Indian rock

Indian rock

Indian rock is a genre of popular music in India that incorporates elements of Indian music and mainstream rock and is often topically India-centric. While India is known for its northern and southern classical music, the Indian rock scene has produced numerous bands and artists. There are also various non-resident Indians who have formed bands rooted in Indian culture.


1950s, 1960s, and 1970s

There has long been a rock movement in India, especially in cities like Calcutta, Bombay, New Delhi and later, Bangalore and Madras, where during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, rock music from western countries gained a following. Indian rock music followed a long tradition of westernized/western music being played at night clubs and dance clubs in India, from the early 20th century onwards, primarily for an Anglo-Indian, and British clientele. Lounge acts, including swing bands, were popular in the 1950s, the decade after the British left, with rock 'n roll being followed from the mid 1950s onward by a very anglicized and westernized urban young audience, comprising both high school and college students, as well as the then very anglicized officer class of the Indian Armed Forces.

There were other major outlets for rock 'n roll (and later rock) music in India in the period from the 1950s to the 1970s. Of note were All India Radio or AIR, the state-owned radio monopoly which had a number of weekly pop music programmes. Some were regionally broadcast, such as Friday's A Date with You in Delhi and Northern India, while others such as the 1 hour long Monday evening Forces Request show were aired nationwide. All cities also had daily western pop music programmes broadcast by AIR, typically during the lunch hour. Later, in the 1970s, the new youth channel of AIR, Yuva Vani aired western top 20 pop music daily in a morning show. Radio Ceylon too had a major following in India, as elsewhere globally, and was the main source for hearing new music acts as they broke into the scene Fact|date=September 2008.

India, uniquely then amongst developing markets, had a record industry in the Gramophone Company of India (an RCA/HMV/EMI subsidiary), and LPs, EPs, and 45rpm records were freely available, including those of rock and roll acts from the USA and Britain, but also of contemporary pioneering Indian rock bands. The president of the firm, Bhaskar Menon (who later became the President of Capitol Records in the United States) was the leading promoter of western pop music in India. Later in 1970, Polydor, the German Label, began an India label distributing rock music.

Of these mid-1960s beat groups, as they were then termed, the most notable were the Mystiks from Bombay, the Beat-X from Madras and the Flintstone from Calcutta who composed and played both early British Invasion influenced songs, and post Sargeant Pepper hard rock. These bands had successful EP and LP releases and played regularly on the Indian university and college music circuits. Also notable from this period (1964–1970) was the female R&B singer, Usha Iyer, now Usha Uthup, who had successful covers of Jambalaya and The Kingston Trio song, Greenback Dollar.

The rock 'n roll scene was also closely followed by Junior Statesman (or simply JS), a magazine started in 1965 contemporaneously with Rolling Stone magazine in the USA and NME in the UK.

In terms of reverse influence, renowned acts such as Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Doors and the Byrds were notably influenced by Indian classical music as a way of reinforcing the psychedelia in their music. While Jazz musicians, notably John Coltrane had ventured into Indian music and spiritualism, the influence of Indian classical music on 1960s rock began in earnest with the Beatles' very public sojourn with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram in Rishikesh in 1966 followed by their release of the LP and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1968.

1980s and 1990s

While the orientalist trend of the 60s and 70s was by the 80s and 90s largely over, India itself continued to produce bands in various styles of rock music, from soft rock and roll and rock pop, to hard rock and metal. With the arrival of MTV, tastes rapidly changed, encouraging bands to harden their style and focus more on underground styles such as death metal, alternative metal, progressive rock, etc. The 1990s saw the rise of a much larger following of various harder styles for this reason. Bands that had formed in the 80s, such as Rock Machine, (who would later be known as Indus Creed), altered their style with the influx of newer techniques and influences from the west. Others formed in the 90s with harder styles influenced by the growing split between popular rock, (such as Britpop), alternative styles, (such as punk), and metal styles, (such as thrash. The Indian sub-genre of fusion, which encourages a similar blend of ancient Indian musical traditions with rock music to raga rock, was also carried forward, and is perhaps the most unusual Indian style of rock.

