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Just How Bad Was This Band Last Night?

After attending Unconvention late last year, a few themes repeated themselves on the first day of the Nokia Music Connects conference. In no particular order, they were:

a) Bollywood is stifling all other genres of music in India.
b) A vast majority of artistes have a less-than-functional knowledge of copyright.
c) Firang delegates are invariably wowed by the general enthusiasm of the desi music industry. They tell half-truths about how the bands they represent are just itching to tour India, and they claim to be on the lookout for killer Indian acts to take to ‘the West’.

In line with the second half of c), some sort of showcase is traditionally part of the festivities. Presumably, this comprises a selection of acts intended to demonstrate the high quality of Indian talent to these international delegates.

Flash forward to a lanky dude in a corduroy blazer and matching scarf moaning, ‘This next song is about how to propose a woman.” I haven’t seen so much cringing since the Great Cringe Summit of 2003. Billed as ‘the first Hindi hard rock band’, Rios had the distinct disadvantage of playing to an entirely sober crowd by virtue of being first up. They didn’t do themselves any favors though. They were dressed for a Sindhi wedding reception. The guitarist (sporting a white blazer from the Jeetendra Collection) abused the Floyd Rose tremolo on his Ibanez with dive bombs straight from 1983. The vocalist was woefully off key, and spent the entire set making feeble attempts to hold a tune. To his credit though, I do believe he spent as much time singing sharp as he did flat – on average, I guess he was pretty okay. Apparently, they’re signed to EMI and have just recorded their second album which is slated for imminent release. I hope the auto-tune was set to maximum.

Unsurprisingly, most of the delegates chose to spend their evening outside the conference hall and by the bar/buffet after this debacle. The high point of the night was Sriram, this year’s Indian Idol, who was stellar in comparison as he belted out filmy numbers with the help of a backing track.

Based solely off this night, an otherwise clueless international booking/talent agent might come to the logical conclusion that non-Bollywood music in India deserves to be stifled because it is largely atrocious. Probably not the exact outcome that the organizers were hoping for when they programmed this ‘showcase’.

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