“If you really do what you want to do, or get inspired to do, then you don’t think about ‘mass appeal’ or success or failure. You just follow a mad urge and do your thing.”
– Amit Saigal
Who is Amit Saigal? Why should you know anything about him? I really think that the world has always had some gems. Some heroes. They come out of nowhere, hiding behind the obscurity of normalcy and end up changing the very fabric of things that intrigued them. They set an example and embolden the rest of us.
We all can agree that the scene is still at its incipient stage, even though it is moving fast. I can’t even conceptualize what it was like in the early 90’s. I’ve had a lot of exposure over the years for me to even start this blog and try to ‘contribute’ to the scene. I’ve been inspired by various people, stories, shows and obviously music. But again, I can’t even imagine what it must’ve been like in the 90’s. So let me be the Dumbledore to your Harry. Let’s go to our ‘Indie Pensieve’. I take a small tube named ‘Amit Saigal’ along with many named ‘Farahad Wadia’, ‘Louie Banks’ and more. Go dip your head. Now you see that you’re in Allahabad. It’s late at night and you somehow are in a printing press factory. You see a young boy working the night shift at his father’s printing press. You see a sparkle in his eye as he types out four leaflets, recognizably about music, and sticks them together. The title was Rock Street Journal. The boy is excited as he ends up printing 2500 copies of this issue. The scene changes as it morphs into the same boy trying to give these copies to his friends in Delhi and trying to spread it as much as he can. It’s the first proper release at some place called LSR. A relatively young band called ‘Parikrama’ is on stage and is telling the audience to buy the magazine. There’s something inherently charming about the boy as he sits on white plastic chairs trying to sell music magazine in a time when sports and lifestyle magazines aren’t working. The scene changes as we see the boy receiving letters from people across the country asking him to write more.
Time passes by and now the boy has turned into a man. He’s successfully running his magazine from Delhi. There’s a charm to him which is heavily magnetic. People seem to love him. Montages of people hanging out in his house, jamming, having a good time. He seems to be the facilitator of this good vibe. Blank. You see nothing. Now suddenly a boisterous guitar noise along with thousands of people screeching through the hot Delhi air fill your ears. It’s a show like no other. It has a banner with the words ‘The Great Indian Rock festival’ (GIR). The man has grown, wiser and better. The days of him being rejected by every distributor when he has trying to sell his magazine are gone. But there’s still fervour in his eyes which ,in fact, has grown ever since. Scene after scene it’s him facilitating meetings and seminars. Bands are meeting other bands, musicians meeting other musicians and he’s the man behind all of this. Cut to another unknown boy. He has a guitar on his back. He’s clearly different from the crowd and is conscious that they’re seeing him and his guitar. But he doesn’t care today, because he just bought this CD. He plays it. He can’t believe that the sound coming out of his stereo is made by some Indian band. His eyes light up. He forgot the name of the CD he bought so he checks it. It reads ‘GIR Compilation’. We cut to our main guy trying to print these CDs, trying to get his magazines to work. He keeps encouraging bands to write original music. He brings in foreign metal bands. He’s putting his trust into some bands called ‘Scribe’, ‘Bhayanak Maut’, ‘Demonic Resurrection’ and ‘Undying Inc’ and sending them abroad. He’s proud of what he’s done, but not as proud as the scene he’s participating in.
You get back and all you want to know is how did one man do all this. See, even Dumbledore didn’t know some of the answers to the question Harry asked. So even I can’t answer them. I don’t know how Amit Saigal did all of this. I don’t know how he was inspired to work for a ‘scene’ where there wasn’t even a scene. I don’t know how he single handedly made a cult magazine which was the first publication devoted to independent rock. I don’t know how he got bands like Enslaved, Satyricon and Meshuggah to India, to play at GIR. I don’t know how he thought of making a compilation GIR album which gave an incentive to musicians and bands all across the country to make original music. All I know is, he did it. All I know is, many veterans credit him to be the single most important thing that happened to Indian music. All I know is, after his untimely death in 2012, people and fans all across the indie circuit sorely miss him. All I know is, if I’m going to contribute in any form to the scene it’s because of him. All I know is, you should know about him too. For he truly was, fully funtastic.
Here’s the link to Rock Street Journal’s Facebook page.
Here’s the link to Rock Street Journal online.
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Picture credits to Joey Katare.
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