This time we put our soul on the line in featuring Blues Conscience from Chennai. I have to say they belong to the minority of indie bands, that actually go onstage in suits and yes, hats too. A three member band composed of Anek Ahuja on Vocals and Bass, Aum Janikiraman on Vocals and Guitars and Neil Smith on Drums. They claim it all began at a sister’s wedding. Indian Weddings? Blues? I couldn’t connect but who cares. All it took was a wedding to bring out the blues in these dudes. Voila!
Where they came from, how they ended up doing what they are doing now is better expressed in Anek Ahuja’s own words.
Tell us about Blues Conscience.
We’re a 3 power act, just like “Cream”. Although, we do collaborate with other musicians such as Maarten Visser on saxophone, Siddharth Kumar on keyboards. We also did a stand-up comedy and blues act with Shyam Kumar. As a 3 piece we got our music figured out as base, to let any other musician collaborate easily with us.
How was the band formed?
The band was formed to perform at my sister’s wedding. Although we did not restrict ourselves to blues, soon after the wedding, we thought why not do a blues act. Since all 3 of us really enjoyed, playing and listening to it.
Why Blues Conscience?
‘Cos it didn’t restrict us to authentic blues but rather, we play music which is heavily influenced by the blues.
A Blues Band amongst the rapidly growing punk, hard rock, metal indie scene in India…Howdoes it feel?
It feels great! There aren’t too many blues bands out there. I guess ‘cos all the newer bands are pretty young, and cater to a young audience. The blues has more soul, and appeals to a much more mature audience.
You guys do this full time or have separate jobs apart from this?
We all have separate jobs as you might be aware, of India’s opportunities for musicians. Moreover, we’d like to get richer faster so we can buy ourselves better equipment. I run a graphic design/advertising agency here in Chennai called Whoa Mama Design, Aum runs a similar agency called MMU Communications and Neil works at Amazon.
Major Influences in your music?
Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Chris Rea….
Inspirations behind the song writing?
Most of our ‘writing’ is never really written. The words just come, while jamming on a guitar, and then we take it; twist it around and see what comes out of it. Mostly for new songs, the lyrics change a couple of times during a show before it’s properly set. Although Aum our guitarist likes writing his songs with many versus. I like to keep it simple I guess.
How’d you guys managed “blue” and “Barack Obama” to work inthe same line for the track Barack Obama.
Barack Obama was not written for him. It was written for an American girlfriend of mine, who at the time, was returning, to the states as he won the elections. I didn’t want her to leave. “So the only way I could make her stay was if Barack Obama comes with me”.
Not forgetting the “interesting” Shaggin’ Ma Dog (????) – How did that came about?
Shaggin ma dog, a pretty popular hit on the Chennai circuit, was originally written to cheer up a close friend of mine, when his dash hound died. I know, it’s dark humor, but it did cheer him up. And then, the song was used once anyone else’s dog died.
Which is harder? Writing a song, creating the music for it or performing live?
I wouldn’t say either of them are hard. Although performing it live really determines how well you’re able to shape the soul in to the song.
How important is clinching a record deal?
I have no clue. Right now to us not too important I guess.
If you could tour with another band, say from the local arena, who would that be? And why?
Well I think “Soulmate” from Shillong, is an awesome band. They got their feet, into the authentic blues with great riffs and amazing vocals, I’d love to tour with them. I guess also cause they have a great fan following, and would help us reach out a bit as well.
Well we have a demo of 8 songs, out of which 2 are really covers. But we have written about 10 songs now, probably write another 2-4 more, and call it an album sometime soon. We also will re-record all the songs from the demo, as that was a rushed job.
We’ll be playing at Counter Culture Bangalore as an ode to Robert Johnson – Ode to the Blues on May 7th. There are other bands playing as well.
Which song from your originals would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of BluesConscience?
Kamasutra, Tipalo, & Shaggin ma dog.
People who love (____) will love our music.
They have yet to release a solid album. But, demo songs and a few cover songs are already up for audience listening. And if you have been around Chennai long enough, you would have heard them perform at a myriad of locations around the Southern Coast.
Kamasutra and Morning After were my favorite tracks amongst their many compositions. Be it any track, the vocalist had the x-factor in his voice to pull you into the track and perhaps get you to groove a step or two. The saxophone accompaniment is an another reason why one should really listen to this track . Blues Santa was another track I sort of liked. But I can’t say it was a favorite. It was not bad in its own way.
