Standing By is an attempt to uncover and document the history of independent music in India. Through six episodes and a mammoth digital archiving effort, the series unearths some of the most interesting stories and events that were fundamental to the formation of the now thriving independent music scene in the country.
Produced by OML and Red Bull Media House, Standing By traverses through the decades, through interviews with people who are now household names in the music industry – from musicians and journalists to event organisers and label heads – as well as never-seen-before footage and vintage images. Among the interviewees, of which there are over 100, are musical legends such as Usha Uthup, Louis Banks and Carlton Kitto, journalists and broadcasters such as Jug Suraiya, Naresh Fernandes, Brian Tellis and Aruna Dasgupta, and some of the best-known names of the current music scene, including Vishal Dadlani, Nikhil Chinapa, Rahul Ram, Monica Dogra, Nucleya and Dualist Inquiry.
Beginning with the nation’s Independence and the exploration of the jazz scene in the country back then, the Standing By story then proceeds to the ’60s and ’70s and the rise of the beat groups, the mid-’70s to late ’80s with the nationwide spread rock and, later, metal, the ’90s with MTV and the music video explosion and finally to the dance music boom of the present day.
Complementing the documentary series is a mammoth digital archive, hosted on standingby.redbull.in which will comprise an interactive timeline that allows users to explore various stories, events and anecdotes from India’s alternative music scene over the decades. In addition, users will also be invited to share their own memories of artists and events, through stories and photographs, by placing these in the appropriate year on the interactive timeline.
Over a decade ago, I watched the band Zero perform a set at Independence Rock which was then held at the incredible Rang Bhavan. It was one of my first experiences of watching an Indian band perform rock music that they had written themselves. Before that, I looked at Indian rock music with the patronising eyes of people who say things like, “They’re great, but for an Indian band.” It was a terrible double standard I applied because I never even entertained the possibility that Indian rock bands could be as good as their Western counterparts.
That was before I saw Zero.
Zero was my gateway to a movement that has since engulfed my life. Since that moment, I knew I wanted to be a part of the scene, however you’d like to define it.
Over the years, I’ve attempted to document, through Indiecision/NH7.in, the recent history of the indie music scene in the country. But the hunger to discover the history of how this music came to India, many decades ago, and how we made it our own, has always been strong. Western music has been in India for a long, long time and while some aspects of it have been documented in the recent past, there is no comprehensive overview of the various non-film, non-devotional interpretations of Western music in the country. So when we joined hands with Red Bull last year to kickstart this project, we knew we had our work cut out for us.
120 interviews, hours and hours of archival media, countless Evernotes of research later, it’s finally here. Making this documentary has been simultaneously the most amazing and most challenging experience I have ever had. Every aspect of the process has contributed new perspectives and headaches, but our relentless research and edit team powered through. Every time we’d finish one interview, we’d want to do six more. Every article we unearthed, or video we found, we dug deeper and tried to find more. And right until the time the first episode is uploaded, we’ll keep searching. I’m sure there are people and stories we missed, and the keener music journos will be swift to point that out, but the aim of Standing By is to be a growing resource, and outside of the narrative of the six episodes, there’s a whole lot more that we will aim to cover.
I hope that people watching this documentary, or interacting with the timeline, will find some band or some piece of music or some crazy issue that piques their interest, and because of that are enthused enough to come to a gig, or Google “Wut iz Rock Machine”. If that happens, mission accomplished.
This documentary has been many months in the making, and the closer we get to releasing it to the world, the more I realise that this is really just the beginning.
- Arjun S Ravi