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Interviews |  03 Apr 2015 14:39 |  By RnMTeam

Give your 'Attention Please!' for documentary highlighting indie music scene in the country

MUMBAI: While the Indian independent scene is growing, it has not yet received the mainstream attention it should get. Hopefully, that could change with the documentary ‘Attention Please!’ which is currently being developed, highlighting the independent music scene in the country.

Bands including Indian Ocean, Agnee, Soulmate, Pangea and Spud in the Box as well as artists such as Vishal Dadlani, Rabbi Shergill, Vasuda Sharma, Sahil Makhija, Shubha Mudgal, Nucleya, Clinton Cerejo, Ankur Tewari, Warren Mendonsa, Sidd Coutto, Tauseef Akhtar, Ashok Khosla and Rohit Pereira will be seen sharing rather candid thoughts about the music scene throughout the film. The feature-length documentary film is directed by National Award and Filmfare Award winning sound engineer, KJ Singh and singer-songwriter/journalist Amanda Sodhi. spoke to Singh and Sodhi about the film.


How did each of you get involved with the making of ‘Attention Please!’?

Singh: I have been involved with the independent music scene in India for more than three decades, and I always wondered why did not have enough information about this segment of the industry. I also wondered why no one shared their opinions about the industry, even though everyone has their own views. So when Amanda asked me one day, if there was anything definitive about independent music happening in India, I had to say an uncomfortable, "No." That is when the idea was born and the journey to document what people thought about it began.

Sodhi: I moved to Mumbai from the US in 2012, driven by my passion for music and films. When I came here, I was puzzled by the lack of any real structure in the independent music scene. The journey to get my own band up and running was very complicated, and I saw how difficult it was for so many other musicians, both established and new. One day I thought, why not make a documentary film to learn more about the 'scene' here, to examine the independent music scene in-depth by talking to bands, labels, programming heads, sound engineers, journalists and venue owners. I also found it puzzling that although there have been documentaries about individual bands or a particular genre such as EDM or metal, no one has made a feature-length documentary that takes a more comprehensive approach. I had a discussion with KJ Singh about whether anyone has really documented the independent music scene in this manner, and we realised no one has. And, the rest is now history.

What was the inspiration behind making a documentary on the independent music scene in India?

Singh: The independent music industry in India has been ignored by the two main platforms where visibility is ensured, namely Radio and TV. Young kids are taking to music as an alternate profession but getting no support. It was time that someone collected and collated all these views and opinions from across India and presented them.

Sodhi: I wanted to understand why being immersed in only the independent music scene in India seems like an unviable option for most musicians, and why the scene is not as far ahead as it could be and should be. I have been covering the music scene as a journalist for several years, so putting my skills as a journalist and filmmaker and my passion and interest in music to use, was rewarding.

Has the documentary long been in development?

Singh: We discussed it last year and immediately started the project with help from Punam Sawhney of August Moon Productions, who has previously worked with Vishal Bhardwaj. This support helped us get a crew from FX School in Mumbai and conduct the shoot. Vijay Nair of OML gave us NH7 footage we used as a b-roll, Vijay Rathinam and Venkatakrishna helped with sound and video post, respectively.

How did you get independent music artists involved in the making of ‘Attention Please!’?

Sodhi: KJ and I spent some time making a list of all those we could reach out to from various facets of the independent music industry and across genres. So many musicians were kind enough to give us time that we are now overwhelmed with the amount of precious footage we have obtained. All of the interviews are priceless!

What is your individual contribution towards making the documentary?

Singh: Along with Amanda, I helped form the questions we would ask, pruned the list of artists/bands, managers, PA rental, promoters and music label heads from the industry to interview.

Sodhi: It is been a very collaborative process, whether it be forming questions, narrowing on who to interview, conducting interviews, supervising on the promo edit, etc.

What are your expectations for the documentary?

Singh: To raise a collective voice to seek attention from various bodies, like the local and national government to support independent music and not to turn their face away.

Do you have any thoughts on the music of the documentary? Any plans to release the soundtrack?

Singh: We have get to get into post-production and that will decide the direction it takes. That is why we have just released our first promo. We hope to raise enough funds to finish this documentary to make it available. Having a soundtrack is actually not a bad idea – thanks!

Sodhi: A lot of people have reached out asking us if we would like to include songs by their bands. I think it would be cool to eventually have a three-piece gift set of the film's DVD + additional footage, a CD of the soundtrack or compilation CD of songs by various artists we have interviewed, and a coffee table book.

What are your individual thoughts on the scenario of independent music in India?

Singh: It has become difficult for a lot of people in the independent music industry to survive by just doing music. We want to highlight the fact that unless there is support from all quarters, the scene’s very existence is in jeopardy. And independent music is not just about rock or metal or pop or Sufi. I, personally, feel it includes everything that does not have support, which, in India, is every kind of music that is non-film.

I think if we get the right kind of support from the government, in the form of making non-film content a compulsory portion of playable content on various platforms, it will give the right impetus to this industry. We need options and should have the right to play, sell, showcase, perform and chose what we like, without any impediment or restrictions.

Sodhi: I feel the independent music scene has certainly grown a lot compared to what it was five to six years ago. However, because there is a perception of growth happening, the number of people who think they can jump right into indie music without dabbling in anything else (i.e. Bollywood projects or a freelance side-career) is significant. And, as a result the ratio of artists to paid platforms is quite skewed. I also feel that despite there being a lot of talented artists, there is still lack of awareness when it comes to marketing. A lot of the newer bands have less patience than the older bands that have made it big. These bands made it big not only because they are extremely talented, but also because they had the patience to stick around and not give up, which is pretty inspiring.

In addition to ‘Attention Please’, what else are you currently working on?

Singh: For the last three years I have been running an independent music label called Asli Music, and I am involved in working with new artists and bands. I am also looking at another feature documentary on some iconic recording places which have shut down. The script is ready and registered, and AR Rahman has been kind enough to support it. I am really looking forward to this project, as well.

Sodhi: I am busy with my own project, The Acoustic Girls which features me and my friend Malvika Sirur Hemmady. I am hoping to cut our debut album by the end of this year, and release a few music videos. I am also busy currently working as a PR Manager at Wishberry, which is India's largest crowd funding platform for creative people.