II who Rocks in Kolkata?

Part 2 Bangla Band and Advertisement

Bishakto Manush” (The Poisonous Man), Nemesis or even Hashnuhana poignantly captures this generation’s fears and insecurities.

So does Halud Pakhi (The Yellow Bird), Katha Chhilo (The Tryst We had) and Amra Bhishon Aka (We are All So Lonely).

Just these three songs are enough to drive the crowd at any CACTUS show to frenzy. The entire Nazrul Mancha crowd (where they usually hold college fests and is filled with college students) and sizeable portion of Sadan (Rabindra Sadan for the more elite crowd comprising of different kinds of people, not just college students) can be heard singing along. They seem to know the whole song by heart. Sometimes the singing duo of Siddhartha and ‘Pata’ Abhijeet appear to stand perplexed on stage while the crowd carry the song forward. The guitar wails, Baji meditatively drums along.

One would suppose this essentially is what Rock is about in Kolkata. Or is there more to it? What about the degree and range of musical innovation that Rock brought about in the West?

Anindyo Chatterji, who, at the time I had spoken to him, was anchoring the DD Metro show called Parampara besides juggling numerous shows of their own band CHANDRABINDOO, pointed out matter-of-factly, “Gaan bendhey othatai baro katha akhon” ( “it is more important to write or be able to compose the lyric of your songs at this stage) .

The kind of informed audience and technology, training and exposure necessary for this genre to grow was still not a reality back then.  That is what Prabudha Banerjee (music director of Bhalo Theko) and Dhrubada of erstwhile band Nagor Philomel, feel.

These interviews were taken five years back in 2004.

A few years back, he recorded a jingle for Thums Up with the three lead singers of FOSSILS, CACTUS and ABHILASHA.  All three are considered to be major Rock bands of Kolkata.  Why pick on them?

Prabuddho Banerjee said that Bates wanted a kind of upcountry sound and one that their target market segment could easily relate to and were already familiar with. And he hadn’t wanted to work with one band – so he had all three working together.

So to what extent does the Thums Up generation identify with Bangla Rock or the Rockers?

Rupam Islam of FOSSILS, the youngest member of the Trio said, “Oh they turn up at shows dressed like me sometimes. If they really like our music they would copy our hairstyle. But mostly, they pick up the lines, the lingo. But you must remember we are not mainstream, we do alternative stuff, so there cannot be any credible index of yet. Rock in the West is mainstream, like Hindi Film music is mainstream here in India.”

Did you feel comfortable with the idiom of this particular jingle, did it sound like your stuff?

Rupam, “Well, yes, the language was pretty much what we would have done; the music however is midway, a sweetened version of the real stuff you would hear at the Bangla Rock shows.”

Evidently, Bangla Rock Bands have managed to establish a distinctive identity of their own in terms of the sound and perhaps even in terms of the use of Language. It is branded and can be sold and bought and used to sell your stuff!

In somewhat vague way, perhaps these people represent the same cutura force that spawned poets and writers like Jibonanando Das, Shakti, Sunil Gangopadhyay and later Joy Goswami, Joydeb Basu, Mandakranta. Somehow, one cannot but feel that they have done for the music industry here, what those other people have done for poetry.

But isn’t their kind of music ‘desi maal in a videshi morok’ meaning ‘local stuff in Western package’? Look at the assortment of electric guitars and metal drums and synthesizers in their ensemble.

Well, the sound is as Western as instant coffee is Western or the suit you might wear or the car you drive or even the chairs you sit upon while you read this stuff. The sentiment is all Bangla, so is the medium of expression.

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