In 1993, when Rock Street Journal (RSJ) was established, the indie music scene in India resembled a barren landscape, in which the only outgrowth of note was a band called Indigo Children. But even then, the Delhi-based print magazine had been watering the ground with its music properties like The Great Indian Rock Festival, helping lay the seeds for a fledgling industry.
Aiming for Enrike
Now, 24 years later, the magazine has been buried in time only for it to blossom in an online format. Its music properties have branched out to include the genres that flowered at the turn of the millennium, such as dream pop and post-punk. And this will be in evidence at a Khar venue tonight, when the organisation hosts Synthesize, the latest in its newly-launched series of gigs.
There will be three bands on offer. These include homegrown artiste Donn Bhat and the Passenger Revelator, and Aswekeepsearching. The line-up also has Aiming for Enrike (AfK), a Norwegian duo who flew in this week for their inaugural India trip and seemed understandably lost at sea when we spoke to them over the phone.
Anirban Chakraborty, RSJ's executive director, says, "One of our strategies [for Synthesize] was to introduce new sounds into the music scene. For example, AfK is really not something that people listen to here in India. When we went to Oslo and heard them at a festival, we were convinced that we wanted to present them to audiences here."
But the band has no idea yet about what to expect from tonight's audience, and neither have they heard any Indian musician apart from Ustad Zakir Hussain. They liked the curries they ate on arrival, but are clueless about the name of the dishes. But one thing that Tobias Ørnes and Simen Følstad Nilsen are sure of is that they don't need a third member for their band. AfK embodies noisy groove pop and their head-bobbing sound, a rarity in the Indian context, is set in stone for them. Chakraborty continues, "The idea for this concert was also to bring in a live electronica format instead of a dedicated DJ gig [which is where Donn Bhat comes in]. At the same time, we didn't want to exclude other sounds altogether, so we planned something that was post-rock as well [Aswekeepsearching]."
So does this mean we are witnessing the birth of RSJ 2.0? "Exactly," says Chakraborty. "RSJ has always been a tastemaker for indie music. But we have reached a point now when the lines between indie and mainstream are blurring. It's not how it was when Amit [Saigal] first launched the magazine. So we have to move towards new sounds, and be brave about accepting a new scene." Which, in other words, can be summarised as the times, they are a changin'.
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