That was Kamasutra for you. Fancy their music now? It doesn’t quite stop there. Although my selections here differ from what Anek suggested, you need to get the best of both worlds so I’m still gonna go ahead with my choices.
Morning After was a tad less upbeat but similar to the previous track the vocals were amazing and let’s not forget the instruments behind this particular track. They were the unsung heroes.
Most of their tracks reminded me of John Mayer (but that could just be me) and perhaps Jimi Hendrix for you. Either way, the tracks were definitely worth listening too. Since many of the tracks were demos they were fairly short. No worries, we have been assured that the band will be re-doing some of their demos and we might just be treated to a full fledged album soon.
Red Jam and Memphis Blues are stand alone non-lyrical tracks. They bring with them the beauty of the music these guys are capable of coming up with. It’s a great start for one who has never been exposed to the genre before. I particularly loved the way Red Jam started playing.
One need not be into the entire “blues thingy” to get the feel of it. That’s the thing. You can be a newbie to the entire genre but still groove to it. Unlike metal whereby if you’re not into head banging, you’re just torturing your ears. For starters, because hardly we feature blues here, I’d recommend you guys to go treat yourselves to Blue Conscience.
If you think you have known all about them and are already a fan, time do what I do and obviously preach: stalk! Simply stalk them on their fan page, (don’t we just love social networking sites) keep track of their upcoming gigs and go attend! And of course return to that same fan page and leave them an encouraging compliment on how much you enjoyed the show. And if the comment boxes on these sites aren’t enough for you, write to us (or mail to: sip[at]gingerchai[dot]com) about your experience and we will feature it.
Ode To The Blues – 100 Years of Robert Johnson
Before you start reading about it, I have to tell you that the event sounds uber exciting. There is a whole range of items arranged for the audience. I’d be more than glad to attend. So here’s the thing, if you are in Bangalore, I suggest you go have some blues fun on my behalf. Now onto the real stuff…
Celebrating the 100 years since the birth of world renowned blues guitarist Robert Johnson, a week of movies, music and maybe popcorn has been organized. And it starts today!
If you’re around the region, you ought to go catch up on the movie screenings that begins on the 1st till the 6th. Movies that will be screened include Feel Like Going Home by Martin Scorsese, The Road to Memphis by Richard Pearce, Piano Blues by Clint Eastwood to name a few.
And that’s not all!
As previously mentioned by Anek, Blues Conscience is also part of the big performance!
So where were we the previous time? Chennai was it? What am I to say, except that we’re gonna hang around the South for a bit. This time it is Kochi, Kerala to meet the winners of 2009 Asian Voice Independent Music Awards (AVIMA) for Best Indie Rock Band in Asia and 2010 AVIMA for Best Vocalist and Most Popular Act in Asia. .
MOTHERJANE they call themselves. And the CAPS are accompanied with reasoning by the way. They have been around for more than a decade playing host to some varied audience around India. Sometime in 1996 was when the band took form and 14 years later, they have a massive fan following who call themselves the Janiacs
MOTHERJANE is currently made up of Suraj Mani (Vocals & Lyricist), Baijju Dharmajan (Lead Guitar), Deepu Sasidharan (Rhythm Guitar), Clyde Rozario (Bass) and John Thomas (Drums). MOTHERJANE encompasses a bit of multiple worlds: They have regional influence in their compositions . They use western instruments to create traditional pieces. They sing in English. What keeps the pieces together is the balance of not getting too carried away with the Indian beats nor making it entirely Rock with regards to the western perception.
Amidst getting their “baby”, the new Studio that is currently being constructed, all for the sole purpose of providing MOTHERJANE to conjure up awesome music for our hearing, Suraj, the voice behind the songs sat down to share some MOTHERJANE tidbits.
What is it that we don’t know about MotherJane but we should?
Well that it is spelt MOTHERJANE as a single word. Many people think it is two words Little piece of trivia for you, we used to use all small letters and now we prefer to use all caps. Does seem a lot bolder.
What has changed since MOTHERJANE was born back in 1996?
The entire industry has become better organized and there is a growing sense of confidence in many of the professionals and semipro’s, that this is a viable career. Greatest thing in a single statement would be, the number of young bands who think it is natural that they should make originals. It wasn’t like that once upon a time.
Biggest challenge as an Indie band in India?
