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Original ‘Indie’ Music Finds Growing Support in Goa

And Cheenos is at the forefront

Young rockers do a sound check. People filter in and start filling up tables around the stage area at Cheenos,pharm a new restobar in Baga that is becoming synonymous with live music in north Goa this monsoon season. Any establishment thinking the monsoons are a good time to shut shop for lack of business might want to take a serious look at Cheenos, dosage which is hopping with patrons even as this green land is awash in rain. Low season? Not at Cheenos!

 “We knew live music draws in big crowds in Goa and were advised by our PR consultants to invite indie (independent) bands from out of town who haven’t had the opportunity to play in Goa before. Their sounds are fresh in Goa and I’m glad it’s been going well ever since we started in June,” says Ajit Singh, partner at Cheenos.

The ‘Indie-Fresh’ gigs opened with Spud in the Box, a young alternative rock band that created a buzz on social media long before the event that drew a sizeable crowd do Cheenos. The following weeks featured the Indo-Gypsies, a folk band from Mumbai that emulates the now legendary Indian Ocean; singer-songwriters Govez Foning and Alexis Reed based in Goa playing their own folk and bluesy originals; Vernon Noronha’s surfer-style compositions and Skylight Vision, a progressive pop rock band from Pune.

The six-member band Skylight Vision, all under 25 years old, were thrilled to play in Goa. “We are Goa virgins. Right now since we’re still dependent on our families, our priority is to get heard.” And heard they have been, as their first single ‘Ember’ crossed 1000 hits on in one day.

The secret to their success is their unique sound, and they plan to release their five-track EP album in a couple of months. “We haven’t heard others that sound like us since we don’t have a specific genre. We’re trippy and soothing at the same time.” Their influences reflect an evolved youth culture in India as they revere relatively unknown producers like Steven Wilson from bands like Porcupine Tree who has “obscure ideas that you can somehow connect to.”

Although indie bands are beginning to earn decent chunks of money in places like Mumbai and Delhi, things are still picking up in cities like Pune. “When we played in a mall once, people just stared at us. We wish audiences were more interactive instead of being scared to express interest.” Similarly, the indie music scene is still burgeoning in Goa compared to the broader appeal of cover bands.

“We have immense respect for Indian bands that have made it like Agni, Raghu Dixit and our hero, Warren Mendonsa.” Coincidentally Warren Mendonsa of BlackStratBlues attended the very first Indie-Fresh event as his wife Uttara was the manager of Spud in the Box.

Skylight Vision fill in their original set with a few covers of popular international bands like Coldplay but add their own flavor to it. “Our goal was not to be a cover band but we have to mix things up. We believe in not ripping off covers exactly but adding some element of our own. Sometimes we get asked to play an RD Burman song or the Titanic theme. Maybe we’ll have to compromise to make money at some point as it gets expensive to record and to jam.”

With the opening of popular live music venue The Blue Frog in Pune, bands like Skylight Vision will have more support to jam regularly and listen to what other musicians are doing. Perhaps Goa will follow the example of other cities once audiences grow and there will eventually be venues dedicated to encouraging fledgling bands to find their unique voices.

Upcoming featured bands at Cheenos include Flamenco guitarist Veda Agarwal on the 24th of July and the likes of Koniac Net, Unohu, Duncun Rufus, Stella by Starlight and others.