Rock Resurgence: A New Beginning? 
Rock Resurgence: A New Beginning? 

With the stage set at Mumbai’s Bayview Lawns for the return of I-Rock, we talk to members of a few of India’s iconic rock bands if the Indian rock scene can ever regain its lost glory

Independence Rock, the legendary music festival that started its journey in 1986 and became an integral part of the Indian rock scene, is back after a nine-year-long hiatus, albeit in a rather posh avatar and re-christened as ‘Mahindra Independence Rock’.  Apart from bands like Avial, Parvaaz, Thaikkudam Bridge, and Bloodywood, the 10-band line-up includes OGs like Indus Creed (formed in 1984), Zero (formed in 1998) Parikrama (formed in 1991) and Pentagram (formed in 1994).  We spoke to a few of them about live music slowly coming back on track after the lockdown slump, the current rock scene in India, its disconnect with the younger generation, and if a resurgence is on the cards. 



How does it feel to be back on stage after almost two years? What is the future of Live music looking like from here?  “The focus is on live shows at the moment and since we haven’t really performed live in the last 3 years we are eager to play. I think the lockdown and forced isolation in the last 3 years will definitely make people want to go back to experience the “good old days” – now that everything seems to be back to normal so hopefully, all the pent-up frustration of being caged in will have a positive release and we should see a huge enthusiastic turn out for music and art festivals,” says Mahesh Tinaikar, lead guitarist and founding member of Indus Creed (erstwhile Rock Machine)—the band that has been part of Independence Rock since its inception. 


“Live is where it’s at. Shows have gone bigger and better. Nothing beats real experiences like festivals and concerts. I guess people are also sick and tired of sitting at home,” Randolph Correia, Guitarist and founding member of rock/electronica band Pentagram, chimes in. 



Tony John, the lead vocalist of pioneering alternative Malayali rock band Avial, agrees. “Live shows have changed dramatically. Since the lockdown was eased people are valuing live experiences more. We have seen a phenomenal rise in the number of attendees at the festivals or shows we’ve done post covid,” he says.   


But what about rock music? Is there a scope of the genre really making a comeback? 


Rock music surfaced in the 1950s and went on to reshape the American culture, but had over the years lost its rebellious edge. The rock scene has become particularly bleak in recent years with hardly any innovations in the genre in the 2000s and the lack of new breakout rock stars (most ‘rockstars’ today are in their 50s). The spotlight has slowly but surely shifted from rock and its various subgenres to pop, rap/hip-hop, and eventually, EDM.  And today, musicians are increasingly rejecting the rigidity of genres.   


“We see more and more bands coming up every day. However, the number of bands performing only rock music has reduced compared to the ’90s. Music, just like any other art form, is always evolving. Bands are today experimenting with different alternate genres of not just rock but every form of music,” John says. 


According to Tinaikar, rock music has simply evolved. “I disagree that the audience for rock hasn’t grown. In fact, in the last decade, there has been a huge growth. What has changed though is that there are so many genres and subgenres and labels that the GenZ toss about.  Rock as we knew it has kind of lost its identity. So what we consider rock may be labeled as ‘post rock’ or ‘prog’ or ‘Djent’ or whatever ….but it’s still rock and it’s all good,” claims Tinaikar. 


Subir Malik, founder, organist, and manager of another OG rock band, Parikrama, admits that today’s generation does not relate to guitar-based sound as much as they do to Synth-based sounds, but he also terms this as a ‘passing phase’.  “Rock and Roll has survived for decades and has seen many, many passing phases and will bounce back, and actually it is worldwide,” says Malik. 



In fact, Gen Z is slowly rediscovering classic rock– the music of their parents or grandparents– on streaming services like Spotify and YouTube and also through social media. Along with Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, songs of newer rock bands like Bring Me the Horizon and Maneskin have become popular for TikTok videos. 


“Each genre represented a lifestyle. As long as the lifestyle is relevant, the genre survives. But that’s not the case now is it? I think each genre is pulled by the artists excelling in it. Luckily a lot of rock gods are still alive and kicking. Songs, artists, and genres all have resurrections. Master of Puppets suddenly topped the charts again after Stranger Things.  Johnny B. Goode came back again with Back to the Future. Guns N’ Roses are touring again. In life, anything happens. Then there are some new kids on the block, some really cool cats. So, let’s hope for the best,” says Ashok Betty Nelson, rhythm guitarist of the Kerala-based rock band Thaikuddam Bridge. 


So, is a resurgence of the rock bands on the cards? “Absolutely yes, mark my words,” Malik is emphatic. “Yes, most certainly, rock is the new future of music,” agrees Correia. 


According to Tinaikar however, the future is already here. “As far as I know there is already a resurgence of rock bands here in India,” he says. “Future is difficult to predict but generally I see a bright future going with the current trend. One good thing about the streaming platform is that there is something for every taste and there is an audience for every form, however, niche or obscure it may be,” Tinaikar elaborates.  


This is possibly one of the best times for independent music with streaming platforms and social media bringing in newer audiences. “The world has shrunk so much since social media has taken over and not in a bad way.  People are more connected and it’s easier for talents to showcase their music across the world. Anyone now can collaborate with international musicians given the stuff is good. Streaming platforms on the other hand allow the fans to listen whenever are wherever and pay the musicians for those streams. That’s the future,” says John. 



“YouTube has been a boon for smaller Indie acts as well as the ‘mainstream’ bigger bands.  Unlike the old MTV days, one doesn’t have to wait to watch their favorite artiste/s, we are not at the mercy of the programmers. However how economically viable YouTube is, I don’t know. That depends on many other factors. One needs to keep putting out content to remain visible because the space is so saturated that one can sink without a trace after investing money and time on video/content if one is not savvy at marketing and keeping up with social media trends,”  Tinaikar adds. “I think it’s more about the reach and the opportunity for one music to be out there than the economics really,” Correia points out. 


Although many members of these rock bands, including Vishal Dadlani of Pentagram and Govind Vasantha of Thaikkudam Bridge, have had elaborate independent careers in the movies as singers and composers, rock bands have usually steered clear from the mainstream, which essentially till a few years back was films music. With cinema changing and its music and BGM becoming more varied and experimental, especially in the web space, rock bands like Parikrama are warming up to the idea. “We are doing a rock and roll song for an OTT platform. Till the time it’s Parikrama’s music style we are fine.  But we are looking more toward the OTT platform rather than Bollywood,” says Malik. Parikrama has also decided to finally record their songs. “Though we have only concentrated on live shows for the past 31 years, we have decided now to studio record our songs and start releasing them too. We have never recorded our songs and always encouraged our audiences to bootleg and pirate our music and share for free – LIVE versions,” he adds. 



With tweaks and changes happening across the board with the intent to reach and convert more ears and with independent music having a moment, it is to be seen if the rock genre can ever regain the popularity it once enjoyed or becomes a more niche genre in the future.  With the OG rock music festival back with a bang, the future surely looks bright. 


Mahindra Independence Rock’s 2022 edition is happening on the 5th and 6th November at Bayview Lawns (Princess Dock, Mazgaon), Mumbai.  For more information: 

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