With discerning music lovers going the indie way, we take a look at the people who make it click.
We are not quite sure when, but at some point indie (Independent music) stopped being on the fringes and became a core part of the Bangalore culture scene thanks to the growing number of performance spaces, outdoor festivals and new clubs cropping up each week. Plus, the brave efforts of music producers who encourage fans to veer away from mainstream sound (read: American pop or Bollywood ) and pay indie music some serious attention.
“Bangaloreans really know their music and have never limited themselves to American pop or Bollywood. They would much rather listen to Karsh Kale (the NYC-based world-class tabla player, drummer, producer, composer, songwriter, remixer) or Lost Stories (EDM duo Prayag Mehta and Rishab Joshi) than film music,” says Devraj Sanyal, MD at Universal Music Group and EMI Music, South Asia. And with MTV launching a channel dedicated to indie music and Universal expanding their repertoire to include several indie bands too, we take a look at the indie scene closer to home.
Guwahati-born, city-based music producer Hriday Goswami, armed with a degree in sound engineering and experience with industry experts like Pravin Mani and Manikanth Kadri, enjoys working with independent groups because ‘of their distinct sound as compared to films where the stakes are very high and creativity is limited’.
So why is his job any different from the guys behind rosewood desks in big studios, we ask. “For starters, it is far more hands on. We get in on the production from scratch, design the sound, structure, tonality, arrangement and sometimes composition too,” he explains. Goswami has worked with folk bands like Swarathma (on their album Topi Wale), Lagori, and The Raghu Dixit Project (on the album Antaragni) and emphasises that a producer’s job is to balance both musical and technical ability. “Bands sometimes run low on patience but I don’t leave the studio until I am a 100 per cent satisfied with what I am hearing,” he says adding, “technically you can do a lot to jazz up a song. But the soul has to come from the singer. And there is no technology for that. I have done a song with just voices, and another one with a full orchestra. It takes a lot of patience, a clear understanding of the frequency spectrum and willingness to experiment that ultimately makes it all come together.”
Sound quality can never be compromised he explains, as even consumer-level speakers and headphones these days are so crystal clear that sound has to be top notch on every song at any level. He credits shows like Coke Studio and festivals like Storm with truly setting the stage for independent music.
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Musician Jason Zachariah actually stumbled into production, when his band, Allegro Fudge, started out in 2009 and it was hard to get a recording session organised. “We wanted something tangible to give our audience but we were clueless about recording in a studio,” Zachariah begins, adding that it made sense to start off independently. So off he went experimenting with tracks and playing about with mixing tactics. “I remember recording in early 2010. We did the drum tracks in a garage without any sound proofing, and we recorded with just two vocal microphones — cheap equipment and no software,” recalls the multi-talented artiste.
That song was a demo titled Colours Fly. Once the song became popular online, boosting his confidence, he did what all musicians aspire to do — start a production company. “The thought of documenting an idea and storing it to rework is like owning a piece of art that can be accessed by any one across the globe, like putting a piece of yourself out there,” shares the producer, citing budget concerns as the biggest hurdle for most indie artistes. To overcome that barrier, in 2011, Nathaniel House was born. “Outfits needed a recording studio run by a musician, the indie scene was easy to work with, providing a great starting point rather than waiting for big names to show up,” admits the musician who is also part of bands like Bhoomi, Caeser’s Palace and Jason Zac Band. “I feel that recording and making EPs or albums, after stage shows and live performances, is the next most important step to help such artistes brand themselves,” he signs off. Currently, Zachariah is working with Parvaaz on their debut album Baran. Details: soundcloud.com/nathanielschool
“Most musicians/independent artistes have no choice but to move to ‘independent’ production because the nature of the business has changed. The term mainstream has different connotations in different milieus,” begins Chris Avinash, who has not only produced four independent albums, but also works with amateur and established singers to get their music ‘out there’. He explains that in our country, mainstream music would have to include Bollywood and the film industry, something not all musicians are happy to be part of.
“It’s tough to make money though. So successful indie artistes have to be driven by determination, grit and passion. That is why we are also easier on the pocket and temperament of artistes,” shares Avinash, who is also part of Retronome, a cover band from the city.
