For 30 years, an English Rock’n’Roll band has been filling up stadiums across the country and abroad. Be it college festivals, pubs or even open grounds. Playing majorly heavy classic rock, the band has performed with international metal giants Iron Maiden at the Download Festival in 2007 among numerous other major concerts. The Delhi based band call themselves, Parikrama.
One of India’s iconic rock ‘n’ roll bands, Parikrama, still active after 30 years is known for their highly energised and infectious performances. Probably one of the few Indian bands who are also known for their artworks and pyro works.
In its 2014 listing of “25 Greatest Indian Rock Songs of the last 25 Years”, Rolling Stone India featured “But It Rained” by the band.
The current line-up includes Nitin Malik on vocals, Sonam Sherpa, posthumously, on guitars, along with guitarist Saurabh Chaudhary, bassist Guarav Balani, Subir Malik on Hammond Organs and drummer Srijan Mahajan.
To celebrate and know of the band’s 30 year long journey we interacted with one of its founding members, the big man of Indian rock music, Subir Malik for our Interview of the Week.
Tell us about the formative years of Parikrama. How were the members chosen? Did the members have specific roles in the band?
I was actually supposed to join my family business but was also a part of a couple of bands earlier as a bassist. These bands weren’t playing heavy classic rock nor the music of the bands I grew up listening to like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, AC/DC and more. As a fan and artist, I wanted to perform these bands for the audience.
In 1990, my then band, Kingslot, was to perform at a sports competition at IIT Kanpur with 2 other bands. One of them was Amit Saigal’s band ‘Impact’ and the other was an amateur band from Delhi which had a couple of guys from my school. This was much before Parikrama or Rock Street Journal were formed. This amateur band was playing all the music that I wanted to. After the performances, I went up to them with an offer to form a band for just 4 months as I had to join my family business.
The only problem was they already had a bassist. As luck would have had it, the bassist and vocalist quit the band even before the first rehearsal. So we roped in Nitin Malik and Chintan Kalra. The band’s 2 other members, drummer Rahul Malhotra and rhythm player Prashant Bahadur, wanted to play with the band only for a few months as they wanted to pursue their education. I had to pick the keyboard and I stuck to it as I fell in love with the sound.
During an audition at the Kirorimal College, we happened to meet Sonam Sherpa. He had enrolled for the audition to just get a chance to play the electric guitar. Sonam played ‘L.A Woman’ by The Doors while jamming with us. After he played just the first 4 notes, we decided he was our 6th member. That day was 17th June 1991, Parikrama’s birthday.
To answer the second part of your question, all of us had a different role. I took up music guidance, management and marketing for the band. Chintan was entrusted with creative and artwork for our t-shirts, car stickers etc. Band members would go backstage and light up fireworks as we had no crew. Actually everyone was involved or wanted to be involved with all the aspects.
When did you guys decide to turn professional? Was it a well thought out plan or you guys went with the flow? How has the journey been since?
Being a professional band would mean playing for Parikrama as our only profession. I don’t know how many are aware but this is not the case with us. We had mutually decided to not make Parikrama our primary source of income. The reason being that by playing English Rock’n’Roll, running the household would have been very difficult.
The idea was that every member should make themselves financially secure so the band can run smoothly. 30 years back it was not practical to depend on a band’s income. If we would have decided to make it a professional act, the band could have split in sometime.
At one point, the band had a lot of offers to perform Indi-pop and even Bollywood. We did give it thought and skipped it as, with all due respect to other artists, those genres never really appealed to us. The band could afford to let these lucrative projects pass by as the members were not financially dependent on the band.
We clearly knew that Parikrama would be a project of passion and a hobby that would pay. The band had never planned for how many years we would play or even survive. But we did have a set of rules. One of them being no member is allowed to consume alcohol before a show. To be honest, a 30 year long existence for an English Rock’n’Roll band in India is quite an experience in itself.
Every band is known to have creative differences. How did Parikrama tide over this and stay united? What does it take for a band to be together for so long?
Every human thinks and visualises differently so creative differences are bound to arise. First, all members have to keep their personal egos aside. I had a poster outside the rehearsal room which said, ‘Keep your shoes and egos outside.’
One incident comes to mind. I had written the bass parts for our first hit single, ‘Till I’m No One Again.’ Sonam hated it. What got recorded was composed after several rejections from the other members.
The band is bigger than any member. As a member, every individual has to make personal sacrifices. Every member’s point of view has to be respected. If there is an issue, sit down and sort it out. This is what we have always done and will continue to do.
I reduced playing my solos not only because we had 2 superb guitarists in Nitin and Sonam but also as we were essentially a guitar based band. Similarly all other members have put the band before themselves.
Most bands evolve with time when it comes to musical tastes and influences. How has Parikrama changed in the last 30 years?
Most bands like to and do change or evolve. I haven’t, I have been listening to the same music for years. It’s not that I dislike other genres but I prefer sticking to some bands while performing. Otherwise I do listen to all kinds of music, be it Coke Studio, Bollywood, indie music and I like to explore music I haven’t heard before.
As a band the music hasn’t changed much. India has evolved as a nation so all our recording and live gear has got better. We have stressed on improving the quality of our songs. It was during the tour with Iron Maiden when we made our sound much heavier as we were supposed to play at the Download Festival. This was when we wrote ‘Tears Of The Wizard’ and ‘In The Middle’ for the tour.
Losing Sonam must have been a huge blow. How did the band recoup?
The entire band and crew misses Sonam dearly as he was an integral part of Parikrama. It was a very big blow not just professionally but personally too. While on our way back from his funeral, we were still in shock. The band decided to move on as that is what Sonam would have wanted. It was a collective decision that Sonam can’t be replaced but we will look out for a guitarist. There are some songs which we started composing with Sonam that have to be completed. Right now the pandemic has put a spanner in our plans.
Your top 3 memorable Parikrama performances.
The biggest would be the Iron Maiden show in Bangalore. Of course our first show on 15th September 1991 will always remain special and one on 25th December 1995 at Mood Indigo, IIT Powai, Mumbai. Mood Indigo and Rang Bhavan, Mumbai are 2 venues which have always been special to us.