The Rise of Alternative Music in India

Alternative music is a genre of rock music that emerged in the 1980s from the independent music underground. It went on to become widely popular in the 1990s, coming to the forefront with bands such as Nirvana, Alter Bridge and REM. Alternative music was typically not very commercial, and was essentially characterized by independent label records. Initially known as ‘college rock’, due to its popularity on college radio systems, it came to be known as ‘alternative rock’ due to its distinct rhythm and style of music, setting it apart from the mainstream. Ironically enough, due to this genre’s highly appealing style, it has seemingly redefined the mainstream.

In the recent past, alternative music in India has seen a rising trend. While it is still significantly underground, and seeks inspiration from alternative acts in the USA and the UK, there has been a definite increase in the number of alternative musical groups in India. Indian bands such as Virgin Creep, from Guwahati, have begun to make their foray into the alternative music scenario in India, seeking to change the predominance of metal music in the North-East.  With the support of another band, Lucid Recess, Virgin Creep made a smooth transition from metal to alternative music, following the grievous death of a band member.  Their music, as recorded in Lucid Recess’ studio is rather introspective, dealing with human complexities instead of the characteristic darkness of metal music.

Another intriguing musical band is Mumbai-based Anthracite. Their contribution to the trend of music in India is rather fascinating, owing to the fact that in spite of being a metal band, they infuse an incredible alternative tone to their music, making them highly appealing to the youth. Having performed at various locations across the country, including college festivals, the band does surprising justice to the initial label for alternative music – ‘college rock’. They started off as a small group of like-minded friends, just playing covers of popular rock and metal songs, before they realized that originality appealed to them on an inexplicable level.

Bands like Parikrama, Indian Ocean, and Avial, from different parts of India, have displayed their bravado and musical talent with their experiments in music, by combining genres, instruments and languages – thus, paving the way for an entirely new definition of alternative music.

Online radio channels such as Radio Flote and Radio 79 are easily responsible for a large part of the rising trend in Indian Alternative Music. Since it is a relatively new medium for musicians to display their talent, there is no definite guarantee of earning revenue through their music. Nevertheless, the exposure thus gained, and the rise in audience, is immense, and contributes to the acclaim of these musicians.

As evident, musical boundaries have never been more merged in India, as they are now, and it is indeed exciting to watch newer bands emerge and venture out into the musical world in a country as culturally diverse as India.