Hyderabad's music movement just needs a little bit of freeing up to make its mark on a regional and national level.
A city is defined by its sound. On a surface level, it's the malevolent grumble of traffic on the streets, the call to prayer as dusk settles and the energetic chatter burbling out of Eat Street near the lake. Look a little deeper, and it's the city's music: the genres and performers coming together in a clash of sound.
Hyderabad's western music scene may not be as talked-about as Chennai's or Mumbai's, but the energy is certainly not dormant. “It's getting better by the day,” says Anjani of band Sledge. “In 2000, it was difficult to even get a concert. Now, there's a wider spectrum, in terms of crowd and awareness. Everything has its place and market.”
To a casual observer, the scene has picked up over the past few months, particularly with the opening up of Hard Rock Café in Banjara Hills, which has brought in a host of fantastic outstation bands including Thermal And A Quarter, Junkyard Groove, Lounge Piranha and Parikrama, slotted to play on February 25. Xtreme Sports Bar has a faithful following for its live performances, usually by local bands looking for exposure. Landmark has also launched its Landmark Rocks series.
However, there is still the proverbial trouble in paradise. “Artists are being exploited; they aren't getting paid so it's difficult to take it up as a profession,” says Baba from band Native Tongue. “An event manager will pay over Rs. 2 lakhs to bring in an outstation band, but local bands still need to bargain to get Rs. 4000. It's very limiting for kids who want to take up music as a full-time profession.”
Hyderabad's local talent is undeniable: Sledge had performed across India, and has even travelled as far as Singapore for gigs. However, the reason for a slump can be attributed to the lack of platform. “Cities like Chennai, Calcutta and Mumbai have vibrant college culture, which Hyderabad doesn't have,” says Vijay of Alteregoz. “There's no mass movement. Also, kids aren't serious enough about their music. They want to grab their guitars and achieve stardom, rather than work for it.”
Vijay claims that there's space for multiple musical genres in Hyderabad – whether it's jazz, rock, retro or blues. But this might cater more towards a niche crowd than the majority. “In Hyderabad, the crowd understands techno, house and pop more than any other music,” says Shruthi V., who works with a leading ad agency. “Some pubs are starting to move to live music, but it's still catching on.”
There's nothing quite like watching a band perform live. However, even here, the concept is being exploited. “A few event organizations are trying to control the market,” says Anjani. “Many event managers even play cricket with us with bouncing cheques.”
But there are still a handful of people working towards freeing up the music in the city. Eddie Prithviraj from Chennai-based Exodus, a platform for musicians to perform and interact, was in the city when Chennai group Subject To Change performed. “The city has a strong underground metal movement and great rock crowd,” he says. “There's no promotion, because the people with the money don't have enough knowledge of music itself.”
Eddie is working towards bringing more bands to the city and, more importantly, taking Hyderabad bands to other cities. “There's immense potential here,” he says. “It just needs a platform.”