We are about to wrap up our conversation with Mumbai-based musician Anand Bhaskar, when he makes a confession that’s unusual for the founder of a band. “I hate the band’s name,” says the vocalist, glumly, of his eponymous band, Anand Bhaskar Collective. And, his reason for the grouse perfectly sums up the journey of the band.
Anand Bhaskar Collective at a practice session in Malad and the cover of their debut album Pic/Nimesh Dave
The band is the brainchild of the 33-year-old musician, who was looking to return to the music industry after having recovered from a period when, as Bhaskar succinctly puts it, “life caught up with him”.
Beating TB and obscurity
In Delhi, where Bhaskar spent most of his life until he moved to Mumbai to pursue a masters degree, the musician was part of the Delhi rock band Descant (from 2005-2006) and a Mumbai band (which didn’t “work out”). He was close to giving up music when he met his wife, then-girlfriend. “I played a few compositions for her and she insisted that more people need to hear my music,” he recalls. One of them included Hey Ram, a track about people attacking each other over religion, which Bhaskar composed days after the 26/11 attacks. “I was so appalled by the attacks,” says the artiste.
But what really convinced her of Bhaskar’s prospects as a professional musician was his other track, the impishly-titled Chewtiya, about those who spit in public. Chewtiya was also “technically” born out of the musician’s own misery — he took a year to recover from a bout of tuberculosis, which damaged “70 per cent of his lungs’ capacity”.
But TB turned out to be the least of his worries. Bhaskar had an all-consuming day job. More importantly, he didn’t have a band. “No one was willing to form a band with me. So I worked on the lyrics and music of my debut album Samsara alone, for two and a half years.”
Things were set in motion last year when guitarist Chandan Raina, violinist Ajay Jayanthi and bassist Neelkanth Patel first came onboard to form the Anand Bhaskar Collective. Patel, with whom Bhaskar shares a nine-year-old musical association, says, “In Mumbai, bands stick to one genre. But I like fusion music,” he says. The rest joined in later and the band launched the album online in November, 2014. Early this week, Samsara, a fusion of alternative rock and Indian classical music, held the No 1 spot on Ok Listen!’s (where you can listen/legally download indie music) top selling albums list which included heavyweights such as the Raghu Dixit Project and Indian Ocean.
Talking about the indie music scene in the city, Raina says, “You can see the genre’s effect even on Bollywood, where it is no longer the 90’s cheesy music. People are more willing to experiment with music,” he points out.
A fusion of musical notes
Samsara’s eight tracks have something for every music lover. There is the angst-ridden Hey Ram, Amma Appa which is an ode to parental love, the ‘punny’ Chewtiya and love tunes such as Tere Bina and Fanaa. In these tracks, the vocals are powerful, the Western and Indian beats are distinct and the violin tugs at our heartstrings. “I didn’t want my album to sound too niche or commercial. My aim was to make the listener hum the tune long after listening to it,” says Bhaskar, a classically trained musician, who is a huge fan of heavy metal music, ‘90s alternative rock bands such as Creed, Alice in Chains and Indian musicians Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Karsh Kale.
Future projects include a video for Chewtiya and a major project, which Bhaskar prefers to remain mum about. There is also a second album in the offing — which is when he explains why he is unhappy with the band name. “While working on the debut album, I called the work Anand Bhaskar Collective and the name just stuck, like the Dave Matthews Band! In the second album, all members will contribute equally. I try and convince my band to change it but they say ‘The artwork and logo are already done,” he laughs.
And then, he springs another surprise. “I quit my job two weeks ago,” he says nonchalantly. We ask whether he is in between jobs and he replies, “No. I think I am done with that for good.”