Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Silence can be deafening

As we drive through the main gate our ears pick up the vibrations. The characteristic rapid beats that sound like machine gun fire. They get louder as we work our way down the line of people standing outside. The usual crowd of long haired metal heads wearing black shirts form a sea of bobbing heads swaying to distorted riffs from one of Bangalore thrash metal bands. Its Independence day and there is an air of rebellion, of non-conformism and a mission to make a mark at one of the year’s biggest music festivals that Bangalore's had to offer. Freedom jam was the most sought after platform for upcoming bands to be heard and hear the veterans of the trade. A bigger version than the monthly Sunday jam, it took place every (or around) Independence Day.

That however that was more than three years ago. Since then the organisers have faced multiple hurdles such as finding locations, getting permits and rowdy locals. The final blow hit when the government passed a law banning all live shows. This was meant to target the dance bars around the city but instead due to its ambiguity caused immense dispute for musicians and organisers. Now the main and only sponsors of the event, Levis, have pulled out. This was the final nail in the coffin and what happened to the freedom jam is only a symptomatic effect of the broader neglect being dished out to the local non-Bollywood music industry. The industry as a whole creates jobs for innumerable people besides the artists themselves. Due to such senseless bans they suffer heavily. Even the government is losing revenue from a potentially highly profitable industry. The whole scenario is very similar to Bollywoods predicament before it was given industry status, a time when the whole film world was run by mafias and shady wheeler dealers. Now the same injustice is being handed out to a whole generation of musicians who have a small or nonexistent avenue to show their talent.

There are small pockets all over Bangalore where musicians meet to rehearse. Watching these rehearsals I realised what they have achieved with little resources they had. If they were given the right platform and sponsorship there is no doubt Indian bands would be on the international scene. Instead of allowing foreign bands from America and the UK to play in India at a premium we should encourage our own concerts headlined by home-grown acts. T-he day might be not far off when an Indian bands garners enough respect to tour the states. Provided the public make enough demand to bring back the bands in their home grounds.

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