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Delhi is giving birth to some of the finest music in country

Ashmit Dyes | New Delhi |

Over the past few years, Delhi has seen a remarkable growth in independent, non-Bollywood music. Bands and solo artists are slowly but surely coming into the limelight as the people of Delhi recognise new original independent music.

Be it Ska, Pop, Rock, Metal or Jazz, Delhi is turning out to be quite the talent pool and is giving birth to some of the finest music the city or country has seen in a while. However, not all is well in the Delhi camp as, over the last few years, it has been observed that many major music festivals have been avoiding adding dates in the Capital and the music lovers of Delhi are, in fact, quite disturbed by the whole thought of not having any music festivals on their turf.

While cities like Mumbai and Bangalore have a huge arsenal of festivals happening in their ranks, Delhi is falling far behind in this matter.

While bands like Indian Ocean and Parikrama have already established themselves and are here to stay, one needs to look at the new faces that are already blowing minds with their original work in either college fests or local clubs and what they have to say about what is going on in the independent music scene and why certain music festivals are avoiding the Capital.

Capital music

Even though independent musicians are trying their best to thrive today, most resident bar bands don’t get the platform to broadcast themselves, with most clubs wanting bands to play Bollywood covers and some pop numbers and that’s about how far it goes. Those who do get to play their original work consider themselves extremely lucky to be able to do so in this Bollywood-loving city. Most musicians, who don’t want to step into the cover playing quicks, prefer releasing their work on online platforms such as Saavn, Wynk, iTunes and others.

The best time to witness Delhi’s true original music talent pool comes around December with small scale festivals and clubs holding evenings dedicated to bands, who are itching to play their original music. The fact that the five-piece band Zyakuni In My Backyard, which is fronted by two 17-year-old girls, played a fully packed show with people sitting on the steps on a dry day just to listen to the band at The Piano Man Jazz Club, which happens to be one of the most prestigious venues to play at in Delhi, speaks very highly of just how developed the taste for music has become in Delhi.

The winner of the second edition of the English singing competition, The Stage, Sharvi Yadav described the Delhi music scene as “dynamic” and forever changing. “Nowadays, Jazz is the most prominent genre in Delhi,” she said.

“Before that was Pop and before that Metal and Rock. Venues that prefer Jazz acts have totally dropped bands from other genres but at the same time, the Delhi music scene is unaffected by what happens outside. What is going on in the North-East, Bangalore, Calcutta or Mumbai does not affect the way the Delhi scene works. People do their own thing and that’s what it should be at the end of the day.” All the bands or artists in Delhi, who are known by the citizens, can attribute that to the fact that they do their own thing.

Be it Advaita, Kamakshi Khanna, Hansraj Project or Zyakuni In My Backyard, it’s their original music that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. When asked about the type of crowd Sharvi gets at her gigs, she explained how various genres attract different crowds.

“When I do Pop gigs, I notice that most of the audience consists of youngsters while my Jazz gigs are attended by mostly young adults and working professionals.” Of all the bands in Delhi, Sharvi said working with Advaita would be on top of her bucket list. While Sharvi Yadav might be known mainly for her leanings towards Jazz, The Local Train are known more for their Pop sound and energetic live performances.

Having performed at a huge list of college festivals,The Local Train is slowly becoming a staple in every youngster’s playlist with hits such as “Aaoge Tum Kabhi”, “Choo Lo”, “Manzil” and their recent release, “Khudi”. In a conversation with them, they revealed how their Delhi chapter unfolded after recording their first album in Mumbai and then shifted to Delhi.

According to Paras Thakur, lead guitarist of The Local Train, going out and playing shows where one is just playing original songs is where the real effort kicks in.

“Anybody can go and play a show doing just covers,” he explained.

“That’s what most venues want anyway. It’s really hard playing your own music and actually have the audience connect with your music. Our initial years were just us playing our original music and focussing on writing our own material. We’ve found our base in Delhi. People here really accept our music and us in general. Even though the venues may act a bit difficult at times, the people here have really supported us tremendously and we really would like to thank the people of Delhi for that.”

Skipping the Capital

Coming to the big question of why some major music festivals are skipping dates in Delhi, TLT’s bassist Ramit Mehra had some thoughts worth sharing. According to him, “That’s a decision the organisers have to take. If somebody is investing so much time and money into a project like a music festival, they would expect some sort of help from the local government. And the Delhi government fails to provide the necessary arrangements when it comes to issues like power, space, security, infrastructure and so on.

