Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The ugly Rockstars

a guitar

lyrics book

music system

rock star posters

rock street journal


Any high-spirited youth who had grown up with rock music can easily identify with these jargons. They cast their spell as the nuclear tools of a rising rock star. A philandering segment also kiss rock music as an appetite to chill out and might have tried screaming or plucking the strings of a guitar in any chance encounter. And of course there are the insecured aliens that despise rock as “noise” but hang around, mugged up and gossip about it just to belong to a crowd. If he is not into rock, the rest might say he “isn’t cool”.

The early 90’s prove to be a renaissance period. Mtv arrived with their sizzling music videos, cool & stylish VJ’s and the rock stars; they swept us off our feet. Personally it made a major influence in the way I doll up myself, my accessories or the clothes I buy. But more importantly, forming rock bands became a huge trend. (Indigenous rock bands have been there since pre-Danny Mc Gill though). In every colony you hear amateur bands blasting away with their gig sessions.
The neighborhood wars that stream in with such alien disturbance were normal. Schools or college weren’t spared. Functions have guitarist strumming away or somebody screaming. There were myriads of rock festivals and rock contest in the city. A lot of us who doesn’t have a band felt wipe out. Coz it was the most hip and happening youth culture then.

A decade later,

And beer

Does this jargons sound very fatherly? Now when I hear about those eccentric ugly band mates that used to drive the city girls to frenzy, they have been wiped out. All the enchanted ugly friends who would rather flunk a class test or miss school for a gig session, they have been wiped out. Small town rock bands carp about their plight that they seldom make money from stage gigs.
Everyone has to scrap for a living. Therefore, the nascent roosters that once stood on rock are either lazing a life of a vagabond or quite a few business savvy souls are engaged in bread winning activities like running a studio, employed in it or open a musical instruments shop. A few musicians would play in somebody’s music album to earn a few bucks worth 14 meals. I met a dashing musician in Dimapur (Nagaland) who married a rich woman. This is smart music sense. No roosters can scream or bang a guitar with an empty stomach. Lou Majaw, the Shillong rock icon preached me this gospel truth by laying his hands in his new born baby, “if you are doing something only for passion, you won’t make any money”. I understand what he predominantly meant. If you nurture an enduring passion for art or sport, support it with a strong business sense.

The big city bands like in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore enjoy more liberalized economy. Performing in hotels or music assignments for small screen films or TV serials draw in some extra bucks to pay their beer bills. But these off track benefits are also rare as myriads of seasoned music composers are around.

Making an album, a lot of them who had done it said a local rock album doesn’t sell. If it’s hard for the western bands to make it a success, it’s triple hard for Indian bands.

Firstly - it’s the language barrier.

Secondly - the target listeners. Rock music lovers in India or even Manipur are marginal. Indigenous bands spreading out to American - European soil is unthinkable as they lack originality, technique and mega bucks to market them in a massive scale.

Thirdly - the corporate business of music. No Indian music companies are willing to put in money where they seldom see much returns.

I tried asking the decade old Delhi band Parikrama, one of the most popular Rock band in the country. They said music companies are ready to promote them if they go Hindi. But they prefer sticking to English rock, their passion and depend on gigs in college fest and hotels for the band’s survival. Personally, the band mates run some business of their own for “bread-butter-and beer”. Sonam and his wife Dina run the Parikrama Music School. At least they are living out of music.
Recently Parikrama made a smart move by jamming with Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan. I went for a concert in Mumbai and a lot of my neighboring female audience was there for the actor, consequently building more aura around the rock band.

Eastern Dark, our own Manipuri band made a smart move by going Manipuri. Manipuri rock album would harvest more target listeners than an English album. Their debut album Kangdroom is a nice piece of meat. I met their ugly vocalist in a lavish wedding ceremony blooming with Manipuri hot chicks. But both of us were wearing fake Rayban sunglasses and so I told him, “Dude! If you market the album appropriately, it is going to be the greatest Manipuri Rock album of all time”. Even a music connoisseur like me came across it by chance in a music store. I didn’t know the band even existed or have released an album. What about the common people? Lokesh boasted by showing off his new Motorola mobile phone (bought from Singapore) that they are not worried about money. I also showed off my marketing skills by telling him, why he doesn’t use the strategy of piracy (free music) to earn more listeners and fame for their album. Upcoming European rock bands also use this path to win fans before they are fully established.

In this corporate world, it is not the talented but the smartest & the most talented rock-stars that win original Ray Ban sunglasses & hot chicks.

Ps: the article was originally written for, a year back in my posh flat in Mumbai. This is a pirated version.

~ DOREN is a writer / filmmaker who is fulfilling his childhood dreams of making connections with different cultures and races.


