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|Music of India|
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735 (Rajasthan)
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Indian rock is a music genre in India that incorporates elements of Indian music with mainstream rock music, and is often topically India-centric. While India is more often known for its (northern and southern) classical music and Bollywood filmi music, the Indian rock scene has also produced numerous bands and artists. There are also various non-resident Indians who have formed bands rooted in Indian culture. Moheener Ghoraguli, a Bengali independent music group from Kolkata, is arguably India's and Bengal's first popular rock band.
- 1 Early history
- 2 1980s and 1990s
- 3 2000s
- 4 Subgenres
- 5 Regional music scenes
- 6 Independent record labels
- 7 Documentary on Indian rock
- 8 Issues faced
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
India, in the 1950s and 1960s, uniquely amongst developing markets, had a record industry in the Gramophone Company of India (an RCA/HMV/EMI subsidiary), and LPs, EPs, and 45rpm records were freely available, including those of rock and roll acts from the USA and Britain, but also of contemporary pioneering Indian rock bands. The president of the firm, Bhaskar Menon (who later became the President of Capitol Records in the United States) was the leading promoter of Western pop music in India. Later in 1970, Polydor, the German Label, began an India label distributing rock music.
Of these mid-1960s to early 70s beat groups, as they were then termed, one of the most notable were the Mystiks from Bombay, the Beat-X from Madras, and the Flintstone from Calcutta, who composed and played both early British Invasion influenced songs, and post-Sgt. Pepper hard rock. Also, from Delhi, during this period, there were The Thunderbirds (featuring singer Ashwani Bali), and WAFWOT (also with Ashwani on vocals, with organist Mark Spevak, from the U.S.) These bands played regularly on the Indian university and college music circuits, and some had successful EP and LP releases. Also notable from this period (1964–1970) was the female R&B singer, Usha Iyer, now Usha Uthup, who had successful covers of "Jambalaya" and The Kingston Trio song, "Greenback Dollar". A notable compilation LP titled "Simla Beat '70" was released during this period, from a contest of the same name. The winning bands recorded their versions of Western hard rock of the time. This tradition of covering Western rock would continue until the 1980s, when it was more common to compose original songs.
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Like Western rock musicians at the time, Indian musicians also began fusing rock with traditional Indian music from the mid-1960s onwards. Many of these songs were often filmi songs produced for popular Bollywood films, which often overshadowed the country's independent rock scene. Some of the more well known early rock songs (including styles such as funk rock, pop rock, psychedelic rock, raga rock, and soft rock) from Bollywood films include Mohammed Rafi's "Jaan Pehechan Ho" in Gumnaam (1965), Kishore Kumar's "O Saathi Re" in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978), and Asha Bhosle songs such as "Dum Maro Dum" in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), "Ae Naujawan Hai Sab" in Apradh (1972), and "Yeh Mera Dil Pyar Ka Diwana" in Don (1978).
Indian influence on Western music
In the 1960s, renowned Western acts such as The Yardbirds, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and The Byrds were notably influenced by Indian classical music as a way of reinforcing the psychedelia in their music. While jazz musicians, notably John Coltrane, had ventured into Indian music and spiritualism (see Indo jazz, Sitar in jazz, and Jazz in India), the influence of Indian classical music on 1960s rock began in earnest with George Harrison's Ravi Shankar inspired raga rock song "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" in 1965 and The Beatles' very public sojourn with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram in Rishikesh in 1968, following the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. Raga rock led to the development of psychedelic rock, which in turn laid the foundations for heavy metal music.
The Indian rock scene would later give rise to one of the world's most famous rock stars, Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara. One of his formative musical influences was the Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar. He began his music career as a teenager in Bombay with the rock band, The Hectics, which was founded in 1958 and often performed cover versions of Western rock and roll artists such as Little Richard and Cliff Richard. After leaving the band in 1962, he moved to England, where he later led the rock band Queen (formed in 1971), which went on to become one of the world's most famous rock bands.
