29 years of Parikrama

Rocking since 1991. 29 years in the limelight. We spoke to Subir Malik of the Delhi based Rock band Parikrama on their journey, unparalleled in the indie music industry.

29 years! How do you feel?

Frankly it doesn’t feel like we have been here for 29 years because we still feel like we have a lot to do. This must give you some insight into how the band is and how we take things in life. We are still just as excited, in 2-3 weeks we are releasing a version of a song we did for charity, lots of new videos coming in and a bunch of new experiences around the corner.

We are also evolving as a band, we have always made original music and played it live in concerts but now we are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and hitting the studio and recording songs. This is quite a leap for us as this has never been our vision for Parikrama. So 29 years is just the beginning for Parikrama!

You’ve had a front seat view of the evolution of the independent music industry in India through the years. What are some of the noteworthy changes?

We are talking about a time when there were no social networking sites or even the internet. We would use those round phones with 6 digit dials to communicate. The audience back then was limited to a couple of your friends if you didn’t release a CD through a record company. Times have changed for the better now, musicians are truly independent because they can create their own music and put it out for the world to listen. They don’t have to be reliant on a record company or even a studio.

You can make music from the comfort of your home and have it reach a good amount of people through social media. A very welcome change has also been the shift in the attitude of the audience, they not only accept original music but they actually expect it from the musician. The audience of today embraces good music regardless of the source, be it an established musician or a newbie. This is probably the most noteworthy change to have come about in the independent music industry.

A pandemic, a lockdown and cancelled shows; this must be a first of its kind experience even for seasoned musicians like yourselves. How has it been for you?

Yes, this is indeed the first time we as musicians have encountered such a situation in our lives and not just us but allied industries like sound production, artist management, event management and even people who hire out screens or print background flexes are feeling the heat.

However a relatively comforting aspect for us is the timing of the lockdown, had this happened in September when our shows were in full swing instead of in March when the off season generally begins, our finances would have taken an irreparable hit. As it stands it is a very difficult time for musicians, there is no income coming in and moreover I feel like this situation is here to stay for a while.

I feel the way forward is to adapt and multitask. I’ve already placed some of the bands I manage with bigger artists for recording digital concerts. We have been fortunate enough to do a good number of paid digital concerts. A digital concert of Parikrama was recently televised through the Zee network across UK, Canada, Australia, Africa and the whole of Asia including Bangladesh, Pakistan etc. This was actually a first of its kind initiative during the lockdown period.

A travel show hosting one of our acts is in the talks. We are also considering some OTT platforms. This lockdown has pushed us to think beyond live shows and actively pursue other arenas and multitask.

At this point we have to step away from luxuries and concentrate on keeping our heads above water. I’m optimistic that this too shall pass.

You’ve had the opportunity to witness the growth of a number of Indie bands at close quarters. Could you highlight some of your favourites ?

There are a number of exemplary bands like Rock machine (now Indus Creed), Shiva, Agni, Pentagram, Zero , Blackstrat blues who have stood the test of time and only gotten better overtime.

The relatively newer bands like Local train, Parvaaz, Thaikkudam bridge, Bryden and Parth, Jasleen Aulakh and Faridkot have really made a mark for themselves in the independent music space. Bands like Thermal and a quarter and India ocean continue to do great work consistently. Apart from these there are some new bands who are putting out excellent music as well.

29 years is a long time indeed. The simple logistics itself would have been a challenge, isn’t it ?

Being the manager of Parikrama, I’ve always treated any problem the band has had to face, logistically or otherwise as a challenge and not an obstacle. When you approach a difficulty, even a logistic nightmare at that, with a “bring it on” attitude and the openness to grow, it becomes infinitely easier to tackle.

So when I see an issue I try to sort it out, learn from the shortcomings and try to be better prepared for the next time. This becomes a continuous cycle of growth. So even though there have been many hiccups through the length of our journey, we have always treated them as challenges and passed with flying colours.

If you were asked to revisit the most exhilarating show, the band has ever played, which one would you pick?

There have been a number of very rewarding shows throughout the span of these 29 years but if I were to pick one it would be sharing the stage with Iron Maiden at the prestigious Download festival at Donington.

Prior to this we were the opening act for the Iron maiden concert at Bangalore in 2007, we didn’t really go in with a lot of expectations but just as we ended our first song , the members of the band got out of their air conditioned green rooms to stand by the stage and watch us perform.

It was a surreal experience having Bruce Dickinson on my right and Janick Gers on my left, watching us perform, grooving with us and cheering us on. After we wound up our set of 45 minutes we were informed that Iron maiden wanted us to continue singing and we ended up playing two more songs.

Imagine a 16 year old band with thousands of shows behind them getting down from that stage with goosebumps, giddy with excitement like school kids after their first time onstage. That show will always stay close to our hearts.

In Macau, 05th May 2019. Pic Courtesy - Amit Sharma

At a time and age where most artists are making a bee line to secure copyrights for their music, you prefer to keep your music freely accessible. Why so?

I’ll have to take you back in history for this one. In 1996 we had just recorded some of our songs like 'But it rained' and 'Xerox' and was brainstorming over a business model that could work for us. This was way before itunes and online banking, so the only way someone could actually purchase a song would be through a money order.

The fact that we were a rock band singing only English songs did not help our cause because any recording company that approached us wanted us to switch to Hindi pop. We didn’t want to compromise on our music, so we thought of a means by which our songs could reach our target audience, primarily college students.

Around 1996, students of some premier colleges in India already had access to the internet so we decided to put our songs out there so they could download it free of cost. The more they listened to our songs and liked them, the more they would want to see us perform them live. This worked brilliantly for us and we went on to buy parikrama.com in 1997 and there has been no looking back since.

We have played up to 150 college shows in a year and that is no easy feat for any Indie band. Since it worked so well for us, we never found the need to change it so we still continue to keep our music free till date. We have always worked on the principle “If they like the trailer, they will come for the movie”.

On the cover of Rolling Stone, June 2016

What's next for you?

We have a lot up our sleeves for the months to come. We are releasing a version of one of our more intense songs which we sang to raise funds for those effected by COVID on our official channel over the next couple of weeks.

Our new song 'Life is certain' is also in the works, we are currently working on video concepts for it. We firmly believe in dying with our boots on, so Parikrama is 29 years young and still have a long way to go.

Interview by Sreedevi Manohar