Punk’s Not Dead : An Indian Perspective

Posted: June 28, 2012 by Karthik Iyengar in Music
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Punk Rock since times of old has been sidelined and neglected by the other genres. We delve into the depths of Punk and its development in India

Amidst all the chaos and the cacophony of the mid 1970s, a new musical genre emerged from the dark, its essence so alienated from the rest that it was almost too bizarre for the eyes and ears of the time to comprehend. This was Punk Rock, an offshoot of music, expressive and straightforward both in sound and words.

Punk had an inexplicable allure for the youth. It promised a sense of openness, a chance to break free from the shackles and perceptions of society. Ostensibly annoyed with the current scenario, a multitude of Punk bands emerged, many of them armed just with an arsenal of a few power chords. Fueled by no bullshit, uncomplicated rock and roll and blunt, clamorous lyrics thrown in with a nasal twinge, they seemed to have figured out the perfect recipe. The now famous DIY ethic was contrived, with many bands creatively conceptualizing their own records with nothing more than their gear and a tape recorder. A sudden realization that the corporate honchos were no longer needed to get their material across to the audiences emerged. And then, they took the world by storm…

To them, flamboyant guitar solos and complicated technical bass lines were just an intruding compromise. What they lacked in technicality and production, they made up in nihilistic insanity. There was a distinguishable swagger about the artists and the way they connected with their audiences was unconventional to say the least.

Being a Punk back in the day had its fair share of tribulations. Having your records banned, getting thrown out of gig venues in addition to being chastised in general by the community was commonplace. Perhaps it was the unrest inciting lyrics, or the cheeky antics on the stage, some element about Punk definitely got on to people’s nerves. Maybe here’s where the Punks got their amusement from.

Roughly three decades of diversification, decline, revival, and a turbulent ride later, Punk Rock finally surfaced on the Indian subcontinent. A mild inquisitiveness towards the genre, so far shrouded in mystery was sparked, reflected by Pop punk artists flooding the Indian Charts. Green Day, Blink – 182, Good Charlotte and the like became familiar names among music junkies. The Indian music circuit, so far dominated by Rock & Roll and Heavy Metal witnessed the steady arrival of Punk outfits, highly influenced by the stalwarts of yesteryear.

With the Indian Punk revolution at a nascent stage during the early 21st century, bands like Tripwire, Messiah and Indigo Children paved the way for many to follow. Although a struggle, Indian Punk eventually garnered a dedicated fanbase. Messiah released their first self produced album, ‘The Antidote’ in 2005, apparently the first Indian adaptation of the genre. Tripwire followed suit, with ‘StandBy’, a remarkable revelation in 2007.

Intriguingly, the Punk scenario in India somewhat mirrored the Punk of the past, encompassing the very same cheekiness and dilemmas. We caught up with Tripwire, a three piece band from Mumbai, who have been rocking the Punk circuit for more than a decade now. With their electrifying on stage performances which would get the soberest of people to blow the lid off, few bands know the genre better. “The Indian punk rock scene is like a flower bud, pretty when small and instinctively intimidating when fully grown. Punk rock bands get distinctively less royal treatment compared to other communities like metal, classic rock and the likes. Venues are biased, organizers are helpless, and audience is mainstream.” reflects Tripwire bass player Shaggy. Misconceptions about the commercial viability of Punk and the reluctance of venues and organizers to experiment hinders the growth of the genre. This sentiment is echoed by the relatively new and promising act Punk on Toast. “There are people who don’t keep their professional life and personal grudges separate. The genre makes it difficult for gigs to come by and sometimes venues don’t pay their dues.” 

The music and the words still have an overwhelming edge to them, with bands unafraid to juxtapose social issues and music. Humour blends with distorted guitars, melodious bass and intense drumming in a bid to dish out more than just aural pleasure. Amey, responsible for uplifting tunes off his Fender along with his unique vocals interjects, “There are bands playing songs about the corrupt police, while there are others doing songs on sex, drugs and the likes. It’s a variety that you want, but you won’t choose it given a choice.”

India’s rendition of punk soon began to embrace the fashion and the culture of their obtrusive western counterparts, with piercings, tattoos and mohawks in vogue among musicians and fans alike. But of course, that’s not what punk is all about, as Jack clarifies. “Punk rock is not only about the music and the thoughts that flow with the sounds, but it has been integrally knotted to the lifestyle of people. You will see a true punk, not in the style he talks in, but the manner that he comes up with and the way he deals with it. Mohawks are not hard to find here”. 

Punk Rock in India, no doubt is being dwarfed by the other genres out there, but not because of the lack of potential. True, the genre faces certain stumbling blocks akin to what Punk artists in other countries faced over the years. But there’s where the beauty of Punk lies, opposition fuels its rebellious nature. Punk is survived by the vitality of the listeners and the artists, which is never found lacking in an energetic country like India. With acts like The Lightyears Explode, Lavender Carnage, Skrat and Pip of the Fourth Mother in addition to the hundreds more, grabbing more than just a little bit of attention, the genre is like a ticking time bomb, certainly waiting to take the world by storm…Again.

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Tripwire and Punk on Toast will be releasing their new albums by the end of the year. Stay tuned for Punk mayhem.

Written for The Score Magazine

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Comments
  1. Kruzzax says:

    FYI: Pip Of The Fourth Mother will be releasing an album this year as well. 😉

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