IN the 21st century, if you blink you might miss it! In this era of shortened attention spans, where audiences are constantly looking for something new to excite them, engross them and entertain them, artistes have it hard. The struggles of independent musicians have long been documented in Indian pop culture, but the acknowledgment of this struggle has not made it any easier.
Indie bands start out as low-budget, self-financed and relatively small music projects. But this market is not niche — talent abounds in every Indian school and college. However, strife between band members, budget constraints and alternate career choices has meant that only few sounds survive to tell their tale.
Survival of the fittest
Like a start-up is to business, Indie bands are to the music business! They have it hard. It is an uphill task to make ends meet. Money is the biggest constraint. School and college bands take up gigs (free/paid) just to make a name for themselves. This is still the ‘hobby’ phase. But what happens if a band is really good and wants to make a living out of it? Gigs, collaborations and persistence lead the way!
Music as a career is gaining support with big brands encouraging music events like festivals, competitions, sponsorships and youth exchanges. Now, musicians even have the opportunity to collaborate with international musicians and travel abroad to perform. The market has opened up, offering many platforms for performance and avenues for collaboration.
Each city has a different pulse. Delhi and Mumbai are huge markets to get discovered. Bangalore has always favoured music and continues to be a competitive marketplace. Chennai is a little unforgiving sometimes, but it is well worth it when you are discovered here. With music festivals on the rise, untapped markets like the North-East are becoming go-to destinations to listen to up-and-coming musicians performing alongside mainstream acts. If you walk down the city streets, you’d be surprised to see how much music is imbibed in youth culture, here.
They played and conquered
It’s a tough climb, but for the bands that persist and have a unique sound, the options are aplenty in today’s world. With music, following another’s style or sound doesn’t yield long-term results. Bridging the gap is easy today with so many opportunities for live gigs and the quickest medium for fame — the internet! The quest is conquerable. Here are the top names from today’s indie scene that are paving the way for those to come.
Oorka (Chennai) tamil rock band (2014-present)
Oorka has painted its own course. They reinvented live performances by doing coastal tours, and played anywhere and everywhere when they first started out. The aim: connect with people. And that, they did. Today, this band has a good following and with one album out already, the future is looking good for them.
Pithukuli (Chennai) tamil rock band (2016-present)
Pithukuli came out of KM Conservatory and is today a successful indie rock band. Their style is unique and humorous — they use colloquial Tamil and parody to hook their audiences. But by leveraging the opportunities afforded by music festivals and exchanges, they’ve gained popularity among audiences who don’t speak Tamil too.
Rock band (2016-present)
This band is made of an unapologetic trio who play from the heart and go with what they believe in! They won the Red Bull Band Hunt Challenge in 2017 and made Chennai proud.
Winner of Best Young Indie Artist by Radio City Freedom Awards, Stevie Joe is a singer-songwriter with incredible passion. His journey began when at age eight, he wrote his first song.
When chai met toast (Kochi)
In a short span of time, this band of full-time musicians have gathered a rather large fan base for themselves. Their tracks are feel-good, happy and cheerful, which appeals to most audiences. Tours, festival performances and their YouTube channel have paved the way for the band to connect with larger audiences.
All the fat children (Bangalore) alternative rock (2008 – present)
This rock band currently has more than 200 shows to their credit. But it all started when they were in college, when they performed their debut show. Their first single I Can Fly was released in 2015, and the second single Somebody Else was one of Rolling Stone India’s 10 Best Indian Singles of 2015.
progressive rock (2010 – present)
With an EP in 2012, a full-length album in 2014 called Baran and a second LP underway, Parvaaz is a band with a difference. Their songs, usually sung in Urdu or Kashmiri, address issues relevant to today’s world and cause a stir deep within. They’ve toured in India, North America and UAE, and carved a name for themselves away from mainstream rock music that is common to the Bangalore music scene.
Madboy/ mink (Mumbai)
electro pop (2012 – present)
While both these artistes have alternative careers in entertainment, they are killing it as a duo with their funky electro groove! They believe the internet helps them connect directly with audiences rather than the old school method of working with a label. It also garners fans from all over the world. They’ve toured across 25 Indian cities and performed at almost every major Indian music festival.
Prateek Kuhad (Mumbai)
Indian Indie Album of the Year (2015) by iTunes, the Best India Act by MTV Europe Music Awards (2016), first place in the 2016 International Songwriting Competition and 2018 Best Pop Artist Award at the Radio City Freedom Awards — Prateek is a force to reckon with! He sings in English and Hindi. Simple melodies, relatable lyrics and a voice that takes you on a private journey, this singer/songwriter is already one of India’s best.
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