Moongphali, Delhi's latest rock dependables, on transitioning from reworked cover songs to original music
In the fired up world of New Delhi Hindi rock band Moongphali, diversity informs their music.
Vocalist Soham Mallick talks about how the band came together in 2015 and continue to work through this diversity.
Since the release of their debut album Charchebaazi in November, there have been a lot more positive signs about Moongphali’s original music.
Drummer Naman Datta says their fanbase has “diversified” following the release, with existing fans being “super excited and supportive.”
In the fired up world of New Delhi Hindi rock band Moongphali, diversity informs their music. From vocalist Soham Mallick, who holds a Master’s degree in linguistics, to bassist Salil Mehrotra, who was bred on ghazals, Moongphali’s groovy, funky technique-driven songs are also aided by drummer Naman Datta who grew up playing tabla and Kalimpong-bred guitarist Joel Lepcha.
Mallick talks about how the band came together in 2015 and continue to work through this diversity. “That's where most of our efforts go, (in) finding the common ground,” he says. After spending a few years performing predominantly reworked Bollywood cover songs in their sets at college festivals and clubs in Delhi NCR, Moongphali says their “entry into the indie scene” came only in August 2018.
“We did rearrangements of songs and a lot of creativity went into how we chose to re-invent a song that is already a crowd favourite. When it comes to our originals, we make it a point to familiarise the audience with the hook lines of the song so that they can sing along to them,” Mallick says. The classically trained vocalist admits that it’s easier said than done, although Mehrotra admits they have sometimes encountered requests for their original material.
The trajectory of growing out of a covers-only circuit to making audiences yearn for one’s own music is certainly familiar in Indian rock, especially if you look at who’s currently ruling the Hindi rock circuit – fellow New Delhi band The Local Train. Although Moongphali is much less experienced than The Local Train, the band does acknowledge that the latter has been “revolutionary”. “They showed the world that if your music is good enough, you can make it big as a band in our country. The war of space between Bollywood and indie music has always been one-sided. Now indie is fighting back. Mainly because now there are a larger number of indie gigs than ever. It will only grow from here, ” Mallick says.
Since the release of their debut album Charchebaazi in November, there have been a lot more positive signs about Moongphali’s own music receiving encouragement. Drummer Datta says their fanbase has “diversified” following the release, with existing fans being “super excited and supportive.” Where Hindi rock has been “side-lined and typecast” over the years (something Mehrotra says is due to lower exposure to rock), bands like Moongphali are just the latest to make a refreshing new offering. While Charchebaazi has been seeing a slow and steady increase in streams on YouTube, Moongphali went ahead and competed at the Hornbill International Rock Contest in Nagaland in December, making it to the final nine in the competition.
The seven tracks on the album carry themes that are heartwarming, eyebrow-raising and chuckle-inducing in different places, and the cadence remains varied. The bright-eyed ‘Jee Aao’ brings euphoria, while the Hinglish-twisted takedown of social media obsessions on the fast-paced ‘Tumse Na Ho Payi’ would get anyone to sit up and listen. Cheeky stories of relationships are set to guitar wizardry on ‘Pyaar Ek Dhokha Hai’, while the crowd-pleasing adrenaline-fuelled ‘Behtareen’ is an arena-ready rock song. The last of these has already become a crowd favourite because of its Bollywood-referencing pre-chorus of “Kya Mogambo khush hua?” Mehrotra says, referring to the villain from the 1980s cult hit Mr India, “‘Behtareen’ is an explosive song and really pumps up the energy which makes it a live favourite. People love the 'Mogambo' part so much that they usually remember the song as Mogambo.”
With a tour building up for Moongphali to win over more audiences across the country, they are also working on music videos for the ballad-esque closing track ‘Laapata’ and ‘Behtareen’. Datta signals that future material too will play to their strengths. “The band members, as listeners of the Indie scene, always felt a lack of a straight up rock outfit, that too with the lyrics in Hindi. That's exactly what we're after.”
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