2000s and onwards

The current Indian rock scene has a larger following than ever, (although it is still marginalised compared to film music), and may soon become recognised in the international arena, as various South American and Japanese bands have become. Recent entries into the rock music scene are increasingly becoming comparable in their production quality to western bands, and have been compared favorably to other internationally recognised acts. Now digital technology is making it easier than ever for these bands to distribute and sell their music. Some British bands of South Asian origin, such as Swami have, like their hip-hop counterparts, tried to enter the Indian market in addition to maintaining the traditional fanbase of non-resident Indians in United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Others, such as Rudra, have emerged from Indian communities in other Asian countries. Progress is certain for the Indian rock scene with the advent of entities that support this genre. Rock Street Journal and Rave are the two major publications that have been promoting Indian rock bands. DogmaTone Records, an Indian record label which began little over a year ago has been promoting rock bands and released a compilation album recently. The scene has also been transformed by the online medium, and the subsequent rise of a number of online portals promoting Indian rock.

Rock and Roll

India has produced many rock bands, some of whom have made it into mainstream Indian music, and achieved some international recognition.

Indian fusion

An Indian sub-genre of rock exists that focuses on blending traditional Indian styles of music with rock music. The term for non-Indian bands using Indian instrumentals and vocal in rock is raga rock, however, Indian fusion also encompasses attempts by Indian pop musicians and film composers to incorporate rock music into their work, starting in the 70s with film scores like those of the Amitabh Bachchan classics. The Brown Indian Band features accomplished Indian classical musicians in concert with jazz virtuosos.

Indian funk

Indian funk is a loose term describing the style of rock and roll which is sometimes blurred into the realms of pop and other genres. Whereas Indian fusion may only incorporate Indian style into rock, or rock into Indian music, Indian funk can be broadly defined as what rap-metal is to heavy metal - an infusion of elements from rap, reggae, pop, and dance genres that some might consider to not be 'true' rock. Groups originating in South Asian communities in western countries like Britain are noted for this style, with bands such as Swami and Asian Dub Foundation using elements of UK garage, UK bhangra and hip-hop, such as synthesisers, rap vocals and turntables.

Hard Rock and Metal

Vedic metal

"The Indian Singaporean band", Rudra (initially got their worldwide push from major metal label Sonic Wave International), with its style of 'Vedic metal', based around Hindu themes, has gained some fame in South East Asia, and is perhaps the most successful Indian band to fuse metal and traditional music in the vein of Brazil's Sepultura, although it does not use avant garde instruments like the latter. Many international critics from America, Germany and other countries, have given the band's albums rave reviews.

Since the genre was pioneered by Rudra in the late 1990s, it has grown in popularity. Bands like Aryadeva (Ukraine), Symmetry (Indonesia), Warriors Of Peace (India), Asura (India), Advaita (New Zealand), The Aryan March (India), Narasimha (Singapore), Kaliyuga (Malaysia), Azrael (Australia) and Blue River (Sri Lanka) have done pioneering work in the genre. Often, along with the Vedic lyrics, the music has shades of Indian classical music. The definitive album of this genre is the Rudra album The Aryan Crusade released in 2001. In addition, India has produced many metal bands that combine ethnic-folk music with various forms of metal to create folk metal band's. Bands in this genre include musical acts such as [ Zanskar] .

Indian rock has been influenced by some notable cultural trends, and has in turn produced influences of its own. Indian musicians have also collaborated with other musicians from across the globe from time to time. Jolly and the Oceans is one such example. The band line up included a German drummer, Hungarian bassist, German vocalist and an Indian guitarist/vocalist Hemant Kapoor.

Raga rock

In the west, certain groups, such as The Beatles traveled to India and incorporated some aspects of Indian music, especially classical instruments such as the sitar, into their music, often as a way of conjuring psychedelic 'eastern' feelings. The term for this was raga rock, and examples of it are The Beatles "Love You To", "The Inner Light","Across the Universe","Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", "Tomorrow Never Knows", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Within You Without You" - The Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black" - The Kinks' "Fancy" - The Doors' "The End" - and The Byrds' "Eight Miles High". A number of prolific Indian classical musicians such as Ravi Shankar aligned themselves with this trend, making collaboration albums with western artists. Indian bands themselves mainly covered early rock songs by pioneers of rock and roll in the United Kingdom and America, and only achieved recognition in popular culture by supporting film scores and Indian pop.

Rock scenes

Many cities and regions have produced collections of bands large enough to be classified as a scene within Indian rock.

