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THE GUITAR SOCIETY

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Women Who Rock: Indian Indie’s 5 Coolest Female Musicians

Courtesy-Shawn Fernandes
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Here’s to the ladies of Indian indie! By throwing their talents and voices into the swirling pool of the Indian underground, they’ve brought a diversity and richness to the bubbling sounds of independent music in India.

For too long, Indian rock was about long-haired, black t-shirted headbangers of a decidedly male persuasion. Fortunately, over the last few years, things have changed and Indian rock is a far more interesting place with many more female performers and fans coming into the fold. Today, we’re featuring five of the most inspiring and important female musicians on the scene today:

Anushka Manchanda (Ashu & The Petri Dish Project, Shkabang)

Anushka Manchanda burst onto the scene in 2002 as a member of all-girl pop band Viva, winners of a television talent contest. Since Viva’s demise, Anushka’s reinvented herself in a new gritty rock avatar. First she made interesting forays into the world of playback singing for films like GolmaalCashPyaar Impossible and Aisha. As her film singing career continues to develop, she’s also jumped head first into the indie music scene where her in-your-face performance style and powerhouse vocals make sure fans sit up and take notice. She performs with Ashu’s Petri Dish Project and is also the frontwoman for indie supergroup Shkabang. With a daring sense of style and an affinity for high-energy “electro rock ‘n’ roll” Anushka definitely puts the ‘bang’ in Shkabang!

Samara Chopra (The Ska Vengers)

While most of India knows Samara Chopra in her role as the host of a number of television lifestyle shows, the indie world pays her due respect as lead singer for Delhi ska outfit The Ska Vengers.  It’s astonishing enough that India can boast of a homegrown ska and dub band, but it’s even more perplexing that they’re fronted by a sultry-voiced stunner like Samara Chopra. Samara brings a smouldering, smoky jazz singer vibe to the band’s sunshiny ska and dub tunes. Add that to the fact that she’s not too hard on the eyes and she makes for a great reason to check out The Ska Vengers if you haven’t already. With a voice that’s a throwback to the jazz greats of old, Samara’s the perfect frontwoman for a band whose booming basslines and skittery beats are pointing out to Delhi music fans that the term “rudeboy” isn’t always a bad thing.

Tipriti Kharbangar (Soulmate)

As the lung-busting vocal powerhouse in India’s finest blues outfit Soulmate, Tipriti “Tips” Kharbangar is in a league of her own. Hailing from the rock ‘n’ roll and blues haven that is Shillong, high in the hills of the Northeast, she proves that an Indian singer belting out the blues like she was born in Mississippi isn’t as unusual as one might think. While the rest of the world bumps along to the sounds of hip-hop beats and dance music’s blips and bleeps, Shillong still revels in its classic rock and 12-bar blues favourites. A true daughter of the hills, Tipriti moulds her singing style on her hero Ella Fitzgerald and alongside her Soulmate partner Rudy Wallang has taken their authentic brand of blues around the world. When she sings her earthy, heartbreaking version of the blues, you feel her pain and world-weariness.

Anoushka Anand (Noush Like Sploosh)

Still somewhat of an unknown quantity, Anoushka Sharma is brand-new on the Indian indie scene. That said, the few appearances she’s made speak of big things to come. Mysterious and abstract, her music tends towards sparse acoustic ditties based around wryly humorous lyrical themes. Cut from the guitar-playing, singer-songwriter cloth, Noush is the first of many female singer-songwriters that are circling the fringes waiting for their sound to gather the momentum that pushes them into the indie mainstream. Describing her sound as “swingpop”, Noush inhabits that indelible musical space that’s hard pigeonhole but one that arrests and draws you in, nevertheless.

Monica Dogra (Shaa’ir + Func)

The first lady of Indian indie, Monica’s a familiar face and voice to indie fans across India. As one half of electro-funkers Shaa’ir + Func, (she’s Shaa’ir), Monica’s part of one of the most eclectic bands on the scene today. With three albums in four years S+F are constantly redefining all ideas of what a band from Mumbai’s supposed to sound like.

With her eye-catching makeup, space-hippy fashion sense and signature belly-dance-meets-moshpit moves, she’s hard to miss on any stage. 2011’s already a huge year for Monica with a win for Female Vocalist of the Year at the Jack Daniel’s Rolling Stone Rock Awards and her debut as a lead actor in the Bollywood film Dhobi Ghat, alongside film legend Aamir Khan.

Photo credit: Bobin James

 

The Gibson Interview: Subir Malik of Parikrama

Courtesy-Amanda Sodhi

Formed in 1991 in Delhi, India, Parikrama have been rocking and rolling for two decades – in fact, they have performed at nearly 2,600 shows thus far! The band has many memorable numbers including “Xerox,” “Till I’m No One Again,” “But it Rained,” “Load Up,” “The Superhero,” “Vapourize” and “Rhythm & Blues.”