The Indian rock scene also gave rise to one of the pioneers of disco music, Biddu, who originally began his career in an Indian rock band called The Trojans. It was India's first English-speaking band, and found success producing cover versions of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Trini Lopez, and other Western hits of the day, in the clubs of Bangalore, Calcutta, and Bombay. After the band broke up, he moved in 1967 to England, where he later found breakthrough success after producing "Kung Fu Fighting" for Carl Douglas.
1980s and 1990s
While the orientalist trend of the 60s and 70s was by the 80s and 90s largely over, India itself continued to produce bands in various styles of rock music, from soft rock and roll and pop rock, to hard rock and metal. In the early 1980s, however, rock was largely overshadowed by disco, which dominated Indian pop music up until the mid-1980s.
With the arrival of MTV, tastes rapidly changed, encouraging bands to harden their style and focus more on underground styles such as death metal, alternative metal, and progressive rock. The 1990s saw the rise of a much larger following of various harder styles for this reason. Bands that had formed in the 80s, such as Rock Machine (who would later be known as Indus Creed) - (including Mahesh Tinnaikar, Uday Benegal, etc.)...altered their style with the influx of newer techniques and influences from the west. Notable suburban metal-blues bands with 1960s and 1970s metal influences included IIT Powaii based Axecalibre, fronted by Oliver Pinto, Prashant Nair and covered flamboyant guitar-based blues and hardcore metal including ballads. Contemporaries of the time were Easy Meat from Pune and Bands such as Holocaust, Morgue (fronted by vocalist Mrinal Das, Drummer Neeraj Kakoty, Ambar Das and Raju Seal on Twin Attack Guitars, Manas Chowdhury on Bass), Dorian Platonic from Guwahati, Assam, Grassroots Revival, Postmark, The Cannibals, Phoenix,Phynyx and Drixian Empire/Dark Crusader from Manipur. Others formed in the 1990s with harder styles influenced by the growing split between popular rock, such as Britpop, alternative styles, such as punk, and metal styles, such as thrash. The Indian subgenre of fusion, which encourages a similar blend of ancient Indian musical traditions with rock music to raga rock, was also carried forward, and is perhaps the most unusual Indian style of rock. Needless to say the rise of Sanskrit Rock Band (The Army of Narasimha Dev) had sprung to instant success in no time, founded by Lead vocalist Biju Gangadharan from ISKCON background, is a Sanskrit scholar and a highly talented Master in composing Sanskrit mantras into modern age rock music. Biju Gangadharan is considered as Sanskrit Rock Guru with a stunning performance in 33 countries up his shoulder. His guitarist, Chandresh Kudwa, is the most successful lead guitarist in India, and his percussionist, Nishadh Chandra, turned out to be the busiest music programmer in Bollywood. It was during this time that Palash Sen's Euphoria surfaced in the Indian scene as a straight ahead English rock band. The band later started writing in Hindi, and gave birth to what is now known as "Hind Rock". Euphoria went on to became India's most popular, successful and commercially accepted Independent act.
The current Indian rock scene has a larger following than ever, (although it is still marginalized compared to Indian film music, particularly the filmi soundtracks of Bollywood) and may soon become recognized in the international arena, as various South American and Japanese bands have become. Recent entries into the rock music scene are increasingly becoming comparable in their production quality to Western bands, and have been compared favorably to other internationally recognized acts. Now digital technology is making it easier than ever for these bands to distribute and sell their music. Some British bands of South Asian origin, such as Swami have, like their hip-hop counterparts, tried to enter the Indian market in addition to maintaining the traditional fanbase of non-resident Indians in United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Others, such as Rudra, have emerged from Indian communities in other Asian countries. Progress is certain for the Indian rock scene with the advent of entities that support this genre. Rock Street Journal and Rolling Stone India are the two major publications that have been promoting Indian rock bands. The scene has also been transformed by the online medium, and the subsequent rise of a number of online portals promoting Indian rock, most notably the indie music website NH7, Headbangers India, IndianMusicMug], Unholy Maunder, IndianMusicRevolution, Indian Metal Scene etc. and Metal Spree.
