When it comes to western music, Hyderabad has always played catch up to cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai. We speak to musicians of the city to find out where the problem lies

It was unusually busy for a late Sunday morning at Lamakaan. Upstairs, the regulars dawdled over their kichidi and drank endless cups of tea while the courtyard was abuzz with activity. The stage was being set for the second edition of ‘Jamathon’, part live music show, part open platform for musicians belonging to different genres, languages and eras to come together to create entertainment and on-the-fly collaborations.

“The idea is not just to provide musicians a platform but to also put up an entertaining show,” said Sashi Kiran, a music promoter and organiser of the event.

The performers included 13-year-old Vrishank, a solo violist, Anupam, a jazz pianist from Chennai, Manmohan, a singer and rhythm guitarist, and Hemanth, a Telugu singer. The impromptu acts were by Aradhya, a fourth-year engineering student and former member of the band The Fat Man Trio, who happened to be at the venue. He was followed by two other bands, one comprising youngsters from the city and another trio from outside.

While the event, only in its initial phase, left a lot to be desired in organisation and structure, it was a much-needed addition to the city’s music circuit, which many fans in the city describe as ‘dead’. According to Manmohan, a solo performer, Hyderabad has a lot of catching up to do with other Indian cities as far as Western music is concerned.

Vijay of Alter Egoz, who has been playing music for over 22 years now, says that Hyderabad has never been a hub for Western music. “This has, however, improved a lot in the last few years with many venues providing space for musicians like us but we’re now concentrating less on performing and more on making original content,” he explains. If Lokhi Pai of Phoenix is to be believed, the audience for original content is very sparse. “We are mainly a cover band. That is our main sustenance. While we are trying to put together an album, I’m sure we will not make much money out of it,” he says.

Another complaint seems to be the lack of variety in musicians. Aradhya, for instance, is flying solo mainly because he is unable to find other people who want to play similar music.

“There are never enough people to jam with. Hyderabad is dominated by metal and rock fans and performers, making it hard for someone more interested in playing the Blues,” he points out.

Jamathon is not the first of its kind to happen in Hyderabad.

The members of Alter Egoz started a similar venture, RASH (Rock Appreciation Society of Hyderabad), in 2008. According to Lokhi, The Park Hotel, where Phoenix performs every Friday, did open the stage for new bands but that was put to an end because the bands were simply not good enough.

Although they now have a staple venue, Phoenix too started out playing in Lamakaan so while he understands the need for such places Lokhi believes that it won’t do much unless amateur musicians are given proper guidance and, more importantly, are open to constructive criticism themselves.

The hope is that events like Jamathon, which brings together musicians from the city, will act as a platform to generate exposure and create a network among musicians and music lovers, which in turn will give rise to a more appreciative audience and better musicians.