Music: From Michael Jackson to pay-and-enter gigs

SUNDAY MID DAY 32nd Anniverary Special, Mumbai

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1996: MJ comes to town; MTV India is launched

Raj Thackeray welcomes Michael Jackson at the Mumbai International Airport in 1996. File Pic

MTV India is launched and the country’s taste for music undergoes a rapid transformation. The 24-hour music channel makes new releases in the West more accessible to Indian listeners. This is also the year when Michael Jackson visits the city. Organised by the Shiv Sena Udyog, the King of Pop performs at an event at the packed Andheri Sports Complex and woos everyone with his evergreen numbers such as Thriller, Bad and The way you make me feel.

1994: All about morality and censor code

The 1993 song Choli ke peeche from Khalnayak, followed by Dalaal’s Chad gaya upar re, spark heated debates across the country about morality. But it’s a year later that Karisma Kapoor and Govinda’s Sarkailo khatiya jaada lage, from the film Raja Babu, leads to the announcement of amendments in the Censor Code.

1980: Police cometh
Rang Bhavan in Dhobi Talao is abuzz with women jumping in their saris, while men do the pogo dance to The Police’s Roxanne. The British band, fronted by Sting, is the first major Western band to perform in the city and belt out several other hits, including Can’t stand losing you, Walking on the moon and Message in a bottle. Needless to say, the gig is completely sold out.

1986: IRock makes its debut
Independence Rock Festival is introduced. It quickly becomes a rite of passage of sorts for the county’s rockers. Until 2003, Rang Bhavan (which then gets listed under the Silence Zone), is the venue for the festival. Now, the two-day fest is held annually, usually mid-August, at the Chitrakoot Grounds in Andheri.

2011: Pay-what-you-want-to-enter gigs
While the entry fee at music venues in the city tend to burn a hole in your pocket, Control ALT Delete’s pay-what-you-want-to-enter gigs herald a ‘come one come all’ attitude. Their first gig at B69, which features bands such as Blakc and Split, introduce new bands to the city’s alternative rock scene. 

Then & Now: Venues have opened avenues
Uday Benegal, singer

One of the most significant changes that I have witnessed as a performer in the city is the closure of Rang Bhavan. The open-air amphitheatre near St Xavier’s College in Dhobi Talao was a hub for rock music. Every year, the Independence Rock (IRock) concert was held there. Our band, launched in 1984 as Rock Machine, played there frequently. In fact, I recall performing at the first ever IRock concert at Rang Bhavan. But although we’ve had to mourn the loss of that unrivalled outdoor amphitheatre, several other avenues have opened up for musicians in the city. Places such as Blue Frog, with its unmatched acoustics, Hard Rock Café, Cheval, Bandra Base and even the tiny Little Door in Andheri offer a platform that didn’t exist in the ’80s and ’90s. As musicians, we’re thankful for these venues, which help make up for the loss of Rang Bhavan. Looking at another bright side, the 1 am deadline for clubs means that we no longer have cops chasing us off the stage at 11 pm. This actually happened to us at our open air concerts!

When we first started off, we also had to fight to play our own songs and prove that we’re capable songwriters. Back then, there was no audience for originality and creativity. We were forced to play cover versions of popular songs. Over time, this has changed. In 1995, when we launched an album as Indus Creed, we had far more original stuff. And now, performing and recording new, original material is an accepted norm, if not a demand. This return to the self is the biggest leap forward for Indian music. There is an emphasis on expression rather than assimilation.

Sepia memory: Saira Menezes
Three landmark moments stand out during my years at SUNDAY MiD DAY.

1) 9/11, the day the twin towers were brought down in the United States of America. This happened 10 days after I joined SMD and for months afterward, Mumbai took a backseat as coverage of the US, the al-Qaeda and Afghanistan took over the front page of the paper.

2) The cloudburst of July 26, 2005. SMD ran an insightful cover on the composition of the cloudburst and why it was a rare natural phenomenon for Mumbai to have witnessed.

3) The 24th and 25th anniversary issues of SUNDAY MiD DAY. In the former, we covered 24 hours in the life of Mumbai with one unique city story being done every hour on the same day. For the latter, we went back to 25-year-old archives, unearthed the big city stories back then and tried to see where those narratives stood 25 years later.

Saira Menezes was Editor, SUNDAY MiD DAY from 2001 to 2005 

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