Making the Khasi video-Mawlynnai

There are so many things I am proud of Shillong; the Shillong cool weather due to the AC installed by Jesus Christ in celestial Cathedral church, the quintessential herbal Kwai making all the Khasi girls unfit for kissing, the flourishing educational institutes run by catholic missionaries, the seductive girls from all over the northeast headed by Raisa Deb Barma, NE-Mega model 2004 vanquishing the male libido consequently breeding confused races, the kingly Lou Majaw, mesmerizing music videos by Pradeep Kurbah and Jova's compact DVD store in Police bazaar where you get some of the best non-adult movies. Now see what happens when some Khasi, a Mizo and a Manipuri get together in some corner in Shillong.

The first time when I saw Khasi Don and Khasi Jimmy pompously striding down Laitumkhrah road in their boisterous bikes, I thought these guys must be asshole. They didn't look intelligent. They didn't look clever. They didn't look creative. But when I listen to their diligently crafted song Mawlynnai, I became the biggest asshole. I promptly got converted into a Snowhite fan. And I have to make a music video on this song to promote their new album-URANGDAJIED.

Making a good music video usually can cost 31 thousand and 75 paise and can go up to 49 lakhs and 55 paise. But Snowhite as a band didn't have any collective bank balance other than the band members' huge personal accounts. (The bassist DON a lecturer in a college, the vocalist TIMMY an engineer, the guitarist BAHEP a sound engineer and the drummer JIMMY a hot model and a college student). The money that Snowhite have earned from stage gigs, have they spent it on drugs, booze and whores? Ask Snowhite these questions if you are an asshole.

For the production, the only assets we had was the lovely song Mawlynnai by this Khasi band, Mizo Reuben's Canon XL1 camera bought from remote Australia, Manipuri Doren's strong aesthetic and technical sense lauded even in Bihar and our biggest asset FAITH. The Bible says 'Faith can move mountains'. Honestly, we were planning not to move any mountains in Shillong and alter Meghalaya's geography. We just wanted to make a good music video.

In the first scene, Khasi Jimmy - the drummer plays a Khasi warrior. Mini-kong Darinia, our asst. director and make up artist had to use cow's blood (purposely) that could eradicate bulls miles away on Jimmy's face. In fact the bull Jimmy got almost eradicated. He felt sick.

In the second scene, I wanted to shoot in chroma key, which needed a good well-lit studio with a blue screen. I wanted to show Bahep, the lead guitarist running in the nude with Shillong's fast traffic in the background. Hiring a good studio required a good deal of budget that could eradicate the Khasi band Snowhite from this planet before completing their first music video. But we had a novel idea. We borrowed Mizo Maria's sun gun lights and Khasi Don's blue coarse plastic sheet used to cover his monster bike. It was fun shooting, not Bahep's nudity but the cheapest guerilla production technique.

In the third scene, Timmy the vocalist with the power chord needed to be painted in

yellow. We decided to hire Laitumkhrah painter, the wistful Leo. We honestly bribed him with kwai, persuaded him with bidi. If it didn't work, our last option was to kidnap his doting mother. Timmy's scene also needed an exceptional studio with gigantic white screens. I instinctively knew too many slipshod compromises could eradicate me from this tough profession. Poor Jimmy was almost eradicated. But we apprehensively had to be contented in Golf link against the blue sky.

In the last scene, Khasi Don the bassist and talented lyricist play an inquisitive philosopher. We shot in Seng Khasi College where he teaches with candlelights. For the band's shoot in Rudy Walang's studio, he charged us by the hour. I think none of us unequivocally tried to fool him about the money. He looked cleverer than all of us. He looked smarter than all of us. We also acknowledge Merina, the beautiful Mawlai chick for the graveyard scene, the dancers and supporters from Seng Khasi institute of dance and music.
Our last stop was Mawdong Vision in Laitumkhrah own by Khasi Ampareen Lyngdoh (my weird ex-professor who is a politician now and has become a minister) with Khasi Andreas technically supporting the studio as editor. I guess we were technically smart enough to extract more tea, biscuits and kwai from her house than the economical fees we paid her. I hope kong Ampareen didn't have to consequently sell her non-linear editing machine to pay for her gruesome grocery bills. A chance encounter with NeTV channel Chairman & Managing director, the flamboyant Manoranjana Sihn to show the video in her channel didn't finalize, as the time wasn't ripe.

Ajtak and Headlines Today showed clippings of Mawlynnai video in my interview. People who have watched the video are wild about its strong concept but honestly said it lack the technical excellence like other professional music videos, the ones you see on MTV. Well how much can you achieve with a camera and all the equipments and technical compromises. If people who have seen the Mawlynnai video like it, give the credit to Manipuri Doren, his associate Mizo Reuben and his Australian partner Canon XL1 camera. If you hate it, blame Snowhite.

Snowhite has released their new album-URANGDAJIED. I assure you these guys are really talented. Please do get an album of URANGDAJIED - the ultimate in Khasi rock. Please support local bands. Please support Khasi rock.

PS: The article was originally written 5 years ago in an apartment in New Delhi.

~OINAM DOREN is a writer / filmmaker who is fulfilling his childhood dreams of making connections with different cultures and races.