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Monthly Archives: October 2017

Um, Om? WHAT Hindu Heavy Metal Music Scene?

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Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

India isn’t exactly a hotbed of heavy metal.  The airwaves over there are packed with film-style dance numbers derived from Bollywood, bhangra, and various poppy Western influences.  There’s a millennia-long tradition of music in India, but it’s usually been slim pickings for those of us lifelong heavy metal fans.  On the occasions where rock music is even to be found anywhere in India, it’s almost always soft in nature.  To be fair, most Indians have never properly heard heavy metal.  However, I’ve thought for some years now that this could all change- that India is even becoming ripe for a heavy metal revolution!

It’s only appropriate.  India is hardcore, man.  India is a sensation seeker’s dream, with a vibrant and colorful spiritual culture, an exceedingly wide range of flavor profiles and smells, rollicking cities overflowing into breathtaking landscapes, ancient and modern architecture on top of each other, oppressive political ferment, and the crush of people and traffic in every direction.  It’s hotter than hell in most of India most of the time.  India is an assault on your senses.  What can possibly be more METAL than that?

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Meanwhile, Hinduism probably lends itself better to the all-out thrash power of metal than it’s generally credited for.  The sitar, tablas, bhajans, mantras, and shlokas of Hinduism can entrance, hypnotize, and more at their best.  The mythology is filled with colorful characters, moral conundrums, epic battle scenes, powerful weapons, gruesome demons, sexual symbolism, and savage animalistic imagery such as many-armed Goddesses carrying the bleeding heads of vanquished foes as souvenirs, or the lion-headed avatar Narasimha ripping an enemy in half with his bare hands.  Imagine imagining this bloody milieu with raw metal guitar, bass, and drum power behind it.  Again I ask you, what could possibly be more METAL than that?

TDT 16-02-13 © ANOOP B VYAS PHOTOGRAPHY  (3).jpgFinally, we have the demographic bulge.  It’s no secret that metal is a young person’s game. India is a young country, with 845 million people under the age of 35, many of them jumping on the Internet or television for the first time to partake in Western influenced culture, including music.  The best American import is arriving in force.

And thus, an earnest, nascent Hindu/Vedic heavy metal scene has formed in India and abroad.  It took your correspondent a few forays down the Internet rabbit hole to discover it, but it’s definitely there.  There’s a long way to go for Hindu metal to fill more than a nook in the niche cranny.  Particularly missing in my view is enough melodic singing to match the guitar riffs.  The scene is far from mature but more than anything, I see potential and opportunity.  Below are some of the bands you can find along with example tracks for a pretty elaborate curated survey.  No matter what you think of the music, these bands are truly pioneers, merging the great traditions of Hinduism and hard rock.  If there are others I missed, please mention them in the comments below!

The Down Troddence.  These guys flat-out rock.  After I came across this song today, I couldn’t get enough of their music.  Not surprisingly, there’s many a Shiva themed song on our list, with this one simply titled, Shiva.  The Down Troddence is a six-piece that hails from Kerala.  I haven’t heard all of the songs by all of these bands yet but as of now I consider this the most technically competent band among the lot.

 

Motherjane.  A bit less heavy, and a bit more classical influence than the others on this list, Motherjane is an eminently listenable band with a melodic and well-orchestrated sound.  Chasing the Sun as a bonus also features an excellent video which could only be made in India.  They remind me a bit of the excellent Pakistani band Junoon.  I wish I had heard of Motherjane sooner.

 

Moksh the Band Fronted by a woman named Ishrat Rajan on vocals, and managed by lead guitarist/singer Ashish Wilson, this Shimla four-piece has been kicking around its incarnations since 2003.  In recent years the band decided to take on a ditty about Shiva the Destroyer himself with Shiv Tandav Stotram.  In keeping with the spirit of Hinduism, the video is meant to provoke awareness of those who lost their lives in natural disasters.

