Mumbai: Hindi rock band Agnee will play a concert this week

By Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

The band is also ready to release two new singles


Mohan Kannan (left) and Koco

If we compare the indie music industry to a cake, then around a decade ago is when it had just been pushed into the oven. This is because that’s the period when major music labels started lending a genuine ear to such bands. In that sense, Agnee — a Hindi rock outfit that was formed in 2007 — had stuck its foot in the door at just the right time. Sony BMG wasted no time in signing them on. Music videos were released for a few of their songs. The band developed a healthy fan base. And in no time, it seemed that the members had achieved a modicum of mainstream success.

But then they gradually realised that it would be a while before that metaphorical cake is taken out of the oven, ready for it to be served as a viable avenue for musicians to make money. “The scene has evolved, with more live bands performing now than before. But I think that in terms of releases and the possibility of making it big by being on TV, 2007 was pretty much the last year that it happened. So, I don’t know if we were the straw that broke the camel’s back. But I do think that we got lucky because indie music [in India] became even more indie after that period,” says Mohan Kannan, the band’s vocalist, ahead of a gig they will play this week.

Koco, the lead guitarist, concurs, adding that the reason why the industry is still not a well-baked product is that a fetish for Bollywood star power has led to funds — that vital lifeline for sustaining any art form — being channelled almost wholly towards film music. “I don’t think anyone’s clear yet about how to monetise indie music. It’s much easier to sell a song that’s picturised on Salman Khan. See, in other parts of the world, the definition of independent music is restricted to artistes who don’t have the support of a label. So, even if it was Michael Jackson, they were all indie before they were offered a contract. India is the only place where one specific platform [Bollywood] is called mainstream while everything else is indie. So, the minute that bigger labels start pushing out smaller artistes will we start being more secure as musicians. And meanwhile, we need to stop thinking that a Lady Gaga will need a Robert Downey Jr to push a song,” he tells us.

That being said, the economic pressure of being full-time musicians led the members of Agnee, too, to dabble with films. But even so, both the band’s co-founders state unequivocally that they have been extremely judicious about selecting movie projects. “Film music,” says Koco, “is always written to a brief, where the visual medium is the bigger daddy and audio plays a supporting role. The director is thus the person who steers the entire ship. But in independent music, the song is the king and videos are a supplement. That is the primary difference between scoring for films and making your own album.”

Kannan adds that over the past few years, Agnee has composed close to 50 songs for films which, unfortunately, have been gathering dust in their computer since the projects they were made for haven’t yet seen the light of day. “We had actually been putting off our own music for a while because of this, which we shouldn’t have in hindsight,” he says, revealing that Agnee now has two new songs in the pipeline, which they will release as singles. Why? “It’s because I hate this concept of including eight songs in an album and just two songs being promoted, with the rest being viewed as fillers. Singles make more sense,” Koco says, with Kannan adding, “It’s a T20 market we are playing in.”

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