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Circuit Boards & Sine Waves

Circuit Boards & Sine Waves; India’s Nascent Music Scene Is Plagued By Electronics

Music has changed.

Sure, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to any from this generation of turn tables and dials. The slow eclipse of electronica in the music scene has been an oncoming change that we all first saw gain momentum from as far back as the 90s. Back then it was for musicians like the Midival Punditz that the ushering of a new age and a new sound was gaining space in the Indian indie music circuit. It was inevitable. But more importantly, it was the measure of open mindedness and experimentation among the musicians of yore that spawned the electronica era into a full blown beast. It seems I might’ve missed the train on latching onto the change as comfortably as the newer generation has, and I seem to be rejecting the so called evolution in music. EDM and its bandwagon of friends that’re dominating the small attention span of today’s listeners were definitely not what most of us had in mind.

Tapan Raj of the Midival Punditz. Image source: pinterest Tapan Raj of the Midival Punditz. Image source: pinterest

Let me set the precedent for this rant early on by explaining how it warrants itself post a fairly revelationary epiphany I had at a gig featuring Daniel Waples a few months ago in Delhi. Daniel Waples is an English musician from Essex who over the last decade was one of the few who were putting up this nifty little instrument called the hang drum on the map. The drum was invented in 2000, and produced an almost alien like sound, fusing metallic vibrations and percussion into a lush and peaceful sounding tone. Why does this matter? Because, his first show in the country had pretty much nothing to do with the solo performances that he’s so famous for. In fact, it was completely overshadowed by the collaboration he had with an intriguing percussionist duo from Bangalore, Thaalavattam. As amazing as Thaalavattam are for their innovative percussion performances using waste material – pipes and such – there’s a DJ involved, and if one were to shut their eyes from the spectacle itself they would undoubtedly register only trance music. This, at a gig where I was looking forward to a simple hang drum performance, ended up with Waples providing melodies that droned throughout.   

Music has definitely changed.

Daniel Waples+Thaalvattam live in Bangalore. Image source: YouTube.com Daniel Waples+Thaalvattam live in Bangalore. Image source: YouTube.com

This shift in music taste might seem as the natural course but what’s alarming is the increasingly shrinking space for musicians that come from a ‘simpler’ background, considering that there is only so much room our independent music universe has. If one needs to stay in the music scene they need to stay hip with the times. So, if you want to play some guitar and drums you’d better figure out how to do that with some jarring backtracks and as many hyperactive beats a possible. Nobody’s going to gigs to sit down and listen to music, they want to drink and dance with enough aural overload in the back for their evening to piggy back on. And, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s not a lot right with it either.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and mention that in India, independent musicians are still only part of a ‘scene’, or a circuit. We are still far away from seeing a self sufficient industry come into fruition, and function independently without having to blame anyone for its lack of success or needing a pat on its back when something goes right. Some of the more popular, veteran musicians still have to look toward advertising and Bollywood to earn a living, while the younger musicians’ primary concern still teeters around finding the next gig space. Venues that were quintessential in the scene, like Blue Frog, have shut down, and others are shutting doors to those who can’t pull in the numbers. It’s the age of pretty boys and girls who are in touch with the fad, anyone outside of this is too hipster for consumption. Indian independent music is going through an identity crisis before it even developed a personality.

Music has changed. The listeners have changed.

Scribe guitarist Akshay Rajpurohit's solo project, Aqua Dominatrix. Image source: Eden FestivalScribe guitarist Akshay Rajpurohit's solo project, Aqua Dominatrix. Image source:  Eden Festival

Man, it seems like I’m growing old. Personally, I’m all in for change and difference, but somehow this one’s not working out for me at all. I can sense what a grumpy old man feels like with shifting times. I see too many bands that I love needing to keep up their side projects with electronic music and DJ-ing to earn a living, and too much potential for good music being underplayed because the current norm doesn’t allow otherwise. Solo singer/songwriters have been forced to become a relic of the past almost as soon as they surfaced.

It’s not just the musicians that are to blame, or the organisers, but us listeners have to open our minds too. In the present framework, simple things like attention and money needs to be pooled in to help our preferred musicians survive. Something nobody seems to be doing. One thing I’ve learnt in my experience is that hope usually never gets. But, there is still hope. India still sees its fair share of kids that want to subvert the paradigm, and rebel – this time with a serious cause. In the meantime, I’m going to find a corner for myself to hide in with the rest of the so called outcasts in a bid to cherish the few moments we get to live and love in the Indian music scene. We don’t hate the players, we hate the game, since they don’t have much of a choice.

Music has changed so much, and there’s a good chance it’s never going to go back.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.

By Aditya Varma
Cover illustration by Eshna Goenka