Heavy Metal in Kolkata: An identity crisis?

Fusion of music, heritage and thoughts


April 10, 2017

/ By / Kolkata

Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister was one of the most eminent pioneers of the new wave of British heavy metal

Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister was one of the most eminent pioneers of the new wave of British heavy metal

As music festivals and concerts with takers of heavy metal are increasing in number, Kolkata, which had a thriving metal circuit and culture, is witnessing a steady demotion.

Where are all them metal fans at? Kolkata, which played host to several gigs that witnessed enthusiast rockers and eager headbangers, is now dying a slow death. Metal music once enjoyed a cult status in the city and gave birth to several musicians, a majority of whom have taken the independent course over time. However, stating the same, it is also undeniable that bands like Chronic Xorn, What Escapes Me, YonSample, Intoxicate, Evil Conscience and Psyclone, to name a few, have established themselves nationally.

Heavy metal, which has its roots in Rock music, experienced a global musical movement, conceived in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s that picked up international momentum by the early 1980s. The movement spawned perhaps a thousand metal bands, but only a few survived the advent of MTV and the rise of the more commercial glam metal in the second half of the 1980s. The movement, which have had its significant influence on Kolkata, witnessed the emergence of the band culture marked by Moheener Ghoraguli, in 1975, but is presently on the path to decadence. The band arrived at a time when the experimental music scene had stagnated in Kolkata. Frontman Gautam Chattopadhyay stirred things up with what can be termed as a fusion of rock with Bengali music traditions. What followed is history and marked the inception of the ‘metal’ bands. Heavy metal, as a genre, burgeoned in the early 2000s with bands springing up in every nook and cranny of the city.

In comparing terms, when enquired about the present status quo that metal enjoys in Kolkata as opposed to its western counterparts, Suvam Moitra, the famed guitarist and sound engineer of the acclaimed band, Chronic Xorn, stated, “The struggle and hardship is the same. It is just that you can find the fruits of your labour abroad. Over here, it remains a childhood dream and you continue based purely on passion.”

However, is metal the only silent victim? Amartya Ray, a propagator of Rock n Roll in the city and a celebrated musician, expressed his concerns about the city’s perishing musical culture. “Before anything and everything, the music culture on a whole is hugely jeopardised in Kolkata. And, if you’ve been to independent events in the city over the last few years, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Just a handful of people try to improve the scene and keep the music alive. Nobody with money is interested to invest and host shows and neither is the audience willing to pay for listening and looking at an artist perform. Concert tickets priced over INR 200 makes it very hard to get people to come,” Ray laments.

Going the Fusion Way

Is fusion the way? We enquired a popular, ‘vegan’ musician, Neerajan Saha, about his love for fusing metal with classical to which he replied, “I feel a connection with eastern classical music, which I’d like to think is on a genetic level. My sociopolitical existence and positioning has conditioned me to classical music, which I feel is deep-rooted in each one of us. On the other hand, metal has an universal appeal to every aggressive person, I feel. So, when the genetically classical-inclined aggressive human sits to create his own sound, after having grown up from sub genre gimmicks, fusing these two genres is a natural path to take.” However, fusion is not a new phenomenon to a genre like metal, which has heterogeneity in its very existence. The broader aspects and properties of a metal fusion, of any sort, are opening the genre up to a new emerging audience and broadening the horizons. The matter in question though is the ‘restrictive’ nature of fusion, if at all. Is heavy metal losing out on its popularity?

Sourish Kumar, drummer of the acclaimed band, Underground Authority, critically celebrated for their musical infusions, stated, “The term fusion now doesn’t mean what we previously used to understand or comply with, which probably meant it in the stricter way of adding Indian Folk/Classical to western elements. It has surpassed such narrow understanding and to me, fusion is synonymous to beautifully blending genres, from whichever part of the world or culture it might have its roots in; to be able to shine collectively and be inseparable as a newer genre in itself.”



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