A Brief History of 2012 in Indian Indie Music by The Knife
The year has ended and the world is technically still here, and we’re still at gigs; and still driving down long roads with the sun in our eyes, listening to music that’s over a decade old, holding onto parts of our lives that barely even belong to us anymore. This has been the year that we learnt to fight back (and loudly), using opinions as weapons. As a country, as a scene, as individuals.
It feels like it’s been a year of striving and of transit, momentous nonetheless, because 2013 already looks so promising. 2012 has been fabulous with regard to (a few) gigs, science and change. It’s been the year we landed on Mars and had humans free falling out of space, it’s been a year of far-flung festivals across the country, it’s been a year of outrage over ridiculous governance, it’s been the year my fiancée left me- without warning or explanation but some of the only new music I fell in love with in 2012, it’s been a year of Grizzly Bear and Sulk Station and Chikni Chameli, and it’s been a year of reclamation in terms of turning the unlikeliest of spaces into gig venues. Like I mean, we had gigs in Tihar jail. The Supersonics are back together, and we even have decent ambient electronica now.
It’s peculiar how I unconsciously end up returning to the same 1998-born music at the end of every year. I’m smoking a cigarette for the first time since college, observing from a great distance how we fight, and why we fight- and whether there is any hope for civilization left, or if this extensive chaos is actually just a slow motion apocalypse. Some of us throw punches and break things, or hold up protest signs, or use hashtags on social media. This country has been through a lot of incredulity and indignation, and thanks to the internet we as strangers, have been through it all together.
Meanwhile the scene, quietly started finding its footing and cementing its place in the world, but made no real sweeping strides. In volume of releases perhaps, but not in overall quality. In the midst of everything, we look for solace in sound. But using only headphones, it’s been pretty difficult to be blown away by most music that’s released this year. Maybe the world has ended and we didn’t even notice, instruments will soon die and our music will grow up to be only mountains of sub-bass. Anyway.
Moral Police Crackdown:
This year the Mumbai Police decided to take it upon themselves to try and beat our nightlife to death with hockey sticks. A moral police brigade led by ACP Dhoble assumed the right and responsibility to rid our city of whatsoever they deemed immoral. Women diners were labelled prostitutes and put into rehabilitation centres, a 52 year old woman was arrested in her home for making liquor chocolates for personal use, live music was to be almost entirely exterminated, using the pretext of laws from the 1800’s. The entire live industry held its breath waiting for this to blow over, while clubs were raided and slapped with archaic ‘overcrowding’ charges, or cited as having insufficient licenses for any live performances.
This move found favor with a section of city residents who had often complained of noise pollution from pubs, and the general late-night disarray they caused. Everyone who had anything to do with the nightlife industry was being hurt by the police’s Social Service (SS) branch, and then the media began to fight back relentlessly. Popular live venue Blue Frog was also raided in June, and forced to shut down early into an international electronica gig. Consequently, they decided to heavily cut down on their DJ sets, and a lot of people were soon finding themselves out of work. A lot of media backlash, appeals to the state, graffiti and Twitter outrage later, enough pressure was created to finally end Dhoble’s fanatic moral crusade. Scene-1 Govt-0.
Close to the end of the year, I found myself in a darkened room full of fairy lights in an old two-floor bungalow, Grime Riot Disco staple DJs, and very potent drinks. Last Ship is an artist residency located in Bandra’s quaint Chuim village, converted into a space for exhibitions or parties or drum circles, as per the need of the occasion. Playing host to obscure art exhibits and Sridhar/Thayil gigs over the past month, Last Ship looks like the perfect new hipster playground.
Sitara Studio was an inconspicuous, old theatre that used to host Marathi plays in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and TV shows/commercials in the ‘90s. There was a gig held here this year – a pay-what-you-want DIY gig with a massive lineup, which was entirely crowdfunded (more on this later). A host of young acts, and a funding goal of Rs. 1.5 lakhs to be raised solely by attendees of the gig, supporters of the scene. They pulled it off – a pretty successful gig, but a programming disaster – a drunk host and 10 bands in 7 hours was absolute overkill.
Liberty Cinema, the single-screen art deco theatre that now hosts gigs and indie events, is probably the best thing that’s happened to the city in a while.
It started this year with Demonic Resurrection deciding to make a fan-funded video, and raising one lakh by enabling fans of the band to pledge any amount in their favor.
Ctrl Alt Del (the Sitara Studios gig) used Wishberry.in – a Kickstarter-like online crowdfunding platform for creative indie projects. Bands are now using it to fund album recordings and videos, like Spook and Aazin Printer (ex-Something Relevant).
This year saw some massive socio-cultural exchanges with other countries; the Indo-German Urban Mela happened across four cities spaced out over the year- showcasing music, photo exhibits, graphic novels, graffiti, hip hop dance, workshops and everything.
