Let There Be Rock: Tracking The Rock Scene In India

Posted on June 28, 2011 in Media

By Pratham Karkare:

We’re more popular than Jesus now;
I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.
-John Lennon


Hail the 60s, for that’s when the story of Indian Rock began. This was the time when the artists of the west came to east looking for inspiration and got more than they had expected. India, with its pre-existing expressionist style of music, served as an ideal for the fusion of western music with the Indian. This fusion gave rise to some distinct styles of music, notably Raga Rock.

Raga rock is a genre which includes rock music with heavy Indian influence. Bands like Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, and the Doors were heavily influenced by Indian music. The Beatles temporarily stayed with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram in Rishikesh in 1966. Thus, Indian classical music had a significant effect on the psychedelic rock scene of the 60s.

THE 70s and the 80s

Aren’t we all in love with the unforgettable tunes of the 70s? This was the time when bollywood composers started mixing their tunes with western rock. However, only other source of western music for India was the radios like AIR and Radio Ceylon.

The real boom for Indian rock came in the year 1984, with the formation of the Rock Machine, the first ever Indian rock band. Heavily influenced by international artists like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple etc., they incorporated a lot of western influenced technique in their music and came up with their first album, “Rock N Roll Renegade “in 1988. Rock Machine changed their name to Indus Creed in 1993.

The 90s and beyond

MTV arrived in India in the early 1990s. Thus, Indian music lovers started getting exposed to various styles of music like thrash metal, grunge, punk etc. Tastes rapidly changed, encouraging bands to harden their style and focus more on underground styles such as death metal, alternative metal, and progressive rock. Cities like Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai soon became breeding grounds for upcoming rock bands. Also, the Rock Street Journal was started as an independent project by Amit Saigal in 1993 and was the only magazine devoted to Indian rock music for the 15 years before Rolling Stone India arrived in 2008.

The Indian Rock bands had many great achievements during this period. Parikrama was formed in 1991. Their biggest hit, “But it rained” was released in 1996. This song was dedicated to the kidnappings that had occurred in the Kashmir Valley, during that period.

Thermal and a Quarter: An Indian rock band

Cochin based Motherjane became the first rock band from India whose songs were played on an international circuit, with songs like Maktub making it to international charts.

The most notable rock bands of the 90s and beyond were Delhi-based– Indian Ocean, Them Clones. Bands from Kolkata include Cassini’s Division, Skinny Alley, Pseudonym, Hobos and Rikterskale, while Bangalore boasts of Thermal and a Quarter, Lounge Piranha, Rainbow Bridge, Raghu Dixit Project etc.

In my opinion, all the credit for the rise of rock culture in India goes to the fans of the genre. We accepted rock not only as it is but also tried to influence it in a way which made it much more personal and relational. The current Indian rock scene has a larger following than ever. New bands are coming up every day and it seems that it is impossible to explain how rock culture has mixed well with rebellious, dissatisfied and highly enthusiastic Indian youth. Elvis Presley rightly said, “Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it.” I guess, simply put, that’s precisely what happened in India. We moved.

As a rock star, I have two instincts,
I want to have fun, and I want to change the world.
I have a chance to do both.