Rock and roll
India has produced many rock bands, some of whom have made it into mainstream Indian music and achieved some international recognition. RLC66 one of the upcoming acts from Mumbai trying to combine various genres from western music. Their main influences are Porcupine Tree, Tool, Dream Theater. The song "Abrupt" is earning some good number of fans in Mumbai underground scene. Indian Guitar Player Kapil Srivastava has composed Rock and Roll fusion in his Indian Guitaroo Volume 2.
An Indian subgenre of rock exists that focuses on blending traditional Indian styles of music with rock music. The term for non-Indian bands using Indian instrumentals and vocal in rock is raga rock. However, Indian fusion also encompasses attempts by Indian pop musicians and film composers to incorporate rock music into their work, starting in the 70s with film scores like those of the Amitabh Bachchan classics. The Brown Indian Band features accomplished Indian classical musicians in concert with jazz virtuosos. More recently the multi-cultural British band Botown have taken elements of Bollywood and fused them with soul and funk to great success.The New Delhi Based Band 'Ojapali' is also doing a lots of experiments with Electronica Fusion music and Folk music of Assam. The Kochi-based band Motherjane typefies bands producing this genre of music. Motherjane guitarist Baiju Dharmajan is a pioneer of introducing the guitar music style known as carnatic shredding.Bangalore based carnatic rock band Agam and fusion rock outfit Divine Raaga,Kaav,Veenar are other examples of mature songmakers in the country. Karnatriix is another band which has defined a new genre of fusion music labelled 'New-age World music'.Their ever-evolving sound today registers as ideally in sync with the 21st century's pan-cultural landscape. The name 'KARNATRIIX' which is a word play, meaning 'Aural Trickery', openly defines their music. Mellifluous melodies and sophisticated phrases deep-rooted in Blues music with an Indian Classical touch, combined with raw percussion and electronically produced subtle beats, voices and effects, form the core essence of the Karnatriix's musical nature. Indian Guitarist Kapil Srivastava composed Rock and Raga Fusion music in his Indian Guitaroo Volume 1.
Indian funk is a loose term describing the style of rock and roll which is sometimes blurred into the realms of pop and other genres. Whereas Indian fusion may only incorporate Indian styles into rock, or rock into Indian forms of music, Indian funk can be broadly defined as what rap-metal is to heavy metal - an infusion of elements from rap, reggae, pop and dance genres that some might consider to not be 'true' rock. Groups originating in South Asian communities in Western countries like Britain are noted for this style, with bands such as Swami and Asian Dub Foundation using elements of UK garage, UK bhangra and hip-hop, such as synthesizers, rap vocals and turntables. Also based in the UK, Botown take an approach inspired by Funkadelic with a large lineup of live musicians to blend Bollywood music with soul and funk. Few rock bands such as Silent Echo (Delhi) and Psycho Frequency (Delhi) use a wide range of samples and mechanically evolved sounds. Swastik the band, founded in 2005 (Chandigarh Based band) is upcoming band which brings the blend of Hindustani Culture and the core essence of Indian culture twined with various other cultures, Swastik the band aims to designing Indian music on western rhythms with a pinch of Folk And Sufi Music to add flavor to their compositions. Rohit Joshi, Founder and the Lead Guitars/vocals of Swastik the band believes on lines by John Green "Some people have lives; some people have music".
