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Rockstars: Crystal and the Witches won the east zone finals in Calcutta

They call themselves Panatella after the thin long Cuban cigars. And like you need to acquire a taste for these cigars, this Chennai-based campus band feels that their music too is only for a connoisseur. “A mix of funk, jazz and rock and roll is what we play. And an audience fed on hard rock and metal needs to develop a taste for our music to enjoy it,” says Sunder, the bass player of Panatella. This band of four from Loyola College, Chennai, was one of the 350 bands that vied with each other in the recently concluded Hero Honda Campus Rock Idols contest 2007.

In its third edition, this nation-wide contest for campus bands came to an end with a grand finale in Pune on February 11, 2007. At the final event held on Pyramid Lawns, Pune, Delhi-based rock band FTN emerged as the winners on a day that saw eight shortlisted bands vying for the title. Besides the prize money of Rs 75,000, FTN also bagged an opportunity to perform the opening act in the forthcoming Iron Maiden concert. “For us it can’t get bigger than this. We will make the best efforts to leave a good impression at the Iron Maiden concert,” says Shivan Chanana, a second year student of Infinity Business School and the lead vocalist of FTN. For now Shivan and the other four band members are practising for the big day in March.

Campus Rock Idols provides a platform to budding college rock bands. These amateur bands are given a taste of what a professional concert entails. This contest is envisaged to offer a “definitive” college experience to the students in terms of great live music and healthy inter-college competition. “This is a great platform for amateur bands interested in taking that professional step. Most of the bands were innovative and played original songs to carve an identity for themselves. Our aim is to promote music and support these deserving bands,” says T. Venkat Vardhan, managing director of DNA Networks that organised the contest. The competition was sponsored and presented by Hero Honda Motors Limited in association with Reliance, Nokia, World Space, and VH1. The first runner-up and second runner-up bands were awarded cash prizes of Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 respectively.

The contest has successfully kick-started the careers of previous winners. Take for instance Prestorika. After winning the competition in its first edition in 2004, the band became the face of the Indian rock circuit. “Even now most people remember us as the Hero Honda Campus Rock Idols. Being the first winners has added a lot to our reputation and given us a professional edge,” points out Nitesh Vasandani of Prestorika.

Needless to say, the competition was tough this year too. After clearing the regional events, bands had to play at the zonal level and the zonal winners then competed at the grand finale in Pune. For the students it meant juggling studies along with intense jamming sessions. “We are very laid back, but not when it concerns studies. Also, our college is very strict about attendance and we have never given them a reason to complain,” point out Panatella members.

Tenzing Loden Bhutia and his band members from Crystal and the Witches too took care not to miss classes for music practice. Though it meant hectic schedules, the foursome made sure to take out time after classes.

“This was a major contest for us and winning it would have given a tremendous boost to our music career, but studies are important,” says the 20-year-old. The band emerged as winners at the east zone finals held in Calcutta on January 20. In 2006 alone the band won the Jadavpur Sanskriti rock contest, the Calcutta Medical College rock music competition and the Techno India rock contest.

Crystal and the Witches has Diwash Rai on guitar and vocals, Bhutia on bass, Arthur Gomes on the keyboards and Shubhro Ganguly on the drums. Ganguly and Bhutia are second year students of BCom at St Xaviers College, Calcutta while Rai is a second year student of Asutosh College and Gomes is doing his BCom through correspondence.

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