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DOWN MEMORY LANE

(Published in Mid-day on 9th August 1997)

My first exposure to Pop Music in India was as a small boy in short pants watching hip guys and gals on their way to a jam session in Venice, the swanky restaurant near Churchgate. My school was around the corner and these people looked like they were about to have a lot of fun. It was the sixties! Those were the days of the beat generation that was engulfing the world and Bombay was no exception. The Beatles had overwhelmed the youth with their vibrant music and personalities and following them were a whole string of beat groups. The Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, The Hollies etc. Bombay wasn't far behind with our very own groups: The Jets, The Reaction, Beat 4, The Savages, The Combustibles and many, many more. More than there are music groups today!! We had are own legitimate pop stars like the Lone Trojan now more widely known as Biddu, who was an absolute delight on stage. It was at his shows that for the first time I heard girls screaming in the audience. The beat shows in those days were orderly and fun, where music was heard and appreciated . Of course, some performers were hooted off the stage if they were not to the audience's liking, but we had the luxury of air conditioned auditoriums like the Shanmukhananda Hall, the Bhulabhai Desai Auditorium, both of which are no longer in existence. Today the rock audience has to happy with Rang Bhavan with the crowd noise often being louder than the band! In those days, while the latest was heard in concert All India Radio continued to play Hank Williams and Jim Reeves. I along with my sister used to go to the AIR studios to sing Cliff Richard, Everly Brothers and Beatles songs and it was indeed a thrill when I first got onto the stage to do my first show.

The repertoire of my first band Velvette Fogg gives an indication of what was hip in those days. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors. CCR, The Moody Blues, Steppenwolf etc. Later on , it went on to include The Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Yes and also the folk element of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Seals and Croft etc. The Blow Up in the Taj was the scene of action at that time. We used to play live every night and sometimes play till dawn at a friend's place or even in a park. The Hippie Revolution had descended on the world and we were in the forefront as far as Bombay .goes. The Woodstock vibe was in the air and all of us were floating along with it. "Jesus Christ Superstar" The Rock Opera followed soon after. Judas was an excellent role I got to play, with some great songs and soon I was on the way to stardom. Those were great days where we got to do some great shows with elaborate audio visual equipment. Way ahead of it's time!

However, before we knew it, the disco wave had hit us. Saturday Night Fever was a huge hit in Bombay. As much as it was all over the world and the scene got to be a little "plastic" as we would put it in those days. Bell bottoms and sequins were in and the glam world was all over us. Next to follow was the Punk Revolution which almost totally bypassed India. The Clash, The Jam, The Sex Pistols etc. were not to the liking of the Indian youth, at least it was not reflected in the local bands of that time. The seventies Rock was still paramount in Bombay. I think, it was during this period that musicians like me started looking towards the local scene in a totally different way. We wanted a wider audience and started experimenting with the music we loved . We started composing on a regular basis and incorporated local languages in our lyrics. What sounds very normal today as Hindi Pop songs are a part of the mainstream, sounded very strange in those days. It was rejected by the masses as it was way ahead of its time, but it was our training ground. A lot of today's successful musicians are around today because of the work they did at that time.

It was time now for Rap to hit Bombay. By now the media revolution had begun in India and the channels were soon to follow. MTV was being seen by the privileged few who had a satellite connection. Cable was soon to follow and what was the domain of a few lucky people with connections soon became available to the public at large. The latest music was soon available in music stores and the fans knew all the dirt on their popstars as quick as their counterparts abroad. All this had a great impact on the local music scene. Hindi film music took the lead, and with A.R. Rehman around , it was soon impossible to know whether the songs were in Hindi or English. F.M. was transmitting the latest music around the clock. So much has changed in all these years and yet nothing seems to have really changed when I listen to All India Radio. The same Jim Reeves song that I heard over 30 years ago.

Nandu Bhende

homesite :http://nandu_bhende.tripod.com


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