Breaking away from the confines of genres, EKA's ‘Swatantra Rock' connects with all kinds of audience.
Having your song chosen as the theme song for a prestigious U.N initiative three months after the inception, and an unreleased song at that, is no little feat, and EKA has pulled it off. With two of its three core members being ex-Euphoria, and with over 2000 performances behind them in different capacities, you can look forward to an electrifying performance, if you happen to chance on their concert. Amid their schedule of live performances, judging events, singing for causes and creating originals, NXG caught up with the core team of Hitesh ‘Rikki' Madan, Lokesh Madan and Benjamin ‘Benny' Pinto.
Tell us about EKA: the name and the band.
EKA is a Sanskrit word, meaning unity. It brings out the essence of a band as a team having one and the same purpose. When we came together in August 2010, we knew that we had to connect with and be at one with everyone: first with our inner selves, then with the ones who create the music i.e. us and then with those who appreciate music. The name EKA seemed to bring it all out.
Benny and Hitesh had a strong professional connect going back to over 14 years from their Euphoria days. Me (Lokesh) and Hitesh are cousins and were in a band called ‘Canzona' for almost three-and-a -half years, but then we went our separate ways. I guess it's karma that got us all together after almost a decade.
We were all at a phase in our professional and personal lives, when we thought that the time was right to get together and do something different. And here we are!
What's ‘Swatantra Rock' all about?
Once we started working together on our music, we realised that we weren't able to categorise it. While it was essentially rock, it also had influences of Sufi, jazz, blue, Indian classical, and even popular Bollywood music.
That's when ‘Swatantra Rock' came about, which means music without any boundaries of mind, language or geography, or even a particular type of music; and this is what drives us now. It reflects who we are today and what we have grown up listening to. Our music is not just music for the sake of music, but music with a purpose and with a sense of timelessness and simplicity. Most of our music is simple and sing-along, and stuff that one can relate to easily.
The other day, someone on Facebook left us a message, “I don't like rock music, but I liked what you guys did in your Delhi concert.” Now I am addicted to it, and can't wait to hear more of you guys.” This is the kind of response we have been getting from people; though they are not typical rock music listeners, they like our songs.
Who would you say is your target audience?
I think it will be safe to say that, like popular Bollywood music, our music can be enjoyed by anybody; people of all ages and in different stages of lives. A quick survey on FB revealed that there was an equal distribution of listeners/ ‘likers' between teenagers, youngsters between 20-30, and even 30 plus. For instance, a song like Jaane Kyun I love you is about how when you are hopelessly falling in love, you try to justify the intense emotions you are going through but fail. Ben recently had a daughter, and he relates this song with her.
Maybe 10 years down the line, he will connect it with his wife. Nimboo Paani was written spontaneously on a hot summer day, when just water wasn't enough. It's a favourite summer drink; even our maid at home can't help smiling whenever she listens to it.
What are your other original songs?
‘Aaye tum', ‘Bag Uthaya', ‘Satyamev Jayate', and of course ‘Chalte Jaana' which was chosen as the theme song for he UN event. Each of these songs has their own stories and come straight from the heart. The feedback that we have received for our songs is that they are very fresh and youthful.
What is your USP?
In terms of our own songs, it's the song-writing and the simplicity that is incorporated in each of the songs. When we perform our songs, we find people singing along with us after the second chorus or so, despite the fact that they haven't been released yet. They are that simple and easy to sing with. In terms of live performances, there is enormous experience backing us, and that kind of comes out in our concerts.
Focus on entertainment and a high level of energy emanating from the stage is our ‘thing'!
What has been your most memorable gig/experience?
Our first concert as EKA! For me and Benny, it was like a re-birth, performing together after Euphoria and with Lokesh after almost a decade. The audience response is something that will be close to our hearts. Normally, music grows on you; you listen to a song a couple of times before you develop a liking. But we had the audience singing with us to completely new songs, and as artists, this instant acceptance is very gratifying and a big morale booster.
Another incident worth remembering is when we were judges in a college contest, and midway through the contest, the students started clamouring for Nimboo Paani till we sang it. That was one of the best moments for us.
Any albums in the offing?
We are a relatively new band and till now, we have been focusing more on live performances and are touring continuously. We have a full schedule till October this year. We haven't recorded any songs yet with the purpose of releasing them as an album, but as of now we are contemplating the same and are evaluating our options. If all goes well, our album should hit the market by August. We are also in the process of discussing projects in Bollywood, and might take that route to reach our songs to the public.
In a country where the music industry is dominated by Bollywood, where do you think independent music stands?
Today, it's no longer about Bollywood music vs independent music. Bollywood is just a platform for people to be able to showcase their music. It definitely has a much larger reach, and music released through there is much more easily available. The challenge is not about releasing an album, but about releasing it through a channel which has a wide reach. Even someone sitting in a remote village could be accessed the minute you release your music through a platform like Bollywood. Bollywood itself has started using the so-called independent music artists for their movies.
In your individual capacities, you have come a long way in the world of music. How different are things now compared to when you started?
The whole business model has undergone a huge revolution. Today, people do not buy music as much as they used to five or eight years back. Everyone looks to just downloading the music. Back then, there was a lot of music on TV and channels like MTV and Channel V were more popular with internet hardly playing any role. Now, there's barely any of that, and more of Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, phones which gives accessibility and a lot more available content. All this definitely makes a lot of difference in the way music now reaches people. Simultaneously, this has also facilitated a lot of one on one connection.
As for the music itself, things were more streamlined earlier in that you could say this is jazz, or that is hip-hop and this rock etc. But now the lines are ore blurred. People are more open to experimentation, and new sounds and genres keep coming in. Another important change is the way music is made. It was a lot more organic earlier. With technology being where it was, 15 people would play together and they had just one take. Whereas today, technology plays a core role and one person alone can get a whole song recorded. Collaborating, even across borders has become much easier.
All put together, a lot of factors have pitched in to change the way music was then and now.
Finally, is India ready for Swatantra Rock?
Absolutely! The response we have received so far has been overwhelming. India now has awakened to the concept of a band. A marked change has been taking place in people's perspectives of bands today, and they now stand up and recognise them as something more than just an orchestra. This is a future movement, and all of us are already a part of it without even realising it. Swatantra Rock is definitely here to stay, and it will go down in the books of history.