'India has Fossils. What more does it want?'
New Delhi: Fossils, a Bangla rock band, was once asked to get off stage to make way for better-known bands. Today it is considered one of the most original rock bands in India and four-album old.
Rupam gave an exclusive interview to merinews.
Why the name Fossils?
When we were thinking of a name for our band Deep suggested ‘Fossils’ from one of my songs. We thought it was very appropriate, because we were doing rock music at a time when rock in Bangla was unheard of. We were ahead of time and thought that we might not get the desired response from the Bengal audience then, but just like any fossil, we too would be dug up years later when our true worth would be understood.
How do you define rock? Do you call yourself a rock band?
Rock music is what one will like to call it. I might have a different definition from what the other members of my band might like to say. As for me, rock is turbulence, an experience: turbulence in any sphere. It could come as turbulence in life when one goes through a bad phase. Rock is basically the outburst of such turbulent experiences.
Fossils have successfully created a different genre of music in the Bengali music industry. How did this Bengalisation of the Western music take place in the midst of Baul Geet or Rabindra Sangeet?
I do not believe in the East-West concept. The world
is round and no one is static like a tree. Everyone is moving, and as long as they are moving, it has to be in one direction or the other, be it east, west, north, south, whatever. However, if I use your phrase – Bengalisation of the Western music – I can only say that Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Geeti and the likes are all examples of Bengalisation of the Western music.
If we take Bengal into account then the only genre of music that we can truly call our very own creation is some variations of folk music. All others had some influence or the other. Even the classical music, which we claim to be our own, is an outcome of north/south Indian influence, which too is actually to the west of Bengal and hence can also be called Bengalisation of the west. It is often heard that Bengali song cannot be sung without harmonium, tabla
I would like to know which of these instruments originated from Bengal? Bengal cannot claim to be the origin of most instruments used even in our traditional songs. In fact, not more than two instruments have their origin in Bengal.
Every band group goes through a phase of financial struggle in their initial days. I guess Fossils’ history is no different. How was the journey? When did the first break come through?
Why just bands? Anyone who wants to start something on his/her own is taking a huge risk and should be ready to face challenges. Only the fit and able can overcome all obstacles, face challenges and emerge winner.
As far as financial struggle goes the most of us wanted to make music our career, but also had other options to fall back on. However, finance is a very important aspect for any musician’s success. We did not get a big financial support required to perform big quality shows or produce good video albums. Since we did it without much financial support, I am sure you understand the hard work and long hours that went into our success.
About the journey, to cut a long story short, I have been performing since 1992 and though I had always wanted to perform as a group/band I did not get the right people to match my wavelength. That is when I decided to go solo. I recorded a demo of 40 songs at home – since I did not have the budget to hire a recording studio – and HMV after having heard that demo released my first solo album. Having performed as a solo singer for a while I was fortunate to meet the right people and decided to form Fossils.
This is my story, but other members of the band will have their own stories to tell.
Stage shows of Fossils, especially in college campuses, are a craze. How was your first stage-show experience?
If you are talking about my first stage show experience, it was long back when I was just four-years old and performed with my parents’ choir. I am sure it was a wonderful experience.
As far as Fossils’ first stage show goes, it was a show organised by HMV in January 1999. We had performed as Rupam’s band and not Fossils. It was at that show that I announced the name Fossils. At that concert, following our performance was then well-known bands and we could sing only four numbers amidst a lot of cheering for the other bands. We were even asked to get off the stage.
Bengali bands like James are gradually gaining foothold in Bollywood. Any such plans for Fossils?
Bollywood has always accepted a lot of outside influence/talent and made it its own. As far as Fossils is concerned, if Bollywood wants us we are ready.
India has never produced legendary rock bands like The Beatles. What do you think hold us back?
India has Fossils. What more does it want?
As far as universal international appeal goes, our language is our biggest drawback, since it is not even universally accepted all over India. However, I would also like to mention here that regional languages like Punjabi or Latin American languages have made a universal appeal, but that is because of their expensive and well-made video albums, which are played on the national/international TV channels. In Bengal we lack producers who are willing to produce good quality video albums, which are an absolute must for the success of regional music on a national and international level.
Many band groups break away just for the differences in opinions among the members, lure of a lucrative career, etc. Did Fossils face such challenges?
I will not say that we had to face a lot of such challenges, but yes, our guitarist Allan took up a white-collar job and had to leave the band. But, no one is indispensable, and after an initial setback we moved on.
Fossils is famous for its touching lyrics. What is the inspiration?
Life and the belief that music is an extension of life.
What in your opinion is the basic difference between Indian audience and the audience abroad?
Cannot say: have not had the pleasure of performing abroad.
What types of rock music does different age groups prefer to listen to?
We make music: we do not have an age group in mind. I feel my music/lyrics are only for the matured elderly audience and not teenagers. But, it is the teenagers who listen to our music more than the elderly. I can only say that teenagers who have matured mentally and have faced life more intensely like to listen to rock.