The North East of India is known for its rock culture and the prominent D.I.Y element in their underground music scene. But sadly, the mainlanders are not much informed about the music scenario of the North East. One of the common questions asked by the rockheads of India is, “Is Shillong really the rock capital of India?”
We sat down with Dauru from ‘Wicked Child‘ (Shillong based thrash metal) and Shibam from Knight (Traditional Heavy metal from Guwahati) to get some insight about the North East and its rock/metal culture.
Shibam says, “The north-eastern part of India comprises of people who are diverse in their own ways. People who have been listening to rock music since the 70s or 80s have passed on their heritage to their successors. However, there is a dearth of rock bands in the NE. A lot of bands which were active back in the day broke up as has always been the case. And yet, there are bands like Soulmate who have been going strong for all these years. There might be metal bands and fans of metal music in North-East India but when it comes to rock music in the very specific sense, old and young people alike can still be seen to be listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.
Scorpions Performing In Shillong (2007)
About the truth of Shillong being the rock n roll capital of India, I would say that I have talked to music aficionados from Shillong who also happen to be my friends, and they have said that although there are a large number of people who listen to rock n roll and metal in general, there are not enough bands and not enough gigs. Even though there are gigs that are organized from time to time, a lot of new bands do not get to perform at those gigs. Nevertheless, there are bands like Plague Throat, Wicked Child, and Midnight Garden Factor who have represented Shillong at different gigs in different places many a time. Also, there have been concerts of huge proportions featuring international artists such as Scorpions, Sepultura, White Lion, and Firehouse in the past. Recent years have seen acts like Dying Fetus, Smokie, and Megadeth perform in Shillong. All such concerts have seen immense support from fans of rock and metal in Shillong. The truth of the statement is best left to the people to confirm.
North East India has always been a hub of rock n roll fans. You can find an elderly man sitting by a tea store humming to The Beatles while a 16-year old passes by in his Testament t-shirt. The rock scene in NE has changed in synchronicity with the global scene. During the 60s and 70s, you could find people tripping on Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc, while with the birth of metal, people started embracing the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest. A lot of bands were formed and lost in time. From whatever tales I’ve heard, rock n’ roll took NE by storm back in the day. People engaged in tape trading, listened to whatever they could get their hands on, wrote and played their songs, and had a good time. Over time, things changed. A lot of new bands started to form and people got into the newer genres of rock and metal. Bootlegged tapes and merchandise flooded the market. More gigs were organized which saw artists from foreign shores as well. The scene today is much different from what it was decades back. With enhanced connectivity between North East India and the rest of the country, and with the emergence of social networking sites, it is no longer very difficult to get artists from distant lands. Nowadays, one can easily find bands from within India as well as international ones perform at various places in North East India.
Shillong Based Death Metal Band Plague Throat
In NE, the number of attendees is always a matter of uncertainty. There might be gigs where not many people turn up and the organizers end up losing a lot of money. There are DIY gigs as well. Also, college fests such as Alcheringa and Thundermarch see a number of foreign outfits every year. And then there are festivals like Hornbill and Ziro which are organized on a massive scale. One cannot specifically tell the differences between Bangalore/Mumbai and NE because NE itself comprises of seven states and the there is no unified association of rock/metal fans. People connect over social networking sites and that is how they get informed and updated about upcoming gigs in any of the states.
Megadeth Performing In Shillong In 2015
The DIY element and the passion of the fans is very place specific. I come from Silchar. My friends back home organize a fest called Blast-O-Genesis almost every year. They call artists from nearby places and it works out fine. Then there are gigs like Callous Amass in Shillong. On certain occasions, bands themselves set up stages, get up, plug in and play. It’s all very spontaneous. It’s mostly the passion of the fans that drives such gigs and one would be lying if he said north-eastern people are not passionate about their music.
Bands that play Heavy/Thrash/Death/Doom Metal are very few in number. There are bands such as Alien Gods, Eclipse, Insane Prophecy, who have released material true to the roots. A lot of bands still cover bands like Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Dio, and etc. on various occasions. There are tribute gigs and tribute bands as well. Pulse Pundit are an AC/DC tribute band hailing from Imphal. However, there are a number of bands who follow an approach that is more modern and technical in nature following footsteps of the newer bands that play such music. Such bands are way more in number. This does not really help in preserving old school metal. There are fans of old school metal in various places in North East, and the need of the hour is that more bands get formed who write music and organize gigs and keep their sound raw and heavy.
AC/DC Tribute Band Pulse Pundit
If we speak of old school rock and metal, things in the near future seem pretty bleak. There are only a handful of bands that play rock/metal the traditional way. On the other hand, we have a large number of bands who make and play modern metal. The latter easily outnumber the former and even though there are fans of 80s Thrash and Heavy Metal music, there are not enough bands that play that kind of music. I sincerely hope that there comes a change in the current state of affairs. There is a need for Old School Metal resurgence in the North East and one can only hope that it happens soon.”
Shillong Based Thrash Metaller Wicked Child Performing at Road To Rampage Imphal
Photo Courtesy – Japi Rajkumar
Dauru from ‘Wicked Child’ writes, “Shillong is a city that is mostly being influenced by music. And basically, the great-great-grandparents have passed their taste of music to us as a whole.” When asked, if Shillong is indeed the rock n roll capital, Dauru says, “As far from most of the musicians that have lived and still live in Shillong will say that Shillong is indeed ‘the rock n roll capital’. Four decades ago Shillong proved itself as one of the cities in India where mostly Western Music has played an important role in the lives of many youngsters and till to date….. The rock n roll scene is very much alive in almost all the north-eastern states of India especially Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Assam. Now we can still say that Shillong is still the rock n roll capital of India because of it’s unique taste in music and a fusion of both tradition and western melody that has created an armful opportunities for many born musicians to pursue their love for music as an individual or a band per say. The rock culture that was being institutionalized in the past has upgraded itself in this present due to the different varieties of music taste in ears of many. The Rock music is the liveliest tone of music that could cheer a person’s heart from day to day life whether in torment or joy….. what Rock does to an individual is that it gives him/her to ability to express their feelings in whatever way they want to freely without any hesitation or bondage from the society. The message that we get from the different legendary bands (western bands) that brought rock n roll to many right from the past till date is very live giving because their message based on the truth and true live events.
The spirit of “DO IT YOURSELF” is highly seen here in Shillong because many youngsters who do not have the privilege to go for music classes but still they believe that they CAN DO IT so no stopping for such ambition. Most DIY musicians get into a band and stay strong with their music. To become a musician, we have to be FANS in order to know and feel the intensity of the surrounding that is there on both ways of the music. The fans here in the North East are DIE-HARD and crazy about what they believe in music. Every band gets their energy boosts from the fans that cheer and support them inside and outside of their music career. The fans play an important part in the metal scene in all over North East or even the whole world.”
In the end he adds, “People will have expectations towards the rock n roll culture development in the North East but they should not just expect they should SUPPORT this culture as well. People should help in building up institutions that would give a chance to any talented musician in his/her life. With lots of support and implementation ofdevelopment tactics, one can expect a better future in the line of music. My views about the future of rock/metal in the North East is simple and straight…. just be patient and believe in what we do and what we work for,with a sincere heart and dedication and that is the future of rock n roll in each and every musician’s heart. When rock n roll becomes a passion then no one can stop or destroy it,no matter what.”
Stream Blade Of The Samurai Single Released By Knight Below