Playing Live: The City’s Music Bands
Live Music Gigs who’ve made it Big
Making it Big with Music Gigs
The Big B: Live Music Bands
At the city’s vibrant party spaces, more than 100 bands are passionately delivering music across various genres, and the live music scene is thriving. Interestingly, Telugu film music seems to be playing a significant role in this trend. Although there is a considerable interest in progressive, hip hop, and indie music, it is the live bands playing Telugu hit songs that are taking the lead. These local bands have become regulars at live gig scenes in cities in the US to those in Australia.
WOW! celebrates our talented local musicians, both male and female, and raises a toast to mana bands and their extraordinary performances!
If the high point of a musical note is a crescendo, Hyderabad is riding that note. The land of biryani, badminton and Baahubali has another B added to its bindaas vibe. The live music bands, or should we say live homegrown music bands? The gig culture is here and how!
When these live bands are not playing in Hyderabad, they are busy regaling the NRIs at glitzy watering holes from Michigan to Melbourne. Just take a look at the concert calendar of a bunch of top Hyderabad music bands – Threeory, Band Capricio and Band Elyzium. The six-piece Telugu cover band Capricio performed to a packed stadium at Melbourne Pavilion last month. Elsewhere, in another continent, on the same weekend, Band Elyzium, a seven-member group, is getting the desis to groove to numbers at Hard Rock Café in Seattle. Closer home, at the Gachibowli Sports Village Stadium, Threeory gets the stamp of approval from none other than the god of laya, legendary South composer Ilayaraja, when they opened at his live concert last month. Band Merakee upped its ante in the music world by going mic-less in May to organize a sing-along event with a line-up of songs that Hyderabadis dig. Nawab Gang is making the tipplers in Hyderabad’s snazzy pubs parrot out their now-viral Telangana rap – Taginaka Fight Ayitadi, Gantalona Light Ayitadi, Crowd Anta Fan Ayitadi – with gusto.
While there is no authentic documentation of the live band culture in the city, music aficionados have concluded that Band Capricio can safely be termed as one of the mainstream forerunners. Established in 2017, it was also the time that YouTube and social media sites started picking trends in society and the band soon established its presence. They were unapologetically dishing out Telugu numbers and boy, were they successful. The band was invited to beatbox their way into the Hyderabadi hearts with melodies such as Yamaho Nagari, catering to the 20-to-30-year-olds who grew up listening to the music of the 80’s and 90’s.
There are about 100 to 120 bands in the twin cities and while they are into progressive, hip hop and fusion, it’s Telugu film music that seems to soar in popularity. “That’s also a reason why there are so many bands in the city when compared to Chennai or Bengaluru. Being able to sing film music needs the basic laya gyanam and doesn’t necessitate a professional music background. Not many band members are trained in music, but they still put together good shows,” says Pavan PSRK of Band Navarasa.
“Being able to sing film music needs the basic laya gyanam and doesn’t necessitate a professional music background” – Pavan PSRK, Band Navarasa
Live in the Digital Era
In an age of digital media and instant gratification, live music stands as a reminder of the beauty and importance of being present at the moment. It encourages us to put away our screens, embrace the magic of human creativity, and share in the genuine connection that can only be found in a live music experience.
The palpable electricity in the air is a result of the shared anticipation, excitement, and emotions that fill the venue. As the first notes are struck, time seems to slow down, and the outside world fades away, leaving only the music and the moment.
Live music also possesses an element of spontaneity and improvisation that sets it apart from studio recordings. Musicians may interpret songs differently, experiment with new arrangements, or indulge in extended solos.
Vinoothna Reddy, a budding vocalist and a pub hopper in Kavuri Hills says she chooses her top five pubs on a night out based on the performances. “The communal aspect of live music is a crucial part of its magic. In a concert or festival setting, strangers from diverse backgrounds come together, bound by their shared love for the music and the artist. This sense of unity creates a special kind of bond, breaking down barriers and fostering a feeling of belonging. The ability of live music to evoke emotions is unparalleled. It has the power to lift spirits, provoke introspection, bring forth tears of joy or sorrow, and inspire awe. Music can serve as a cathartic release, allowing people to connect with their deepest emotions in a way that words alone cannot express,” she says.
“The ability of live music to evoke emotions is unparalleled. Music can serve as a cathartic release” – Vinootha Reddy, vocalist
Diversity and Inclusion
The live music bands of Hyderabad attract diverse talent from across the two Telugu states. The five-piece Nawab Gang has artistes from Kakinada, Tirupati and Hyderabad, bringing with them a piece of their regional flavors. Band Panaah’s lead vocalist Snigdha Sharma hails from Vijayanagaram. Each region comes with its own cultural ethos and the bands are happy to have varied voices that come in handy during numbers with specific dialects. With the ability to connect with their fans on social media, most bands don’t have agents and typically have one member do the talking. “Most of us have an active Instagram presence and event managers and individuals message us to block our dates. We then take the conversation offline to discuss the nitty- gritty of the event,” says Pramod, known as Asura, from the Nawab Gang.