Hard rock and metal
The Indian Metal Band M.A.I.D.S (Metal Aliens in Devil's Soul) laid the foundation of Heavy Metal/Rock in South India, Madras in the early 90s. Singaporean band Rudra initially got their worldwide push from major metal label Sonic Wave International). With their style of 'Vedic metal' based around Hindu themes, the band have gained some fame in South East Asia, fusing metal and traditional music in the vein of Brazil's Sepultura, although they do not use avant-garde instruments as in the case of the latter. Many international critics from America, Germany and other countries have given the band's albums rave reviews.
Since the genre was pioneered by Rudra in the late 1990s, it has grown in popularity. Bands like Wingz Of Vayraag (India) Aryadeva (Ukraine), Symmetry (Indonesia), Warriors of Peace (India), Asura (India), Advaita (India), The Aryan March (India), Bhairav (India), Narasimha (Singapore), Kaliyuga (Malaysia), Azrael (Australia) and Blue River (Sri Lanka) Punarjanma (India) have done pioneering work in the genre. Often, along with the Vedic lyrics, the music has shades of Indian classical music. The definitive album of this genre is the Rudra album The Aryan Crusade released in 2001. In addition, India has produced many metal bands that combine ethnic-folk music with various forms of metal to create folk metal bands. Indian rock has been influenced by some notable cultural trends, and has in turn produced influences of its own. Indian musicians have also collaborated with other musicians from across the globe.
Demonic Resurrection laid the foundation for Indian Extreme metal early in 2000 when Extreme metal in India was a scarce minority, since then it has garnered popularity especially in the underground scene and spawned many bands like Corroded Dreams, Escher's Knot, Crypted, Bestial murder and some bands have gone to the extreme of adapting Black metal such as the rawer satanic band Dark desolation from Bengaluru and much of melodic blasphemy of Fortified Destruction from Chennai, Many prolific extreme metallers have spawned from the Chennai local scenes like Siva from Crypted, Abhijit Rao from Escher's Knot, Vyas "Hex" Manalan from Fortified Destruction who are all frontmen of their respective bands and all known for their extreme vocal capabilities and the addition of guitar in the case of Hex. With many extreme International acts like Behemoth, Gojira, Cradle of filth setting foot on the Indian soil will hopefully further spread the extreme metal hood towards the scene like in Europe.
In the West, some groups, such as The Beatles, traveled to India and incorporated aspects of Indian music, especially classical instruments such as the sitar, into their music, often as a way of conjuring psychedelic 'Eastern' feelings. The term for this was raga rock, and examples of it are The Beatles "Love You To", "The Inner Light","Across the Universe","Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", "Tomorrow Never Knows", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Within You Without You"; The Rolling Stones' "Paint it, Black"; The Kinks' "Fancy"; The Doors' "The End" and The Byrds' "Eight Miles High". A number of prolific Indian classical musicians such as Ravi Shankar aligned themselves with this trend, collaborating with Western artists. Indian bands themselves mainly covered early rock songs by pioneers of rock and roll in the United Kingdom and America, and only achieved recognition in popular culture by supporting film scores and Indian pop.
Regional music scenes
Many cities and regions have produced collections of bands large enough to be classified as a scene within Indian rock.
The dominant music genres in urban Bangalore is rock and metal music. All subgenres of rock, varying from classic rock n' roll to extreme metal can be heard in Bangalore. The underground scenario in Bangalore is highly acclaimed, and hence lead to the city being called Rock/Metal capital of India. Notable bands from Bangalore include Eunoia Soulscape, Maun, Raghu Dixit Project, Divine Raaga, Arha, Thermal and a quarter (TAAQ), Kryptos, The Down troddence(TDT) (originally from Kannur, Kerala), Culminant, Dark Light, Alternative Ties, Neolithic Silence, Abandoned Agony, Theorized, SvarAmrita, Inner Sanctum, Agam, Slain, Clown With a Frown, allegro fudge, Black Sun, All The Fat Children, J3, Thrash, The Bicycle Days, Pralayh, Scratch Card Winners, The Usual Suspects, Final Surrender,Crash TV, Eccentric Pendulum, Orchid, Hungry(band), Buffer Zone, Perfect Strangers, Ek, Swaratma, Eastern Fare and Galeej Gurus. Rock 'N India, Great Indian Rock and more recently Deccan Rock are the primitive rock festivals in India. Bangalore was also the first city in India where internationally popular rock groups Opeth, Iron Maiden, The Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams, Scorpions, Sting, Aerosmith, Elton John, Deep Purple, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, among various other heavy metal groups performed live for the first time in India.
