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Indian Rock band Parikrama alive and rocking at 24!

Ahead of a 15-city tour to kick in its 24th year, Rock band Parikrama talks about jamming as a unit in Bollywood-obsessed India, life on tour, and the road ahead

  Q. Tell us about the early days of Parikrama.
A. I was the only one playing in bands, and was in my third year of college. I had four months left before I would have to join the family business of jeep motor spare parts and say goodbye to music for good, so decided to approach the guys, who played the kind of music I listened to which included Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Deep Purple. The band was formed to play covers of classic Rock bands that we worshipped. Nitin Malik and Chintan Kalra were juniors in school; our first guitar player Prashant Bahadur was with me in school and college, the drummer Rahul Malhotra was in the same college too. We found Sonam in 1991, when he came to the university for admission. Everyone was a student. We charged R500 for our first gig.

Saurabh Choudhary, Imran Khan, Nitin Malik (background) and Sonam Sherpa of Parikrama at Independence Rock, Mumbai, in 2010. Pic courtesy/ Akshayraj Uchil
Saurabh Choudhary, Imran Khan, Nitin Malik (background) and Sonam Sherpa of Parikrama at Independence Rock, Mumbai, in 2010. Pic courtesy/ Akshayraj Uchil

Q. What was the first track you recorded.
A. The first song we did was the medley of In The flesh, The Thin Ice and The Wall. Next was Light My Fire by the Doors. We wrote our first original, Xerox in 1991.

Subir Malik during a performance
Subir Malik during a performance

Q. What was the music scene like back then?
A. It was not even close to what it is today; festivals were unheard of, most bands would perform in inter-school/college competitions. There was hardly a pub scene. In some ways, though, it was cooler than the scene today. We played at SRCC Delhi till late night, and at AIIMS till 6 am. There were no 10 pm deadlines. Most campuses would replicate Woodstock, not Tomorrowland.

(From left) Saurabh Choudhary, Srijan Mahajan, Nitin Malik, Gaurav Balani, Sonam Sherpa and  Subir Malik of Parikrama in 2015. PIC courtesy/ seagram’s 100 pipers
(From left) Saurabh Choudhary, Srijan Mahajan, Nitin Malik, Gaurav Balani, Sonam Sherpa and  Subir Malik of Parikrama in 2015. PIC courtesy/ seagram’s 100 pipers

Q. And how have things changed now?
A. Mega budgets have come in, unlimited numbers of festivals are in place, there’s huge pub circuit activation and there is much better money for musicians. There are a lot of new bands now, which are all very good; especially many from small towns are brilliant. Kids today are a lot more mature, which is true across fields.We started as a band that mainly wanted to play covers for four months and then stop. It’s been 24 years now, and today, 99% of concerts have only our original music; we do covers on request.

(Second row) Dilip Ramachandran, Subir Malik, Nitin Malik; (first row) Vipin Mishra, Sonam Sherpa and Chintan Kalra were part of Parikrama in 1996. PIC Courtesy/Sohail Akber
(Second row) Dilip Ramachandran, Subir Malik, Nitin Malik; (first row) Vipin Mishra, Sonam Sherpa and Chintan Kalra were part of Parikrama in 1996. PIC Courtesy/Sohail Akber

Q. Is the Indian audience more accepting of your genre now?
A. Indian audiences are now accepting of any music, which is good. It doesn’t matter if it’s a two-piece band or a ten-piece band. The genre doesn’t matter either. Seeing what’s happening in this country for the past six months, I wish the intolerant lot also becomes a music lover. It will make them much more open, accepting, joyous and peaceful.

Q. What’s the Parikrama fan like?
A. There was a girl in Kolkata who got Nitin’s picture tattooed on her arm. A fan of ours had sent us his answer sheet, where in an essay about your inspiration, he had written about Parikrama. We have had fans who follow us to all our tours. We answer every message on social media ourselves and use no proxy.

Q. It’s not easy for bands to stay together. What keeps you all together?
A. From Day One, we have certain rules that we have stuck to. Being on time is one of them. Even at festivals, when we play before another band, we ensure that we get off stage five minutes before the next band. There is no alcohol consumption before a show. We were also clear about the fact that the band wasn’t a source of livelihood for any of us. We all have chosen day jobs related to music but the band is our passion, and we like to keep it that way. We wanted to have fun and the day we stop having fun, we will stop playing together.

Q. What are your practice sessions like?
A. With all of us having our individual jobs and families, it becomes difficult to spend as much time together at rehearsals. In the ’90s, when we were making a song, we would meet 20 times, for six-ten hours. Now, we meet periodically. We also compose and edit a lot of pieces online and share them with each other, so that when we meet, 60% of the song has already been done.

Q. What do you do to keep up with the changing taste of the audience?
A. Every band has an identity that they create over the years. We stick to ours because that’s what people loved us for. Anything else that we do would be fake. We do adapt for certain concerts. When we had the opportunity to tour with Iron Maiden, it was a Thrash Metal concert, in the UK (2007), which is not our forte. Many of our songs were too soft. We wrote heavier songs for that concert. The opportunity to play with Iron Maiden was huge, and we didn’t want to miss out. That audience had never heard of Parikrama.

Q. Life lessons that you have learnt being in a band?
A. We still have fun. That hasn’t changed. We don’t behave like rebels anymore. In the early ’90s, we would take off our shirts on stage. In 1992, we broke a guitar on stage. We realised that was wrong. Since then, we haven’t harmed an instrument during a performance ever. Our attitude to criticism has changed a lot. Our music has evolved. Some of our songs have been heavier now.

Q. Has the advent of social media changed things?
A. In December 1995, when we played at Mood Indigo in Mumbai, they told us there was this new thing called the Internet. We used to check it out in the organiser’s office. We have released all our songs online for free download, ever since. We have only singles; we have not released a single album. We are not very fond of recording studios, we prefer playing live. Social media has helped many artistes, who create non-Bollywood music, to advertise and reach the right audience. It changes so fast that every six months one needs to reinvent their strategy.

On: October 29, 9.30 pm onwards.
At: blueFROG, Mathuradas Mills Compound, Lower Parel.
Call: 61586158

FROM THE PARIKRAMA FILES
>> Our mantra: There’s no substitute for hard work and it’s not always about the money.
>> Also jammed with ’90s Rock singer Suraj Jagan; it was my dream to work with him.
>> 25th year plans: There will be new songs, new videos and lots of celebrating. At the moment, we are fully concentrating on that.
>> Being an English rock band  in India: You get fame, but not money singing in English in a band. We realised that long back. Things are changing for the better now. We realised we can’t please everybody. We are grateful to people who like our music and also ones who don’t.

My playlist
I have been listening to the sound track of the movie, Udaan, on loop. My favourite Indian bands include Indus Creed, Pentagram, Soulmate, TAAQ and Indian Ocean. Internationally, I love Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Deep Purple, White Snake and Coldplay, among others.


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