UDAY BENEGAL – THE FIRST INDIAN ROCK SENSATION RETURNS HOME
Posted by Vivek on June 3, 2010 | No Comments
He was the voice behind ROCK MACHINE, which in it’s time had cult like success in India. They played across the nation and overseas. When ROCK MACHINE, then evolved into INDUS CREED, UDAY BENEGAL continued to be it’s “voice.” Then at the height of their prowess, the group disbanded, Uday went West.
Now he is back in Mumbai and India
A new group, but the same resonating voice, which we also heard in WAKE UP SID.
Over to Uday:
Talk a little about the return from New York, from a Music perspective, why back to India and why now?
The answer to that question is not music-related. I moved back to Bombay to try and make indie-style films. I’d written a couple of scripts (both based in India), one of which started to get some traction, so I moved back because the only way to get it done is to be present. The urge to get up on stage and make some music seems impossible to stanch for me, so I keep doing it.
Whirling Kalapas- what kind of music can we expect and where do you want to take the group?
Whirling Kalapas is what I consider my acoustic side project. Ok, so you’re going to ask me what my main project is now. I don’t know…yet But with WK I feel a deep sense of peace and fulfillment every time I get up on stage. To get into those quiet moments that we do…I’ve long aspired for that. A bit hard with electric bands. WK delves into those quiet spaces; we explore all kinds of tonalities through acoustic guitars, mandolin, violin, lush vocal harmonies. And every now and then we just funk it out. Where would I like to take the group? To planets heretofore undiscovered.
From being the recognizable Rock Machine and then Indus Creed, to struggling in New York with Alms For Shanti, struggling, cause the environment and the audience had changed, talk a little about the desire to move West in the first place and about your overall experience there (NY)?
The years with Rock Machine and Indus Creed were amazing. Also insane, bizarre and ulcer-causing. But in toto it was just a fantastic ride. At some point, though, some of us started to move in different directions musically. I wanted to move in a different direction geographically too—I was sick of living in Bombay by then. The city was getting more frustrating to be in, the music biz had changed in ways that we hated and I wanted to make a kind of music that India wasn’t, I believed, ready for. Rather than try and stuff it down an unwilling throat I chose to go in search of the audience for that sound. Jayesh Gandhi, also from Indus Creed, felt in much the same way, so we both decided to head for New York and start a new band with a new sound.
Our years in New York were fabulous. Like Bombay, NYC can be pretty unforgiving—you’ve got to have your shit together or it’s not going to work for you. Musically it was very fulfilling as we found a great bunch of musicians that become Alms For Shanti. With AFS we weren’t looking for stardom of any kind. Jayesh and I had set out to make the kind of music that we wanted to make, irrespective of the commercial implications. I have no regrets there. I loved New York; I still do. It’s as much home as Bombay—sometimes more. I loved the anonymity, the environment, the openness. I miss it often.
Desire to do playback for Bollywood?
I like to sing, period. I’m very open to doing Bollywood tunes but I’d prefer to do the kind of songs that I’m comfortable with. When Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy played me the scratch for “Life Is Crazy” from the film Wake Up Sid, the decision to do it was instant. I loved the song, they’re guys I’ve known for a long time and am very comfortable working with. When more Bollywood work comes along I hope it’s like that song—fresh, catchy and fun to do.
State of the music industry when you left India, to where we are now?
Worse in some ways, better in others. The worst part of the music scene in India today is the absence of dedicated music channels. It’s hard for a band to get their music out there. But in other ways it’s easier. Now there’s MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and the like. Technology has made it easier to record at home. But the onus lies on the bands to market themselves, a task most musicians suck at. Which is the reason for record companies to exist. But the labels here suck as much, if not more, at that function, so it’s all a bit of a mess. The live scene has improved in many ways. There are a bunch of live music clubs—and still growing—all across the country. And they all want bands to come and play their own music. That’s progress to me.
Throwing up the Hotel Mgmt for a music career, any regrets looking back, anything you would do different?
Ha ha ha, no regrets at all on kicking the “bright future” in hospitality. The 10 days I spent working as a hotel trainee after I graduated from hotel school made that decision much, much easier. And I was already in Rock Machine, so the choice was obvious. No regrets, man. A full-time musician is what I was meant to be and I’m only grateful that I’ve been able to do that. And all the experiences that followed from that decision have been great, even the times when things weren’t going so well. Because that’s what life is—sometimes it goes according to plan and sometimes it doesn’t (though I suspect it’s all part of the plan, really). Life’s experiences—good and bad—are all good. Everything teaches…if you let it.
Additionally feel free to add anything else you want to communicate to the readers.
Um, not much more to add to that. I’m lucky for the life I’ve had and the life I still have. Everyone should feel that way