Selling Out May Be The Next Big Thing

A perspective on what’s heralded by rock musicians making the move to  “machine manufactured” music 

A few days ago, I was having a chat with Abhijeet Tambe, vocalist/guitarist of the Bangalore based Lounge Piranha for a piece that I was working on at that time. I had loved the band during the days they had been active. So naturally my curiosity about any future plans they might be having — coupled with the fact that I’m not a cat, so I was safe from any auguring proverb proving itself right — got the better of me. Although there weren’t any immediate plans that Lounge Piranha had (what a bummer!), Abhi mentioned beginning work on a solo project. The project was in a primitive stage, so he didn’t have too many details to divulge. Except somewhere over the conversation, it came out that he was thinking of incorporating electronic influences into the music.

The guitarist/vocalist of an acclaimed alternative post-rock band playing electronic music?! There was a time in the scene when any deviations towards “machine manufactured” music might have been considered a sacrilege deserving a wrath worse than the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.

But I wasn’t surprised.

After all, Moby did it. The grand daddy of avant-garde ambient music, Brian Eno did it. Even Edgar Froese of the influential Tangerine Dream did it. The backgrounds of some of the most prolific electronic musicians from across the world are rife with instances where they gave up the loving comfort of their first wife for the seductive charms of a mistress. Abhi isn’t the lone musician in this regard either. Ashhar Farooqui, part of the bass heavy techno punk unit Teddy Boy Kill used to be part of Envision, which enjoyed cult success with its psychedelia laced post rock sound about a decade ago. Suryakant Sawhney, vocalist of Peter Cat Recording Co., had recently released an EP with fuzzy spaced out tunes (which he called ‘music of the ghosts’) for a side project named Lifafa. The relatively new industrial and metal influenced Switch Bitch is made up of members of The Circus.

There maybe several reasons why any musician might venture into a genre disparate from his roots, the chief being experimenting with the potential of newer sounds which electronic music offers. Engendering a process of creative satisfaction for the artist, this just might be a pointer towards the growth of not just the artist, but the larger indie music scene to the next level.

For starters, and probably the most important, is that musicians can just start out with a solo project. No need to wait for the guitarist who got way too drunk last night and is nursing a hangover or the drummer whose girlfriend’s pup has an appointment with the vet. Being a multi-instrumentalist isn’t a requisite either, as long as you know what sounds to pick and mix on your workstation in the comfort of your bedroom. The keys to success, and failure, lie completely in the hands of that one guy. And even if there is the need to collaborate, the interwebs leave possibilities as wide open as a goal post sans the goalkeeper.

The other — and this implies big — is that one can cut through the barrier of language. Considerable ink has been splattered over the years debating if the lack of bands singing in the vernacular is the reason for their limited accessibility to a larger Indian population for which English may not be the language they are most comfortable with. On the contrary, those who sing in the vernacular may face limited options in overseas markets.That has always seemed like a ridiculous debate, considering the choice of language, just like the instruments or musical genre, is personal to the musicians. They need to do whatever comes naturally to them.

Still, for the sake of giving that argument some credence, creating Electronic music does provide the option of getting rid of the shackles of language, whether one makes ambient chillout music or raving hardcore dance music. Which is again a personal choice, but the probability of hitting out at a much larger audience is too exciting a possibility to be ignored. The relatively higher measure of success which electronic acts like Jalebee Cartel and Midival Punditz currently enjoy, both with a domestic and international crowd is a great indicator of this. And come on, we are after all a nation which loves to dance (pun intended), aren’t we?

It will always remain open to conjecture if Vatican Commandos, The Ones, Roxy Music could’ve done any better if Moby, Edgar Froese and Eno hadn’t quit. But they changed music forever with their transition. Whether the transitioning musicians back home are able to make as dramatic an impact on the course of the indie music movement, or if this is just a passing phase, will be interesting to follow.

written by Asif Khan/ New Delhi

NEWS - 20. August 2012   CITY - New Delhi

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