Parikrama member Subir Malik (keyboard, synthesizers, band manager) spoke to Gibson India about how Indian rock has changed, giving the band’s music away and how Parikrama would love to collaborate with Jimmy Page.

Why did you choose a Sanskrit name Parikrama when your songs are in English?

Frankly, there is no reason to the same. Way back in 1991, there were hardly any bands with names in Hindi/Sanskrit. We just liked the name as it denoted our belief in the circle of life and said, “Why not?”

How does the composition process work for you guys? Do you start of with lyrics first?

Both ways, actually – a few songs we write the lyrics first, but the latest two songs that we are working… the music was written first.

You fuse instruments such as the tabla, flute, violin along with conventional rock music instruments like the guitar, drums, keyboards. I’ve noticed a lot of desi rock bands tend to incorporate the flute such as the Mekaal Hasan Band, Kailasa…

We have been experimenting with the same since our inception, now the violin and the tabla are integral parts of our sound and have been for two decades now.

How have you seen the band evolve over the past two decades?

In every way, we have grown as musicians, as friends, as family. The music has changed a bit, the soul has not, the fun has not and the beer is as chilled as ever!

How have you seen the rock music scene change in India over the past decade?

The rock scene is probably the best in any given time, in our country. There are millions of great bands and the best thing is rock is now everywhere, from Bollywood songs, to bands, Indipop/rock, etc. Rock is also now being accepted in local languages, for example Bengali rock is huge in the east and Hindi rock has picked up amazingly as well.

Quite a few of your compositions are available for downloads on your official Web site and your band is OK with piracy too. Tell us a bit about that…

 

We have been giving out our music for free since 1995, a time when I guess there was no one else doing the same. Our reasoning was that way back the percentage of people conversing in English in India was approximately under four percent. Out of them, who would have listened to music, then music in English, then rock, then rock by an Indian band? The market we were catering to was under .00000001 percent. Also there were no credit cards at the time – our main fans were students – no Pay Pal, nothing. So we came up with the idea that let’s give our tracks out for free, people will like it and call us back for shows. I guess we did something right? We are also glad that today you have millions of bands doing the same thing we had started off 16 years ago.

You’ve done over a thousand concerts by now. Are there any particular places/venues where you enjoy performing the most?

Yup, we are close to 2,600 shows now, and 20 years is a very long time, so there are many from the first-ever AIDS awareness show – 28 September 1992 – which we conceptualized, sponsored, performed, to the Mighty Download Festival, U.K., in 2007… there are just so many.

You’ve collaborated with Usha Uthup on the composition “Rhythm & Blues” – any interesting anecdotes?

She is a power house, a great, great singer and a legend. We love to jam up with different musicians and singers and have collaborated with hundreds, including Mohit Chauhan, Indian Ocean, Rabbi Shergill, Shibani Kashyap, Zila Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Singh Sharma, etc.

Who are some artists you’d love to collaborate with in the future?

Would be great to jam up with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, David Gilmour. The list is endless.

What are some of your favorite Indian bands?

There are many – Indian Ocean is a great band. So are Junkyard Groove, Them Clones, Avial, Motherjane, etc.Where can people find out more about Parikrama?

Please log on to Reverbnation – Parikrama-official – to download our music. Also, www.facebook.com/parikrama

The Guitars We Play: Artists Share Their Favourite Axes

Courtesy-Shawn Fernandes

In this series, we talk to India’s most exciting guitar players about their Gibson guitars of choice and the impact they’ve had on their playing styles.

Tanmay Bhattacherjee (Something Relevant)

Your Gibson guitar of choice?

I play a CS 336.

Why does it work for you?

I love it mostly because of its detailed sound – it has this beautiful sustain and I get great feedback when I combine it with my tube amp. I can get all sorts of sounds from it – funk, a modern indie sound, jazz, etc. Basically, it’s really versatile, which is great when you’re in a band like Something Relevant. Also, it’s a really expressive guitar. When I play the 336 I feel like it’s my sound that’s coming out of it. Whether it’s a live gig or on a record I can pinpoint my sound in the mix and that’s a huge part of why I love this guitar. Besides, it just looks fabulous.

What’s your favourite riff to play?

From the Something Relevant tunes, definitely “Lay Man Lay”. I was really influenced by the edgy British indie sound on our U.K. tours, so it found its way into “Lay Man Lay”. Also, I love playing the intro to the Kings of Leon track “Slow Night, So Long”.

Has it changed the way you play?

The CS 336 pickups are so responsive that I get a lot of detail and definition especially when I play it through my tube amp. I get a lot more expression without needing to play too much. Because of the detail, my playing style has gotten a lot more dynamic. I end up focusing on each note simply because the guitar is so much more responsive.

Who are your guitar heroes?

