New indie songs showcased during ongoing lockdown
If you were to remove the words “ebin” from webinar, you would receive “war” and that precisely is the result of the ongoing battle where the net is making its best effort to effectively engage your time. Initially, it was a thrill to keep yourself occupied by doing so, but with the same time slots being threatened by multiple webinars, it appears to have become another viewers’ market when you can pick and choose your form of education or entertainment and, should you lose interest in the one that you are viewing, there now happens to be a backup programme available simultaneously. However, one focused webinar which did not need you to initiate the habit of utilising your fastest finger first, was the Music Inc 3.0 virtual summit held on June 20 and 21, which was organised by loudest.in, exchange4media, and BW Businessworld, which featured stalwarts from the music industry encompassing professionals and musicians.
Notable of the sessions was the one on ‘Music monetisation and the role of brands’ that featured industry veteran Atul Churamani, managing director of Turnkey Music and Publishing, and Shameer Tandon, music director and promoter of Music Boutique. Churamani focused his arguments on the necessity of composers/lyricist becoming members of statutory bodies such as IPRS [The Indian Performing Right Society Limited] and vocalists with ISRA [Indian Singers’ Rights Association], and also propagated the obligation of obtaining relevant licenses while streaming live shows through the net, and their recordings by obtaining sync licenses from copyright owners. Churamani spoke about musicians having an opportunity of improving their skill sets about prevailing laws and updating themselves with technology during this period of lockdown, whereas Tandon spoke about the importance of musicians monetising their performances online [“no freebies”] and the importance of brands supporting the musicians’ online initiatives by funding their marketing and promotions.
The other upside of the lockdown, which was announced in late March 2020, was the increase in the number of independent – or indie – music releases. Artistes, both newcomers and the experienced, released singles and albums, across languages, many of whom sang about the ongoing pandemic. Without musicians, there can be no easily palatable sounds and, keeping that in mind, sudeepaudio.com focuses on select independent performers who have decided to showcase their respective talents in these times of trouble…
Druv Kent is one of them, with a song that he released just over a month ago. Called “Till We Meet Again”, which is about “a world locked down … eager to rejoin those we feel so close to…”, Kent was born and raised in Kolkata, went to boarding school in Dehradun, and attended college in the U.S. Apart from music, he had an interest in strategic and financial consulting and ended up becoming an investment banker in Singapore, which is where he is currently based.
Nevertheless, as a child, Kent trained in Hindustani vocals, drums, and tabla; however, Druv’s ear was always drawn towards Western sounds. “My heart was in vocals and percussion,” says Kent, “but I played guitar and keyboards more as compositional tools rather than for performing purposes”. In 2012, Druv sang for a Bollywood song with Agnee, the Pune-based Hindi rock band (“Paa Paraa Paa” from the soundtrack of ‘Aalaap’). Nonetheless, this Kent is down to earth and is aware that he is no superman as one Clark was, but that should not take away his fine compositional skills that make him beyond the ordinary as “Till We Meet Again” proves, a song which embraces old-school aesthetics and delivers a melodic song in his signature goosebump-inducing vocals.
Meanwhile, Diyatom Deb, originally from Shillong and presently based in New Delhi, recently won the first ever ‘Digital India Singer Songwriter Contest’ with his performance of a song named “Forced Wanderer”. The contest was initiated by Vishal Karanth to commemorate Bob Dylan’s 79th birthday on May 24, wherein Karanth created a social media page to promote music by independent artistes in India. The contest required participants to send videos of themselves playing one Bob Dylan song and one original song. Only the original songs were judged for the contest with the winner receiving a cash prize.
Deb’s “Forced Wanderer” was the winner, and deservedly so as it revived the singer/songwriter classic tradition of performing in an acoustic mode, sounding as if the song was recorded in the early ’70s as the lyrical laments are underscored by a realized vision of trickled-down modern life.
Next, check out “There For You” by veteran musician Ravi Iyer, who is based in Mumbai, and is acknowledged for his unique sound and expertise in the genres of fusion and rock. Iyer began his musical journey by learning tabla during his childhood and later, in his teens, he took up playing guitar. Apart from his solo projects, Iyer has also had the honour of performing with his biggest influences and legendary artistes like Dr. L Subramaniam and Padmabushan Shri Vikku Vinayakram.
“There For You”, released end-April, is written, composed and arranged by Iyer, a song that speaks about the role of pet dogs in human lives. “There are many complications attached to this unique relationship,” explains Iyer, “and we, as humans and pet parents, do have certain responsibilities towards nurturing this relationship. It all connects to what our priorities are and how we merge this existence in our society and co-exist in the most accommodating, yet enjoyable manner.” With appropriate lyrics, simple yet effective arrangements, and a carefully constructed track consisting of the voices of Merby Jacob and Sherrin Varghese, backed by a choir of children, the song incorporates a perfect ending too with a suitable message from the founder of a canine institute.
“Make It Right” by Sanjay Jack Barde is another original song motivated by the “current global situation”. A founder of ‘90s glam rock band Hazzard, Barde went on to become a drummer for Gary Lawyer and, in the recent past, was based in Hyderabad as a musician until the lockdown got him to return to Pune. Indeed, Barde’s take on the pandemic, “Make It Right”, has its charm, thanks to its sincerity, and its calypso feel, but it is the simplicity of the lyrics that makes the song most effective: “We are one race/Let’s turn the tide/Together, we can make it right…”. Welcome to this Barde party!
Nevertheless, the biggest challenge of the current spate of releases appears from classical guitarist Abhinav Saxena, who has released a largely instrumental album last week, ‘Look Up And Smile’, consisting of 11 tracks. “It is my first release and [it] is really special,” says Saxena proudly. “It’s a journey within, and my take on the magic of acoustic music in the time of heavy production. It’s [also] a take on honesty and truth in a time with all of us having to wear a mask…to be something [that] we are not.” Saxena is a composer and music producer too. His journey into music started 17 years ago. Then, he played guitar with rock bands, and was heavily inspired by Pink Floyd before he diversified to playing classical guitar.
Saxena’s talent as a classical guitarist does not necessarily reflect in his being a composer as melodies on the album often sound underdeveloped and some of them quite simply begin to meander, perhaps because listening to too much familiarity can be a stretch for anyone’s hearing. Nonetheless, ‘Look Up And Smile’ has its moments, with guitar pieces such as “Indian Sunrise” and “Rise”. Nevertheless, full credit is deserved/reserved for his debut instrumental initiative as only Saxena can develop maturity in his skills wherein he gauges the fine dividing line between compositional limitations and being a gifted musician.
The existing pandemic scenario certainly proves that there remains fabulous talent in the independent music space, with artistes ready to record original material even if there is a limited market for their respective content but, nevertheless, it also firmly establishes that their passion for art remains creative even in crisis…