From the age of Kollywood music from Tamil cinema, the youth of Chennai , it seems, is gravitating more towards nightlife and ‘pop culture’ with new ‘music bands’ , springing up everywhere . A random search of ‘Bands in Chennai’ returns about 256 bands, their genre varying from metal to blues and Jazz.
One such band formed by a bunch of youngsters is slowly escalating its way towards the top of Chennai’s music diaries. Under the Influence is currently ranked 12th among the city’s bands. The band started out as a group of friends - Sharad Rao, Jason Jolly, Jonah Chellappa and Jacob Antony who met often to jam just for the fun of it.They took part in various cultural fests in schools all over the city and were consistently among the top which made them consider taking it to a more serious level and decided to actually form a proper band. And thus Under the Influence was born.
Sharad is a trained guitarist and vocalist;Jason, vocalist and self-taught guitarist; Jonah, the drummer .Jacob is a pianist as well as a guitarist. He has completed the 8th Grade in Piano and is currently teaching in IIT-M and in the Unwind Centre, Adyar,Chennai.
They were set to give their first live performance in Chennai when they met Neela Bhaskaran, an established solo-artist. She is vocalist, pianist/drummer and flutist. She had heard of them and wanted to become part of their band. She joined them as the lead vocalist. Their first on-stage performance was in the Unwind Centre and the response was lukewarm. “This was an area where people were hard-core metal heads and our blues didn’t hit it off well with them”, says Jason.
They got their real first break when they played at the Tryst Cafe, ECR where they received tremendous response .From thereon there’s been no looking back. Ever since, they have performed at Fisherman’s Cove, The Taj , Madras Boat Club and other clubs in Chennai. Each member of the band is good at different genres – Country, Classic rock, Blues and Funk. The net result of this is that they play a lot of styles though they primarily play Blues and Jazz. They have covered quite a few artists, mostly the Beatles and make original compositions as well .They also won the award for ‘Best Original Composition’ at Saarang Cultural Fest of IIT-M. Neela also won the ‘Best Vocalist’ award in the same event. They have eight compositions to their credit and eight more in the pipeline. They are currently working on their first Album which they hope to release next year.
If on the one hand established bands like Under the Influence are rocking the city, the traditional college bands aren’t dying out either. Shrithilaya official band of Anna University have been around for about 10 years. They stick to doing pro-shows and participating in cultural fests. The disadvantage with such bands is that the members keep changing with a fresh batch of students coming in every year and another, passing out. Auditions for the incoming batch are held and the brand members are chosen. They have been performing in the Pro-shows of Agni, Anna University’s Intra- College cultural fest and Techofes, their annual inter-college cultural fest, meanwhile winning quite a number of Light music contests in the city. “We intend to keep it this way, as of now. We are not considering actually performing in music clubs/anywhere in the city in the near future”, says Athreya.G, the lead vocalist.These bands, no doubt, have re-written the music journal, drastically revolutionizing trends in the city , with western culture catching on fast . The youth are definitely shifting focus from the age old Carnatic and film music to a popular fresh breath of rock and roll.
Author Credit: Akshaya Bhat