Definitely B.B. King and Slash. I’m also a huge fan of Caleb and Matthew Followill of Kings of Leon.

Ankur Tewari (Ankur Tewari & The Ghalat Family)

Your Gibson guitar of choice?

I use the J-185 and Hummingbird acoustic guitars.

Why do they work for you?

My sound is primarily acoustic and these guitars do a great job for me. The Hummingbird is great in the studio while I use the J-185 more for live sets. The J-185 has this very warm sound which enables me to put really thin strings on it. It also has a lot of settings I can play around with to shape my sound according to the kind of venue I’m playing.

Any other Gibson you have your eye on?

Well, I’m pretty happy with the two I have. Though I don’t play much electric, I wouldn’t mind trying the Dusk Tiger, mainly because it looks great!

What are your favourite tunes to play on these guitars?

“Aaj Kyon” and “Sabse Peechey Hum Khade” because bass notes sound really awesome on the Gibson acoustics.

Has it changed the way you played?

I don’t know if they’ve changed my style but over the last one or two years I’ve been playing live a lot with the J-185 and that’s informed my playing hugely.  Even the songs I write now are slightly different. Back in the day, I used to use a lot of cheap, broken, old guitars and now I’m playing these great guitars so I know there’s a subconscious change in my playing style.

Who are your guitar heroes?

George Harrison, Jeff Buckley.

Stuart DaCosta (Something Relevant)

Your Gibson guitar of choice?

I play a Gibson Thunderbird 5 string bass.

Why does it work for you?

It has this extremely low-end sound which allows for heavy groove playing. It gives me a really deep “groove” sound that lets me cradle everyone else in our rather big band. I love the Thunderbird’s beefy round sound which has this tendency to really stand out in the low end. Also, the high end is really well defined. So if I want to play a line higher, the sound stays full and doesn’t thin out as I go higher up the fretboard. Also, the Thunderbird has this natural modern-sounding tone and texture.

What’s your favourite riff to play?

Victor Wooten’s version of “Amazing Grace” is right up there. With Something Relevant I really love playing the bass parts on “Harry Mole” and “Love in My Head.”

Has it changed the way you play?

The guitar’s tone has made me modify the way I play. The Thunderbird has fewer frets than my last bass so it helps me to focus between the head and the neck. Also, since it’s not a guitar made for slapping, my playing is channeled into this groove-centered style which is excellent. The massive broadness of the sound makes for simpler and catchier bass grooves.

Who are your bass heroes?

Kings of Leon’s Jared Followill, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius and Stefan Lessard.

Naveen Joseph (Galeej Gurus, Junkyard Groove, Molotov Cocktail, Parousia)

Your Gibson guitar of choice?

My main guitar is the Gibson CS 336. Currently though, I’m playing a Les Paul Classic and an Epiphone Les Paul Custom Zakk Wylde Bullseye.

Why do they work for you?

Well, each of these guitars has their own distinct sound and flavor. Each works brilliantly in different situations. I play in a number of bands so I choose my guitar based on the band’s sound and the context of the performance. If I’m looking for a blues, jazz or an alternative rock sound I use the CS 336. I get more clarity, especially for the slower songs. On the other hand, if I want a lot of power and that huge “wall of sound” effect then I have to go with the Les Paul and the Zakk Wylde Bullseye.

Any other Gibson you have your eye on?

I’d definitely like to try out the Gibson Axcess, mainly because I grew up playing a lot of guitars that had a Floyd Rose. I love that this Les Paul model now comes with one, which will probably make a huge difference especially when I’m playing a lot of the prog-rock stuff. I also like the unique cutaway that it has, which makes it much easier to access the higher frets. Then there’s the push/pull switch which provides coil splitting for accurate single-coil tones.

What are your favourite riffs to play on these guitars?

With Junkyard Groove, my favourites are the chords to “It’s Ok” and “Folk You”. I love playing the Galeej Gurus’ “Make Some Noise” and “Breathe” on the Les Paul. And the bluesy “Loser” sounds beautiful on the CS 336. Basically, anything with distortion sounds 10 times more powerful on a Les Paul. When you hold a chord you get a lot more body to it, a lot more power.

Has it changed the way you played?

I think it’s changed some of my playing style. Gibsons aren’t so much for shredding, but they’re great for sustain. As a result my solos have a lot more character to them. I’ve realized that the distinctiveness of the tone has become a huge part of my sound. The thing about Gibson guitars is, the second you hear a Gibson you know it’s a Gibson.

Who are your guitar heroes?

Two players who’ve had a huge influence on my playing are Journey’s Neil Schon and Slash. When I’m playing, I try to combine both their styles.

The opinions, views, and ideas expressed , do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of the Guitar Society. Send all thoughts, comments, disagreements, and rants to guitarsoc@gmail.com or comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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