Collating resources. Mainly in terms of creative, technical and other support teams. You see, a successful band has a lot of behind-the-scenes work happening and to inspire other people to commit their time and efforts to a shared dream is pretty much the single most critical point in going to the next level.
Which is harder? Writing a song, creating the music for it or performing live? Why?
I find writing the songs to be real easy and that’s a personal thing. Maybe because I’m so opinionated It does vary from artist to artist. Creating the music has been a logistical problem for us as I have been in Bangalore since 2001 and the rest of the guys in Kochi. Having said that, we almost come up with a song pretty effortlessly when we are in the same room together. Performing is the part that is seriously effortless.
How different is MOTHERJANE from the rest of the Indie bands in India?
Well we have been very professional in our approach. We have a reputation as a band that will be there on time, do sound-checks etc properly and deliver a killer performance no matter where or who the audience is.
Describe a regular creative session?
No real rules actually. If you are feeling good and have something to express, a song is already on its way. In that state of mind; creativity chooses you, not the other way around.
Which song from your released albums would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of the band? Why?
Well… All of them! We have two studio albums Insane Biography and Maktub and two singles called the Tribes of Babel and Jihad. Everything rocks
Complete the following statement: People who love (______________) will love our music.
People who love “To honor their roots and question the rules” will identify with MOTHERJANE. Our war cry of “Ethnic Spirits, Global Rock” springs from this philosophy.
I play a couple of instruments at varying levels of hopelessness and I could be tone deaf. Do you think you could use somebody like me in the band?
Is that a serious question? To be honest, we get a lot of similar requests. It’s almost like, “I am a great person, can I have an affair with your spouse?” (And I lost my chance of quitting school to become a rock star.)
Future Albums? Upcoming gigs?
Our label Aum-I Artistes is opening a new studio on the 15th of September and we are the reason they built such a studio. Hell yes! Songs are written, studio time is a given, new albums are coming. Season has also commenced in India, so the gigs are also kicking off. It’s a good time for us and we have worked for it.
A couple of studio albums under the titles of Insane Biography(2002) and Maktub (2009) are one of the many reasons for the growing numbers of Janiacs. A quick note about Maktub: Ya’ll aware of Rolling Stones Magazine yea? MOTHERJANE was featured in 2009 for coming up with The Best Rock Album for that year. That’s Right, Maktub was its name.
Apart from studio albums, they recently ventured into the South Indian Cine Arena as a music director composing the original soundtrack, Jihad, for Anwar, a Malayalam movie. It has been receiving rave reviews and many have cited it to be one of their favorite since its release in August.
I haven’t listened to their debut album entirely, but, I can vouch for Maktub and why it makes sense that Rolling Stones India named it the best album of the previous year. Almost all the tracks are of a favorite of mine, however, I am obliged to mention a few tracks one might wanna look out for. Such as Fields of Sound, Chasing the Sun, Mindstreet, and Broken. Guitar accompaniments are a major highlight for each of these tracks.
We would suggest you go grab their records from the first record store you come across. Then again, if you are reading this series for the first time and really doubt our music taste or perhaps are already expressing distinct music preferences than the ones we have to share here; you can always head over to www.reverbnation.com/motherjane or http://www.last.fm/music/motherjane or http://www.motherjane.in to get a taste of what MOTHERJANE has to offer.
You guys also owe the PR Angel of MOTHERJANE, Eva Dowd, a Thank You for ensuring these sites are duly updated for us Janiacs.
To the readers: Guess it’s time we heard from you since Indie Rhythms began. All you have to do is let us know the Indie Musicians around India that you want featured in this series. They can already be making waves or they need a platform just so they can start creating some ripples or if you, yourself is a budding talent and need an audience; we’re all ears for ya. Mail me: Usha and I will get back to you.
That was one long break that should have been much shorter, my apologies. Good stuff not only arrives in smaller packages but also takes time with the delivery.
Just to refresh that rusty memory; the last band that was featured in the series (before the disappearing act) was Indian Ocean from New Delhi.
This time we are heading down south to Chennai to meet the alternative rock band known as, Junkyard Groove. The groovy members of this live performance band include Ameeth Thomas (vocals), Craig Maxworth(bass) and Siddharth Srinivasan (guitars). They have been around and performing for close to five years now.
We got around to Ameeth Thomas to share a little about the groove that goes with the band.
Describe a regular music making process.