 

Rudra.  This foursome of bad boy Hindus hails from Singapore, and has been jamming out since 1992.  They are quite likely the first band to have earned the so-called Hindu metal mantle.  There are unmistakable hints of ancient India in the song Now Therefore including a conch call to start the proceedings.  I like more melody in my metal vocals, but this style should appeal to many of you metal heads out there and the instrumentals are solid.         

 

Millennium.  To be honest, Millennium was formed as an 80’s hair metal band with Christian members and no Hindu influence.  The song Only be One in fact uses overt Christian imagery such as crosses and coffins.  That being said, this band formed in Bangalore in 1986.  They are considered to be one of the first, if not the first, successful metal band from India.  Props!  Rock out!

 

Indus Creed.  While Indus Creed straddles the line between pop rock (not exactly my jam) and hard rock, they deserve mention as one of the indisputable giants in India’s rock music history.  Rock ‘N Roll Renegade was one of their early hits from their debut album of the same name in the 80’s, and helped launch them into the pantheon of India’s rock stratosphere.  In fact, Indus Creed helped pave the way for all of the other bands in this list.  Respect.

 

Cult of Fire.  Hinduism is for all, and this Czech Republic band proves that Hindu metal is a globalized phenomenon.  The song Kali Ma is mostly instrumental, but it shows the range of talent possessed by Cult of Fire.  The below video splices a bunch of Hindi Hindu film footage into the song.  Judge for yourself whether Kajol and Sridevi dressed like Goddesses with heavy metal in the background actually works…


Dying Out Flame.
  OK, first of all, this band looks absolutely hardcore.  Right?  They also rock righteously, they’re co-ed, plus they have cool album art (see top).  Formed in 2011, this band hails from the Hindu majority nation of Nepal, adding more to the international flavor of Hindu metal.  Shiva Rudrastakam pays tribute to Lord Shiva- in case you aren’t noticing a trend here?

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Demonic Resurrection.    This particular band was formed by four teenagers at the start of the new millennium.  The Mumbai band has kept on, and helped bring other metal bands into the fold through singer Sahil Makhija’s Deamonstealer Records.  Of particular interest in the song Matsya- The Fish and others is a seamless and welcome integration of sitar into the metal.

 

Dhwesha.  This band’s punishing style puts the death into death metal.  Another Bangalore band, Dhwesha actually sings in Kannada- though it’s nearly impossible to tell.  In their self-titled song from 2014, you can choose to witness the see-saw between uplift and despair.  It’s worth it.

 

This list of course cannot do justice to the entire music library each of these bands has, nor is it meant to be a complete listing of Hindu or Vedic heavy metal.  Hopefully you have been exposed to a world you didn’t know about, and enjoyed it as much as I have.

There’s a musical revolution under way, and you have gotten in on the ground floor.

 

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Picture credits:

  1. Dying Out Flame album art
  2. Demonic Resurrection album art
  3. Down Troddence concert by Anup B Vyas
  4. Dying Out Flame album art
  5. Om guitar pick, Zazzle.com
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usindiamonitor Applauds Nomination of Kenneth Juster for US Ambassador to India

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via sputniknews.com

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

usindiamonitor was overly underwhelmed that the position of US Ambassador to India had been left vacant for many months since January 2017.  That’s when former Ambassador Richard Verma last roamed the halls of the US Embassy and left behind not only the hot air of New Delhi, but also a legacy of forward progress in the US-India relationship.  Obama’s pick was also much appreciated by many Indians worldwide as the first Indian-American to hold the post.  Trump promised less than one year ago that India would be America’s best friend as he lit up a Hindu diva in New Jersey, stoking the hopes and dreams of innumerable Indian-American voters along with a wonderful lamp.

Do best friends leave Ambassador posts to one another unfilled for that long, especially if the relationship is as superlatively non-controversial and bipartisan as the US-India nexus today?  Maybe not.  But in June, promising murmurs circulated about a certain Kenneth Juster being appointed to the post, an unexpected announcement which nearly served to make up for the time lapse.  Senate confirmation based on Juster’s qualifications seemed a given due to his tried and true negotiations with India.  Opposition either domestic or bilateral seemed unlikely to cause real impact.

