Sunday, September 04, 2005

Remembering MC5 and Independence Rock

Farhad Wadia's post in Gigpad (via India Uncut) is just so sad. Read these words:
This too (sic) me reeks of a simple prejudice that Rock listened to by Middle Class Non-Affluent College Kids is Sound Pollution & Jazz Rock Or Fusion patronized by the Page 3 Crowd was Sweet & Appropriate Music
First of all, to all you jazz-rock fans and fusion music patrons and the Page 3 crowd, take your Kenny and shove it up your G, ji.

I believe the Bombay Brownshirts' stopping the concert is more than just a critique of the music. Remember that sickening attitude that if you listened to rock music, you were shedding your Indian-ness? I think it is that old Indian fear raising its ugly head.

Or maybe it's a matter of money and bribes and cuts and commissions. You pays, you rocks. Or, as He put it more eloquently, money doesn't talk, it swears.

Either way, the Bombay Brownshirts have pulled the plug (not the same as unplugged, heh heh.) on Bombay's music. Don't even think that only Bollywood provides the soundtrack to life in Bombay. Rock and roll used to be so quintessentially Bombay.

And Independence Rock was such an innocent affair, remember? We would hang around Rang Bhavan for 2 days, stoned, drunk, happy, amused but mostly drunk on the music. Most of it wasn't even good, but it didn't matter. All we cared for was plugged-in guitars. We didn't even go to Rang Bhavan for the girls. That's how much the music mattered to most kids. Sure, there were a miniscule percentage of girls in the crowd, but not once did we see anything nasty. Everyone knew every Metallica song, everyone knew every AC/DC chorus and everyone passed the joint. Someone coughyourstrulycough once shared a rather potent doobie with a semi-celebrity, but I ain't namin' names here :) Yeah, there was the obligatory chant (you know the chant, don't you?), the occasional taunt aimed at the cops, but as Mr. Wadia puts it, these were mostly middle-class kids. Mostly scaredy-cat, non-affluent middle-class kids. No one meant any harm. "I-Rock" at Rang Bhavan was that kind of a concert. This was no CBGB circa 1978. No broken bottles, no fights and no blood.

The music would end at 11 and we would pour out of the arena to catch the train. The train to Andheri would be filled with black shirts, bandanas and ripped jeans. And there we were all in one place, a generation lost in the 11:59 Borivali Fast. Everyone's voices sounded like Rod Stewart's vocal chords had been rubbed with sandpaper soaked in bourbon, but still, we excitedly discussed (non-) performances, the flubs, bad notes, bad theatrics and then this one year, a guitarist who pulled a Jimi on the crowd by playing the National Anthem. No, not the Star-Spangled Banner, our National Anthem. 3000 kids stood up and cheered. Fuck yeah. It was a fine sight.

Can someone tell me what was so dangerous or subversive about this event?

Even though I am tempted to view this as a (romantic) "Us Versus Them" epic cultural battle, Amit is right about focusing on point 5 in Farhad's list. This is not just about rock and roll, this is about the reversed power-pyramid. This is about the tail wagging the dog. This is about ruling with fear. This is about abusing power. This is bullshit fascism.

So In that fine 1968 spirit, let me say this to the Bombay Brownshirts: Kick Out the Jams, Motherfuckers.

5 comments:

Ameya said...

Oh man, i was just thinking about Indy Rock .. miss it, totally nostalgic

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