'We play straight-ahead rock music, in Hindi'
One would think Mumbai-based Hindi rock band Prayag has got it made: They have played across India, in big cities and small towns, in colleges, in schools, in front of corporate audiences and at art festivals.
And wherever they've played, they've brought the house down, cultivating a loyal fan base and creating original music they believe in. Yet the four members of the group must all hold day jobs just to feed themselves, they say.
Welcome to life as an independent musician in India, where nothing's certain.
Here, Prayag gives us the scoop on how real musicians struggle to make a name in Bollywood-addled India.
Pranab Gohain -- Vocals
Swapnil Bhumkar -- Bass
Virendra Kaith -- Drums
Sumit Bhattacharya -- Guitars
Where are you guys from?
We are all Mumbai-based except for Swapnil, who lives in Nashik. Pranab is originally from Assam and Sumit from Calcutta.
To see Prayag perform live, click here.
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Image: Mumbai-based Hindi rock band Prayag in concert
Photographs: Anisha Crasto
'Viru is endorsed by cymbal giant Zildjian'
How did the band form?
Pranab and Swapnil met through an online music forum advertisement.
Viru is quite a known name in Bombay rock circles as a drummer. He is one of the very few Indian drummers who are endorsees of cymbal giant Zildjian. He had engineered the initial recordings Swapnil and Pranab came up with, liked what he heard, and joined as drummer.
About a year after, Swapnil came across another online ad, posted by a guitarist wanting to play "any kind of music". He looked the sober, workingman type. But all that changed when Sumit strapped his guitar on!
What kind of line-up shake-ups have you experienced, if any?
It's been the usual affair. Our original guitar player vanished without a trace one sunny morning. Our rhythm guitar player Naveen Rajagopalan went away to Bahrain -- he still flies down for some shows. But the core band has remained the same.
What is the musical history of the current band members?
Viru plays with two heavy metal bands: Demonic Resurrection and Khiladi.
Swapnil and Pranab grew up with the same kind of music; they were even flat-mates a long time ago. Swapnil is a die-hard Roger Waters fan while Pranab likes U2, Coldplay, and all music that comes from the heart.
Sumit is a jazz-rock and blues freak. He has a solo project called Summit Attempt.
Image: Prayag performs in Bangalore
'We've had 3,500 downloads just through word-of-mouth publicity'
How would you describe your sound/genre?
We are a Hindi rock band. We play straight-ahead rock music, in Hindi.
Who writes the music? The lyrics?
The music is always a collaborative process. Pranab and Swapnil write most of the lyrics.
What recordings do you have to your name?
We have a seven-song album called Chapter I.
After a year of trying to negotiate with record companies who only want remixes, we are giving the album away for free download on our website. And in a week, we have had 3,500 downloads just through word-of-mouth publicity.
It's a fitting reply to record companies who promote nothing but trash and say that people listen to nothing but trash.
Where have you performed live?
Across the length and breadth of India: From Jamshedpur to Nagpur, from Surat to Hyderabad, from Pune to Bangalore.
What's your career highlight thus far?
Highlight would be rocking every concert with our own songs. We have played at Mumbai's Kala Ghoda festival, corporate shows, pub shows, college shows, even in schools: And everywhere we have played, we have brought the house down.
Any times you felt like you wanted to quit?
Twice a day!
Image: Pranab Gohain, lead vocals, Prayag
'We don't want to fit into a formula some marketing clerk comes up with'
What are your goals for the future?
To keep playing the music we believe in.
We don't want to compromise and fit into some formula some marketing clerk comes up with.
Are you full-time musicians? If not, how do you balance professional lives with your passion for music?
All of us have day jobs to feed ourselves. We do music because it is soul sustenance.
Any advice for young musicians, just breaking into the scene?
The Indian rock music scene has changed drastically, and slowly avenues are opening up. But, still, you have to be prepared to sacrifice a lot. And don't get into music because you want to look cool. It won't last.
Image: Swapnil Bhumkar, bass guitar, Prayag