With the gold rush coming to an end and the Great Indian Dream dying a slow, painful death at the hands of those who said it was ours for the taking, it won’t be long before we find ourselves in a frighteningly Battle Royale (like Hunger Games, but better) like situation. Every man for himself. This independent music scene we love to embroil ourselves in is so closely tied to the deteriorating social and cultural landscape of this country that it’s only a matter of time before the optimism will give way to the terrifying realization that we dropped the ball, right into the fresh new gutter where all our best laid plans are on their way to die. Much of what we see as being alternative culture is simply a privileged urban population’s attempt to find meaning in a country where we feel so different from the others around us that even a pale imitation of our Western influences merits attention and credit.
You would think that the musicians have the upper hand, considering Bollywood and its parasitic axis of evil is so clear an enemy. But perhaps our standards have been hammered so low by our filmy friends that anything that rises above that steaming heap is worth showering with praise. We clutch to the independent music scene because it separates us from the masses that we are often ashamed to be associated with. This independent culture we forge for ourselves works well because it helps sweep the ugliness under the rug so we can focus instead on adopting a lifestyle that we find so attractive, instead of actually creating content that hits the establishment where it hurts. Instead of doing things differently, we may end up in a situation where we’re simply replicating the same trends we despise, with funnier catch phrases and well, clever lines about scenesters. Anybody worth a creative squeak is embraced because hey, beggars can’t be choosers, can they? The commercial system is still powerful enough to co-opt anything that has any quality, so maybe we’re not the ones they should be afraid of, we are the ones that had better watch out.
There can be no real paradigm shift in a cultural industry until those involved recognize that what they have before them is a mangled, barely recognizable chunk of clay that can be moulded into whatever they fancy. India is the Wild West for artists but there is a long way to go yet. Before anyone has a chance to make a real, lasting dent, instant gratification will kill them. It is too easy to feel safe and protected in a scene where the rewards far exceed the work involved. Instead of mobilizing the power of creative professions, we’re far more concerned with remaining visible than actually understanding the potential we have at our fingertips. As though all that really matters is that we do just enough to situate ourselves in a space that is more concerned with that new organic food store, those new handmade sling bags or that new cupcake place around the corner that makes all the bloggers and twitterati giddy. Seriously, what is it about cupcakes?
What’s interesting though is that we could be the cutting edge. This generation of artists has it in them to rock the boat and tip the damn thing over if they wanted to. I’m not going to quote statistics about growing markets and rising trends and how many bars and clubs are opening next month. That’s only a part of what we have going for us. India is unique because it has an massive English speaking population with access to information and technology that puts us ahead of the game. Forget blaming the infrastructure, stop pinning it on the masses because they don’t “get this kind of music”. The biggest mistake we can make as creative people is to assume the masses don’t know any better, to believe that we have to be condescending pricks who need to tailor our content so that “they” can make sense of it. That time is over, people are wising up. They know that they’re being fucked by a system that wasn’t built with them in mind while the rest of us, those with an opportunity to rise above it, make something of ourselves. But we cannot ignore this state of arrested development. The perfectly engineered upper class delusion of grandeur feeds the ego and paralyzes the soul, suspending any potential for radical, independent thought.
Everything is up for grabs, and it really is the responsibility of the “artists” to get in there and do it. The Submerges, Krunks, OMLs and others can only take things so far. It isn’t up to them to revolutionize the way music is made in this country. The Indian artistic sensibility has yet to be established, a truly lucid and uncompromising music scene based only on personal conviction is still somewhere over the horizon. It is not here yet, and we ought not to act like it is. We toss the word artist around like it was made for us, but still worry about making people dance instead of asking them to listen. We still hear things like, “this is what the janata is like, man” without ever realizing that it was up to us to make them think differently. Complacency kills most of the artists that show any promise and the new wave of independent music is bound to go the same way unless there is a self-conscious effort to forge a new underground. Don’t be fooled, we are still a joke on the global scene.