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Palm 2001

(Published in "Studio Systems" Mar-Apr 2000)

Finally a Pro-Audio show for us audio professionals! We can finally stop wading through dozens of video and computer graphics stalls to reach the object of our desire. The time has finally come for a show of this nature and I am glad that Studio Systems has taken the initiative to plug this gap. In Septemberí99, I was fortunate to attend the 107th convention of the Audio Engineering Society(AES) in New York and was amazed with the enormous exhibition of pro audio recording equipment. The workshops, symposiums, technical papers, tours were fascinating and the deluge of visitors included audio engineers and artistes of great repute. I went through the three days of the convention with a "kid in a candy store" look and before I knew it, the three days of the convention were over.

Iím sure the PALM show will be a great beginning for Indians to get together and celebrate the audio revolution that has swept India in the last few years.

Iím looking forward to seeing you there!

Boom in New Studios

Bombay is experiencing a boom in the launching of new recording studios and one hears about the starting of more than a dozen studios within the next twelve months. All these studios are multi crore projects featuring the best equipment and designed by foreign acoustic engineers. This promises to even further raise the audio standards of the entire Indian music and film industry to a new level and thankfully, for studio owners like me, the studio rates are rising too. The Rs 4000 an hour charged by the new Spectral Harmony studio in Bombay is path breaking and itís success will promise to make the enormous investment worthwhile. Truly an exciting time for audio professionals who are looking for excellence within the framework of the "Chalta hai" philosophy.

AES field trip to Hyderabad

The beginning of the new year saw the AES India chapter going on their second field trip, this time to the Cyber city of Hyderabad and from what I hear, they had a fabulous time. They came back very impressed with the fabulous Ramoji Film City which also boasts of a state of the art sound recording studio. They also visited other studios in the city and witnessed a 5;1 surround mixing session. They also saw the sound and light show at Golconda fort which has been recorded and mixed by Uday Chitre of Western Outdoor, an AES (India) member and advised the authorities on the acoustic problems that they are facing within the constraints of the venue. The scientific knowledge of AES India can be availed of by numerous such organisations so that the best results can be achieved and the general standards of sound recording and sound reinforcement enhanced. The annual general meeting of the AES India Chapter was held on the 25th of February at Ajivasan Sounds and a new committee was formed to build upon the good work accomplished by the old. Yours truly is on the committee this time and I hope we can take this prestigious international organisation to itís rightful place within the Indian context.

The future of Live Music

I received an interesting letter from a reader about the general trend of Music making in the Bombay scene and I thought I would share the exchange with all of you. Here goes!

Hi ,

Your article on how to make a musical career is truly a good step towards motivation for new & upcoming artists, first of all thanks for this.

Considering your experience in the studio & live music, I thought, you have to be one person I could count on for some advice. I am a recordist & have put in more then 6 yr. in this field. I play the drums & know that this is something that comes ( inherited ) more naturally to me. To make big it as a drummer is one thing I will always look forward to. Sadly enough though, I find there is little scope for LIVE drumming, the studio scene is totally sequencing & the latest trend being using of loops. Now even those who haven't played any rhythm instrument use only loops ( they think, of having put together a great sounding Rhythm track), good for them anyway.

Of late, I find that at studio level 20 - 25 % musicians( more of the younger lot)

discussing ( boasting ) only in terms of the equipment ( Kbds, samplers, CD ROM collection) one owns while their live ( or one take ) playing capabilities ,seem to be doubtful. I feel all this READYMADE electronic music lacks professionalism & now I find my job as recordist getting boring.

Is there any scope for Live ( western ) music in India ? Although I've played with a rock band

( which In India, means only hard rock ),I'd love to play something more complicated. After listening to Dennis Chambers ( live ) that was truly inspirational stuff ,I wish to ,at least try & reach close to that level ( maybe it is hoping for too much).

How can I reach my goal ?

Looking forward to your advice .

From Clifford.

My reply:

Western Popular Music is based on a very shaky premise in India as historically it is the music of our conquerors, the British and quite different from the Indian ethos. Itís elitist nature alienates the masses and it can hardly expect to achieve any major following. Also India has a very strong Musical tradition of itís own which is rich and diverse. This makes the future of Western Music in India even more dismal. At best, Western Music can have a niche audience like the way it has now. The audience is passionate and upwardly mobile but it is sparsely spread out and difficult to service economically. As you must be aware, it is very difficult to make a decent living as a rock/pop musician in India. Mumbai is the entertainment capital of India so it does seem that it might be easier here. I wish it was true!

As far as Jazz goes, it is almost impossible. Jazz musicians all over the world make their living doing jingles and pop work in the studios and only very few can afford to play Jazz exclusively. These are the ones that we hear of in India and hope to emulate but if you hear about the hardships they face in order to play the music they love, you will be surprised! A drummer like Dennis Chambers has to do drum clinics and product demonstrations in order to pay the bills.

The picture may seem dismal but that is no reason to give up on your dreams. Live drumming is where it all started and donít worry it can never go away. The kids are thrilled that they can use ready-made loops but donít forget that the loops have been made by creative guys like you that have almost always been live drummers. In fact abroad, even in trance and techno, live drummers are back in a big way, Hip Hop which started the craze for drum machines is almost exclusively using live drums now.

India is an extremely price sensitive market and the savings made possible by the use of samplers has overpowered the need for Ďfeelí and immediacy that live musicians generate. The musicians are also going through the phase of discovering and mastering the technology of making music but it is only a matter of time before they get tired of using synthesisers and drum machines to replicate the sound of real instruments.

In all fairness, I find the use of this technology i.e. sampling very exciting and it can be used to extend the textural palette of existing instruments. It is after all Creativity which is important. Also sequences and loops can help in educating you about the use of sound design and arranging as normally the best musicians are involved in their making. Also you get the advantage of great production as the best studios and technicians are involved.

I feel that the viewing of this phenomenon in a positive light can greatly expand the traditional way that we look at music. Music reflects the changing face of Society and technology is definitely a growing part of our environment. It would help us musicians greatly if we can take the traditional techniques of music-making and mix it with it with this technology. My article called "Technology and the Artiste" from an earlier Studio Systems explores this aspect in greater detail. Being a recordist, I know that you are not intimidated by technology but it can get frustrating for musicians who have spend years mastering their Art, facing the onslaught of brash kids with their new toys doing amazing things musically and treating the skills involved with disdain.

As an aside, I feel that the other cities of India are more conducive to live playing musicians. The huge Film, TV and Advertising Industry in Bombay has made all musicians, myself included, gravitate towards sequencing and drum machines. It is a shame that some of our best musicians have almost forgotten to play their own instruments and only play keyboards.

Keep rocking,

Nandu Bhende

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