This is a review of a review, as it were. Last week, Helter Skelter ran an article by Neeharika Palaka on the Bombay punk group, the Riot Peddlers. I haven’t heard them, so I can’t comment on their music, but Ms. Palaka makes a point that’s worth restating as many times as it takes for it to be heard above the clamour of self-congratulation that surrounds anything to do with “local” music in India.
The gist of her argument is that, for a band who bill themselves as “hardcore punk”, the Peddlers tread a path that is depressingly well-worn; in short, they aim for a piece of (according to her) the same cosy five-club niche as every other band in the country, and that’s not very “punk” of them at all.
If this is true, then it’s hardly surprising. Even if Ms. Palaka is wrong about the Peddlers specifically, her broader point stands, that no matter how subversive Indian bands like to paint themselves, they still end up working within the same F&B-ruled network which they believe is the only hand which can feed them, and, therefore, the hand they mustn’t bite.
This reduces rebellion to something that goes with dinner and drinks, of course, but real rebellion requires a level of imagination, commitment, and hardship that is clearly too much to ask of either the bands or their promoters.
It’s easier to pretend instead, and there’s a whole industry that has been built around – at a price – keeping that pretence alive. The howl that went up with Ms. Palaka’s piece is the sound of people plugging their ears with their fingers, hoping their outrage will drown out the unpleasant knocking of reality.