'Indians take too many things for granted'
As they set their eyes on the title of a pan-Asia A Capella competition, Voctronica on the attention that Indian music commands in the international circuit, even as desi listeners ask: 'When will you play a Sunny Leone song?'
For a band that is set to represent India at the Asia Cup A Capella Competition in August, Voctronica has many a funny story to revisit when discussing its foray into music. Avinash Tiwari aspired to be a drummer, but the lack of funds to purchase a set had him train his attention to beat boxing, which "required no investment". Co-bandmate Nagesh Reddy — an avid follower of the group who eventually became part of it — recalls taking to beat-boxing when a Google search for the restaurant Fat Boy's Kitchen landed him on a YouTube video of beat-boxers' group, Fat Boys. Today, he teaches the art as part of a newly introduced Hip-Hop syllabus at Mumbai University, and has a three-year experience as teacher at AR Rahman-backed Dharavi Project. Clyde Rodrigues remembers an official from a music channel offering him a spot in a desi version of a One Direction-like band that was being put together. When that project fell apart, she directed him towards this ensemble.
The band employs many such humble anecdotes as they try to underplay their achievements, but member Arjun Nair states precisely why they've managed to add so many feathers to their cap. "This is among the most hard-working bands I've come across. Each of us knows what we bring to the group, and we all want to be good at what we do. A few years later, we may look at this version of ourselves and laugh, because we won't stop evolving," he says, of the ensemble that counts its gigs at the Moscow Spring A Capella Festival (Russia, 2019), Rider's Music Festival (Delhi, 2017) and the Emerge Festival (Mumbai, 2015) as among their most defining.
Music aficionado have generously consumed the band's offerings, with tracks like their tribute to AR Rahman (Evolution Of AR Rhaman) and Sounds Of The Nation with Amit Trivedi receiving particular attention. A crowd-funding campaign currently underway is expected to enable them to represent India at Japan's Asia Cup A Capella Competition, where they will be the only group from the country battling six other bands at the Vocal Asia Festival. "During our Moscow performance, we understood what our defining feature was. There are a lot of things that Indians take for granted as far as our culture is concerned. In Moscow, people were receptive to our original numbers, appreciating Hindi and Tamil songs, even if they didn't know the language.
It made us feel good about what we do. Here, people are only concerned about us playing a Sunny Leone song," says Nair. Apart from finding an audience that has an ear for music, the band was validated when veteran musicians took keen interest in learning the basics of Indian music from them. "Their minds were blown. They were so fascinated by this 'new language' they had come across," says Tiwari, as Nair adds, "After being on a platform with people who've done this for so long, we could see our uniqueness. We did four gigs in different parts of [Moscow]. Performing at stations, we could capture the attention of people who had their daily lives to go about, and hit the pause button for 20 minutes," says Nair.
When hopping on stage without the support of instruments, Tiwari admits it is easy for the band to lose sense of timing. "If you're off-key, you're off-key. There's no one to give you any reference because there's no instrument. We only have each other to depend on." It is only apt then that the band focus on these two aspects of music with utmost dedication. "We've found a renewed appreciation for maintaining pitch and time. Ear training is one of the most important aspects of being in an ensemble like this one."
Tiwari adds that the band depends on consistent and repeated practice sessions to ensure that it delivers the best version of its creations. "The only way you know if something is working is if you've done it enough. With other bands, where instruments are employed, the broad structure is already set. Here, we are figuring how to sound like instruments and also match the different [timber] of our voices. Most A Capella groups are either all male, or all female. But, we've aimed to sound different from one another."
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