Toward the end of the year (and carrying over into 2013) there’s been an exchange with Australia called Ozfest, that brought down a lot of Australian bands, that dominated our international gig-scape toward the end of the year. And most importantly, they brought us MASTERCHEF.
We had like 100x more music festivals this year. Three Weekenders, Ragasthan amid sand dunes and camels, Live from the Console, Windsong and a bunch of festivals in Goa, a rain-soaked Ziro Festival in the North East, MAD Festival in Ooty, and some ambitious festivals that were cancelled, cough*Lost*cough but they’re reshaping themselves over the coming year.
When the prodigious Enrique Iglesias (of miniature-condoms fame) played in Pune this year, an evil cop called ACP Pawar requested free passes for his friends and family. And once these passes were exhausted and they demanded more free-entry-guests, the organizers said no. At this point, for refusing further entry, the organizers and volunteers were beaten up, some were hospitalized, some ruptured eardrums. Cops later released a statement saying the beatings were justified because the organizer was “drunk”. Not like this was one of the most important gigs this year, but I’m really just pissed off with this country.
This is what I mean when I say this year has been gig-wise massive. Cults, Martina Topley-Bird, M.I.A, Heems, Swedish House Mafia, Apparat, Guns n Roses, Fatboy Slim, Fink, Julian Marley, Snoop Dogg, Periphery, Gojira, among others. We almost had Coldplay this year. But since that didn’t happen, the organizers find themselves with a ton of money that translates into a lot more big-ticket acts (Mastodon!).
It’s going to be an interesting year here on earth: there’s a reality show happening in outer space; PSY and Skrillex are coming to India. Let 2012 be remembered as the year that Justin Bieber threw up on stage.
I’m actually tempted to give this to something Bollywood this year. Music director Sneha Khanwalkar (of Oye Lucky Lucky Oye fame) did something significant with her approach to the Gangs of Wasseypur (and sequel) soundtracks. Traveling the country haphazardly picking up pieces of sound, and singers from local trains, she threw together a loose collage of sound that worked perfectly within and without the movie. Also she’s ridiculously hot.
We had an Adam and the Fish Eyed Poets release this year, Songs from an Island, a concept album about a couple in an arranged marriage. I loved it, but I’m not in love with it. Harsha Iyer has gone on his own trip and released some unlistenable self-indulgence. The Ska Vengers make music I wouldn’t really want to listen to recorded; Sridhar/Thayil’s STD was experimental, but not the most palatable record. That Split album was a faux-success among the ranks of the Scene-Hypernostalgics, but deep inside we all know we’re never going to listen to it. Slow Down Clown’s Forget the Night gave us enough Counting Crows to keep our teenaged parts happy, it’s actually really lovely, if only slightly let down by the vocals.
I’m so torn now. It’s a wonderful feeling to be torn, because there’s music being produced that’s so good I can’t choose which one’s more superlative. It comes down to Sky Rabbit’s debut or Sulk Station. These are both albums that went beyond a hundred plays in my library, they’re both albums I’m constantly recommending.
Sky Rabbit recorded on the album don’t sound as punchy as they do live, sadly. Sulk Station’s debut album, and their unreleased B-side Stranger, were truly 2012’s unadulterated pieces of sheer beauty.
Best terrible video of the year:
Once long ago when I had the flu, I was stuck at home watching National Geographic HD, and there was an hour-long documentary on manatees. The manatees live a peaceful life: they eat, they sleep, reproduce, and they brutally fight each other. One manatee gets up, and waddles over to another, and they stand facing each other. And then there’s a vicious, powerful body slam. In HD, you can see each layer of blubber rippling in slow motion, and the manatees’ battle cries ring out slowed down. Again and again, the manatees slam against each other until one of them starts bleeding to death from internal injuries. You can see the droplets of blood fly out from a manatee’s face, and then he collapses onto the ground and his body lifelessly slides into water.
Many years later in 2012, I watched Shefali Alvares & Sidd Coutto’s ‘Liar’, and it reminded me of that show – visually and sonically. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything shot as unflatteringly, set to music that magnificently mediocre. I think they tried to offset the disaster by calling it a “parody”(?) Both Alvares and Coutto are kinda hot and talented in real life, so this video, and this boring song are a shame and a waste of everyone’s time. Unless you’re into this.
Best terrible song of the year:
Let me post the lyrics of this song here.
I know you got your own town, I know you got your own ways, I know you got your own life, I’m just saying come on down to my place.
Yup, I know you’re gonna lyk it in mah ci-day. Priyanka Chopra launched her musical career this year, by paying will.i.am enough money to perhaps build himself a bunch of apocalypse-arks, and released a single which apparently went “triple platinum” and was nominated for a World Music Award alongside Madonna, Rihanna and Lady Gaga. This generic autotuned track invites listeners to come par-day in our ci-day, with dancing and 3D buildings. Makes you sit down at the end of the day and really think hard about the state of civilization.
written by The Knife