Despite a rich musical culture, Kochi is still not a preferred destination for music bands to perform
Music has been a part of Kochi’s fabric from the early days. It started with Eastern classical music, but when bands like The Beatles brought their music to India, things changed quickly. The country and eventually, the city, was able to glimpse a little of the ‘West’, and sure enough they liked what they saw, or rather, heard.
Kochi had an early influence of rock music from the 1980s to mid 1990s owing to a band that established their command over the rock genre. “13 AD was the only band in Kochi that was at its peak a few decades ago. The music scene has definitely picked up in the city since,” says Yasmin Thomas, a long-time music fan.
Why then is a city like Kochi, which is home to renowned musicians and music lovers, unable to achieve its potential and become a music hub?
Is it the cultural boundaries, the orthodox mindset, or is it just a stereotype that the city folk have grown to accept?
“I think Kochi has the potential to become a great location for the independent music scene. There are however not enough promoters and event managers who organise live gigs and music festivals as compared to other cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Ironically most of our fans are Malayalees living outside of Kerala,” says Amrit Rao, the vocalist of the band Live Banned.
While Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai have many venues that promote music, Kochi looks helplessly bare in comparison.
“There is a culture issue; there are very few venues and only a limited number of people are involved in the culture of attending live gigs and supporting artists,” says Abhinav Sree, the founder and CEO of the studio-cafe, Springr Studios. This is backed up by the Kerala-born rhythm guitarist of Galeej Gurus, Ananth Menon.
“The society here is rather conservative, so there is an element of rebellion that an individual has to posses to pursue this kind of music,” he says.
“I think bands don’t perform in Kochi due to the fact that it is the furthest down south as compared to Chennai and Bangalore. The decision becomes easier as Chennai and Bangalore have had a history of successful band performances and this works against Kochi’s favour,” says Aaron Thomas, a rock fan who lives in the city.
“We got a much better response from the Kochi crowd than we did from the Chennai crowd. Despite this, bands prefer to perform at stages in other cities because of the better chance of publicity,” states Suraj Rajan, the guitarist of Overdrive.
It is seen that most Indian bands, even ones based in Kochi, prefer to play outside the city. “We don’t have classic music platforms like Hard Rock Café, so it is possible that even adventurous event managers are cynical about the crowd turnout,” explains Kochi-based drummer Jeevan Nambiar.
However, Springr Studios and Cafe Papaya are new performance spaces that allow artists to prepare and present their music to a more than willing audience.
They have hosted musicians such as Baiju Dharmajan (the former lead guitarist of the Indian rock band Motherjane), Thaikkudum Bridge, Black Letters, as well as musicians from around the globe.
The city has an abundance of talent and a multitude of music fans.
Put the two together in a confined space, and you get a winning formula for musical success.