India more familiar with concept of singers than bands: SANAM band
New Delhi : In India, there's more emphasis on vocalists and people are not very aware about the concept of bands, say members of independent four-piece music band SANAM.
"Our country is more familiar with the concept of singers. Though there have been many bands in India, even in movies like 'Rock On!!' which catered to the Bollywood audience, people still recognise a band by their vocalist," SANAM's bass guitarist Venkat Subramaniyam aka Venky S. told IANS in an email interview.
He pointed out how bands like The Local Train, Agam, Thaikkudam Bridge, Raghu Dixit Project and Parvaaz have come out with great quality music over the years.
"These bands play at music events in the independent music scene," Venky said, adding that people should watch Indian bands performing and lend support to them.
The other three members of SANAM include Sanam Puri (lead vocals), Samar Puri (lead guitar) and Keshav Dhanraj (drums).
Their latest song is "Tu yahan", about a relationship that has not worked out.
From starting their journey in 2010 by winning Times Supastars Talent Hunt to becoming India's most followed independent YouTube channel, SANAM band has had a roller-coaster ride.
"The journey has been slow and a fruitful one. We get to experience something new everyday, have small victories and failures that we learn from. We just hope to reach out to more people, more families and touch more lives with our music.
"We want to connect families together with our music," Sanam said.
Known as India's fab four, the band rose to fame when they started recreating old Hindi songs. The band's covers of Bollywood classics like "Lag jaa gale", "O mere dil ke chain" and "Gulabi Aankhen" became hit and were widely appreciated.
Why did they guys choose to revamp old classics?
"We thought it was a good idea to put out 'Lag jaa gale' (which was our first retro rendition) since we loved the melody and had a version that sounded fresh.
"When people liked the rendition, it encouraged us to put out more retro songs. We also thought it's a good way to introduce the younger generation to these timeless classics," Sanam said.
But don't recreations of old songs distort the essence of the orignial tracks?
Venky S said: "The original song is always king. What we do is improvise and add our musical ideas to it to make it work for us as a band. We always ensure that the melody of the song shines through and this is our way to make sure that the song stays true to the original."
After SANAM band, many YouTubers, including Shirley Setia and Siddharth Slathia have emerged out and carved a niche for themselves by singing the old Hindi classics in their own sytle.
Asked whether the rising competition from the fellow YouTube singers affect them, Keshav said: "It doesna¿t affect or bother us to be honest. we love doing what we do and we rather support the artistes, hoping that they keep innovating.
"It's actually a great thing if everybody is working hard and putting out good music."
SANAM has garnered more than 4 million subscribers on YouTube. And the quartet believes the online platform has played an important role behind their success.
Samar said: "It has been pivotal for us to get a diverse global audience. It gives us a place where we can put up music videos and people across the world can tune in and subscribe to our content."
Bands often end up splitting up. Be it the popular Blue band or the Wild Beasts", but what holds the SANAM band together?
"We're friends first and started working together because of friendship," said Keshav, and added: "So this really helps when we work together. A key factor that has helped us to focus on work has been our management.
"Ben Thomas and his company KNC Talent has been instrumental in helping us set goals, be consistent and make plans that's work for us in the long run."
The musicians are currently working on renditions of Indian pop tunes from the 1990s and early 2000s.
"We've written some original tunes. Ita¿s in a nascent stage and we'll get to know more about how we want them to sound as and when we arrange the tunes.
"We hope to also do some interesting collaborations this year," added Samar.
Venky S has a peice of advice for aspiring musicians : "It's important to learn any music from where it originated and learn from the greats of that genre. What makes you good is obviously practice."
(Simran Sethi can be contacted at email@example.com)