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Desi stars set to shine at Dubai's 1st Bohot Hard music festival

Michael Gomes
Filed on November 19, 2019




It's going to be one massive desi music night. Touted to be one of the biggest Underground Desi rock festivals to hit Dubai, Bohot Hard features a mix of acts from the Indian sub-continent.


Headlining the first edition of  the event are Malayalam rockers Avial. Then there are performances by Dubai-based artistes Dhruv, Nikhil Uzgare and Tejaswini Ghaisas. The concert will kick off at 6pm at Bar Baar, Majestic City Retreat Hotel, on Friday, November 22 and go on until 3am.


The event begins with a contest featuring UAE talents. It will be judged by a panel of celebrity artistes including Bollywood singer-composer Neeraj Shridhar (Bombay Vikings), singer-actress Pratichee Mohapatra (Indi-pop group Viva) and musician and Bollywood actor Luke Kenny.


"Bohot Hard is a concept that's aimed at bringing the Underground scene to mainstream audiences. Dubai has a huge underground scene, even among the Desi audiences and I believe it needs to be given the opportunity it deserves," said veteran Dubai rock singer and show organiser Uzgare.
Ahead of the event, City Times spoke to Avial, Neeraj Shridhar and Luke Kenny to know more:

The independent music scene has grown ten-fold, say Avial
Avial has performed at various concerts in the UAE, what can fans expect from the band this time? Any new material?

It's amazing to come back to UAE every time. We are glad we have received so much love and positivity all these years from our fans in Dubai. We better not reveal our set list yet. However, we urge fans to come and hear us out.

Why did the band come up with the name Avial, what's the connection between food and music?
The name has no connection with food. It just popped up in our mind one fine day and we went ahead with it.

Why did Avial choose to do Malayalam rock?
We didn't choose Malayalam. It chose us :)

What inspires the band's compositions?
Day-to-day life, people, friends, conversations, events, politics, and Kerala in general.

Can you briefly explain your music style?
We're a band consisting of four members who come together and play rock music infused with a bit of Electronic, Drum n Bass and Reggae.  

What are the challenges of being an alternative rock musician?
Being a musician itself is challenging, be it rock or any other form. You face rejection on a daily basis, and making a living doing music is really tough. We had to take a huge loan to record our first album, buy professional equipment, pay studio costs etc. and there was no guarantee that it would work out. It's an out and out DIY (Do it Yourself) thing.

What is the current state of Indie-rock in the country?
We are not the best people to comment on that, but all we can say is that there's a lot of interesting music happening in India. The independent music scene has grown ten-fold since we founded Avial (in 2003).

Composing for movies or writing tunes for albums, what is more satisfying?
We have done music for only two feature films till date (four songs), and even in those movies, the filmmakers wanted us to retain our style and sound. So we didn't have to deviate much. So yes, it was surely a very satisfying experience, both creatively and financially. However, having said that, we have to add that since we are independent artists, we'd choose our own albums.

Have you ever thought of fully getting into mainstream music?
If you mean film music, then no, we haven't given it a thought yet.

Rock On!! star Luke Kenny talks music & movies
From dancing to DJing/VJing, playing music and now acting in Bollywood, tell us a bit about your journey so far?

It's been pretty much a simultaneous journey as I have always been passionate about the entertainment industry and have always been keen to contribute in whatever way possible. Most opportunities that have come my way have been due to my constant endeavour to be a part of the creative process.

How did your musical journey begin?
I had a three directional musical education, my grandfather was a huge jazzman and he would play jazz music all day long. My father was a child of rock 'n' roll, so I grew up to the sounds of the 60s and 70s. And then my grandmother was a Hindi film fan, so she would take me to watch films - first-day first-show after school. And in between all this, I was discovering my music through the 80s, 90s and 2000s.   

Were you part of talent shows in your young days. Tell us about your experiences.
I used to take part in inter-college competitions that would happen annually. At that time, I was young and hungry to express myself artistically. However, it was a good learning experience and prepared me for larger challenges in life.  

Were you part of a band or did you perform solo?
I joined a band as soon as I joined college. We would play only original music, and if we had to do covers, then we would do them in reverse. This is something I still do. DJing happened a few years later, while I was a chorus dancer on the Mumbai stage.
 
You were the first male VJ on Channel [V], do you ever miss hosting those shows?
Yes of course. I remember them fondly for sure, because I was a small part of the change that was coming about culturally and technologically. And for a country like India that was a big deal. It was a stepping stone for the powerhouse that the country is today in every aspect.   

Between music and acting, what gives you more satisfaction?
They are two sides of the same coin for me, and that coin is constantly flipping.  

What's on your playlist right now?
Post Malone, Taylor Swift, Kanye, Joni Mitchell, Tool, TwentyOne Pilots, Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis and The Beatles.

Name some of your favourite bands?
The Beatles and anyone inspired by them.   

How was it playing the bad guy in Netflix's Sacred Games, how was it acting opposite Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui?
I am fortunate to have been given the chance to share screen space with Saif and Nawaz. Both are extremely cool to work with and are the most humble, down-to-earth professionals.    

You are starring in Tanhaji opposite Ajay Devgn and Kajol, can you tell us about that?
Tanhaji is the story of one of the greatest military leaders of the Maratha Empire. It details the events leading up to the Battle of Sinhagad in 1670. We get a look into the lives of all the key people who were part of those events, from Chhatrapati Shivaji to his mother Jijamata to Tanhaji's wife (Kajol) and the main characters Udaybhan and Tanhaji, played by Saif and Ajay respectively. I play Aurangzeb. Director Om Raut is a huge history enthusiast and he is very keen on wanting to tell this story to a new generation of filmgoers.

Neeraj Shridhar is all for online music
Soorat Hai to now, what changes have you seen in the music scene?

Music was commercial back then too. But it was innovative. In today's era, only the commercial aspect remains. The innovation is gone. Today, good music does not get the platform it truly deserves.

Singing or composing, what gives you more satisfaction?
I am and have always been a composer at heart. Singing happened along the way.

In your early compositions, you have used various influences from other styles of music to pep up your tracks, how did you come up with that?
I spent a good amount of my life around some fantastic musicians and artistic talent in Stockholm. Those guys were masters at their art. I learnt a lot from those years. So I guess my inspiration came from there.  

Bollywood music is going through a massive upheaval, what direction do you think it's headed for?
As of now, the current direction is suicidal. But I'm hopeful and like any cycle, good music will emerge, rise and shine.

What are some of your favourite Bollywood songs - in terms of composition and delivery?
In all modesty, I will pick a song of my own called Chor Bazaari. I believe it's well written, composed and is arranged for the time we live in.

Mashups are much in demand these days. Don't you thinks it's hurting traditional forms like singles and albums?
I'm not a fan of mashups. Nothing original about them. I prefer the real deal. Music in the form of singles and full length albums should be the ideal benchmark for a serious artist done with an equally serious promoter and label.

What's your take on online music?
I think it's great. It has quelled music piracy. It is also a great platform for new artistes who back in the day, would have never seen the light of the day with the bureaucracy that existed in the music industry. The online industry has also given new artistes an easier route to showcase and exhibit their talent, regardless of how good or bad it is. It is a fair opportunity. Let people decide if they like it or not.

What can music lovers expect from you at the Bohot festival?
I am pre-dominantly here to judge The Bohot Hard Singer Contest. But I will surely go on stage to belt out a few songs of my own. Expect a musical evening with a fantastic line up of talent. More than anything, I am looking forward to meet up with friends and fans in the UAE!

michael@khaleejtimes.com


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