Hindi alternative rock bands in India, finally finding their place in the sun?

With the live music soundscape in India getting wider (and richer), more musicians/bands are getting an opportunity to showcase their talents.

Several Indie bands, New Age music festivals, online music hosting platforms, non-English bands are now getting noticed for their unique style of music. Hindi alternative-folk-rock bands such as Jaagar, Highway 61, Ashwamedh, have got noticed for their groovy rhythm, unique styles, and use of diverse instruments.

Few years back, when some of these bands started out, people in the audience would request them to play Bollywood music. However, these bands insisted on playing only originals and there perseverance seem to have finally begun to pay off.

These bands are inspired by various genres ranging from hard rock, progressive rock, and metal, to Indian classical. They uses a range of instruments – guitars, synths/piano, Indian regional folk and classical musical instruments in their compositions and arrangements.

Highway 61 – Sahibo is a prayer in Urdu and Kashmiri embellished with excerpts from Kabir’s dohas, Allama Iqbal and Mahjoor’s poetry. Highway 61 is “Sufi Ethnic” Rock band based in Pune.

Their lyrics address a range of social issues, and span human emotions like hope, overcoming, regret, grief, loneliness, pain, love and so on.

Each of the bands had to struggle to reach where they are today, have been posting victories (big and small) along the way ever since their inceptions.

While the number of independent music listeners in India is huge, its nearly impossible to find them all at one place, due to the fact that India is such a large and diverse country. Having said that cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, Calcutta and Shillong, to name a few, can be exploited by rock musicians. Bands like Agnee and Indian Ocean have made it really big, which proves the acceptance and popularity of regional language music.

Jaagar – Mitti Ke Sher, reflects the mindset of the lofty dreamer who seldom goes that extra mile to realise his dreams. (Jaagar is an alternative rock band based in Pune).

While there’s an audience waiting for such kind of music, the remuneration these bands get is not enough to get by. Besides, if a band is new and wishes to experiment, people are hesitant to pay to listen to a new band.

The problem is only compounded by the attitude of venue providers, who think that its just enough to provide bands with an opportunity to perform (and not pay them well). This attitude needs to change.

While Bollywood projects pay you well, they rob you of your originality and creativity. However, there are some rock musicians who take up Bollywood projects, and still continue working on their original music.