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Indian rock: Coming of age?
Aabhas Sharma
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March 06, 2007 18:52 IST

While Indian rock bands will have to wait before they can get exposed to audiences and get marks for their music, one has to take note of how they are coming up with out-of-the-box creative names for their bands.

There's F.t.N that essentially stands for F*** the Name. Then there's AtmaHatya (suicide), while another group that croons calls itself Depth of Suffering. Adding to this growing number of unusual names is a band called Pin Drop Violence.

While we are willing to applaud and give them full marks for these names, just how do these bands score musically? More importantly, how do these bands rate the Indian rock music scene? Has there been a significant change in the perception and are there growing numbers of platforms for these acts to showcase their talent?

Surojit Deb, member of a band called ThemClones, says, "The scene has certainly improved enormously. When we had started out, we used to have only free gigs but now people are actually paying to hear Indian rock bands as well."

ThemClones began almost six years ago and is considered one of the more popular rock bands in the country. They have won several awards including Jack Daniel's Tennesse Awards. Deb credits corporates like Jack Daniel's for bringing a significant change in the Indian rock scene.

"More corporates have come in to support bands and a growing number of audiences know that Indian rock bands are doing rather well these days."

Like the Tennesse Awards, annual competitions like Campus Rock Idols are also giving these bands a platform to showcase their talent. F.t.N, winners of this year's Rock Idols fest, are already finetuning their instruments and gearing up for the opening act before Iron Maiden performs in Bangalore on March 17.

"The prize for winning the Rock Idols fest was to do an opening act at the Iron Maiden performance," says Shivan, lead vocalist of F.t.N. Naturally, the band is nervous and excited too.

He adds, "It still hasn't sunk in and every time I think about the forthcoming gig, I find it unbelievable."

Shivan narrates an interesting story regarding the band's name. They were scheduled to perform for their first ever gig at a competition but didn't have a name to pen down, so one of the members just wrote down F.t.N. "Since then," Shivan laughs, "the name just stuck."

They have five members in their band and have been performing together for over two years now. Initially it was difficult to get along, what with the members having their own points of view, but with continuous jamming sessions they got in the groove and since then have been performing together.

And although the Indian rock scene has improved tremendously over the last three years, Shivan wonders if there are still enough opportunities for these acts to explore.

Members of the queerly named, Mumbai-based band Bhayanak Maut feel that the rock scene in India is looking positive.

Venky, lead guitarist of this band, says, "We have seen bad times when performing in front of a paltry crowd used to be a major achievement. But now, it gives us a great high when people come in numbers and appreciate our music."

The band had recorded with The Demonstealer for a split CD called Fine Tuned Disasters while ThemClones too have been busy with their album. Venky adds, "We do get a lot of support from people and it encourages us to keep composing good music."

But even as desi rock acts find some listeners, the overall music industry is still dominated by Bollywood music, international rock, reggae and pop acts. And it's here that Indian rock might get a bit lost. Very few TV channels or radio stations give enough coverage or prominence to these bands and a lot needs to be improved in this sphere.

Vinay Nayar, manager, Pin Drop Violence, says, "We need the media to support these bands. If people aren't aware of them, it is not because their music is not good or original but because not enough coverage is given to them."

But there are listeners who crib that most of these bands don't play original compositions and end up playing Pink Floyd, Metallica or Nirvana songs.

Venky reacts, "Well, it's not exactly true. Though gigs might demand us to play some international numbers, we do play our own popular songs too." F.t.N too plays original songs like Provokening and Quake, and is now in the process of composing some more tracks before the Iron Maiden gig.

"You can't expect us to play all our songs if we are performing in a pub or a restaurant. Even if we don't want to, we have to play international songs on popular demand," says Deb. But are there enough places to perform? "To perform, yes, but to practice, no, as we get thrown out of homes for the noise we make," quips Shivan.

A lot of pubs like Not Just Jazz by the Bay in Mumbai, several pubs in Bangalore and Chennai and, even in Delhi, places like Pebble Street and Turquoise Cottage invite these bands to perform and pay a decent amount of money.

The big change is that people are paying entry fees in some pubs to hear these acts. Now that's something which was completely unheard of at least three years ago.

"While we may not be chased for autographs or get mobbed in public, whatever appreciation we are getting is good enough at the moment," says Shivan. So autographs and mobbing can wait; for now, these bands are happy to rock'n'roll!

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