Bands from Bangalore include Maun, Raghu Dixit Project, Divine Raaga, Vichitra, Thermal and a Quarter (TAAQ), All The Fat Children, Kryptos, Alternative Ties, Inner Sanctum, Arha, The Down Troddence (TDT) (originally from Kerala), Agam, Buffer Zone, Eccentric Pendulum, Swarathma, Eastern Fare,Last Soul Standing, Ek and Galeej Gurus.
Recent restrictions on live music in Bangalore's bars has affected the rock music culture of the city but is slowly recovering with pubs like Kyra, B Flat and Legends of Rock hosting more live bands. Festivals like Rock 'N India, Rock Ethos, Great Indian Rock and more recently Deccan Rock continue to take place in Bangalore, a popular destination for international acts like Iron Maiden, Lamb of God, Bryan Adams, Scorpions, Sting, Aerosmith, Megadeth, Elton John, Metallica and Deep Purple.
Delhi's music circuit has seen its share of ups and downs, but has held on largely due to the local presence of Rock Street Journal. Delhi being the operational home of the Allahabad-based magazine, local bands have benefited by the proximity to India's first dedicated to stories and features based around rock and metal. The Great Indian Rock festival was mostly held in Delhi, now foraying into Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore, North-East India and Pune has exposed the upcoming musicians of India to a wider variety of musicians. Notable bands from Delhi include Orange Street, Parikrama, Hundred Octane, Indian Ocean, Them Clones, Menwhopause, Bandish, Advaita, Faridkot, AntarDhvani, Punkh, Midival Punditz, Undying Inc., Mrigya, Guillotine.
Another major Indian rock festival is the June Rock Out, organised by the Unwind Centre in Adyar, Chennai. There are also other smaller rock/metal festivals happening regularly in Bangalore and Chennai, like "Euphony", the "September Underground", "Last Band Standing", and the weekly "Live 101." The Bands Association of Chennai (BAC) is an organisation which actively promotes the cause of original music by Chennai bands.
In Hyderabad bands like Sledge, Wreckage, Native Tongue have paved for upcoming bands by taking it to the nationals. They have won major rock and metal competitions such as campus rock idols 2004, 2005 and 2006 and headlining gigs across all major IT festivals in India taking charge of the Indian rock scene.
 The state of Kerala gave India one of the first and successful rock bands ever - 13 A.D. Kerala has produced some of the finest bands and musicians : Motherjane, Avial, Evergreen, Sumit (Guitarist), Sanjeev Thomas (Guitarist), Baiju Dharmajan, Rex Vijayan to name a few.
Bands from Kolkata that pioneered original music in English include Krosswindz, Cassini's Division, Skinny Alley, The Supersonics, Five Little Indians,and Span. There is also a massive regional rock scene in Kolkata that includes bands like Fossils, Cactus, Chandrabindoo, Krosswindz, Bhoomi, Lakkhichhara.
In Calcutta, the underground Metal Bands organise an Event called The Pit at Tapan Theatre in Kalighat. In 2009, 3 editions of The Pit were successfully organised.It is being seen now that more events are being organised,like the metal events held by KOSMA ( Kolkata Old School Metal Association).Other fest include 'Abomination', 'Order Of The Heretical Trident Festival', 'Kolkata open Air'. Bengali metal gigs attract huge crowds and are sponsored by various organisations.Kolkata also hosts an annual musical festival, The NH7 Weekender since 2013.