Yet several more long months of silence on this matter followed, as the White House and its attendant media were consumed by other, baser affairs.  On September 5, Juster was finally nominated to be the 26th US Ambassador to India.  We urge rapid action by the US Senate to confirm Juster without delay when he comes up to vote this week.

So, who is Kenneth Ian Juster?

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Juster had overseas proclivities generally, and toward Asia specifically from an early age.  As a Harvard undergraduate he studied abroad in Thailand, and served as a research assistant to Samuel P. Huntington, one of the foremost political science gurus in United States history.  Juster’s resume includes substantive stints in both the public and private sectors, and in each area the work took him beyond the water’s edge.  He came to know the levers and pipelines of federal bureaucracy at the White House, State Department, Department of Commerce, National Security Council, and National Economic Council.  On the other side, Juster was respected by private sector colleagues at entities such as salesforce.com, power law firm Arnold & Porter, and private equity shop Warburg Pincus, all of which have global operations.

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via Wall Street Journal

When it comes to US-India diplomatic relations, Juster is among the limited pool of Americans who have found themselves deep in the arena over the years- and yet became accepted as true friends of India by Indians.  This pool is relatively small, shared by members such as previous Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the aforementioned Richard Verma, the late Congressman Stephen Solarz, and former Ambassador Robert Blackwill.  Unlike many in the US foreign policy establishment and particularly in the US State Department, these figures generally didn’t condescend towards their counterparts even if they had to play hardball.  Indians have never viewed this as a given.  Small wonder that Narendra Modi and his team approved of Juster’s nomination.

Juster is known for helping initiate a High Tech Cooperation Group between the two countries in the early 2000’s, at a time when technology trade and transfer were nowhere near the powerhouse level they have now reached.  Today, it’s impossible to keep up with the daily flow of US-India tech deals, mergers, and acquisitions.  Some of this is finally creeping into the military realm, including the potential for big-ticket US toys such as the Marine One helicopter and the F-16 fighter jet to be made in India, while American drones and other cutting-edge hardware may be sold to the Indian military, all for the first time.

Juster is even better known for what followed, playing a key role in the multi-year negotiations that culminated in the 2008 civilian nuclear cooperation deal, to this day a jewel in the crown of bilateral trade, but one which still has a long way to go to fulfill its promise.  Nuclear exchange is nowhere near where it could be.  Even so 2008 represented the end of a long and difficult climb since 1998, a year when India secretly tested nuclear weapons in the sands underneath the Pokhran desert, angering the United States, prompting sanctions against India, and setting the relationship back by years.  There has been a steep climb since 2008 as well to address a myriad of concerns with the deal.

It won’t hurt that Juster has Trump’s ear and has for some years especially on economic matters.  There are many challenges in play.  A rising China and the bitter escalation with North Korea are going to affect the entire Asian neighborhood for the foreseeable future in this, the Asian Century.  The nuclear exchange could stall on matters such as liability.  Reduction in the flow of Indians coming to the United States to work and study  under the Trump administration should be of serious concern to both countries.  Intellectual property and the monitoring quality of drug manufacturing in India for US sales are in need of mutually agreed upon swim lanes.  Afghanistan, which has been in turmoil for 40 years will rely heavily on US-India cooperation if it’s ever to stabilize.  Future cooperation will also depend on how the United States and Pakistan deal with each other, an issue that India will study more closely than all others.

It is possible that Juster will be part of a much anticipated seismic shift, toward the first mutual defense treaty between the United States and India, befitting for the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest.  There are many steps and pitfalls along the way, but we consider this eventuality to be inevitable the way things are going.  Might as well get on with it.

Juster will have his hands full upon arrival in New Delhi.  But for now, it’s time for the Senate to do its job and confirm the qualified nominee.  This is also a very good time to thank Mary Kay Loss Carlson, the US Charge d’Affaires in New Delhi, for holding down the fort during the long interim period.  We also applaud the Trump administration for making a good decision in this critical area of foreign policy.  If only there were more of them.

 

 

 

 

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