I had planned to upload this interview on July 2 to coincide with the golden jubilee (50th) birthday of one of all-time favourite musicians, Subir Malik. Though the founder and organist of the legendary Rock band Parikrama had promised to revert positively to my questions on or before the momentous day, he got busy creating a new version of one of their songs for charity and the replies landed in my mailbox only a day before today. But as they say, it is never too late in life.
So, here is a chat with the man who credits his alma mater, St Xavier’s School near Civil Lines in Delhi, for playing an important role in his musical journey. “Not to forget our music teacher, Mr Miranda who gave me the chance to get into music and of course, my parents as back then (in 1990s) not too many parents allowed you to take up Rock’nRoll as a profession. Playing in a band then, to most elders, meant being a part of an orchestra party and performing at weddings,” shares Subir.
Over the nearly three decades that Parikrama has been around, what transformations have you witnessed on the music scene in India and globally?
Three decades is a long time but we, at Parikrama, do not think so. It seems we started just yesterday. The band’s mindset has always been to keep working on new material, new thoughts. We are working even now and have done a new version of one of our songs for charity. It will be released soon. Of course, there have been transformations and things have changed – in terms of music, of band management but then change always exists. Over the years, everything has started becoming easier. You can record an album sitting at home. This was not possible then. Or you can shoot a music video from your mobile phone, edit it at home and upload it on various mediums and reach out to the world.
Why the distance from Bollywood?
Parikrama was formed for our love to play Classic Rock. The band was formed for four months only as that was the time I was given before I had to join my family business. I formed the band thinking, ‘let us play Pink Floyd and Deep Purple for the period and then bid goodbye to music forever’. But it so happened that Parikrama started getting shows and there was no looking back. Over time, we started writing our songs. We have never been a band that records and releases videos or audios. We always loved it playing live. But with changing times, we have started recording songs and ensuring they reach the audiences. You will be hearing a lot of new stuff coming up from Parikrama soon.
But Bollywood was never for us. We had got a big deal (in terms of financials) in January 1996 where they wanted us to convert to Indi-pop but it was just not our thing so we refused. Parikrama has never been an earning source for anyone of us. If it was then we would have felt tempted to get to Bollywood. We realised it in the beginning and made a rule in 1995 to only do stuff we wanted to. And that stands till today. For us, Parikrama is a passion. I just turned 50. How many people are still doing the same stuff which they were doing in school or college? I consider myself lucky to be doing the same thing I started doing. Bollywood was and will never be for us.
How do you rate the acceptability of Indian music abroad?
Internet has got everything shrunk into a small world. Not that Indian bands do not have the capability or the capacity but I remember of being told a fact by someone that to make it big abroad, you need to settle there. You can’t be sitting in India and having Americans and Britishers going ga-ga over your songs or music. A lot of bands are touring abroad and there are songs people like outside India but when you look at it with a bigger perspective, not much is happening. From zero acceptability back in 1997 when we went for the Download Festival and the promoters didn’t know that a Rock band existed in India to now having so many tours of bands is surely climbing up the ladder slowly but steadily.
If you were to rate the music lovers of cities in terms of understanding music during a show, which will be the top three cities in the world and why?
Music lovers, trust me, are the same everywhere in the world, be it the US, the UK, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia. Difficult to single out three cities.
The top three Indian bands around today…
I know of a band who told a music festival organisers to add a line to their name as India’s top band. Who does that? You earn a name for yourself. How to rate bands? Who fixes the rules? It’s personal choice. There could be a band with a 100 FB followers and I like them or there could be one with a million likes and I don’t appreciate them. It doesn’t count how many shows you have done or how much money you are earning, it depends on listener’s liking.