Some of the most notable contemporary rock bands from Mumbai are Pentagram, Tough on Tobacco, Bhayanak Maut, Demonic Resurrection, Split, Sridhar/Thayil, Scribe, and Goddess Gagged. The recent reunion of Indian rock pioneers Indus Creed was received with great enthusiasm, especially with regard to their plans to produce a new album in 2011.
Mumbai's longest-running festival has been the Independence Rock Festival. 2010 saw I-Rock, as it is popularly known, celebrate its 25th year. Independence Rock XXV paid tribute to the city that has hosted the festival by featuring a spate of local bands. The recently reunited Indus Creed headlined the festival, which included other local favourites like Bhayanak Maut, Scribe, Demonic Resurrection and Pralay, as well as stalwart musicians like Dhruv Ghanekar, Warren Mendonsa, Loy Mendonsa, Ehsaan Noorani, Farhad Wadia (the festival's founder and promoter), Ravi Iyer, Chandresh Kudwa, Shazneen Arethna and Sidd Coutto.
A relatively recent entry into the Indian Rock circuit is the city of Pune has been the home of bands over the years and off late there has been a new surge with notable genre defining underground acts like Albulu, Abgobi, Champakali and more. The live music scene of the twin cities Mumbai and Pune has been on a steep rise since 2005 with major International acts like Meshuggah, Tesseract, Satyricon, Freak Kitchen, Sahg. Pune plays host to an annual musical festival, The NH7 Weekender, which takes place in the month of November and showcases international (mostly British) acts like Imogen Heap, The Magic Numbers, Asian Dub Foundation and Reverend Soundsystem to name a few.
Independent record labels
Mainstream record labels in India often ignore rock, with a few exceptions. Album sales range between a few hundred copies to a few thousand. They are rarely, if at all, affiliated to the Indian music industry, and sales are not usually monitored. Songs of Bollywood usually gain more popularity as compared to the songs of bands. This is a huge set back. Bands also fail to sell their songs throughout the country even after making it available to major music stores, this is only due to lack of interest of people in rock bands. There are only a few bands that have become successful in selling their songs throughout the country. People who enjoy rock get the songs of their favorite bands, just by a click from any music website (sometimes their songs are uploaded by website administrators just after the day of release, this is illegal as per copyright law, but even then no action is taken). Hence, overall sales become less than expected. Bands in India mostly perform live shows with low priced tickets (as low as Rs. 100 or even less). Probably, the growing and the upcoming generation will have interest in Indian Rock and Metal. But care has to be taken to retain the copyright of the music.
The future looks encouraging thanks to entities such as Green Ozone, DogmaTone Records, Cochym and Eastern Fare Music Foundation, Infestdead Records that are dedicated to promoting and supporting Indian rock.
Documentary on Indian rock
In 2008, music journalist Abhimanyu Kukreja directed Rockumentary - Becoming of Indian rock that was produced by NewsX and had a national TV release. The documentary is arguably the first of its kind on Indian rock that showcases the evolution of rock music in India starting from the 1960s. The documentary features popular and classic Indian bands like The Great Bear, High, The Great Society, Shiva, Indus Creed, Millennium and Parikrama. The documentary is available for free viewing on YouTube.
Leaving Home – the Life & Music of Indian Ocean (2010) directed by Jaideep Varma was about fusion rock band, Indian Ocean. Thus it became the first band ever in India to be subject of a documentary. At the 58th National Film Awards, the documentary went on to win the Award for Best Arts/Cultural Film.
An all-girl rock band Pragash Band from Srinagar, Kashmir decided to call it quits after constant hate mails and death threats on the internet, apart from the severe criticism and opposition from the religious leaders of Kashmir and other hardliner political parties.
- Asian Underground
- Rock music of West Bengal popularly known as Bangla rock
- Psychedelic music
- Psychedelic rock
- Raga rock
- The Vinyl Records
- Rock On!!
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