It’s not the best environment for a Music festival.” In fact, it’s not just the Indian music festivals missing out on Delhi but a lot of international acts too give preference to neighboring areas such as Gurgaon and Noida. The Delhi government, according to many artists, is not the most “helpful” in these cases and, in fact, causes more trouble rather than being of assistance. The reasons behind music festivals skipping Delhi are economical as well as ethical, with organizers not wanting to work in an environment, which basically just does not extend much of a helping hand by providing them with all that they need.

Music festivals attract people from all over the country and work wonders for the city’s tourism but Delhi seems to turn a blind eye to even this aspect. Word on the street says music festivals avoid coming to Delhi fearing unruly behaviour after the incident at Gurgaon in 2011, when Metallica, one of the biggest names in the world of music were scheduled to perform but cancelled 15 minutes before the show began as the audience erupted into a riot and got on stage after breaking barriers and destroyed the band’s equipment.

Tejas Menon, the Mumbai-based singer-songwriter has played many shows in Delhi and has become a wellrespected name in the nation’s music fraternity. Being familiar with the Delhi scene after performing here for all these years, he certainly had a very positive outlook on what he describes as a “very informed and unique” independent music fraternity.

“I think, like Mumbai and Bangalore, Delhi has a distinct vibe about the music that is emerging from it; whether its Komorebi, Mosko, Zokova, or even Chayan and Smiti, I think there is a unique approach to their musicmaking and is very informed, as it should be, by their city. Lots of great talent, and some great venues as well to play, and during the winter, excellent weather!” Speaking to The Statesman, he expressed his views about the situation with the music festivals in Delhi from the point of view of an outsider, giving a sort of second opinion on what might be the case.

He said, “I think it makes a bit of sense, I wouldn’t want a festival in a bustling city. Festivals are made for people to travel out of their comfort zone, into an isolated place that has large amounts of space to accommodate people and stages. I wouldn’t want one in Mumbai or Bangalore either. I think I just like to get excited at the prospect of travel for a festival. It means taking time out of a busy schedule, planning it with friends and so on. So it comes with a bunch of great things conceptually attached to it.”

When asked if there were any Delhi-based artists he would like to collaborate with, he took almost no time in saying Chayan and Smiti were on top of his list and he would love to work with them in the near future. Chayan also happens to be one of the lead vocalists for the Delhi band Advaita, who have been around for more than a decade and are widely regarded as one of the best Indo-western fusion bands the country has produced.

The Masters

It was not easy getting in touch with the Masters with their busy schedule but thanks to Canvas Music Hall, organised byThe People and Co, we were able to meet up with Advaita right after their show in Cyber Hub in Gurgaon.

“Playing in Delhi is always an adventure. Everytime we have a show, we always end up with some funny story, which happened with us either while performing or before or even after our performance,” said Chayan Adhikari, one of the lead vocalists of the band.

“The crowd has, however, always been amazing. Our show at Canvas Music Hall had to be one of our best gigs in recent times because despite the packed house, we could hear ourselves on the monitors perfectly clearly. That’s because the audience was so engrossed in the music that all conversations took a back seat that evening.”

Advaita is known for its brilliant fusion of western and indian classical music and have hits such as “Mo Funk”, “Drops of Earth” and “Miliha”.

Mo Funk’s music was used for the song “Khel Khel Mei” in the movie Wazir. “Not every artist has the privilege of seeing the audience know and also sing along to your music and we’ve been very lucky in that way,” said Anindo Bose, Advaita’s keyboardist.

“Even though some music festivals might be missing out on Delhi, the music lovers in Delhi always find a way to keep themselves busy. Some circumstances cannot be helped and if music festivals are not able to fix dates in Delhi, it’s seriously agreat loss for Delhi. Delhi’s music scene will always remain a heart that is beating and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop that.”

Music is the language of the soul and Delhi has plenty of it.

The music community here always finds a way to keep the scene alive with small intimate shows for passionate audiences.

It’ll take a lot more than a few music festivals skipping Delhi to deter the patrons from having a good time and experiencing and loving the language that unites people from all backgrounds: the language of music.