Anand Bhaskar, a musician, is the creator of Anand Bhaskar Collective, also referred to as “The Collective.” Anand started the group as a solo project, but it didn’t take long for him to find other musicians who shared his ideas about music and add them to the Anand Bhaskar C roster. The group is renowned for its energetic concerts and for its music, which combines elements of Indian classical music with a pronounced alternative rock sound. We hope you enjoy this world music special, in which we talk all things ABC as well as chatting about Ozzy Osbourne and Bollywood!
Bass: Neelkanth Patel
Guitars: Hrishi Giridhar
Drums: Shishir Tao
Vocals: Anand Bhaskar..
Violin: Ajay Jayanthi
The Anand Bhaskar Collective have two albums under their belts, “Samsara” (2014) and “Excuse Me” (2017), but there has been a big gap, so we had to start by asking why.
Anand- I think that everybody in the band was busy with other projects. The band is not the only source of livelihood for us; we all work elsewhere. I am a writer and producer for films in India on Amazon Prime. Our bass player, for example, is a marketing research consultant for a big advertising firm in India. So those parts of our lives took over after the second album. Also, to be honest, independent music in India is mostly a passion project for Indian musicians; we have to find paying projects for our lives and finances. We have respective families to care for, and independent music is not a moneymaker in India. So I think after we released a couple of singles, our last single was a single called “Ufaq,” released in January 2022. Having said that, the third album we can announce is coming now, and we are in a comfortable place in life and are concentrating on the band again. We are playing a lot of shows and playing new music live, and the writing for the new album is happening. The new album will have a slightly different sound, and hopefully that will be here by 2023.
We noted that the band was known for a distinctive style that blended the world of Indian classical traditions, carnatic music, with Western Rock, hence the “alternative Rock” tag. Along with asking about Carnatic music, we wondered how appropriate Anand felt that was for the band and what they were doing now.
Anand- Carnatic music is a form of classical music in India. The classical tradition can very broadly be divided into two styles, one is called Hindustani, which is practiced in the northern region of India; this is the style of Ravi Shankar. Then there is an element of that in the southern states of India called Carnatic, and a lot of the ragas in the Carnatic style or the Hindustani style are very similar. The delivery is different; I feel Carnatic is very rhythm-oriented and Hindustani is very fluid. I am trained in the Carnatic style, and when I was in school, I picked up on some of the Hindustani, as I am a fluent Hindi speaker, having grown up in Delhi, although I am a South Indian. I am also, like the rest of the band, a fan of western rock music. I grew up listening to Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Megadeth, Lamb of God, and so on. And at the risk of committing blasphemy, I like the music of Ozzy Osbourne better as a solo artist in the early Blizzard of Ozz days than his work in Sabbath. There is so much melody in his solo material.
Of course, the magazine is a huge supporter of Ozzy, and we have commented before that his love of The Beatles is worn on the sleeve of his music. There are so many wonderful Beatles infused tracks on his albums.
Anand- True, but I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who has not been subconsciously influenced by The Beatles. But that is how the fusion happened. I like to think I am good at both styles, so it was a natural fusion. It wasn’t really an intention, but when I was recording initially, at the start, I was working with a producer, and I told them what I wanted, programmed the drums, and so forth; it then just organically developed and became the sound of the band.
It is interesting as we have spoken to a few Indian-based musicians during our time here, and musicians such as Dr. Lincoln noted how the Indian music scene has both the popular Bollywood style of music and the classical traditions having a high profile. Then there’s the indie market, which combines a variety of western styles in its niche. We asked Anand how he saw the rock market in India and the use of English as a medium for music.
Anand- It’s not a natural rock market. But having said that, the position of music written in English has become quite dominant in independent circles. You will find that the indie scene is dominated by English-language artists. There are punk and metal bands writing in English, and a few are writing in Hindi. When I was growing up, the Indian rock scene was only in English; there were no Hindi rock bands then. But the phenomenon has grown. In the early 2000s there were bands like Euphoria that wrote in Hindi, but that is changing. But India is not a rock market. When we play concerts in smaller Indian towns, there will be those who hear music like this for the first time live, they don’t have access to the medium in English.
