City bands go global with foreign tours and firangi fans.
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
After 16 years in the spotlight, the Parikrama band is to shove rock ‘n’ roll back to where it came from: England. It will perform this month at the prestigious Download Festival in Donington Park. Both hope and anxiety are running high. "If we click, doors would open for other bands too", says Dilip, the drummer. The audience in John Lennon’s land could be tough to please. Things cool in Delhi might not be so in London. So the boys are gonna make their sound heavier. They’re not leaving anything to chance, in other words. "It doesn't matter if we have had more than 1,000 concerts. If we perform an inch below the best, we'll be finished," warns bassist Chintan.
They need not worry. "I was so impressed by their playing and attitude and professionalism," says Rod Smallwood, the iconic co-founder of the Sanctuary Records who watched them perform in Bangalore early this year. It was he who pushed their case with the Download promoters.
However it's not Parikrama but Orange Street, another Delhi-based band, which started the overseas exploration in 2004 by rapping Europe with their sound. "We were exposed to new trends and had opportunities to play with talented bands," says vocalist Anirban. The Europeans lapped up the band's combo of heavy rap-rock, Indian classical and traditional Dhol - shot through an electronic bed.
The urge to network with international names and bump into new technologies also induced the electronic-intensive Jalebee Cartel to fly abroad. Having performed in France and UK last year, they now have a radio show beamed in San Francisco. Tours to Russia, Korea and Indonesia lie ahead. Jalebee follow a simple policy: "The foreign bands promote us there and we promote them here," says DJ Arjun. Meanwhile the fusion music band Indian Ocean is preparing for a North American tour while Midival Punditz is leaving for the Glastonbury Festival in UK.
However, Indian bands inevitably raise expectations for eastern exotica in overseas tours. Even the hardcore electric Jalebee resorts to bansuris and sitars. Parikrama too packed its tablas and Hindustani violins.
Won't the lucrative international engagements tempt these bands to ignore the city? "No way, Delhi is our home. It made us what we are," assures Chintan. The capital may breathe easy.