Saturday, January 7, 2012

RIP Amit Saigal

Black background. Red font. (Or the was it the other way round?) That was how the Rock Street Journal website looked when I first visited it in 2005. I got hooked to the band demos that were uploaded on the website. Everybody and anybody with access to a recording studio or a computer had put out their music. As I had nothing to do, I went ahead and listened to almost hundred songs that ranged from downright horrendous to supremely awesome. Through some friend of mine, I chanced upon GIR - VIII. Questions were asked. Who are these bands? Where are they from? Do you have any other songs? Any other albums? Where do I download them from? GIR V, VII, IX followed suit but others were much more reclusive. I was addicted to Indian indie - to Zero, Pentagram, Moksha, Liquid Groove, Thermal and a Quarter, even Orange Street (I never really liked them too much) and many others. That's when I picked up a guitar and started playing. No classes, no tutorials. Just listen and play. Of course, Guitar Pro wherever tabs were available. 

It has been seven years (!) and Indian indie has grown by leaps and bounds (to use the cliched expression). We've had various band hunts on television and countless others on ground, with everyone offering big moolah. We've just had two editions of the absolutely stunning NH7 Weekender, but Great Indian Rock (GIR) and Independence Rock laid the foundation for rock festivals in India. Amit created GIR, which was hugely popular and showcased the best bands in the country. GIR brought good international acts to India (Freak Kitchen, check them out). The shows in Bombay boasted of passionate, crazy and maniacal fans and was one of the most awaited dates in the rock calendar, along with Independence Rock and Mood-I.

As a fledgling musician myself, it was a dream for our band to participate in GIR. Winning didn't even figure in the plans. We just wanted to be shortlisted. Sadly, we never took it seriously. I studied in Nagpur and I used to curse my college for its schedule, because it would always clash with GIR and all other festivals. I used to forage Youtube for any videos of the festival (especially by Zero) and observe how the 'good bands' performed. I distinctly remember reading through the 'Backstage Pass' section of RSJ. I could never apply because of my academic commitments, and hence could also never jam with anyone or reply to any 'Musician required' ad posted on the website. As I was stuck in a city that respected only Pantera, Metallica and Iron Maiden covers and Himesh Reshammiya, RSJ and Gigpad were the only things that connected me to the 'scene'.

Then came Pubrockfest. By some stroke of luck, Pubrockfest went really big in the year 2008. They covered around 15 cities in the country and Nagpur was one of them. We got a chance to open for Rachelle van Zanten (we had never even heard of her), but we didn't care. It was our first real show, the first gig that wasn't a college competition. It was a gig where we didn't have to worry about rules, judges, time limits and prize money. We played our hearts out. I did manage to fumble during my solo when we covered 'Killing in the Name of' but we had fun.

I never subscribed to RSJ because I didn't have money, but I regularly visited the site for news, songs and concert updates. I read a couple of copies at Furtado's when I visited the store. RSJ was the first Indian print magazine dedicated to rock and has seen the rise of the independent scene. 

Thank you Amit for what you did for Indian indie. That too from the unlikeliest of places - Allahabad. Your passion and commitment have played a huge role in making Indian indie what it is today. We will miss you sorely. Wherever you are, I'm sure you're starting something cool there. 

For those who want to listen to old GIR albums, go here and here.