For a long time, I avoided – mostly – listening to Indian rock/pop bands because with a few exceptions, I thought all they produced was heavy metal. That is a notion (maybe it was based on reality, I don’t know) that has mercifully been given a sound thrashing in the last about year and a half. There was a time that (almost) every band here played only covers because that’s all the audience was interested in hearing from them. Original music was usually booed. That’s changing – and quite rapidly. A slew of bands that play diverse genres, some that even refuse to be slotted, has emerged. I’ve got around to going in for live performances by some of these acts and I can tell you that the studio doesn’t quite do them as much justice as when they get on stage. I’ve got a few of these songs on my playlist right now. They are not fully representative of what’s going on in the Indian independent music scene. Heck, these songs do not necessarily even capture the essence of the bands playing them. These are just a small sample.
Avial is one of those few Indian bands that I heard and enjoyed even in my deluded Indian-rock-is-all-metal period. These guys refused to go with English as the lingua franca of rock music. Instead, Avial blended Malayalam (from the South) lyrics and a strong Kerala folk tradition with the rock music idiom. ‘Nada Nada’ fits in neatly in my play-at-11 (volume, not time) playlist with its ‘walk on’ theme and insistent, adrenaline-pumping music.
Lagori creates hooksy, accessible pop/rock tunes with a distinct Indian sound – like Avial – in its Hindi lyrics and vocals that have a founding in the Hindustani classical form. Of the 5 songs that they have released online at the time of this post (they do have a larger body of work which at this point are ‘reserved’ for their live performances), my favorite is ‘Jeene Do’ with its very come-join-us chorus.
Allegro Fudge‘s music is a curious yet pleasing amalgam of genres. You’ll find elements of folk, pop, rock, country and more in their tunes. They manage to give an interesting twist to even the covers that they take up (sample their versions of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ online). ‘Maximum City’ is a tribute to their home-town and to my mind is among their very best tunes.
A little over 10 years back when bands in India were largely getting by on covers, a rare act emerged with their first studio album of originals. Thermal And A Quarter refused to pander to the demands of the masses for the familiar but yet have created their own strong and loyal following. Over a decade and many songs later, the tune that still gets me playing it multiple times is their title track from their debut album ‘Jupiter Cafe’. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep at it – I’m a sucker for jam bands.