On a damp afternoon on the outskirts of Bangalore , inside a cavernous warehouse that was once an auto-parts assembly plant, a local rock band runs a sound check. After the lead guitarist of Solder shows up, band members belt out lyrics, and their loud music echoes off the roof of the venue, which has hosted many international groups. Only now, local bands are rocking the house.
Bangalore is rapidly becoming one of the country’s hotbeds of rock music, buoyed by young, middle-class Indians who have money to spare and an appetite for head-banging music.
“What we are trying to do is to have Indian rock like we have American rock, Brit rock,” said Siddarth Abraham, Solders vocalist, who looks the part with a shaved head, beard and arms laced with tattoos.
Some say Bangalore has its own sub-genre of music,
Bangalore rock, which performers describe as an amalgam of classic rock, hard rock and heavy metal, with a bit of jazz and blues thrown in. All bands sing mainly in English.
“Before it turned into this IT capital with a mix of people from all over the country, it had its own Bangalorean identity,” said Rajeev Rajagopal, the drummer of Thermal and a Quarter, a top local group. “ Bangalore had this great vibe about it and there was live music here many years before we started playing. There were older folks we would look up to,” he said.
An ear for music
As the music scene in Bangalore has grown in recent years, its followers offer several theories on why rock music has taken hold of the city’s youth. Some say a local Indian army garrison popularised western music with its ball dances, a relic of the British Raj.
Others credit a sizable Anglo-Indian population with an ear for rock ‘n’ roll, as well as schools such as St Joseph ‘s College and Christ University, with some of the city’s prolific bands tracing their origin to these institutes.
As a result of its love for rock, the city has attracted big-name acts such as Metallica, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden.
“We have a theory that if Metallica sees 40,000 people, Steely Dan will bring in five lakh people if they ever decide to come to India,” said Umesh PN, a theatre consultant and bass guitarist for the now-defunct band RoadCrew.
For bands, rock shows and contests at colleges like the National Law School and organisations like Alliance Francaise provide a boost. Bars such as Kyra in Indiranagar also hold
open-microphone nights, which are hugely popular among start-up bands and can provide a launch pad for bigger gigs. Clown With A Frown, a band whose members are still in their teens, got its start at one of the open talent nights. Barely four-months-old and funded by supportive parents, the band practices every day at the drummer’s house and is already fielding offers to play for money at concerts.
“There are tons of opportunities that push you forward and an environment that is conducive to building music,” said Reuben Jacob, the band’s lead guitarist.