There is really no fixed way in which we do things especially with the writing of our new album. With 11:11 and Nicer In A Minute some of the songs were written before the band was started. Most of the songs where written with one acoustic guitar and parts built around it. The new album is turning out to be very different.
Major Influences in your music?
Pearl jam, Dave Matthews Band, Incubus, Artic monkeys, John Butler Trio, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Mute Math, Dub FX and the list goes on
Biggest challenge as an Indie band in India?
It’s like anywhere building a strong fan base. There are no short cuts to this.
How important is clinching a record deal?
If you ask me, not at all. With the advent of social networking and direct to fan base marketing there is really no need for a record deal. Another reason is studio and production costs have come down drastically, all you need is a good laptop a sound card, some recording software and it’s like you’re playing in the best studios in the world.
What was the band working towards to in the beginning and how has that changed thus far?
Not much has changed. We formed this band for the love of making and performing music. Only thing that has changed in the last 5 years is the scale at which we are doing it.
How does it feel to be onstage performing?
We are basically a live band that is how we built a fan base. We live to play live and love it more than life.
How different is JYG from the rest of the Indie Bands in India.
I do not know how different we are from the others. I guess that is not for me to decide. What I can tell you is that we not only concentrate on our music but all aspects of it. For example things like PR, marketing, composing, live performance, recording etc. Everything matters I guess. That is what bands here need to learn: Do not wait for someone to save you, save yourself.
Advice for people who might wanna form their own bands?
a. Have a f**k load of fun doing it
b. There are no short cuts to success.
c. Nothing good in life comes easy.
Future Albums? Upcoming gigs?
Right now the band is working on the next album and me (Ameeth) on my solo EP. As for gigs catch us on facebook and our website for updates.
Complete the statement: People who love ____ will love our music.
Pearl Jam, Incubus, Dave Matthews Band and John Butler Trio, you
Include 11:11 [bootleg] and Nicer In A Minute E.P. Both albums are readily available for download at www.junkyardgroove.net. All one has to do is sign up and you can download all their albums. It’s perfectly legal, if you are wondering that is.
11:11 [bootleg] was released early 2009. It features 11 tracks some of them having been featured in the Nicer In A Minute compilation as well. Some of the tracks starts with an Indian feel and later continues as a rock number. Folk You was one such track which also carried a couple of Tamil lines.
Interlude was a slow number accompanied with both rock music and Indian instruments. For one who is doubtful of JYG might wanna start with this track and move onto the rest.
It’s Ok starts with a quirky, lively feel to it and the energy is carried throughout the number.
Twinkle Twinkle starts as a laid back track and later takes upon layers. A tad faster than lounge music is what I would say.
We’re back in Delhi people! This time to take a plunge in the Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean is often regarded as one of the pioneers of Indie Music Scene in India. Formed back in 1984 as a couple of musicians, it soon evolved into a four member band comprising Susmit Sen (Guitar), late Asheem Chakravarty (Tabla, Drums, Vocals), Rahul Ram (Bass Guitar, Vocals) and Amit Kilam (Vocals, Percussion).
The bands featured on Indie Rhythms thus far, have largely sung in English. Indian Ocean on the other hand, is a fusion band that aims to bring together a whole range of music genres that accompany the desi Hindi language.
Amidst their numerous gigs, recordings and tours; Rahul Ram of Indian Ocean managed to share with us a little about Indian Ocean…
Usha: How does a regular creative session go? It’d be cool to know how you guys work in creating magic.
IO: We guys sit about in a rough circle facing each other and then we jam. This usually results in nothing great, but every now and then something emerges (Could be a rhythm structure, a guitar riff, a bass line a vocal line, anything), which we all say “Ah” to and try and take forward, teasing it about, playing with it, going here, there, everywhere, and something MAY emerge. Sometimes the bare bones of a new piece may emerge in half an hour, sometimes the idea may float for years before it becomes something, or an idea may just die or fade away.
Once a basic idea is formed, we can develop it over days, weeks, months, years, honing it till we are finally halfway pleased with it. Then we play versions of it at concerts and further refine it. It’s an infinite process. This does not stop even after we record a song, it keeps evolving slowly at live concerts, witness ‘Jhini’ or ‘Kandisa’ on the CD versus on the live DVD.
Usha: How does it feel to have a movie made about Indian Ocean? Does it reflect the real Indian Ocean?
