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Musical TalesThanks to Mumbai Mirror and Ashwini!
By Ashwini Gangal
Storytelling through music is not alien to rock music but there of late seems to be a positive surge in the kind of song themes and story concepts. We nose around and explore what Mumbai's rock bands are singing about nowadays
Come in dear sir,
Let me show you around.
I serve the master,
Who lives in this house,
The guests are arriving,
Dont look so pensive,
Dinner will be served shortly,
A treat for the senses...'
Not the likes of David Bowie, Jim Morrison or Roger Waters; the lines above represent the kind of lyrics city-based rock bands are penning these days. With more and more bands mushrooming constantly, lyrical and musical narratives are hitting some bold notes.
Mangesh Gandhi, songwriter, Coshish, explains, "There are scores of new bands and hence newer ideas and issues to write about. Many progressive bands are releasing concept albums where one single story is woven through all the songs .The effort is also to create 'musical films' where the audience hears not only the words but also visualises the story being narrated. These are great new developments."
Krishna Venkitachalam, bass guitarist for Shor Bazaar, observes, "People don't think of bands as sources of stories and interesting concepts – a huge misconception, because the point of being a musician is not to perform but also to convey a message.”
Gandhi points out that although a recent trend in Mumbai, this has been happening in the West for a while now. Riju Dasgupta, songwriter for Albatross, agrees with him. “Internationally, musical storytelling is common; in fact there's an entire genre in the west that's LOTR-based, called 'Tolkien Metal',” he informs.
He further adds, “In Mumbai, concept albums are picking up though – Demonic Resurrection for example has a fantasy-based one. Also, bands are now expressing unique things; Bangalore-based band Slain sings about Christ, for instance."
Spreading the word
Singing about socially relevant issues and spreading preachy messages almost seems ironic given the bratty image most bands portray, but surprisingly enough, this is true. As songwriter Sidd Coutto (Tough on Tobacco) puts it, "We send out socially relevant messages like 'don't drink and drive' and 'don't start smoking'. I know it's a strange message coming from a pop-rock-reggae band, but it's more like 'like look at us we're all addicted, so learn from our mistakes and don't start smoking!'"
Along the same lines, Krishna calls Shor Bazaar an ‘educated band of radical thinkers’. “We write about serious issues like ragging/school bullying, the notoriety of Savita Bhabhi and use a lot of Indian mythological analogies," he says.
Similarly, apart from penning songs inspired by Lord Voldemort, Spiked Crib writes about all the issues that society loves to deny. Lyricist Gareth Mankoo reveals, "We sing about abortion, suicide and infidelity. Our song 'The Butcher's Prayer' is about the mindset of a rapist."
A lot of these songs on prevalent issues stem from personal experiences. Siddharth Basrur, songwriter for Dog Ate Disco,confides, "I used to be in a drug rehabilitation centre, so I write about my journey. I also write about current themes like item girls, the saas-bahu TV culture and the need to vote for the right politician."
Art imitates life
It comes as no surprise that the 26/11 terror attacks have become a common topic for bands to be vocal about. Mayank Sharma, drummer, Zygnema, shares, "We have a song called '59' which tells the story of those 59 gruelling hours faced by hostages at the Taj during the 26/11 attack. The song addresses the way the goverment reacted, how politicians resigned and how it became a political issue instead of a national one." Zygnema also sings about the North Indian-Maharashtrian divide, the Indian economy and encourages national unity.
Coshish has songs like 'Rehne Do' about the Godhra riots, 'Woh Kho Gaye' which addresses alcohol and rehabilitation and 'Raaste' strives to encourage secularism, religious tolerance and humanity. Meanwhile, Urdu band The Ghalat Family also sings about terrorism, 26/11, materialism, government manipulation and blind faith in country and religion.
Attributing his own creativity to today's unsteady times, songwriter Ankur Tewari, The Ghalat Family, says, "The country is full of crises today and there's a lot of meaningful stuff to write about. It's no longer about rhyming random words; lyrics are crucial."
Clearly, rock bands today are emerging as an excellent medium for one to gauge the ethos of the prevailing era.
(Article courtesy Mumbai Mirror.com)
(* Apologies for the typo which is now corrected)