Tune in to rock n' roll

Musicology

Tune in to rock n' roll

Luke Kenny, the anchor of ‘The Rolling Stone Show’.

These days, Indian channels are so smitten by Bollywood music that there seems to be very little room for ‘non-filmi’ music. At a time like this, ‘The Rolling Stone Show’ on NDTV Good Times  comes as a much-needed breath of fresh air. Excerpts from an interview with Luke Kenny, the anchor of the show:

What is ‘The Rolling Stone Show’ about?

The show is a mirror of the magazine and more. It features stories from the magazine, along with song snippets from upcoming promising Indian bands. We get to take a look inside the lives of independent music as it stands in this country today.

Indian bands struggle a lot to make it big,  especially internationally. With the exception of a few cases, why do you think the trend of record labels promoting bands hasn’t caught on well in India?

Rock n’ roll is not an Indian concept to begin with. It’s a musical ideology that stemmed from the west and the rest of the world took it and ran with it. India has always been dancing to its own indigenous tunes, yet rock n’ roll has managed to seep into our lives. But only as marginal entertainment. It has never been mainstream, it has never been a business model and it has yet to become an investment, if at all. Hence the reluctance of record labels, the fickleness of audiences and the randomness of the bands themselves.

When music channels like MTV and Channel [V] first came to India, they played songs from music albums and featured musicians. But now, they rarely play anything but Bollywood music. What seems to have changed?

I feel a lot has to do with the quality of the music. Bollywood has stepped up in music production values in the last 5-7 years. The new film music directors are mirroring the trends and music production trends of the west. Hence we get good sounding mediocre songs which get their share of popularity by sheer sonic default. What Indian non-filmi acts suffer from is the lack of populist songwriting, and their reluctance to go down that road, so a detraction happens by way of folk/sufi/metal which tends to fall off the radar by way of audience disconnect. And a niche audience is not enough business sense for channels of mass media entertainment. Music channels have to play what is popular the world around. If something detracts from that, then it’s out of the window.

Online spaces like MySpace, YouTube seem to have revolutionised the music scene world over. To what extent can online spaces such as these help musicians reach wider audiences?

Well, it was a good idea while it lasted but I think fatigue has set in and most people do not have the inclination to go and check out new music as much as they used to. Traffic has fallen for such a trend and while it is a good morale booster for independent bands to have a label-free outlet to their music, an artist still needs to have that widespread reach that is touch and feel. Online is just another instrument of dissemination, not the be-all end-all of it.

You are a musician yourself. Tell us a bit about your personal musical evolution.

My musical evolution has thankfully happened in all directions, like an amoeba spreading itself towards any direction that sustains it, so my gravitation towards all genres has been steady. Although not some genres get more attention than some but still, there is not a genre I have not experienced. I sing with my band. I had a band in college way back in the early 90s. Even then, we had decided to play only original music, which led to much disillusionment because at that time nobody wanted to listen to original songs! But thankfully trends have changed and I can pursue those unfinished endeavours with my current band who are an amazing bunch of musicians. 

Is there a lot of scope for indigenous bands to grow in the current music scenario in India?

Music grows with support and support from all angles. So if there are audiences out there in one corner and the artists in the other, then the corporate sector needs to step in and bridge that gap.  Just standing in one corner and yelling out to the other in the hope that they will hear is not enough. The fight and struggle continues.

Could you name a few Indian musicians who you find unique?

There have been many. Way back in the early ‘90s Indus Creed tried to change their profile from being a ‘poseur’ band to a more indigenous songwriting outfit, which could have sustained had the support been there then. But in recent times, while there are many bands who are developing their own style, very few are rising above the ordinary and succeeding in marginally standing out.

‘Rock On’ addressed a few of the challenges faced by Indian bands. What are the major challenges faced by them?

Well, one of the major battles is film music, isn’t it? Add to that the populist theory.

A lot of  people download music from the internet these days. What is your take on music piracy?

Piracy is like prostitution. It has always been there and will always be there. You cannot fight it, you cannot eradicate it, you cannot stop it. Deal with it and become a better live act.

Watch the show every sunday at 9:30 pm on NDTV Good Times.

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