Social media has made it easier for indie bands to find audiences.

The sound of music Meet the south Indian indie bands making waves Screenshot/ Youtube
Features Music Thursday, June 01, 2017 - 18:47

Most music lovers in south India would have heard of bands like The Raghu Dixit Project, Skrat, Thermal and a Quarter, Galeej Gurus, Karthick Iyer Live or Avial, but there are several new artists and collaborations breaking into the independent music scene.

Among the most recent tracks to make waves on social media is BP Collective’s Kaatru Veliyidai Kannamma, an original composition based on the poet Bharatiyar’s work.

The song features several well-known singers and instrumentalists including Pradeep Kumar, Keerthana Vaidyanathan, Shakthisree Gopalan, Susha, and Niranjana Ramanan with Keba Jeremiah and Naveen Kumar on guitars.

“Among all the poems of Bharatiyar that I came across, I found this the most mesmerising in its romance and lyrical beauty,” says B.Prasanna aka BP.

The song created quite an impact as soon as it was released on YouTube and Facebook by BP Collective.

“After having composed the melody, I felt the song could have a lot of colour. I wanted to interpret the romance of the poem freshly while preserving its nativity. Its melodic aspect has an old-world sensibility, but its arrangement and sound spectrum are contemporary,” says its composer BP. “Pradeep Kumar, the lead singer has an organic, completely original style that lends itself beautifully to the flavour of the song.”

BP hopes to collaborate with various artists and explore many original ideas under the BP Collective banner. He is now working on his next single, which he hopes to launch in June. The new single, he says, will explore a completely different expression.

Social media and the Indie scene

“That is the best part about independent music,” says freelance music producer Prashanth Techno, “Artists are free to explore themselves without any constraints, and social media, especially YouTube and Facebook have ensured good artists are able to reach out to audiences.”

Prashanth’s latest collaboration is a rap song by Sofia Ashraf, of the Kodaikanal Won’t fame, called I Can’t Do Sexy.

“This the first time I have worked on a rap song. The track is about breaking norms associated with fashion. I wanted to give it a quirky Indian twist with a ‘Chennai’ vibe. It combines the sounds of the ghatam and the ektara as well as some electronic funds towards the end.”

Social media, he observes, helps artistes build an audience and draw them towards their live performances: “Despite the reach given by social media, I see so many musicians working on covers and adaptations. I want them to start writing and composing their own songs.”

Karthick Iyer, of IndoSoul fame, agrees.

“Social media has removed the middleman between the artist and the listener. It has played a huge role in the way an artist can communicate with his listener and get feedback from him. Yet the independent scene is still unsaturated as compared to Western countries. Here, you are either a small artist or you are on top. There is no middle ground.”

Finding an audience

At the same time, Karthick believes that there is a market for independent artists if they make good music and stay true to what they really want to do.

Karthick is already an established name in the Indian music scene, with his band Karthick Iyer Live featuring Vikram Vivekanand on the guitar, Naveen Napier on the bass, Ramkumar Kanakarajan on drums, Sumesh Narayanan on the mridangam and percussion, and Karthick himself on violin and vocals.

IndoSoul, he says, is a representation of ‘our’ way of thinking through the lens of Indian classical music.

His latest album Pallavi Shift is a collaboration with French pianist Dondieu Divin. The album features ancient Carnatic songs with a twist.

“The album features Carnatic songs with a completely different sound. This is not new to us, we live in a generation where we are exposed not just to our own culture but several others. This album is a testimony to that. We have taken arranged and adapted Carnatic music in a globalised format combining genres — Western jazz, pop, R&B, even Western classical music.”

Karthick believes there is still a vacuum in the independent music spaces in terms of the reach and the connect to audiences.

“I don't think there is a shortage of either musicians or listeners. But I feel that the connection is lost somewhere. Independent music deserves a good space in our format.”

Singer Gowtham Bharadwaj, lead voice of the band Staccato, which performed at the London Olympics 2012, agrees.  The band is also exploring classical music from a contemporary angle. Their latest work is a contemporary tribute to Saint Thyagaraja’s composition Odanu Jaripe.

“I quit my job as a Chartered Accountant at a multi-national to pursue music full-time, two years ago. Initially I wanted to get into playback singing, but I am now happy working on independent music. I am also back to working part-time, balancing my musical aspirations with my profession,” he explains.

“Though pursuing independent music, especially with social media outreach, gave me a certain reach and recognition, I can’t honestly say that it has taken me to the pinnacle. I don’t know if I can be a full-time musician under the current circumstances in the independent music scene. I don’t know we are there yet, especially when it comes to monetary returns.”

What’s important, believes Gowtham, is to focus on one’s strength, and create a unique identity, delivering quality work rather than work towards a spot as a playback singer.

“Our work should be fulfilling,” he adds.

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