Bollywood, of course, has provided a huge market for Indian music globally now, and the Bollywood industry has become a huge employer for artists, singers, and so forth who work “under the covers,” so to speak. We spoke to Isheeta Chakrvarty only recently, who sings background for Bollywood sometimes. Their names are rarely known, it is the actors who present the songs in the film who are famous. The songs can be huge hits, but the singers remain relatively unknown.
Anand: That is correct; in the West, actors will usually sing their own parts in a musical. The tradition has been different here since the beginning. In the 1950s, some of the legends did their singing, but things changed, and acting and singing became two separate lines of work in our country. Forget the singers for a moment, there are composers who may write some of the biggest songs on streaming platforms for the Indian diaspora worldwide, but no-one knows them because we are an actor- and singer driven culture. Don’t forget the composer behind the song, The composer lurks in obscurity behind the song.
The Anand Bhaskar Collective continues our tradition of promoting songwriters and artists who compose, perform, and write their own material. This band writes all their material together.
Anand- We have not written lyrics for two of our songs. But otherwise, we write and compose all our songs. We either produce it ourselves or hire a producer who is familiar with our sound. We create everything in house.
The band’s sound has changed quite a bit, listening to Sawal (2017), a folk-style track, with violins, and comparing that to some of their much rougher rock-style tracks, shows the musical diversity in their output. We asked where the band was musically now, as their third album takes shape.
Anand- When the first two albums came out, we were younger and probably pissed off with the world for no reason—or maybe a lot of reasons! In consequence, the songs were heavier. Now, mentally, we are in a better place, and the band has never been in a better place. Musically speaking, we are moving toward a more modern sound. We are huge fans of Coldplay, and even though they are rock, the music is accessible. They have cross-cultural appeal, and that is what we are moving toward. We want more and more people to listen, so we are more commercial. The sound will still be groovy, but the guitar tones will be less hard and distorted. It will lean more toward melodic rock. The third album will be a bit more conversational and relatable. We’ve noticed that whenever we release a single, people revisit the back catalogue. But the next one is more pop rock.
As we get older, our life experiences do change us as people, and this can reflect in our songwriting too. As the Collective has been running for almost a decade now, does Anand feel there is an extra maturity in his songwriting?
Anand- Yes, to an extent. The work we do outside the band has a big impact on our mental health. To be honest, I don’t feel more alive than when I am with my band on the stage, so if I am stressed out with a project, the moment I am on the stage, that stress washes away as I am there with my band mates and brothers, rocking out. I recognize that mental health has become increasingly important in recent years, and some of the songs on the new album will reflect that. We don’t have to be hostages to work all the time. There is a toxic positivity on social media today that only talks about being happy; everything you do has to be happy, you have to work 24/7 to achieve success; and there is nothing there but success. We are saying to relax and concentrate on love and family. So we are at that stage in life, and our generation (except our guitarist, who is in his early 20s) is driven too much by social media. It is okay not to be a star overnight; learn to live.
We had to express to Anand how much we enjoyed the incredible animation for the single Jaadoogari, which we have included below. It must have taken so much work!
Anand- We approached SIncro Studios and two really talented people, Mukund Sincro and Dhruv Sincro. They took about a year and hand-drew each frame. We wanted to do an animated film for the song and thought it would turn out a simple piece, but those guys, they poured their hearts into the video, and it is probably one of the best out there. It is world-class. They did the lyric video for “Ufaq” too. So I’m glad you liked it.
If you are reading this and have never seen Jaadoogari then please do watch it, we agree that it is absolutely world class. But it was time to say goodbye to the Collective in this feature, and we hope you liked reading about this band that is creating new material and getting out there on tour. We let Anand finish with a few bits of news.
Anand: We’ll be releasing a new song soon; no specific date has been set. It is a collaboration with folk singer Mame Khan, he is very popular here and he has an amazing voice. We recorded this before the pandemic, and then things got lost and delayed in the pandemic. But we have returned to it, and the song is nearing completion, we will be hitting mastering for the song soon. So those out there waiting for new material from us, watch out.
By Benny (The Ball) Benson
Mark C. Chambers.
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