Veteran Mumbai crooner Uday Benegal to rock Dubai

It all happened in the 1980s when India’s rock scene was undergoing a major upheaval. A paradigm shift took place as bands, bored of playing covers, took up the challenge to come up with original music. They wanted to be accepted by audiences for playing their own music… They wanted their songs to be noticed in the corridors of rock and be counted among the rockers of the world.

During that era, circa 1984, a band of five young Mumbai lads dared to break free of the shackles of cover tunes to come up with original music. They created stuff that was on par with anything else anywhere, going on to  become the first Indian rock band to record an album of original rock compositions, and created a new benchmark in the country’s nascent rock scene.  

Their debut album Rock’ n’ Roll Renegade  (1988) which featured chartbusters like Top of the Rock, Prisoner Of Passion, Chains & Black Leather and other songs received a tremendous response. Crowds came out in droves to hear them, and for the first time, an Indian rock music album reported brisk sales. However, with the passage of time, what started as Rock Machine in 1984 went through a number of changes (in band members and name), and today they play together as Indus Creed. And they still rock good!

City Times caught up with the band’s frontman Uday Benegal who is performing in Dubai for the Huddle Rock Fest, at Huddle Sports Bar, Citymax Hotel Dubai on September 13, Wednesday.

For his Dubai concert, Benegal who performs and produces music independently, will be playing a solo set of songs he has written and performed with bands like Indus Creed, Alms for Shanti and Whirling Kalapas. Benegal will also be singing some covers by favourite bands.  Here’s what he had to say about his band, and the rock scene in general. Excerpts from the interview:

What are you guys up to these days, haven’t heard much from the Indian rock pioneers Indus Creed lately?
The monsoon is always slow in India, so it’s the time to hunker down and work on new stuff. Indus Creed will be putting out a new EP this year. We’re working on a video series – but that’s taking a bit longer than we had hoped. I’m also writing new material for a solo project I’m working on and still finding my way around it, but it will be out for all to see and judge when I get there.

What are the other members of Indus Creed doing these days?
Oh, they are all working on their own individual music-related stuff in between doing stuff for Indus Creed. Zubin Balaporia (keyboardist) is busy with his studio-based work – he’s busy working on advertisements and movies, mainly. And Mahesh Tinaikar (lead guitarist) teaches acoustic and electric guitar at the reputed True School of Music in Mumbai.

Who’s backing you in your Dubai concert?
The band I’m bringing down to Dubai features some  of the finest musicians, they are among my favourites. There’s Krishna Jhaveri, who plays bass with Indus Creed; Ashwin Andrew, a multi-instrumentalist who was part of Whirling Kalapas and will be playing drums for this set; and sessions man Pozy Dhar, a guitar player I’ve seen on stage many times and have worked with in the studio a number of  times.

Can you tell us a bit about your Dubai set list. What can we expect to hear?
My Dubai set is going to feature a mix of my own compositions as well as cover songs that I really like. It will be a selection from the various bands I’ve played with over the years – Indus Creed, Alms for Shanti (My band in New York) and Whirling Kalapas (an acoustic trio I had formed in India for a few years). The set’s going to be solid, and it’s going to be fun.

What kind of preparation do you do ahead of a show?
Firstly, I rehearse very seriously, but I also ensure that the band is having fun doing it.

Tell us a bit about your solo projects?
My solo stuff is still taking shape so it’s too early for me to say anything about that.

You’ve done quite a lot of singing over the years, how do you keep your vocal cords in tune?
Practice and more practice. And being kind to my vocal cords.

Is there anything else you do besides music?
I’m into writing. I have written quite a few pieces for a bunch of magazines on some very unlikely subjects – apart from music, of course. I’ve long been a food enthusiast, so I’ve written some food pieces for Man’s World magazine. Then I’ve also done some travel stories for the publication. I’ve done also some rather odd stories for GQ – like my fight with Bombay Gymkhana (a premiere Mumbai club) to allow people to wear shorts when visiting their library, and my love for the Parsi community, among others.

What according to you is the current state of rock music? Does the genre have a future?
Rock music is here to stay. It’s a genre that is so embedded in the idea of freedom that it can never die. But most importantly, it’s music and music is vibration, it’s a shape-shifting thing. And that is its main strength. While the trend of EDM seems to imply the end of rock ‘n’ roll, but, according to me, as with all other trends, the cycles will just rotate in different forms to the top (or bottom) at different times.

Will your music attract millennials?
I don’t really think in terms of trends. Everything is cyclical anyway. If you keep at it, whatever that ‘it’ is, its time will come around. So best to try to stay alive until then. I avoid trying to predict what an audience will like. I just try to write songs that make me feel good. Some of them work for others; other ones don’t.

Which are your all-time favourite rock bands?
That’s a hard one to answer because it changes constantly. There’s no all-time favourite for me. When I was growing up, the rock bands of the late Sixties and early Seventies really fuelled me, propelling me to the stage, almost literally. Bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan (they had a huge influence on me), Santana, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and others played incessantly on my stereo. Over time, I moved on to other bands. I don’t get stuck in time periods. These days, I’m enjoying Karnivool from Australia and Foo Fighters. But Radiohead tops my list. You know,  I saw them perform recently in Holland. They are the next level.

Name three bands from your bucket list?
I just watched one of them – Radiohead. Then, I would  love to see Bon Iver in an amphitheatre somewhere in the middle of nature; their music would resonate beautifully in that kind of setting. I can’t name anyone else I’m dying to watch.

What’s on your playlist right now?
Apart from some of the bands I’ve mentioned above, I love the music of Jose Gonzalez, a Swedish-Argentinian singer-songwriter, besides Bon Iver.

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