Far from the glitter and glamour of SMS-driven talent hunts, and even further from the celebrity-studded, extravagant launch parties of music albums at five-star venues, there live an unaccounted number of Indian musicians who have chosen to make music in which they believe. By the way, this story isn’t about an old crone called Indian classical music who lives in an ethnic, comic-book version of Mother Hubbard’s cupboard called a gurukul. It isn’t even a story about folk musicians in colourful turbans who live in mud huts on the edge of the great desert where model-starlets sashay across the sands draped in metres of fabric. It’s a story about urban Indian musicians, between the ages of 18 and 40-something, who grow up amidst a variety of musical influences and discover at some point that it is music that they love and can’t do without. So what do they do? They simply keep a promise they made to themselves to go Indie! Yes, that’s what the album is called: Keep the Promise.
Supported and produced by The Thomson Foundation, it contains “Music from India on HIV/AIDS”. There are nine original tracks, some in Hindi, most in English, performed by some well-known and some lesser-known rock bands and musicians from India: Level 9, Advaita, Soulmate, Sajid Akbar, Thermal and a Quarter, Menwhopause, Rishi Sachdeva and Skinny Alley. You’ll hear some fine voices here like young Michelle Lobo’s on Level 9’s offering, titled Ain’t Gonna Cry, or Ujwal Nagar’s on Advaita’s Mere Yaar. If they hang on to the promise they show and don’t knuckle under the pressure of the marketing monster, I reckon they’ll ripen beautifully, but then I’m no soothsayer. The selection of artistes and repertoire was handled by Prospect, headed by drummer Adhiraj Mustafi.
Well, you won’t find this album in any music store. It is available only for private circulation and I don’t know whether to complain about that or feel pleased. Had it been picked up for distribution by one of our music biggies, it could well be collecting dust in warehouses across the country or, worse, it could find itself sandwiched in some corny compilation titled Ethereal Sufi or Nach Kudiye or Bacardi Big Busters!
It’s as well that it remains in The Thomson Foundation’s safekeeping or it could have suffered a fate similar to Sapna Dekha Hai Maine (composed by Shantanu Moitra, written by Prasoon Joshi), a song about unwanted Indian girl child that I sang some years ago. No music company in the country would agree to distribute a song about a social issue even though it was offered virtually free of charge by the NGO that produced it. When Sapna did find a distributor, it appeared briefly for the odd week or two in a compilation of film songs that had nothing to do with the girl child. So if you want to listen, I guess you’ll just have to log on to www.aidsandmedia.net .
(Write to Shubha Mudgal at firstname.lastname@example.org)