My mother would always listen to old hindi songs, ‘Vividh Bharthi’ being her favourite radio channel. It was in Nigeria, where I first heard non-Indian music – ‘Michael Jackson’, ‘Boney-M’, ‘Osibisa’ – are a few I can remember. I came back to Bangalore in 1987 and studied in Baldwin Boys High School. It is a beautiful school, with a long history of more than 100 years. I was in hostel for a couple of years and it was here that I was first exposed to Rock music. ‘Born in USA’ by ‘Bruce Springsteen’ was perhaps the first Rock number I ever heard. Every kid in the dormitory would sing that song. I was in 7th standard and I could not follow much of the lyrics apart from “Born in USA” and that’s all I would sing – “Boooooorrrrnnnn in U S Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”.
The school is close to Brigade Road, MG Road, Residency Road, Commercial Street etc. which used to be home to more than half of Bangalore’s bars and pubs. There used to be cabarets too, but they closed down a few years back. As school kids, we used to sneak into these bars/pubs, (sometimes in school uniform) just to feel its atmosphere. I never ever drank or smoked or tasted non-veg, I promise.
I attended a Rock show in Bangalore in 1990. One of the then leading bands of the city and country – “Shiva’s” led the show. They did sing a lot of popular English numbers – ‘Buffalo soldier’ is the only song I can recollect. What stunned me most was the Rock show’s atmosphere. I had been to bars and pubs a number of times and expected similar atmosphere but I was dumbstruck. This was a first for me. Live band, weird clothes, weird hair styles, a lot of ‘ganja’ (marijuana) users, liquor bottles thrown everywhere, girls and boys were closest to each other here than anywhere else.
“Yo man” someone yelled and waved at me with two of his fingers tucked in. That was supposed to be ‘Rock Salute’. I didn’t know that even I had to say “yo man” when someone greeted me that way. What on earth is ‘yo man’? I had no clue. I resorted to saying ‘Hi’ as all this seemed alien to me and they would look at me as if I were an alien. I avoided eye-to-eye contact for some time. After a bit of practice, I learnt to arrange my fingers for the rock salute and say “yo man” with the typical accent. People still looked at me as if I were an alien!!! I was perhaps the only one wearing neatly pressed formal shirt & trousers and polished black shoes (School shoes). Shoes had collected a bit of dust and that was the only silver lining. My caring mother had given me a pullover, just in case it gets cold. A t-shirt would have camouflaged the trousers, I felt. I checked if the pullover looked anything like a t-shirt. It did to an extent. Better sense prevailed over me and I did not take the risk of wearing the sweater. I tried to find someone of my ilk, but was unsuccessful. I sheepishly made an early exit.
A few months later, I learnt through my cousin’s friend about the differences between pop music, soft rock, rock, hard rock, metal, heavy metal, death metal and how to judge the fans of each of these types of music. It varied from simple jeans and t-shirt for pop fans to jeans and black t-shirt for rock followers, to torn jeans and black weirdo t-shirts for metal fans, to piercing and tattoos for heavy and death metal clans. “Come what may, I am going to be a follower of pop music for life”, I said to myself.
“Skull Crushers” was my common reply when someone asked me about my favourite rock band. I drew pleasure from their looks. A lot of them would pretend to know the band or they would say “not my taste” to end the conversation. A band by that name never existed at that time!!!
From → School/College