'We say what needs to be said'
Take the example of The Riot Peddlers, one of Mumbai's only hardcore punk bands. They have a stand-out track called Chai Paani
If you head out at night for an indie gig in Mumbai, the chances of finding a punk band are as slim as those of the Indian cricket team winning the ongoing Test series in England. What you might find instead is an accessible alternative rock band. Or, a crowd-pleasing electronic producer. Yes, there might also be a metal act creating mayhem on occasion. But the thing with punk is that as a genre, it falls in a sort of no-man's land within the indie spectrum — neither does it have the bread-and-butter simplicity of rock, pop and electronica, nor is it loud enough for those fed on a diet of heavy metal.
Which is a shame really, since the ethos of the music is such that it can serve as a valuable form of dissent at a time when freedom of speech seems to be getting increasingly muzzled (news of Umar Khalid being allegedly shot at, for example, filtered in at the time of writing this article). The very idea of the word "punk" is anti-establishment in nature. And the musicians thus rake up lyrics in their songs that point a direct finger at corrupt bureaucrats, greedy suits and self-serving politicians.
Animesh Das, Arun S Ravi and Ashwin Dutt of the three-member outfit
Take the example of The Riot Peddlers, one of Mumbai's only hardcore punk bands. They have a stand-out track called Chai Paani, which lampoons the bribery that's rampant in official circles. Then there's Inconvenience Regretted, a song with a line that goes, "I wanna reach Khargar/ But I've only reached Kurla." "What we are trying to say is that your local train might break down before you reach your destination. But all that the authorities offer as an explanation is a board that reads, 'Inconvenience regretted,'" says Animesh Das, the band's bassist, ahead of a gig as part of an event that, unsurprisingly, is themed on dissent.
He adds that when he joined the band in late 2010, founding member Arun S Ravi made one thing crystal clear. "He told me right off the bat that we weren't going to be a pop punk band like Green Day. We would be more like Minor Thread instead, playing hardcore punk as it's meant to be — loud, to-the-point and crisp [with liberal doses of irreverence]."
And it's to the band's credit that it has stuck to that intent despite consequent pitfalls. Das admits that while The Riot Peddlers has performed at festivals like NH7 Weekender, they have also played before an audience of four people. "It takes time for most people to understand that it's basically about us coming together and saying what needs to be said through the medium of music. But that's okay. The point is, we are not saying, 'Wow, everything is working well and life is 100 per cent perfect.' We want to raise our voice against why it isn't — our music is about dissent," he ends.
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