School of rock hits landmark

Updated: Jun 25, 2019, 02:24 IST | Karishma Kuenzang

As Parikrama turns 28, members of India's oldest rock band trace the journey and discuss the evolution of Mumbai's music scene before this week’s gig

School of rock hits landmark
(From left) Nikhil Malik, Sonam Sherpa, Subir Malik, Gaurav Balani, Srijan Mahajan and Saurabh Choudhary

Before there was Coldplay and their signature stadium lit up by the audience's phones/glowsticks and Foo Fighters' headbanging-inducing music, closer home there was Parikrama, a Delhi-based rock outfit, making their mark with live performances. The six-member band, which is proving that rock 'n' roll makes you age like fine wine, will be sharing music from the past 28 years with audiences in Mumbai, along with some new tunes they have been working on, this weekend.

Ask founder and keyboardist Subir Malik his earliest memories of the band, and he goes back to the beginning — when they met at a college festival in 1990, like so many other bands from Delhi. In his final year, Malik, who was four months away from joining his family business of selling motor parts in Delhi's Kashmiri Gate, met his future bandmates Nitin Malik (vocalist) and Chintan Kalra (former bassist), in Kanpur, who were part of one of the participating bands. Yet another band comprised rock pioneer Amit Sehgal. Too much of a coincidence? Sonam Sherpa (lead guitarist) joined in June 1991, when he came to Delhi University to audition for the music quota at Malik's college, because he wanted to try playing a guitar of "foreign" make, Malik reveals. In the years that followed, Saurabh Choudhary (guitarist), Gaurav Balani (bass) and Srijan Mahajan (drummer) joined the outfit.

Social media frenzy

Starting in 1991 came with its own problems, says Malik. There was no Internet or mobile phones and so, no quick way to make their presence known. "But today, bands have better platforms and a worldwide reach. In our time, there was one phone the entire hostel shared," says Malik, who's done his share of waiting around. So much so that they got their first show in Mumbai only in 1995 when they played at IIT Bombay.

Parikrama performing at their first gig in 1991
Parikrama performing at their first gig in 1991

But the flipside today is that there are far more people who make music, as it's easier and cheaper. "So, in the last few years, we've not seen too much growth for live independent artistes as the space has been taken over by DJs and the EDM genre. It's also economical for pubs to just pay for one person. This has led to a loss of soul in the performance. Earlier, it was your talent people saw on stage. Now, it's more about how you are performing on social media. And it's purely because today's generation consumes via this medium," Malik tells us, pointing out one fact they have learnt, "But you will be left behind if you don't acclimatise."

Groove with the times

Parikrama performing later in 2001
Parikrama performing later in 2001

Hence, the band, that has never recorded an album, will soon be dropping a bunch of singles and videos. "We can't take pictures of our food for Instagram, but we do have to adapt in accordance to the new market. We realised we weren't giving youngsters anything to listen to," reasons Malik. They have recorded three new originals and will be releasing their new music video, their first official one after 19 years, shot near Chitkul, the last village before the Tibetan border next month. Some of the songs up their sleeve include one dedicated to the Indian Armed Forces, in tandem with their numerous gigs to collect funds for natural disasters. And many are about having a good time — the reason why they started the band.

Keep it real

A mantra they've stuck to in order to ensure performing with Parikrama is always fun is the decision that the band's earning will not be their primary source of income. And so, Sonam has his own music school, Mahajan is working on ad films and Balani does studio work and plays with other bands. Malik, who was working a 9 am-to-8 pm job till 2006, selling motor parts, now manages live performance artistes. "If this was our own earning, I don't know if we would be where we are today," he says. Also the reason why they have stayed together, despite outfits breaking up left, right and centre. They are the answer to all those saying rock is dead. Malik, who turns 49 next month, says, "Rock isn't dying. Not till I am alive."

On: June 29, 9 pm
At: The Finch, Shah Industrial Estate, Saki Vihar Road, Andheri East.
Call: 8055992993
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Cost: Rs 799

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