“Even a three-year-old band in Hyderabad can thrive on gigs alone” – Asura, Nawab Gang
Interestingly, most music band members don’t have a day job and are fully into gigs. “We are performing almost 20 days a month and the rest is spent in jamming and rehearsals. Even a three-year-old band in Hyderabad can thrive on gigs alone,” says Asura. Recently, a popular Telugu education supplement announced that live music is the career of 2023 based on their research, sending the bands into a happy tizzy over their choice of career, which now also has the stamp of approval from career-building entities. Dinker Kalvala, the lead vocalist of Band Elyzium, says he hasn’t regretted his decision to shift from being a pharmacist in London to a band member in Hyderabad. “Forget the money, the love I receive is priceless,” he quips.
It sounds like the dream job of any artiste – to be able to make a living from their passion, jam with likeminded buddies, travel and be loved by music lovers. Snigdha says that the toughest part is sometimes having to recover their payments, even from big corporates. “But it’s all in a day’s work. Maybe in the future, some of the bands may want to have agents who will do the talking, fix up the advances and recover the payments. That would make things more professional,” she adds.
Mikhail Wadhwani, a communications professional who arranges for shoutouts for live gigs says that with food, ambience and alcohol being almost the same in most pubs/lounges, live music is the clincher. “It is an experience of energy and that is giving Hyderabadis a high. All things equal, a pub with the best live music gets the thumbs up for the evening,” he explains.
“All things equal, a pub with the best live music gets the thumbs up for the evening” – Mikhail Wadhwani, communications professional
Social Media Biggies
The rise of jamming studios such as Zoros and AAD in Jubilee Hills is giving space and time for the musicians to rehearse for their big gigs. “We rent out these studios for three or four hours for as low as Rs 2,000 to jam. These studios are soundproof with acoustics that replicate the pubs/live concert venues. They also come with the equipment that we need. So, we just plug and play,” says one of the founders of a city band. Among the other things that help bands get bigger gigs with better brand value is their social media presence. Asura says that things changed for the better after one of their songs went viral on Reels on Instagram. “People want to sing along and relate to the music we sing. A social media presence helps them get a taste of our music even before they decide to come down to listen to us,” he adds. As for stand- up comedians, popularity adds to their value on the music scene too.
While Hyderabad still can’t boast of an all-girls band, most of them have a significant number of female artists. Anahata has Ananya Bhaskar and Lasya Priya; while Band Infusion has Valli Gayatri, and Band Panaah has vocalists Snigdha Sharma and Gomati Iyer. The industry is still in a churning-out phase and it may take two more years before the top ones survive and the rest fade out.
Perhaps the real litmus test for the Telugu bands comes when non-Telugus invite them for gigs abroad and they give the same kind of love and appreciation. “With Telugu music going global, that day is not far away,” says the artists.
As music elitism drowns in the mass teenmaar beats of DJ Tillu’s title track being played at live music bands to end the show, everything seems like butterflies and rainbows for mana Telugu bands. Let the music play on. Grab a peg, do a jig, enjoy the gig!
“Forget the money, the love I receive is priceless” – Dinker Kalvala, Band Elyzium
Where they play: Odeum by Prism, Trops, EXT, F House
What they play: Hip-hop with a Telangana flavor, hip-hop originals and the 100 original songs the five-member band has created
Since when: The year 2019, Asura, Feroz Israel, Ricky B, Psychlone, MWaker, and Notchfiltr
Day job/gig: Full-time into music
Side hustles: Composing and writing for movie numbers
Busy days: Weekends
Claim to fame: Nenu Taagitey Telugu rap that they played at actor-producer Rana Daggubati’s talk show No. 1 Yaari season 3 on AHA. The song went viral with a million views and is a popular remix for Telugu reels
Other gigs: Lyrics for the title song in Chiranjeevi’s August release Bholaa Shankar; Australia tour this month;
What live music means to them: We believe music is the most powerful tool, it can create magic when one uses it right; It can change the world
What’s next: Bindaas Tour in the US later this year
Crowd favorites: Sigguledu, Mastundi Life and Hyderabad Cypher besides Nenu Tagitey
Why them: They say they do anything to do with music including creating sonic branding for companies and products. Started as a three-member group with Asura as a rapper-producer, and Ricky B and 1knob as producers to release 20+ singles, five full albums, and two EPs since 2019
Best experience/compliment: When we have finished all our numbers and the show has to close, but our audience won’t let us go without an encore of our hit numbers
Dream dais: An international forum for live bands where they can showcase their talent alongside the best in the world