Raising the bar for indie

Sep 15, 2018, 08:42 IST | Shunashir Sen

Ever heard of a watering hole "owning" a band?

Raising the bar for indie
(From left) Ameya Naik, Kushagra Mathur and Anurag Prasad, the members of Pratham. Pics/Sameer Abedi

There are no rules to forming a band. A group of musicians get together and just do it. But it's almost unheard of for a venue to take the onus upon itself to crystallise a musical outfit. Yet, that's what suburban bar Door No 1 has done with Pratham, a band they now "own". What this means is that Vishesh Khanna and Mihir Bijur — the partners of the retro bar — have recruited Kushagra Mathur, Anurag Prasad and Ameya Naik to join forces and create original music that will be played at the venue on the first Tuesday of every month, for a fee. What is crucial, however, is that the rights to the tracks remain with the musicians. They are free to make money off their songs elsewhere, such as with iTunes, without giving a pound of flesh back to the establishment.

Mihir Bijur
Mihir Bijur

It's a pretty unique initiative given a market where it's either in-house cover bands or resident DJs who play regular gigs at pubs and bars to pull the crowds in. Door No 1 was conceived as a place that plays old-school music on the lines of Hawaiian Shack or Toto's Garage.

"But we've now come to a place where we want to focus on the next thing, which is indie music. See, we've grown up to bands like Euphoria, Indus Creed, Parikrama and Agnee, and there's a reason why you don't find those bands any more. It's because despite the immense talent in Mumbai, venues don't want to give musicians a chance to play their originals because of a two-pronged approach — the audience wants covers, and that's what the artistes restrict themselves to. It's a Catch-22 situation. And the only way, then, that independent music in the country can grow is if people get used to listening to new music," Bijur says, explaining why he handpicked the three musicians from different bands that have played at his bar, in order to form Pratham.

So what will now happen is that the Hindi rock outfit will perform mostly original tracks on the month's first Tuesday, with a few covers thrown in as fillers because, well, you can't completely ignore what patrons want. The plan is also to get radio channels and streaming services on board as partners to make it a bigger project, though it remains to be seen how much this effort picks up. Nonetheless, it's
a sign of positive change in the ever-evolving graph of Indian indie music. And when Pratham takes the stage for its debut performance on September 30, it will, in a small way, be history in the making.

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