making A Dream To Remember?
JN: The songs evolved from a collaboration we did with Smt. Aruna Sairam where the base framework for the songs came up. We then spent the next couple of years working on it and bringing it to its current state.
Was it tedious to record all the live videos for the album? Why decide to do a live session video and not something else?
JN: It wasn’t easy, but it was a lot of fun and learning for us. Working with an entire production crew, tight budgets and deadlines was a real eye-opener for us in terms of what it takes to put out a full-fledged music album.
A lot of the stalwarts of Progressive Rock and fusion in India have become inactive over the years. What do you think made you successful?
JN: The key is to stick together and continue making music. Making progress is key.
What are your favourite bands right now?
JN: We are currently listening to Dream Theater, Snarky Puppy and Plini from the international circuit. Closer to home, Thaikkudam Bridge and Pineapple Express are a few that we listen to.
What are you working on right now? Can we expect an album or a full tour anytime soon?
JN: We are definitely working on new material. You can expect something real soon.