Delhi's music circuit has seen its share of ups and downs, but has held on largely due to the local presence of "Rock Street Journal". Delhi being the operational home of the Allahabad-based magazine, local bands have benefited by the proximity to India's first magazine that was only about rock and metal. The Great Indian Rock festival is mostly held in Delhi, with occasional forays into Bombay, and has exposed the upcoming musicians of Delhi to a wider variety of musicians. Notable bands from Delhi include Parikrama, Indian Ocean, Them Clones, Menwhopause, and The Superfuzz.

A recent ban on live bands in most places in Bangalore has had a negative impact on the music culture of the city. Bangalore is home to many great stalwarts like Kryptos, Myndsnare, Extinct Reflections, Inviktus, Galeej Gurus, Thermal and a Quarter, Parousia, Bhoomi, Whitenoiz, Inner Sanctum, Slain, Spitfire, Souled Out, Asura and Gorified. [] The Independence Rock Festival takes place every year at Mumbai.

Although Bhubaneswar was late to jump in to the bandwagon of rock culture, rock music has evolved into new heights over the few years, owing to the sudden surge of many engineering and management colleges.Fact|date=October 2008

One of the major Indian rock festivals is the June Rock Out, organised by the Unwind Centre in Adyar. There are also other smaller rock/metal festivals happening regularly in Chennai, like the "September Underground", "Last Band Standing," and the weekly "Live 101." The Bands Association of Chennai (BAC) is an organisation which actively promotes the cause of original music by Chennai bands.

North east India, has been a home to major rock musicians. There have been bands from regions such as Gangtok, Darjeeling, Shillong, and Manipur, almost ever since the rock scene in India. A few bands have participated in the Great Indian Rock festival.

Indian origin rock musicians

Several Indians living abroad have become famous names in rock music. The first and most famous of PIO rock stars was perhaps the late Freddie Mercury of Queen. Other examples include Kim Thayil of the group Soundgarden, Tony Kanal of No Doubt and Dave Baksh of Brown Brigade (formerly a part of Sum 41). Generally, wherever there is a significant Indian comminity, Indian origin musicians have emerged. This is both a testament to the number and size widespread overseas Indian communities, and India's strong musical traditions. The most notable band composed exclusively of PIOs is Singapore's Rudra.

Other rock musicians of Indian origin, with varying degrees of success, are:

*Freddy Mercury: Queen (vocals)
*Tony Kanal: No Doubt (bass)
*Tjinder Singh: Cornershop (vocals, dholaki)
*Prakash John: Alice Cooper (bass)
*Sushil K. Dade: The Soup Dragons (bass)
*Jason Singh: Taxiride (vocals)
*Bif Naked
*Safwan Javed: Wide Mouth Mason (drums)
*Kim Thayil: Soundgarden (lead guitar)
*Preetesh Hirji: Mattafix
*Rick Parashar and Raj Parashar: (producers) Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi, Alice in Chains, 3 Doors Down.
*Jas Mann: Babylon Zoo
*Archis Tiku: Maxïmo Park (bass)
*Roy Venkataraman: The Wailers (guitar)
*Tanuja Desai Hidier: San Transisto (vocals)
*Kaustubh Pandav: Lucky Boys Confusion (vocals)
*Giti Khalsa: Seven Mary Three (drums)
*Miki Singh: Dragonfly (vocals)
*Ra: QED (vocals, guitars)
*Ian D'Sa: Billy Talent (guitar)
*Sameer Bhattacharya: Flyleaf (guitar)
*Dave Baksh : Brown Brigade, ex-Sum 41 guitarist
*Ravi Bhadriraju: Job for a Cowboy (guitars)


*Cassini's Division
*Indian Ocean
*Indus Creed
*Skinny Alley
*The Superfuzz
*The LBG

Independent record labels

Mainstream record labels in India often ignore rock, with a few exceptions. The rest are independent labels, such as DogmaTone, often run by a band or a promoter. Album sales range between a few hundred copies to a few thousand. They are rarely, if at all, affiliated to the Indian music industry, and sales are not usually monitored.


External links

* [ Indian Rock Bands]
* [!!-/164 Rock in India]
* [ Indian rock music is superficial: Javed Akhtar] , Yahoo! Movies. Published September 4, 2008. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
* Rodgers, Jeffrey Pepper. [ Indian Rock from Thermal and a Quarter] , NPR. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
* Mehar, Rakesh. [ Indian rock's all good] , "The Hindu". Retrieved October 3, 2008.

See also

*List of rock genres
*Death metal
*Folk rock
*Hard rock
*Heavy metal music
*Nu metal
*Raga rock
*Rock and roll
*Rock music
*Alternative rock

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