Avinash has worked on albums of the Avril Quadros Band, Akshata Udiyavar, and Sukoon Brothers. “Success is not easy to come by. The record label business has changed. There is a whole generation that will never know the actual workflow and money involved in the promotion of an artiste. Publishers, managers, licensors, producer, promoter, sub-publisher, royalty, A&R agent etc… all these terms mean different things now and it is all online,” he says in conclusion. Details: chrisavinash.com
Vocalist and guitarist of Swarathma, Dixit believes that Bangaloreans love their rock and classical music, so indie music is now a lively mix of the two genres yet away from the mainstream sound. “Buzzing new spaces like The Hummingtree and festivals like Strawberry Fields, Storm Festival and NH7 Weekender are fantastic platforms to promote independent music. While Mumbai might still
clip us in quantity of content, Bangalore is one of the top contenders for the ‘Indie Capital of India’ title,” he enthuses.
“I think the concept of indie is still very new and facing quite a few teething problems as bands want to move beyond a limited crowd. That often causes confusion with regards to audience expectations,” says the vocalist of Allegro Fudge, suggesting that the gap be
narrowed for the industry to grow. On a more positive note, he feels that indie lyrics are getting better. “They actually have a message that goes beyond the metal genre, and make music that is very different from mainstream sound.”
“I think independent rock music is going to edge EDM out of the city. It’s the future. Sound Cloud and other social media platforms have connected local artistes with a large audience,” says Trigam Mukherjee of Radio Indigo, adding, “While the indie music is mostly all rock, with the launch of Indigo Live, we hope to promote indie blues musicians as well.” Watch out for city bands like 30 Ton Capacity and Dark Lights who have an experimental rock sound and Perfect Strangers, who are into rock and roll, he says. “District 5 from the North East too have a bright future ahead of them.”
Musician and former RJ Santosh Gnanakan (Saggy), says, “It’s all EDM, now. I wouldn’t say the independent music has grown in a huge way in the city. But what has changed is the innumerable avenues and platforms available.” Emphasising the hardships though, he explains, “The challenge here is to hold audiences’ interest. With easy access to all kinds of music through smartphones, iPods and YouTube, getting someone to pick you over someone else is hard, as is getting a gig, as performance spaces are still more interested in mainstream music.”
IndiEarth, a part of the EarthSync, an independent music label and award-winning film producer founded by executive producer Sastry Karra, directors Sonya Mazumdar, Yotam Agam and Kris Karra in 2004. Now, with a full-fledged team in place, Mazumdar tells us they aim to craft a common platform for artistes, media and audiences.
“India’s rich diversity and vastness poses a challenge. It is hard to move beyond regional constraints. Even in Bangalore, the content is rooted in the culture and gathers only a limited audience and reach. We bridge that gap so that where there is a demand for a certain kind of music, it automatically creates a platform,” Mazumdar shares, adding that being part of the indie concept doesn’t mean being unprofessional. “If you want to be seen and heard, and make a living through your talents, then a good manager (not a friend or partner) and a strong lawyer are necessary to set things up,” says the ‘infrastructure-obsessed’ director. Mazumdar explains that the main challenge is reaching the right audiences.
“People are listening to new sounds now. But the problem is that there is so much talent and no structure. It’s almost impossible for new artistes to reach beyond their home zones, be it Bangalore or any other part of India,” she tells us, explaining that IndiEarth allows media and artistes to directly connect. “It’s about reaching out from the core rather than just promoting a band. It’s about effort and education,” Mazumdar concludes enthusiastically.
In the studios
Niranjan Shivaram’s Audio Academy is an upscale boutique studio where musicians and ad and documentary filmmakers record music. Besides handling live gigs and recording artistes, Shivaram also gives newbies access to advice from industry experts like RJs, established musicians and engineers. “When bands are small, we help hone their skills and give their music the fine-tuning it needs. In addition to that, we have DIY sessions (Rs. 10,000 for four days) to teach musicians how to program, record, mix and master their own content. Of course there are more in-depth courses if they want to reach more professional levels,” says the sound engineer who has worked with big names like Aerosmith and Iron Maiden. Details: audioacademy.in
Started by music director Gagan Baderiya and sound engineer and programmer Prashant Mathias, Audiokraft, a premier audio recording and music production studio, brings expertise, casual advice and creativity on board to help with composing, recording, mixing and mastering. With a combination of state-of-the-art technology, production facilities, engineers and artiste/talent collaborators and even a Hollywood-esque lounge with mood lighting, this is a good spot for artistes to make a start. Details: audiokraft.com
Combining sound expertise with production, is Chris Avinash’s studio Christortion — a one-stop shop for aspiring and established performing artistes. Besides mixing and mastering your music, the producer will also pitch in with suggestions on melody, harmonic analysis, song structure and arrangement to make sure that you’re at the top of your game. Details: chrisavinash.com
-Aakanksha Devi (m firstname.lastname@example.org, Inputs: Team Indulge, Pics: Jithendra M)