IO: It feels great! Obviously! And that too, the first movie made on an Indian band to get released on the big screen!
The “Real” Indian Ocean is something that no one movie can possibly show completely. How do you tell a story over twenty years in the making, in a 110 minute film? The filmmaker gets snapshots at a certain time, perhaps a film shot ten years back would have told a somewhat different story. Plus, notice that the shot selection, shots themselves, and very importantly, the editing is all in the hands of the filmmaker.
This is NOT a film that was commissioned by us, neither did we have any say in the way the story was presented, so it’s HIS (Jaideep Varma, the director) version of the Indian Ocean story. If you had shot the film, it would have been different. And, as all you Rashomon fans know, “Reality” is a construct, and everyone’s is different!
Usha: When the band was first formed in the 90s, what was Indian Ocean working towards achieving? After releasing several albums, touring both in India and Abroad, what is Indian Ocean working towards now?
IO: I don’t think we had an aim when the band was formed, apart from making music and doing some concerts. Then perhaps only Susmit had an ambition to do something more, something different, and he managed to get us an album deal with HMV in 1992. Even post that, the band seemed to exist more in drift mode: making new music, playing a few concerts. Things picked up in the mid-90s when we started playing a lot more concerts and touring all over India.
Today: We are releasing a new album in July. It’s called 16/330 Khajoor Road and will be given away free on the net one song a month. We have also completed two songs for a film called Peepli Live (Aamir Khan Productions) that will be released in July as well and a tour of the USA, Canada, China and Indonesia in August-October. Yes, I see you’re in Shanghai, so we shall most probably be playing there last week of September. (At this juncture, you ought to imagine Usha grinning oh so widely.)
But these are not aims or goals, just milestones. Our aim remains the same: to make more music that we like and to play it to people all over the world. We may start collaborating with other musicians a lot more than we’ve done in the past. And we are also in the process of looking for a singer and a percussionist since our Asheem passed away last December.
Usha: Which song from your released albums would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of Indian Ocean before?
IO: Nice tough one! Depends on the person actually, and the mood! ‘Kandisa’ works for a lot of people, some love ‘Hille Le’, others find ‘Bhor’ fascinating, and a surprisingly large number of people know of us through ‘Bandeh’. So take your pick!
Usha: When is the next album releasing?
IO: The next album, actually, comprises of songs we have been composing and recording since 2006-7. In a way, it represents the last few songs that Asheem participated in composing, recording and performing. The last song we managed to record with him before his passing was a song called Darte Ho; which is also part of the Peepli Live album and we’re asking Amir if he will let us add it to our album as well. Which he probably would since he’s basically a very nice guy.
Their previous albums include Indian Ocean(1992), Desert Rain (1997), Kandisa (2000), Jhini (2004) and Black Friday(2004) -For an Hindi Language film called Black Friday.
The first time I came across Indian Ocean’s music was early last year. I was first introduced to a particular number titled Hay Riya from their 1992 album, Indian Ocean. The stringed instrument accompaniment in it remains my favorite till date.
Another favorite of mine and perhaps one of their widely known compositions would be Bharam Bhap Ke (Black Friday). This particular number starts with a solo instrument with an emo feel to it. It reminded me so much of Evanescence. The manner in which her Hello began and how Bharam Bhap Ke started, they kinda evoked the same emotions. Apart from that, both artistes are drastically different on so many levels!
For their stand alone non-lyrical compositions, the highly recommended ones would be Euphoria and Going to ITO from Desert Rain. The familiar Indian drum beats dancing to the wave of the guitar, was indeed a pleasure to be immersed in. Being a fan of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his likes, I took an instant liking to many of their other songs too. As per all the posts in this series, I have a personal favorite amongst the many songs that came out of this band as well. And that one has been narrowed down to Kaun from Kandisa.
One can also listen to their music at their official website: www.indianocean.com or www.lastfm.com. Or better yet, get down to your nearest HMV equivalent and purchase their album.
Thank You for tuning in!
Note: Image Courtesy of Indian Ocean
Indie Rhythmsby Ginger Chai hopes to explore the Indie music scene across India by bringing you information on existing as well as upcoming Indie bands across the nation. Their music, previous albums, upcoming albums, events, and if we are super lucky; we hope to bring you interviews with the respective bands. Hopefully, after this, you start rendering your ears to their compositions. Only then will Ginger Chai be able to consider this attempt a success.