Getting to milestone 25

Memories of Rang Bhavan flash past. In the mid-1990s, Delhi-based rock band Parikrama were regulars at the iconic Independence Rock Festival in Mumbai, headlining with brilliant Pink Floyd, Doors, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Jimi Hendrix covers, with a few originals thrown in.

The Mumbai audience always looked forward to their rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’. Strangely, they hardly play it these days. Founder member and keyboardist Subir Malik says: “We have done that only once in the past decade. Today, our focus is on original songs. We started off as a covers band but the success of ‘Xerox’ inspired us to write more of our own tunes.”

This year, Parikrama marks its silver jubilee. It’s been a long and satisfying journey. To celebrate the anniversary, shows have been planned across India, including appearances at High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel, on Friday evening, and Phoenix Marketcity in Pune on Saturday. Malik adds that they will soon be performing in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, besides Puducherry and Jorhat, Assam.

For the band, 25 years just zipped by. Besides Malik, the current line-up includes his brother, vocalist Nitin, guitarists Sonam Sherpa and Saurabh Chaudhary, bassist Gaurav Balani, and drummer Srijan Mahajan. Violinist Imran Khan and tabla player Shambhu Nath chip in on a few numbers. Malik says that for Parikrama, music has always been a hobby. “All of us have regular professions. We play only because of our passion,” he adds.

The band started off in 1991 with the primary purpose of playing songs of their idols. Says Malik: “We all grew up on Floyd, Doors, Led Zep and Deep Purple. Then we saw Rock Machine (later Indus Creed), and said we must follow their footsteps. ‘Xerox’ was blatantly inspired by their ‘Rock n’ Roll Renegade’.”

While the first few years focused on cover versions, the band soon got into more and more originals. The songs ‘Rhythm n’ Blues’, ‘But It Rained’, ‘Load Up’, ‘Till I’m No One Again’ and ‘Open Skies’ rocked the concert circuit. Malik wanted the violin to play an important role, and Sharat Chandra Srivastava played till 1999.

Malik says, “I was fascinated with the violin after I heard the L Subramaniam-Stephane Grappelli album Conversations in school. So, in the intro to Led Zeppelin’s classic ‘Stairway to Heaven’, we replaced the original recorder flute part with the violin.”

The band’s fan base started expanding. In 1997, Parikrama decided to offer original songs free on the Internet. Malik explains, “All this technology was new at that time. Many listeners didn’t even have credit cards. So we said why not allow them to hear us free. That’s something we stuck to eventually. Today, we have some 50 songs which people can download.”

Despite releasing so much original material, Parikrama has never recorded a studio album. According to Malik, since the band members have regular jobs, it’s difficult for them to sit in a studio all day. “Many people have suggested we release a full-length album. Now that we have completed 25 years, we may actually think of doing so.”

How do they approach songwriting? “Nitin and Sonam do a bulk of that. They decide the direction. Then we meet at a convenient time, play and improvise. We have a few new songs like ‘Gonna Get It’, ‘How Do We Decide It’ and ‘Life Is Certain’. We are also working on three new songs.”

The focus in the Mumbai shows will thus be on originals. “One cover we shall definitely do is ‘Baba O’Reilly’ by The Who. Funnily, some young people think that’s our own song. We may also end with ‘Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC, which has been a staple in our shows,” says Malik.

How has the Indian rock scene changed in 25 years? Malik says in those days, it was difficult to get equipment. “One had to go distances to buy a plectrum. Today, everything is so easily available. There are so many music schools and parents are encouraging their children to learn music systematically.”

Malik is also happy with the abundance of young talent. He says, “The biggest change lies in the audience’s acceptance of original music. Newer bands like The Circus, Local Train, Parvaaz and Astitva are popular among youngsters. Some of them sing in Hindi, but that’s spreading the audience for rock music. One only hopes they stick around and focus on music.”

That prompts a question on what explains Parikrama’s longevity. Malik laughs, “Beer!” Cheers to the band’s silver anniversary.

The author is a freelance music journalist

Parikrama will perform at High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel, at 6.30 p.m. today. Entry is free and via registration on Call 43339994 for details.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 10:36:15 PM |

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